Most camping etiquette and campsite rules are just common sense, but it's a good idea to get yourself informed before your first camping trip so you don't make any mistakes. This will also set you in good stead for fitting in with other campers - one of the best things about camping is the sense of community and meeting friendly people.

The general advice is pretty straight forward and falls into two key areas. The first is to behave in way that doesn't disturb other people around you. The second is to have as little impact as possible on your surroundings and the environment. If you are camping on a campsite you will also need to be aware of and observe the rules for that particular site as a condition of staying there.

Camping etiquette

There is a great sense of community when camping and it's nice to be sociable with your fellow campers and to assist them if they need help. Do not be afraid to ask for camping advice! Everyone has to start somewhere. If a fellow camper looks like they are struggling, a friendly offer of assistance is likely to be appreciated.

At the same time remember that some campers just want peace and quiet and aren't looking to socialise with others, so a pleasant greeting, an offer of help, or passing the time of day is enough until you are sure they are looking to make friends.

Noise reduction

The fastest way to annoy other campers and make yourself unpopular on site is by making noise. Noise really carries on a campsite and tents don't insulate against noise at all - you can hear everything.

Generally you should try to make as little noise as possible and be particularly quiet early in the morning and late at night. This means talking quietly and keeping the volume low if playing music or games or using equipment that makes a noise such as radios or TVs (if you are permitted to do so). Don't forget that actions such as closing and opening car doors and boots are also loud and will bother sleeping campers.

You are on holiday and you will of course want to have fun, so it is a balancing act between enjoying yourself and not ruining the enjoyment of others. Loud drunken groups on campsites are a pet hate of other campers - although some might not be so hard on themselves when it's their night to get carried away! Remember that it is very hard to regulate the volume of your voice and your music when you are drinking: after about 10 -11pm you will be expected to keep it down. The same goes if you have children in your group. Kids love camping and running around but their shouting isn't so fun for other campers who might not be very understanding.

The point is that camping and campsites are for everyone. If you don't want to wake up to angry stares, the number 1 rule is to keep the noise of your group down at all times. If you want to make noise then you should find a campsite that is set up for groups similar to yours (family campsites, party campsites etc.).

Respect space and privacy

Do not set up camp on top of your neighbours: maintain a respectful distance from them and try not to obscure other campers' views. There is nothing worse than coming back to your campsite after a day out to find a new camper has invaded your space or blocked your sea view.

Pitches might be clearly delineated and allocated by the campsite, so you might not have a lot of choice as to where you camp, especially in busy seasons, but always keep your tent at least two metres from your neighbours tent. Some campsites will allow you to pitch up freely wherever you choose. In that case, as a general guideline, try to pitch at least six metres away from fellow campers if possible. Never let your tent guy lines stray into another camper's pitch or camping area.

It is polite not to enter occupied pitches unless invited to do so. Resist taking short cuts by walking across someone else's pitch and be considerate of other campers' space. It's useful to think of the pitches as gardens. You wouldn't want people to climb into your back garden and walk through it in order to get to a road behind it. Similarly, you wouldn't want people to walk through your pitch simply because it was the quickest way to get to their destination, so show them the same courtesy.

Keep facilities clean and tidy

You should always leave campsite facilities in a clean and tidy state after using them. This applies to washing up areas for dishes, laundry areas for clothing, as well as bathrooms, toilets and showers. Clean facilities make the camping experience much more pleasant for everyone.

Camping with kids

If you are camping with kids it is important to keep an eye on them, make sure they stay out of trouble and teach them proper camping etiquette so they do not disturb fellow campers. Kids should not make too much noise while they are playing and should stick to playing in designated play areas away from occupied pitches. Children should also keep toys such as balls out of other campers' pitches. You should always know where your children are and what they are doing.

Keep dogs under control

Any dogs that are brought onto the campsite should be kept under control at all times and don't forget to clean up after them. Barking can be a real irritant to other campers so do not leave your dog unattended.

Cars

Parking and driving can be another bone of contention on a campsite. If your campsite permits parking on or next to your pitch, you should do so with consideration for your neighbours. Don't ruin their view with your car or infringe on their space. In general, look at how other people have parked their cars and do the same, usually some uniformity develops if not directed by the campsite rules.

Driving to get around a campsite is heavily frowned upon and you should only use your car when going off site. Cars driving around on campsites can make people uncomfortable, especially at night when they feel very vulnerable in their tents. When you do drive on the campsite, you should drive very slowly and carefully - there will be people walking and cycling and children running around and playing.

Campsite rules

By staying on a campsite you agree to abide by the rules of that particular campsite and you may be asked to leave if you break them. Some campsites even require you to sign a piece of paper to that effect! In practise this is not as bad as it sounds, normally the rules are pretty straightforward and are only there to make sure everyone has a happy camping experience.

In general, the bigger the campsite and the more facilities it has, the more rules you should expect. To avoid disappointment, it is a good idea to check the rules of campsite before booking or turning up. Some rules, such as those regarding noise at night, will be fairly similar on most campsites, whereas some, such as whether you are allowed campfires, will vary from site to site.

If you have specific requirements, find a campsite in advance that suits you. You will be able to find exceptions to the general rules if you want to, for example if you want to make noise and play music at night you can find a campsite that allows partying.

Typical campsite rules

The following are should give you an idea of what rules to expect at a typical campsite:

  • Checking in and checking out times - you will normally be required to depart the campsite by a certain time in the morning of the day you want to check out. There might also be set times for arrival, although this can vary widely from campsite to campsite and more casual sites will allow you to pitch up if you arrive late and sort everything out in the morning.
  • Noise regulation - there will be rules regarding noise on the campsite, particularly early in the morning and late at night. The general idea will be to not make a lot of noise and to be particularly quiet early in the morning and late at night - this applies to talking, playing music, playing games, using equipment that makes a noise such as radios or TVs and so on. Most campsites will state specific times when quiet must be adhered to. You may also not be allowed to play games, amplified music, musical instruments or noisy equipment at certain times of day, if at all.
  • Bathroom, washing and communal areas - You will be expected to keep bathrooms, showers, toilets and washing up areas clean and tidy. There may be designated areas for washing dishes, doing laundry, and so on.
  • Rubbish disposal - There will be designated areas for disposing of different types of rubbish, recycling, waste water and sewerage.
  • Guests - Some campsites will not allow guests to visit you unless they are signed in first. If they wish to stay overnight, they may be asked to pay.
  • Dogs - If your campsite allows dogs they will expect you to keep them under control at all times and to clean up after them.
  • Fires and flames - Your campsite will have rules regarding campfires, BBQs and anything that produces a flame. These rules will vary so be sure to check them before setting light to anything! More often than not fireworks and Chinese lanterns are prohibited at campsites.
  • Driving - Campsites will usually have speed limits for driving. There will be rules about how and where you can park your car, either on your pitch, in designated spaces or in a car park. In general it is frowned upon to drive to get around the campsite itself (walk or cycle where you need to go).

Leave no trace

The aim of the Leave No Trace principle is to have as little impact as possible on your surroundings when camping. There are seven key aspects of the principle.

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimise campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

Whether you are camping on a campsite or wild camping, these are really good outdoor ethics to go by so that we can all minimise our impact on the environment, respect other campers and leave things as they were for the next visitors.

Keep it fun for everyone

Camping is brilliant fun, but to make sure everyone has a great time you should make yourself aware of good camping etiquette and common campsite rules before you head off on holiday.

By respecting other campers and the environment, you can ensure that you'll be a great camping neighbour. Plus you can help to make a campsite fun for everyone by setting an example for other campers and avoiding unnecessary stress. Be respectful of other campers and their privacy, keep noise levels down, use your car appropriately, clean up after yourself and dispose of waste properly - then you and your fellow campers can all enjoy your holidays.