Boondocking etiquette: More than the Golden Rule

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March 13, 2010

salt_point_sp1Last Saturday I wrote about the boondocking code of Leave No Trace, of respecting nature and its inhabitants, and leaving your campsite cleaner than you found it. But there is also another form of respect when boondocking, and that is how your treat your neighbors. And it’s not as easy as the Golden Rule’s “Do unto others . . . ”  implies.
Example #1: You’re an off road vehicle (OHV) fan and enjoy getting together with others in desert boondocking locations, driving your ATVs across the desert, and enjoying a few beers around a campfire swapping stories long into the night with your fellow campers about great ATV riding areas. You arrive at your favorite boondocking site and find another camper nearby. But it doesn’t bother you, since you follow the Golden Rule and will invite your neighbor to ride with you on your ATV and to join the others around the evening’s campfire  and everybody will have a good time.

Example #2: You’re a bird and wildlife watcher, and enjoy getting up before dawn to see what birds and native wildlife you can see as they arise for the day. Later you take walks through the solitude and quiet of the desert, enjoying its serenity and peacefulness. You sit quietly outside your RV as the sun goes down to see what night critters wake and quietly go about searching for food, then go to sleep early so you can enjoy the sunrise early in the morning. When you arrive at your favorite boondocking site, you see another rig nearby, but it doesn’t bother you, since as a Golden Rule follower, you will ask your neighbor to join you at 6AM for a bird hike and to share a glass of Chardonnay in the quiet of the fading desert day.

What happens when camper #1 ends up in the proximity of camper #2?

why_az2When boondocking, don’t assume that the other guy has the same priorities and objectives that you do. Best bet: Camp as far away from others as you can. Some boondockers may be out there because they want to be loud, drunk, and obnoxious. If you are using a popular boondocking location, like an LTVA or designated “dispersed camping area” you may not be able get far enough away from annoying campers, so be prepared to move if your neighbor turns out to be the RVer from Hell.

If you are boondocking near others, the best common courtesy practice is to be unobtrusive:

  • Don’t run your generator at all hours or for long periods.
  • Voices around a campfire at night carry. If it is summer and your neighbors windows are open, knock off the camaraderie early.
  • Keep the volume of your TV down, especially if your windows are open.
  • Restrict your pet from barking at the neighbors, or at whatever is moving. Clean up after it. Keep it under control or on a leash.
  • Turn your porch light off. Night lights kill night vision for watching critters or the sky full of stars, and often shine in a neighbors windows who is trying to sleep.
  • Turn the volume down on your voices after 10:00 at night.
  • Keep your trash and stuff to yourself. Nobody likes to look out on an otherwise scenic view to see a cluttered campsite.

What are your pet peeves? If you don’t like others’ practices, make sure you aren’t practicing them also. But remember, you have the ultimate power of freedom as an RVer, you can move–which is most times better than fuming and letting your anger boil over. That’s hard to do if you were there first. Fortunately, the good boondocking days far outnumber the bad ones.

Check out my 60+ page eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, for more on boondocking and enjoying the pleasures of wilderness camping.

Leave a Reply


  1. Larry Gallagher

    Everyone’s entitled to there fun! I’m 68 and my wife is 65 and the only regret we’d have is that they didn’t invite us to the party !!

  2. Kenneth Fuller

    Owning a diesel myself, please be mindful of others and don’t start the diesel 30 minutes before departure waking and stinking out your neighbors.

  3. keebler

    dig a nice hole-1 Ft deep bury it—