Gr8LakesCamper: Camper Etiquette (or Lack Thereof)

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June 20, 2010

It’s Sunday afternoon, and we’ve finished unpacking the camper from our weekend at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Michigan.

My personal blog will talk more about our trip; this post is to gripe about our rude camping neighbors. And perhaps stir the endless discussion on campground etiquette.

Everyone has a story about rude camping neighbors. Typically, it’s the loud music past quiet hours or the dog that won’t stop barking.

Our neighbors — Elvis and Ozzy and the kids — were just plain rude.

Okay, one we named Elvis because he looked like he was an Elvis impersonator. I’m sorry, an Elvis Tribute Artist (they can be touchy about that). And we’re talking Fat Elvis, too. Definitely not skinny Elvis. Ozzy was actually a woman, but she looked like Ozzy Osbourne, right down to the tattoos covering both arms, the long greasy hair and the heavy mascara. She also had Ozzy’s “spaced out” look down cold.

But their appearances did not make them rude.

What made them rude was walking through our campsite on the way to the bathroom and/or lake (assuming they didn’t use the lake for both).

What made them rude was throwing their pizza crusts into our campsite so our dog could eat them.

What made them rude was allowing their empty ice bags, empty beer cases, empty McDonald’s bags, empty Arby’s bags, empty Big Boy bags (are you noticing a trend here? They never once cooked their own food) to blow all over the place.

What made them rude was when Elvis, trying to take an afternoon nap, yelled out from inside their tent to Ozzy, “Hey hon, come here and pull my finger!” “Haw, haw, haw! Pull it yourself,” Ozzy shouted back. “Okay!” Elvis answered, then seconds later came a sound that proved he did indeed pull his own finger.

What made them rude was when Ozzy, each morning as soon as she woke up, would step outside their tent to smoke a cigarette. To each their own, but she would stand literally less than five feet from the slideout of another neighbor, hacking away as only a lifetime smoker can. Mind you, this is early enough where Ozzy was probably waking up our half of the campground, let alone the people in the camper within spitting distance from her coughing.

Their choice of music didn’t make them rude so much as reinforced their unstellar status among the rest of us. Their mix tape played polka (“…in heaven there is no beer …”) and John Denver before it moved on to Outlaw Country. In fairness, they did turn their music off at 11 p.m. Curiously, we heard nothing from the Presley or Osbourne library.

So what did I do about it?

I cleaned up their trash that blew around, shooting them a dirty look each time. Ozzy just stared into space. Elvis was fishing (where he left his pile of empty Keystone Lights on the shore, by the way).

I took our dog inside our camper when I realized he was eating their pizza crusts. I then heard Elvis tell his son to go pick up the rest of the crusts. The son said “Why Dad, you were the one who threw them.”

My uncle asked them to please not cut through other people’s campsites. They ignored this request.

Oh, and as we were leaving we noticed park personnel were cleaning out all the trash they left in their campfire pit.

Should I have gone to the park office and complained? Maybe. Probably. Next time.

I guess I don’t know the purpose of this post, other than for me to vent.

What are your thoughts?

From the personal blog: As I mentioned, I will be posting more about trip on my personal blog, including the Friday night storm and my cousin’s recipe for “Bacon Explosion.”

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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  1. lCT1O9 , [url=]wdsulabcmaoy[/url], [link=]wwtgvnanzate[/link],

  2. Amber, yes, we keep tying and untying each day, which is kind of an issue. First you have to use a knot that will hold, but is easy to untie. I use a vaarition of the slip knot and since I am using cord for the necklaces it stays pretty well. If you use any type of plastic cord the knot will not hold. The best video I have found that shows you how to tie the knot the same way I do is . Instead of using one end, like in the video, I use both ends in the knot.One of the issues we have is fraying. The kids are playing all day and sometimes get wet. When a necklace frays a lot we have to replace it and re-thread the beads. Luckily, the campers usually only have 6 sets at the most. However, we had a camper that came all summer and his necklace was full (he was very proud of all his beads). We would have to cut him a new necklace every week, either because of fraying or because he needed a longer necklace to hold all the beads.I would love a new way of doing this with either a cool clasp that would be small enough to fit beads over it or a different type of cord (we use leather) that won’t fray, is small enough for the special beads we use and will hold the slip knot we use.

  3. When it comes to pets, forget “communication”. Go to management. The minute you say anything they get very defensive and start insulting you. Just went through it again up in Yellowstone. I politely mentioned how hot a car can get in the sun even on a cool day, even for just 10 minutes and asked him to crack a window when leaving his dogs and he turned redneck immediately. Happens every time. Since they probably wouldn’t have died, he didn’t care how uncomfortable he had made them. I noticed he opened the windows and had a smoke outside while waiting for the car to cool down though.

    For people whose dogs bark when they are gone, some really don’t know while others have been told before but are too selfish to care.

    For trashy people, report them, don’t clean up after them. They count on overworked staff and suckers to clean up after them. Personally, I would like to call their mommas and have a few words. 😉

  4. This is a pretty funny story. I’ve definitely ran into a few of these types at campgrounds but overall I have to say that campers are the nicest and friendliest people around. I’m a bit biased here but I think most all of us campers are still the best examples of what Americans can be.

    I’d like to offer everyone $10 OFF any purchases on a cheap electric scooter for the RV or trailer. It’s a great way to get from the camp site to the store and they fold up nicely for easy storage.

    Get out there!

  5. Alexandre Tarcitano (Brazil)

    It’s amazing how people has the same behavior everywhere. I live in Brazil and from time to time I have the same situation when camping. People think that as they are outdoors they have license to do everything. Loud music, uncontrolled pets are a must…..Unfortunately most camp sites are owner operated and they don’t make much effort to control because these people outnumber all the rest who is looking for peace and in this case I just pack everything back, rool up the awning and look for some other quiet place……

  6. trailertrashrick


    Please don’t camp on 4th of July weekend! Especially at the same park. You’ll just repeat the bad experience you’ve already had. You’ve been there, done that — don’t do it again.

    Overcrowding in popular parks is normal for big holidays. Staff are overworked and their budgets are due to be cut again this year in many state and local parks.

    Give yourself — and that park — the opportunity for the very best camping experience. Skip a week. Try the 14th of July. If you’re retired, go during the week. You’ll be glad you did.

    If you absolutely must go camping on the 4th, go somewhere remote — really remote.

    If you go back to the same park, let me know how much you’ll be asking for that camper. I have some friends looking for one.

  7. Pete Woodward

    Well I use state parks, corps of engineers,and national parks and i have probably had most all the problems described, as have most others. i have two dogs, always leashed,a diesel p/u that i need to start and warm-up before pulling out. i also have protection and am liscenced(?) to carry. i probably have been the “bad camper” in your eyes once or twice, but with age and more expensive equipment comes a degree of maturity. Take the time to demonstrate what a good camper is by example, be patient, and explain to your neighbors what they can do to make the camping experience more enjoyable.
    Happy camping

  8. Patricia Rumsey

    We had our “maiden voyage” in a new to us camper, over Memorial Day weekend. This campground was raved about, by our neighbors, who also went with us in their RV.
    The sites were nice! But when we got there, after reserving our sites with tents, 3 days earlier, we were told by some tenting folk, that we were parked in THEIR site! I blew a gasket! Finally, we got it straightened out, only for things to get worse during the course of the weekend!
    There were a group of them, probably 5-6 groups, parked on 3 sites! Our neighbors, who pulled in a day AFTER us, parked so close, that we could hear every sneeze or cough! Then, they pluged their rig into OUR electric! I was NOT happy! My husband, who is a 2 time Iraq War Vet, with war related issues, complained to the management. NOTHING happened! Then, they let their pit bull run loose! Mind you, we had TWO dogs with us, and they were BOTH kept ON leashes the whole weekend! Then, to top it off, the too close for comfort neighbors, let their sewage (PRAYERFULLY, GRAY water) leak out of their rig. It ran right downhill to our site!
    We complained, but got no where with the whole issue! We were PROMISED that they would NEVER be allowed to return! We were not given any type of compensation for having to put up with those drunken idiots!
    We will be returning on the July 4th weekend. We’re going to give the campground ONE more chance to prove themselves!
    Some people are just SO inconsiderate when it comes to LIFE and dealing with other people!

  9. Geoffrey Pruett

    Count yourselves lucky, you could have them for nest door neighbors at home!

  10. roadman

    I have been camping for 35 years. I have learned that no matter how nice you ask other people to please turn down the music or control their the pets they will not take it well. I go to the park management and let them handle it. That’s part of what their there for and the people never really know who complained. In a campground everything you do has some kind of effect on your neighbors ( good or bad).

  11. Barry S

    My thoughts: These people are white trash who BREED, VOTE, and walk among us.

    And…hey, Pat, I am a “gun-totin camper,” and I have no idea why you think that if one has a gun in their rig, they automatically pose a threat. I know many people who pack some sort of defense weapon in their motorhomes, and also know many varmint hunters who carry varmint hunting equipment in their motor homes. I am one of those people. Each person I know is responsible, observes the noise rules would never threaten anyone with a gun unless for self-defense purposes, and are members of the evil NRA. So, please don’t flippantly include gun owners as people who just love to kill people and animals.

    To answer your gun question: Yes, guns ARE used for other purposes. Have you ever heard of precision shooting competition at rifle/pistol/shotgun ranges? (more shots are taken here than anywhere else, except in wars). You obviously need some education on the subject.

  12. Art Stebes

    I liked Pete Holden’s comments, and I’d sure agree. I have never come across folks like this, and I’d be happy not to. The part about feeding your dog scraps really would be way over the top for me.
    I was camping on the shores of Chesapeake Bay a few weeks back. We had neighbors who played music that sure wasn’t my taste but they were nice people, with nice kids so what the heck, I’m old enough to, unless it is pretty intolerable (and the people in this piece would sure fit that) appreciate the philosophy of live and let live.

  13. John J

    I am in almost complete agreement with the feeling being expressed except for one aspect. I have a young son who likes to play with kids at our park and we happen to be on the edge of a play area right in front of our trailer. On the opposite side there is a couple of women who can complain at the drop of a hat. They told the kids to quit playing in the area one afternoon. The group of kids was probably no more than 5 and it was a perfect area to play and be able to keep a casual eye on them . These 2 women have been at the park for a number of years and virtually never participate in any of the events .

    I agree that there are obvious behaviours that annoy everyone but some people can take the “my space” thing to an extreme.

  14. trailertrashrick

    I would have to guess that bad campers are frequently the same people that bad drivers are — us. So, the first step is to make sure that we are not bad campers.

    First, communicate. Some of the nicest people I know are “gun toters” — although I don’t really get the point of that.

    We started out as pop-up campers. In a pop-up or tent, you really don’t have any tolerance for noise and we just had to do something about it when it came up. It turned out that EVERY TIME, people were polite and corrected the problem. In our motorhome, we don’t notice the problem quite as much.

    Second, camp during lower usage times. Density tends to make things worse (think driving and traffic again). If I’m having a bad time because the person next to me is having a bad time, I’m just a little less likely to keep my door from slamming when I go into and out of the motorhome. If you absolutely positively have to camp on Memorial Day weekend, bring an extra pair of patience.

    My favorite gripe: setting the car alarm ALL EIGHT TIMES YOU GO TO YOUR CAR FOR THAT LAST THING! Any of you do that? I haven’t ever talked to someone about that one because I keep thinking it was the last time 😉

    Have fun anyway!

  15. Pete Holden

    The best part of stories like this is that they make you realize how rare such campers are. Indeed, adding it all up, I think we’ve easily spent six or seven years in campsites, private and government. Never have we seen people as obnoxious as described here. All in all, we’re a pretty decent group of folks, we RVers. I remember years ago when we got our first 5th wheel we were camped across from a group that was a bit unsavory. I was hitched up and just about to pull out in the morning when they began shouting at me. Well, I had left the landing gear down so they saved me from some heavy damage. They redeemed themselves for sure. Now I look back on them as a nice couple after all, never mind their rough edges.

  16. catchesthewind

    Pat, Thanks for the anti gun rhetoric. You could have left that part out. I am a 5 year full timer and youbetcha I travel armed and if you ever happen to be my neighbor you will never know it but you will be safer for it.
    Now to reply to the article. It is inexcusable to have to tolerate rudeness such as you describe. I was an eagle scout and combat infantryman. The former taught me respect for nature and the latter taught me the value of clean surroundings in the field as it well may mean that you live another day. As for me if I had neighbors like that: 1-There would be a look here discussion. If that failed there would be the see here discussion with park management to see if he could find another site for them. If that dont work then Im outta here.

  17. Pat

    With gun-tottin’ campers these days just itching to kill something or somebody at a drop of a hat (what else are guns for but to kill) I wouldn’t complain directly to these sort of folks. Go to the camp office!

    When this happen to us last year (at a fairly nice RV park) after two evenings of patience and a chat with another neighbor I went to the camp office and reported them. Nothing happened. I went right back and told the office person again, but this time I said: “If this isn’t fixed tonight, as in now, we’re leaving and I expect a full credit to be placed on my card AND I’d report them to Good Sam.” My next threat was going to be to blog and FB about their ‘bad’ campground. Funny thing, I didn’t have to, the problem got resolved immediately! The offenders didn’t have to leave but the incessant kid screeching and noise ended long before10 PM (and we understand that kids will be kids…but screaming and yelling until way after quiet time?), they picked up after their dog and supervised their kids. They gave all of us around them dirty looks, wondering who ratted on them. When we stayed at the same place not long ago, it was very quiet when it was suppose to be and I noted that the quiet time rule on the handout was in CAPs and in BOLD type!

    That was the worse in three years of RVing. Most of our experiences have been good. However, this is one reason we like the military Fam Camps (I know not everyone can stay in them), KOAs, and 55+ RV parks as well. Most Good Sam and Jellystone parks are pretty good as well. We look for RV parks with ads or notes that promise 24 hr security as well. I know they often cost a bit more, but the peace and quiet is worth it!

    We are not grumpy old folks (our granddaughter can be pretty noisey) but we do believe in discipline and respect for rules and community living. We do expect the same from others.

  18. Barbara Kirkhart

    We are also full timers, and have been lucky so far with our fellow campers. The one exception has been this morning – the couple with 3 teenagers who pulled in last night and set up their 5th wheel with a great deal of commotion decided to break camp and leave at 6AM. They had not done any stowing last night – so we got to listen to them wrestle with their awning (with much loud discussion not 5 feet from our open bedroom window), wrestle with hooking up their tow vehicle, slam their bay doors repeatedly as they put things away, shout back and forth – it was very annoying, and lasted a good half hour. Then after they left we noticed they hadn’t replaced the cap on the sewer hookup! I was tempted to ask the office if they’d give me the address of these folks so I could send them a polite request to make their get away a bit quieter at that hour of the morning, but as it was pouring rain all day I didn’t bother to leave the motorhome.

    That said, most of our neighbors have been either innocuous or actually very pleasant. We do travel with our small dog (a Border Terrier), who does not bark, jump up, lick, or any of the other annoying things that dogs can do. She is a certifed therapy dog, and is very patient with children (or adults) who want to pat her. So far, she’s been universally admired by the people around us, and we always warn them that the only time she makes any noise is at 5pm when it’s ball time – and her barking and growling at the ball only lasts for the 10 minutes or so that she’s playing. And yes, we are very careful to pick up after her – we don’t like leavings any more than the rest of folks do!

  19. James

    It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t take the time to communicate when there is an issue that bothers them. My dad taught me that if there is something that bothers you, take action to change it or don’t b***h.

    So, in keeping with that advice, my coaching to you is to, respectfully, take the time to communicate what bothers you with the other party. My experience is that most of the time the problem goes away.

  20. Marilyn

    We have full-timed for over 3 years and have thus been in every kind of park imaginable. You stayed in a state park and we have stayed in many across the country. We notice that “state and county parks” tend to have fewer or no rules while private campgrounds like KOA, Good Sam, and all the other types have a set of printed do and don’t rules that are given out when you register. If no quiet hours are posted there is nothing that park personnel can enforce. Dogs should be placed inside an RV or taken with the campers if tenting. Dogs are not to be left outside tied to a tree or whatever and park personnel can and should be notified if you see this as it is unsafe for the pet.

    On the other hand we recently stayed at a county park in Missouri where not only were rule breakers asked to leave but they were placed on a list and couldn’t camp at the park again. This included a rather large group of campers (girls from a church group who chased the wild geese and their young and muddied up the shower. They were made by park personnel to scrub the shower and were ejected from the campground. A hard lesson for kids to learn when the adult chaprones stood by and did nothing to teach them the rules of etiquette.

  21. Ron

    I hope your next trip puts you next to some very fine people.
    A few years ago, we camped near a large group of late partiers that were extremely loud. Through the darkness, I sneaked around to the opposite side of their camp and pelted them with a few rocks. I was alone and there were many of them. Sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.

  22. Look, I Know no one wants to start any thing with people they dont know,But if the good campers dont start complaining to the parks office we have no other way to teach these kind of people good camping etiquette, plus we are not helping the next campers that have to camp beside campers like that !! After your uncle ask them to please not walk thru other campsites, I would have went straight to the office!!
    P.S. I have a thought on people that dont like people camping with their pets, but i am going to keep that to my self for right now, But personally i would never camp at a place that did not let me camp with mine!! Talk to people with respect and give them a chance to fix the problem, if they dont GO TO THE PARK OFFICE !!

  23. butterbean carpenter


    As Bob Difley says you don’t have this kinda problem ‘boondocking’….. I am in

    a wheelchair, in pain most of the time, and my fuse is really short… I’d have gone to

    the management the first time ANYTHING happened… They need someone to

    explain the RV Ettiquite (however you spell it) rules to them or tell’em to go back to


  24. Diane

    We’re new here and just bought an RV so we could take our dogs with us. I would be appalled to learn my dogs were disturbing the neighborhood while I was gone. We carry crates and have no hesitation in crating them if necessary to curb the barking. I agree that it is better to be told about the dogs from management though.

    How about neighbors who talk in their “daytime” voice outside at 2am?

  25. Bak

    There is no excuse for anyone to be a pig. you should complained to the camp host or the state park workers in the beginning. I cannot tolerate these kind of campers especially the price of campsite these days. Barking DOGS are the worst. They might be allowed but do not have to be tolerated by other campers. That is NOISE pollution and they can ask them to leave.

  26. carol

    I don’t think I would have been as “nice” as you. We live full time in our motorhome and the campsite that you are renting is considered your “home”. I would not have tolerated that from neighbors when we owned a home. Everyone should have their own piece of paradise and people like that should not be allowed to return.

  27. Selene

    I’d probably have done what you did at least in the short term. The only thing we’ve run into that you mentioned in your post are barking dogs, that bark or whine whenever their owners are gone, therefore the owners may not know about their habit. I don’t want to make anyone mad at us, especially friends, but I’m trying to come up with a friendly way to complainabout that since pet owners can be very touchy when it comes to their animals. It’s probably better to talk to the campground management, and let the ‘warnings’ come from them. Might not do much good with your neighbors, but at least the campground has the authority to oust them for non-comliance, and the offenders don’t have to know spilled the beans.

    May your next outing be better!