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Camping Etiquette

Camping is a way to connect with nature, spend quality time with family and friends and allows us to venture to new – or even familiar – surroundings, breathe in fresh air and simply relax. 

Nevertheless, campers and visitors must adhere to various rules and guidelines while at private and public campgrounds, recreation sites or while hiking and biking on trails and in and on the water.

It’s called camping etiquette and it’s about being respectful and safe. Your campsite neighbours will appreciate this, and the flora and fauna that surrounds you depends on it.

Regulations will vary from park to park across British Columbia and Canada. To quote Canada Parks: “Breaking the law in a National Park or National Historic Site can result in consequences including evictions or tickets, or in more serious cases, court appearances and/or large fines.” Click here for a list of Canada Parks’ visitor guidelines.

BC Parks has a webpage dedicated to responsible recreation and the provincial government lists information for rules for recreation sites and trails.

Leave No Trace Canada is a national non-profit organization that works to “build awareness, appreciation and respect” for our country’s wildlands. Its basic and helpful message is “pack it in, pack it out”, meaning what comes with you, leaves with you.

Here are some helpful reminders and tips on how we can all be considerate campers and better enjoy our camping experiences for years to come. 

  • Educate yourself regarding campground or recreation site rules prior to (via a website) or upon arrival if there is a designated office. 
  • Plan ahead of time, especially if you will be at forestry/recreations sites. Preparation helps campers to be safer and minimizes damage to the land.
  • Be respectful to campground staff. Staff have been trained to make your vacation enjoyable and they are a great resource for helpful information and tips. Be patient at check-in and check-out times as these are the busiest hours.
  • Ask about quiet hours. Sound can carry outside so try to keep voices and music down within reason, both late at night/early in the morning.
  • Respect your neighbours by not cutting through their campsites. If you are arriving extremely early or leaving late, turn down car high beams and radio/music.
  • Observe and obey posted speed limits. Make sure to watch for pedestrians and cyclists and park in designated areas only. (Be mindful that many children feel liberated while camping and will often zigzag on bikes and race to playgrounds.) Do not drive over vegetation.
  • Respect fire bans. You can keep abreast of fire bans and restrictions by visiting the BC Wildfire Service. Some private campgrounds may not allow propane fires, while others allow charcoal; verify this with the campground office or on its website. 
  • Buy firewood locally (at campgrounds, local stores or gas stations) to avoid transporting foreign species or disease into the area. Do not cut down branches or trees.
  • Build fires only in designated fire rings. If there is no pit or box make sure the area is clear of wood and debris, has a rock surround, and is a safe distance from anything flammable.
  • Properly extinguish your campfire; never leave the coals smoking or smoldering. Read more about campfires here.
  • Use a personal basin for washing dishes at your campsite (do not wash items in the bathrooms!). Use biodegradable soap and shampoos.
  • Remove all garbage. Campgrounds have designated bins that animals can’t get into. If camping in an area with no garbage cans take the trash with you. Never burn your garbage as trace amounts can attract unwanted visitors such as bears, raccoons and mice, and do not empty RV holding tanks or dump food waste in toilets! 
  • Utilize the designated recycling bins that many campgrounds now have. 
  • Control your dog at all times and pick up and dispose of its waste accordingly. More helpful tips about camping with dogs can be found here.
  • Do not feed, approach or taunt wild animals and, if driving, only pull over in designated areas to view them. Also, keep pets leashed and avoid bringing them into sensitive wildlife habitats. BC Parks lists helpful information about wildlife safety on its website.
  • If you smoke cigarettes or use cannabis, dispose of the butts in a responsible manner. Canada Parks states: “It is your responsibility to understand federal, provincial, and municipal regulations for cannabis use” and lists information here.
  • Check the campground or park rules about where you can consume alcohol. 
  • Before leaving, return your campsite to the condition in which you found it – or better!