Archive for the ‘Campground Tips’ Category

Leave No Trace Principles

The great folks over at http://www.lnt.org say it perfectly. And why mess with perfection:

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org

The Seven Principles

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • In popular areas:
    • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
    • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
    • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas:
    • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
    • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

So what does this amount to if you’re camping in a developed campground?
Clean up after yourself. Follow any posted campground rules and the requests of the camp hosts. Don’t damage what’s there. Remember that you want to leave the campground as-is for generations of campers to follow!

Where To Go Camping: Public, Private or Dispersed

There are three places where you can head for a camping vacation: a public campground, a private campground, or dispersed camping.

 

Public Campground

These facilities are run by some sort of government entity like the Forest Service, a State or National Park Service, County, etc.

 

Pros of a Public Campground:

They are usually inexpensive. Nightly camping fees typically run anywhere from a few dollars to around twenty dollars per night. Plus, most public campgrounds offer the same amenities at every single campground, namely a picnic table and fire ring. And if you’re 62 or older, and a US citizen, you can purchase a Senior Pass. It’s a lifetime pass that gives 50% discounts to many public campgrounds.

 

Cons of a Public Campground:

It’s public. That means that anyone who can pay the fee is allowed to stay. That being said, all campers must obey the posted rules but no one will be turned away because of dogs, small children, or large RVs. You get all types in a public campground! And while some campsites in some campgrounds can be reserved, the majority of campsites are first-come, first-served.

 

Private Campground

These are owned by a company, franchisee, or individual. The most famous brand of private campground is KOA or Kampgrounds of America.

 

Pros of a Private Campground:

Because they’re privately owned, private campgrounds can be selective as to who they allow to camp. There are campgrounds that cater to 60+ only and campgrounds that welcome children. There are usually greater amenities than in a public campground. They can usually be rented on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and almost every private campground will offer reservations.

 

Cons of a Private Campground:

Private campgrounds tend to be more expensive than their public campground counterparts. And many feature campsites that are very close together. It’s a business thing: the more campers you can get per acre, the more money can be made in rent. Lots of private campgrounds cater to huge RVs and some don’t permit tent-camping. Even if you can tent camp there, be prepared to have enormous RVs on every side.

 

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is camping outside of a campground on public lands.

 

Pros of a Dispersed Camping:

You can spread out to your heart’s content! In most areas campsites are spread far from neighbors so you can enjoy nature all by yourself. It can be so quiet you’ll feel like you’re the only person on Earth. And if you want to have a rowdy volleyball game there’s no camp host to come tell you to quite down.

 

Cons of a Dispersed Camping:

But… Because there is no one in charge, there’s no one to stop a neighbor from running ATVs up and down the road all day, blasting music, or generally being obnoxious. And before you pitch your tent, it will be your responsibility to make sure that you’re allowed to camp there, obtain any needed permits, and be familiar with all the local rules, laws, and ordinances. In dispersed camping, it’s just you and what you bring: no bathrooms, no potable water, and no trash service.

 

Public and private campgrounds also break down into an additional three categories that are used to describe how many amenities they offer.

 

Primitive Campgrounds

Primitive campgrounds have limited facilities like restrooms and potable water and very few amenities. You’ll most likely get the bare minimum basics here: a fire ring and a picnic table. Of course, since there are hardly any amenities, the cost is usually kept very low at a primitive campground. Primitive campgrounds are usually public campgrounds as well.

 

A primitive campground will not have paved roads. They are usually geared towards tent camping only but some may permit small RVs.

 

Developed Campgrounds

Developed campgrounds are friendly to tents and RVs. In addition to offering a fire ring and picnic table, a developed campground will also offer restrooms and potable water. They may also offer trash service and even recycling. Some developed campgrounds have additional amenities like barbeque grates for the fire ring or stand barbeques, leveled gravel tent pads, and maintained paths to water spigots and restrooms.

 

A developed campground may offer paved roads throughout the campground. If not, then the roads will be well-maintained.

 

You can find both public and private developed campgrounds. Expect to pay more for campsites than at a primitive campground.

 

Full-Hookup

A full-hookup campground caters to RVs. In addition to picnic tables and fire rings, each campsite will offer electricity and potable water; many will also offer sewer connections. There are limited full-hookup public campgrounds; most are privately owned and operated. Before heading to a campground that says they are full-hookup, verify that they allow tent camping.

 

There are advantages to tent camping in a full-hookup campground, especially in the hot summer months in that you can bring a portable fan and run an extension cord into your tent.

 

Full-hookup campgrounds usually offer a variety of other amenities like showers, playgrounds, swimming pools, etc. Just be aware that the more amenities there are, the higher the cost! Also, the people who own the huge RVs gravitate towards a full-hookup campground so they can take advantage of the amenities as well.

 

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have a favorite type of campground?
  • What do you feel about dispersed camping?

Polite Camping

I really like camping out in the sticks — dispersed, dry camping where I have to haul in all my own stuff (including water), use my porta-potty, and haul out all my trash. But, on holiday weekends, all the traffic from ATVs and trucks can make me nutsy, so I head to a campground. There’s nothing worse than camping in a developed campground than inconsiderate neighbors!

1. Respect other’s rights.

BathroomDon’t walk through another camper’s site — walk around it. Most public campgrounds in have paths between sites to the bathrooms, trash, etc. Use these paths and enjoy the stroll!

2. Be noise aware.

I have no problem with shouting children having fun during the day — I love to see families out camping! However, noise like radios, generators, yelling for no reason, and fighting is really rude. You should also obey the campground’s quiet hours. Voices, radios and other noises carry further than you might think on a quiet evening. (A good rule is to tone down the noise as the sun sets.) Most of the time, when you’re camping you get up with the sun, which means getting up early. Respect the wishes of those rare people who want to sleep in and keep morning noise to a minimum as well.

A few summers ago, my folks went camping in Arizona’s White Mountains. For the last three days of their trip, a HUGE RV pulled in beside them and ran the generator non-stop! My folks ended up leaving a day early because of the noise and smell.

If you’re going camping, CAMP! Get out of the RV and enjoy nature. If you’re going to use your generator (we’ve got one, so you know I approve of them) be sure to be considerate of others.

3. Pack out what you pack in.

You should leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. If the campground has campground hosts, they are responsible to keep the campground tidy — NOT to clean up after wild parties! Many campgrounds have trash service that you should use, making sure to close the lids tightly to keep animals out. Recycle when possible — many campgrounds have recycling programs.

4. Keep your pets under control.

Lily goes campingIf you camp with your dog (or cat!), keep Fido contained and clean up after him, just like you do in a city park. Before tying him to a tree, make sure it’s permitted. (I prefer collapsible pens.) If your dog likes to bark, like Lily does, then make sure you keep it under control. Lily barks when somebody walks by and then stops — if she continues, I put her in the trailer.

5. Don’t cut living trees for firewood.

In Arizona, most of the time, any downed (dead) wood is good to use, but not necessarily the dead wood on a living tree. California has completely different rules so know the campground’s rule on finding your own wood or buying it.

6. Clean up after yourself.

trashcan

These are placed in campgrounds for a reason! Use them. And yes, for your pet's droppings as well!

Campground facilities exist for the benefit of all campers. Help keep them clean!

7. Be water respectful.

Do not clean fish or wash dishes in lakes or streams. Waste water (grey or black) should not be dumped in a lake, stream, or on the ground. If the campground offers potable water (drinking water from a faucet), know the rules of what you can and can’t do at the spigot. Most of the time, this means no washing ANYTHING at the spigot, including hands.

8. Know and respect the campground’s rules, even if you don’t understand the reasons for them.

The rules have been established to protect and respect the rights of campers, the campground, and the environment.

Readers Weigh In

 

  • If you know of any campground etiquette issues I’ve missed or that particularly make you mad, post it in the comments.

Polite Camping: 9 Tips

I really like camping out in the sticks — dispersed, dry camping where I have to haul in all my own stuff (including water), use my porta-potty, and haul out all my trash. But, on holiday weekends, (like Labor Day this weekend) all the traffic from ATVs and trucks can make me nutsy, so I head to a campground.

But, there’s nothing worse than camping in a developed campground than inconsiderate neighbors. Here are 9 tips to help YOU not be one of those people!

1. Respect other’s rights. Don’t walk through another camper’s site — walk around it. Most public campgrounds (in Arizona at least!) have paths between sites to the bathrooms, trash, etc. Use these paths and enjoy the stroll!

2. Be noise aware. I have no problem with shouting children having fun during the day — I love to see families out camping! However, noise like radios, generators, yelling for no reason, and fighting is really rude. You should also obey the campground’s quiet hours. Voices, radios and other noises carry further than you might think on a quiet evening. (A good rule is to tone down the noise as the sun sets.)

When Nicole and I went camping a few weeks ago, a huge group of women came in. They were up to all hours of the night drinking, yelling, throwing wood on the fire and just being obnoxious. The camp host was fantastic, asking them to be quiet, but no such luck!

3. Pack out what you pack in. You should leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. If the campground has campground hosts, they are responsible to keep the campground tidy– NOT to clean up after wild parties! Many campgrounds have trash service that you should use, making sure to close the lids tightly to keep animals out. Recycle when possible — many campgrounds have recycling programs.

4. Keep your pets under control. If you camp with your dog (or cat!), keep Fido contained and clean up after him, just like you do in a city park. Before tying him to a tree, make sure it’s permitted. (I prefer collapsible pens.) If your dog likes to bark, like Lily does, then make sure you keep it under control. Lily barks when somebody walks by and then stops — if she continues, I put her in the trailer.

Lily loves to camp AND she loves to bark!

5. Don’t cut living trees for firewood. In Arizona, most of the time, any downed (dead) wood is good to use, but not necessarily the dead wood on a living tree. California has completely different rules so know the campground’s rule on finding your own wood or buying it.

6. Clean up after yourself. Campground facilities exist for the benefit of all campers. Help keep them clean!

7. Be water respectful. Do not clean fish or wash dishes in lakes or streams. Waste water (grey or black) should not be dumped in a lake, stream, or on the ground. If the campground offers potable water (drinking water from a faucet), know the rules of what you can and can’t do at the spigot. Most of the time, this means no washing ANYTHING at the spigot.

8. Know and respect the campground’s rules. Even if you don’t understand the reasons for them. The rules have been established to protect and respect the rights of campers, the campground, and the environment.

9. Be considerate with your generator. If you’re going camping, CAMP! Get out of the RV and enjoy nature. If you’re going to use your generator (we’ve got one, so you know I approve of them) be sure to be considerate of others.

A few summers ago, my folks went camping at Rainbow Campground in Arizona’s White Mountains. For the last three days, a HUGE RV pulled in beside them and ran the generator non-stop! My folks ended up leaving a day early because of the noise and smell.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Are there any campground etiquette issues I’ve missed?
  • What particularly makes you mad when your neighbors don’t (do)?

Best Camping Season

Most people associate camping with summer time. And, as the start of the school year is drawing nearer (The Queen Mother teaches 5th grade; she reports back on Monday!) I think a lot of people might be thinking that their camping for the year is over.

But that is far from true. Done properly, camping is easy in three seasons of the year and for those hearty souls, can even be done in winter!

No matter when you go camping, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper gear including sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a tent! If you need help buying gear, you can find information about Buying a Sleeping Bag and Picking a Sleeping Pad. (Tents coming soon!)

Spring Camping

The grass is coming out, a few early wildflowers and blooming, the creeks are running with snowmelt. And there might even be snow on the north side of hills!

Advantages to Spring Camping:

  • Not many people are out in the spring, so you can enjoy the peace and solitude of nature.
  • Enjoy that early vegetation! Nothing is prettier than grass and flowers just starting to grow.
  • Animals are usually pretty active since they’ve “forgotten” the crush of people from the summer before.
  • No bugs!
  • The fishing is usually excellent.
  • Less likely to have fire restrictions.

Disadvantages to Spring Camping:

  • Many campgrounds don’t open until Memorial Day so services might be limited including water and trash service.
  • Mud! You have to be very careful where you drive so you don’t damage the soggy ground.
  • Cold nights and it might freeze. You’ll have to bring warmer clothes (more to pack) and it’ll take extra time to cook.

Summer Camping

It’s hot, supermarkets have displays of s’more fixings, the kids are out of school, and the campgrounds are just calling your name! Of course, they’re calling everybody else’s name too!

Advantages to Summer Camping:

  • Kids are out of school.
  • There’s a festive atmosphere at most campgrounds.
  • Campgrounds offer full services of a campground host, water, trash service, etc.
  • Campgrounds are less busy during the week.
  • Big Box stores are full of camping gear so it’s easy to purchase/upgrade new equipment. (Or if you forget something, they’ll have it on the shelf!)
  • It’s tradition!

Disadvantages to Summer Camping:

  • Campgrounds (and dispersed camping!) can be crowded, dusty, and noisy.
  • There might be fire restrictions in effect depending on rain fall.
  • It can be difficult to find a campsite on the weekends.
  • Summer means all manner of crawling things! Mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, bitemes, spiders, ants, etc.

Fall Camping

The leaves are turning, most people have headed back to the cities for school and work, the air is crisp. Fishing picks back up. It’s my favorite season to go camping!

Advantages to Fall Camping:

  • Campgrounds (if they’re open) won’t be crowded.
  • Fewer bugs.
  • The fishing is usually excellent.
  • Less likely to have fire restrictions.
  • Wildlife is very active.

Disadvantages to Fall Camping:

  • Campgrounds might be closed or have limited service.
  • Cool nights and it might freeze. You’ll have to bring warmer clothes (more to pack) and it’ll take extra time to cook.
  • Hunters are out so you’ll need to check hunting regulations in your area. It doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy the Great Outdoors, but you might need to wear “hunter orange” or take other precautions.

Winter Camping

There’s no denying the bite in the air! Trees and shrubs have shed their leaves, the grass is brown, snow is in the air. Snowbirds are flocking south for the season.

Advantages to Winter Camping:

  • There are hardly any people.
  • Peace, solitude, and beautiful winter views abound.
  • You can head to warmer climates for camping and leave all those office folk their cities.
  • Not a bug in site!
  • Good for bird watching or viewing large game like deer and elk.

Disadvantages to Winter Camping:

  • Many public campgrounds will be closed and services will be extremely limited.
  • You will need to bring lots of extra gear to brave the colder weather.
  • If you’re heading south, you’ll have to deal with the snowbirds and retirees.
  • Winter camping (in the snow) requires a higher level of knowledge, skill, and expertise.
  • Wind, rain, snow and freezing temperatures so be prepared!

Personally? My favorite season for camping is the fall!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your favorite time of year to go camping?
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