Camping is a really popular activity these days, and we love it! Of course, we think it’s the best way to travel, and we’re happy that so many people are giving it a try for the first time. With so many beginning campers out there, however, we thought we’d take a moment to go over a few simple ways to both keep yourself from being a nuisance and foster some friendliness and camaraderie among your fellow campers. (Also, seasoned campers can use a reminder from time to time, too!)
Pack It In, Pack It Out
This is a biggie. If you bring it in with you, you must take it out with you. Please do not leave any trash of any kind behind at your campsite. Even if it’s biodegradable, even if it’s really small, or even if it’s really gross (especially if it’s really gross), it’s your responsibility to dispose of it properly.
A plastic shopping bag or bin liner does the trick really well—you can tie it onto the hook near the sink in the back of your van. You can also use a largish bowl or bin that can be emptied easily. If it’s not full yet, store it inside your van when you close up for the night or for a day activity. Many campgrounds have their own bear-proof dumpsters or trash bins for the use of campground patrons. Utilize these on your way out, and if they’re full—if there’s no more room to add your trash without leaving the lid open and negating all of the bear proofing—take your trash with you, and throw it away properly when you get a chance.
Likewise, never empty your gray water in a campsite, or anywhere other than a designated dump station. Some campgrounds and gas stations have them available for free or for a small fee, and there are several listed in the manual in your camper van if you can’t find one until you get back to Anchorage.
Keep Campfires Small and Safe
Reminiscing around a campfire is really the best way to end a day of adventuring, isn’t it? So by all means, have a campfire, but pay attention to how it affects the vegetation and the other campers around you. First, make sure there are no fire bans in place. Sometimes, Alaska has periods of very dry weather, and even though we all love those sunny days, fire danger increases the longer we go without rain and cloud cover. If it’s ok to have a fire, bring your wood with you, or collect only small, dry fallen deadwood to use as kindling—and make sure you’re in a place where it’s ok to do this. You cannot collect deadwood in a National Park, for example.
Build your fire in the designated fire ring or pit at your campsite, and don’t move this to a different location within the site. If smoke is blowing straight into your van, for example, reposition your van instead of moving the fire pit.
Never leave your campfire unattended. Put it completely out before you go to bed, or before you leave your site. Spread the coals out and douse them with water, make sure there is no steam or smoke escaping, and no heat is emanating from the ashes. If you haven’t used all of your collected wood, put it back where you found it. If you haven’t used all of your purchased wood and won’t be needing it again, take it to the next campsite over and ask the campers there if they want it. You can also bring it back to our office and we’ll hand it off to the next renters.
Keep the Noise Down
You’re out there to listen to the sounds of nature. Don’t drown out the chirps of sparrows or the calls of eagles, the wind whistling through the trees or the patter of raindrops on vegetation. That’s what you’re there to hear, and so is everyone else.
If you’re into music, use your headphones instead of an outdoor speaker. If you’ve got something to say to your neighbors, walk over and tell them instead of shouting across the campground. And if you’re telling a great story around the campfire, you may have to forego the sound effects. If someone is walking by your campsite, all they should hear is a low murmur.
Many campgrounds have quiet hours beginning around 10pm. This means keeping the noise level down, and also not running generators or loud appliances that also might disturb the peace. In a travel van, you won’t have a generator to worry about, but the water pump does make a bit of noise, so use it sparingly once it gets late. Also, don’t rely on your internal clock to tell you what time it is, especially if you’re traveling in June or July—remember, it won’t be dark! The midnight sun can fool travelers into thinking it’s earlier than it is.
In fact, that’s really all these “rules” are—best practices that show respect, for the land, for wildlife, and for your fellow campers.
So, DO introduce yourselves to your neighbors in the next campsite over, just don’t walk through their campsite to get to the bathroom or the beach. DO make advance reservations at the busiest campgrounds, but don’t be a no-show: cancel your reservation so that someone else can have a chance to get out into nature. DO get gourmet with your dinners, adventurous with your activities and creative with your photo shoots, but please don’t leave your trash or cooking scraps out, encroach on the campsites of others, or be irresponsible and unethical in trying to get that selfie.
Due to the pandemic, campgrounds have been busier than usual, and tensions are running high. That can be a volatile combination—but it can also be one that fosters camaraderie and mutual understanding. Everyone is out camping to get a break from everyday life and to appreciate the natural world, just like you, and that can be a great segue into a meaningful connection.
If you’re a newbie and you’re overwhelmed by the amount of stuff to remember, don’t be! Try this post on how to start if you’re new to this camping thing—and if you’re really not sure how to go about something, ask us! There’s nothing we love more than to introduce people to our most favorite of activities.
Ready to get out into nature? Book your van now, and start planning your vacation!