Everything You Need to Know About Camping Etiquette

Jul 13, 2021

Camping in Mammoth Lakes is a chance to explore nature and enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll love the sound of the rushing creek and chirping birds as much as cooking dinner next to the campfire and stargazing before bed.

There are plenty of developed campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes and surrounding area. Wherever you pitch your tent or park the RV it is important to follow camping regulations and the unwritten rules of camping etiquette. To respect your camping neighbors and future generations of campers, here is everything you need to know about how to be a good camping neighbor.

General Rules for Campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes

Camp in designated campsites

The first rule of camping etiquette is to camp in existing campsites. Campgrounds are designed with a parking space, picnic table, and flat area to pitch a tent. Stay within your campsite, whether you have reserved a site ahead of time or are assigned a first-come, first-served site upon arrival. Keeping your tent and activities to the existing campsite helps minimize human impact on the environment.

Be kind to hosts and neighbors.

Most people go camping for the similar reasons—to enjoy nature and take a vacation from their normal lives. Many campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes have camp hosts who manage the campground and help to ensure campers have an enjoyable stay. Be friendly and kind to camp hosts as many are volunteers who see an influx of campers during peak season. And of course, being polite to the groups you are camping near is always a good idea.

Keep the noise down and use low lights.

The sounds of nature are one of the main draws for many campers, and campground quiet hours are in place to allow everyone to enjoy those very sounds. Always obey campground quiet hours. During the daytime if you want to play music, keep the volume down so that it is not heard outside of your campsite. Opening and closing of car doors is loud. Be conscious of your noise pollution and respect your neighbors camping experience.

Be aware of your campsite and light pollution. Campgrounds are inherently dark at night, so bright lights coming from a neighboring campsite can be shocking and disruptive. Use low lights on lanterns after quiet hours and turn off all outside lights before going to bed. Have a flashlight or headlamp handy by your bed for getting up in the middle of the night.


Wildlife Precautions for Campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes

Don’t feed the bears.

Mammoth Lakes is a black bear habitat, and campgrounds—with the smell of food and unsuspecting visitors always nearby—can be a huge draw for bears when campers don’t follow regulations. Keeping food stored properly is imperative to ensure your safety and the safety of the bears. Proper storage doesn’t stop at food, however. Bears will go after trash and other scented items, including toiletries. Dispose of trash in designated receptacles and store other food and scented non-food items in bear boxes, available at your campground.

Keep a clean camp.

Bears aren’t the only pesky critters at campgrounds. Keep your camp clean of food scraps and trash to avoid feeding other wild animals such as squirrels, coyotes and birds. Wiping down picnic tables and other cooking surfaces will help keep bees and other biting bugs away and make the camping area nice for the next visitor to stay there.

Fire Safety for Campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes

Obey fire regulations.

Different times of year have different regulations for campfires, depending on the wildfire danger. Check with your campground host for current fire regulations and obey them at all times. Skip the campfire during high winds, even if campfires are seasonally permitted.

Use existing fire pits.

When campfires are allowed, only use existing fire pits. The goal is always to have a minimal impact on nature, so don’t break down an old campfire pit to move it three feet one way or another. 

Drown the fire out.

At night before you sleep and before you pack up to leave camp, be sure to drown your campfire completely out. Use the “drown, stir and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it. And finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is still smoldering.

Etiquette for Common Areas in Campgrounds

Walk on existing paths and trails.

Campgrounds usually have paths or trails leading to common areas, such as the bathroom, recycling and trash dumpsters, water spigots, the lakeshore and trailheads. Walk on existing paths and trails; don’t take shortcuts or trample the foliage.

Similarly, have respect for your neighbors by sticking to the paths instead of trampling though their campsite, however careful you may be.

Don’t clean fish or dishes in the bathroom.

Bathroom sinks and water spigots will quickly become dirty and unusable if everyone cleans their dishes (and even worse, their fish) in them. Many campgrounds have designated sinks for washing dishes or fish cleaning stations. Ask the campground host for the specific regulations. Plan ahead and bring a large bucket to fill with water for cleaning at your campsite.

Know and follow pet regulations.

Each campground has different rules for dogs and other pets. Read up on the regulations before you travel to your campsite, and follow the rules out of respect for others. Some blanket rules you can expect to see at most campsites include: Always clean up after your pet. Keep dogs within your designated camping space; don’t allow pets to wander through other camps even if they are friendly. Dogs should be on the leash inside the campground common areas. Don’t allow your dog to bark incessantly.

Leave No Trace Principles

Leave your campsite better than you found it.

As always with anything you do outdoors in Mammoth Lakes, follow the principals of Leave No Trace when you are camping here. Pack out everything your brought with you. Dispose of all your trash, wipe down all cooking surfaces and camping tables and clean the fire pit before leaving. Once you are packed and ready to leave, walk the campsite a few times over to look for small trash items like bottle caps and bread ties that are easily left behind.

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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