Recently I came across an article with “rules” to help people when they’re camping. As I read the list of rules, many things stood out as either not true or sometimes not true. What’s a camper to do? Here’s my take on rules of camping and when to break them.

Setting up a tent

Setting up a tent

“Your campsite should have trees for shade.”

First of all, sometimes you won’t have a choice where your campsite will be. Some campgrounds let you reserve specific sites, and other campgrounds will show you your spot.

Also, some campgrounds are completely devoid of shade. If you want shade here, you’d have to bring a portable canopy and set it up over your tent, or over the door of your tent so you have a “covered porch.”

So let’s say you can pick your campsite, and you have a choice between a shady spot and a sunny spot. Should you always pick the shady campsite? I’m going to say maybe. In my experience, shady areas are more prone to biting insects like mosquitoes. If there’s been rain or you’re camping in a humid place, you might be better off in the sunshine.

“Pitch your tent as far from the campfire as you can so you don’t get smoke blowing in your tent.”

I love the smell of campfires, but can’t stand breathing in the smoke. So this rule seems like a no-brainer.

However, as mentioned above, the logistics of your site might not give you much leeway in the location of your tent. You can’t control your campground neighbor’s fire or smoke, either. Also, wind direction can change. So when it comes to this rule, just do the best you can do.

Rules of camping and when to break them

Rules of camping and when to break them

“Bring enough of your own firewood so you don’t have to leave the campground and buy more in town.”

First check with the campground you’ll be staying at. Some places don’t allow you to bring in outside firewood and require you to purchase theirs. Insects and other critters can stow away in the wood, and limiting outside firewood keeps this migration in check.

“Make meals before your camping trip, and make sure it’s food that will keep and not spoil.”

Advance food prep is great if you can do it. When our family camps, we try to prep ahead as much as possible. We would much rather spend our time having fun than waiting for the food to cook. So, thumbs up on this one.


Many campers love cooking outdoors! Grilling over a fire or making a hearty breakfast in the morning before a hike is part of the experience people love about camping. This rule is all about preference.

“Get a tent big enough for everyone, but not so big and hard to put together that it takes too much of your time to set up and take down.”

This sounds pretty good. But it doesn’t tell you the reality of what “big enough for everyone” means. Tent packaging tells you how many people will fit in the tent. In our experience, you should cut that number in half to be realistic.

Also, most modern tents are pretty easy to put together. When you’re working together with your family or friends to set up and take down a tent, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. Not too bad for a night with a great view and fresh air, eh?

Now here are some of our rules:

Do reserve a campsite well in advance of your camping trip if you’re camping in a place that takes reservations.

Do practice Leave No Trace principles.

Do follow campground rules so you don’t make neighbors angry, get kicked out of the campground, or be told never to come back again!

Do check the weather and make a great packing list. (But if you forget something, don’t sweat it. One of the great things about camping is it teaches us to be resourceful.)

Do talk to the ranger(s) or campground host and be friendly. They will be more likely to look out for you and might give you a helpful tip for your stay.