We’ve spent several months in the southwest now and have spent lots of time hiking. We’ve also been boondocking or dry camping when possible. I’m oddly proud to say that we’ve had hookups for only 11 out of the last 40+ days – and that was when we had guests. Here are some pet peeves of mine related to hiking and boondocking.
Some of these topics don’t apply to our definition of dry camping – which is going without hookups at an actual campground. Most established USFS campgrounds have no hookups and are considered dry camping. What they do have, however, is designated campsites, trash services, and a camp host that hopefully enforces some rules.
Music and Phones
Our favorite boondocking spots are usually on USFS roads where we have no neighbors nearby (sometimes none in sight at all).
But, in popular places like Sedona, AZ, that’s not really possible. I understand that having other campers nearby is part of the deal sometimes. A lot of the time neighbors actually add to the experience since you get to make new friends and have interesting conversations with like-minded people.
But when people are sitting in front of their campsite 20 feet from our RV and spend several hours straight having conversations on speakerphone, it gets old. We’re out here for the peace and quiet of nature – not to be forced to listen to your conversation with your bros.
The same applies to music. If you like to blast your music loud enough that every explicit lyric can be heard within a quarter mile, please either stay home or find a place to camp with no neighbors.
Generators are a part of boondocking. Most people don’t have a solar setup elaborate enough to run everything, so a generator is usually at least part of the repertoire (which is also our scenario).
One of the reasons we went with Honda generators is that they’re pretty quiet. Under a light load with eco-throttle mode on, it’s not loud at all. Honda generators are expensive though, so I get that not everyone is willing to invest in them.
That being said, running your extremely loud, construction-grade generator all day and well into the evening is offensive. If a constant high-voltage feed is necessary for you to enjoy nature, you’re doing it wrong! Of course some people have medical reasons for needing power – but in that case, a super loud construction generator is probably not what they’d have.
And by all means, please obey quiet hours when you’re dry camping in an actual campground.
Your Stuff and your Trash – Leave No Trace
The general rule of boondocking in national forests is that you can only camp in previously disturbed areas. These are pretty obvious – there are often tire marks, an area where RVs have been parked, and a rock fire ring.
Let’s try not to disturb the area any further, okay? Having a solution for where your trash goes is a necessity. When a strong gust of wind comes through, your trash shouldn’t be at risk of blowing away. And neither should your tent, the blanket you draped over a tree, or your pile of empty beer cans.
Speaking of trash, one place where it should not go is in your fire. There are few things worse than having the smell of burning plastic from someone else’s fire woft in through open windows on a nice evening.
Also, if you have a camp fire, it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s completely out before you leave. It blows my mind that people leave with a fire still smoldering in the desert. The vegetation is bone dry and would catch incredibly easily. We’ve witnessed good samaritan neighbors hauling their own water to vacated sites to drown out smoldering fires – at least some people care!
Forest roads are still public roads. They have speed limits and are shared by all. I understand that it’s fun to blast down them on an ATV. But they’re not ATV trails and they’re not there for your personal enjoyment. Especially when there’s an OHV-specific trail (for off-highway vehicles, like ATVs) literally down the road!
ATV/off-road vehicle use is fine – and I’d love to have one – but it only takes a few bad experiences to give a bad impression. This became a problem while boondocking in Sedona due to the many ATV/RZR rental places nearby. Rental companies drop the vehicles off at the forest road entrance and suddenly the forest road is the rider’s personal off-road course and speed test track. There’s an OHV loop that intersects with the forest road – please use that for high-speed jaunts!
Read the signs
A fair number of parks post signs with current trail conditions, hazards, and relevant warnings/info on information boards at visitor centers or at trailheads. Read them! They’re written by the park rangers who know the trails and the area better than anyone else. Perhaps certain parts of the trail are impassable, or the water source you’re counting on is currently dry, etc. It can be useful stuff.
Kill the music
This one should be so clear and obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said, but unfortunately that’s not the case. No one wants to hear your music blaring from your phone or speaker while hiking. Most people hike to get away from daily life and to enjoy nature – which decidedly does not include your music. Seriously, leave it at home.
Going down the trail? Get out of the way!
This is a big pet peeve of mine. Many trails only have space for hikers to pass in one direction. The general rule (and one usually covered by the signs mentioned above) is that hikers going up have the right of way. So if you’re going down the trail when others are huffing and puffing their way up, step off to the side and let them pass! This is particularly frustrating in popular parks on weekends.
Stay on the trail
Many national parks (and hiking trails in general) exist in extreme climates. It’s challenging enough for native flora and fauna to survive without humans stepping on everything. When a sign specifically says not to go somewhere, don’t go there. It’s amazing how many people blatantly ignore these signs and decide to blaze their way through a fragile native area just to get a picture for social media (I assume).
Do you have any pet peeves or etiquette violations related to boondocking or hiking? Let us know in the comments!