Something’s Not Right With RV Campers This Summer

By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

Something’s Not Right With RV Campers This Summer

We’ve all heard the news, RV travel is the only way to take a covid-cation. RV sales have skyrocketed, and more RVs have been rented this year than ever before.

However, something’s not right with RV campers this summer.

At Drivin’ & Vibin’ we take pride in providing readers with the most up-to-date RV news. We’re not a huge media publisher, but our reach exceeds 1 million monthly readers.

This is the first year we’ve ever received mail from the National Forest Service, tourist boards, and concerned citizens about the abuse RV campers impose on local lands.

From the mail we’ve received, RVers aren’t practicing “leave no trace.”

People are pleading with us to share best-practices of RV camping.

The Repercussions Are Clear (and Already Here)

We love boondocking (aka free camping). When we began full-time RV life five years ago, boondocking was our way to experience ultimate freedom.

Sites like Campendium & FreeCampsites allowed us to discover the joys of camping off-grid and be fully self-sustained. In return, it was our passion also to share the joys of free camping with fellow travelers.

From the reports we hear firsthand, these free camping lands are the very spots seeing massive abuse.

Fecal matter, trash bags, raw black water, and food debris are littering these areas.

The Lands Are Closing (and Staying Closed)

One of our favorite free campsites in Flagstaff, Arizona has already been closed indefinitely.

Last week the Coconino Forest Service messaged me with a grave warning that The Main Drag 525 may close as well (at least that’s how we interpret it). Here’s what the National Forest Service representative wrote:

“This overuse and misuse is causing tremendous damage to the area, impacting private ranch lands, grazing allotments, as well as creating illegal roads, illegal campsites, and a large amount of dust, trash, and road damage. Due to the impacts and misuse, we are now looking in to different options that may limit camping in that area.”

The Minimum Responsibility of RV Campers is Pack In, Pack Out

If you don’t know what pack in, pack out means – you probably don’t need to be boondocking.

It’s quite simple. Don’t leave your trash behind. 

  • Food Scraps
  • Bags
  • Fecal Matter
  • Toilet Paper
  • Gray Water
  • Black Water

That all counts as trash. As RVers, with plenty of storage space, there’s no reason to leave trash behind at a campsite.

You’re Also Responsible to Leave No Trace

As the Forest Service mentioned, RVers are creating new roads, new campsites, and new fire rings. This is the opposite of leave no trace.

We’re fortunate to be able to camp at these beautiful public lands. But it’s not our land, its the habitat of local wildlife.

By leaving no trace, we ensure that wildlife will be undisturbed. Additionally, it will allow the campsite to remain open for years to come.

The RVers Code Is To “Leave It Better Than You Found It”

Traditionally the RVers code has been to “leave it better than you found it.”

I understand with the influx of new RVers that they may need to be taught this code. Please let this article be your lesson. 

Better still, share the article with new RVers to educate them about the proper way to camp. 

We have to act together as a community of RVers to maintain this prized public lands remain open.

Free Camping Wyoming

We Encourage You to Free-Camp This Summer (and Leave It Better Than You Found It)

Don’t view this article as discouraging. Use it as motivation to get out there, camp in nature, and help the clean-up effort.

At the end of the day, it’s our land, and we should treat it with pride and respect.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

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17 comments

  1. We always bring large construction trash bags and fill enough trash in them to max out the exterior storage of out RV.
    Can’t get all the trash, but doing our part as best we can.

  2. I always clean up, not only our camp spot but have made it a practice of walking the area and picking up garbage should I see any.

  3. Great article and I totally agree. There’s a small # of RV’ers whose laziness and disregard for the environment and the PI/PO mantra, is truly going to ruin it for us responsible boondockers. You are doing your best to get the information out. Thank you.

  4. So true and right to remind all to Leave your campsite better than you found it if possible and always do a walk around the site as the driver pulls out JUST in case you forgot or oversee something. Stay safe campers !

  5. As a Boy Scout leader my troop was taught and practiced’Leave No Trace’ and better than you found it.
    People it takes about 10 extra minutes. Your kids can do litter pick up as you pack up. Make a game of it.

    1. I believe the biggest problem lies with homeless people living in free campgrounds. This thing has caused a lot of people to loose their homes and campgrounds are paying for it and so are we!!! We have seen it a lot, you can tell the people that are dug in. When they leave they leave a mess. Then there are a lot of young people drinking and leaving cans in fire rings and tossing on the side of the road. My suggestion is that they put big signs up saying if it doesn’t stop they are closing the campground. A lot of these people are not watching YouTube! I also hardly ever see the rangers inside the parks maybe they need to be more proactive!

  6. we learned these things way back in boy scouts! you would think it would be common sense!But, your right, with all the new people doing the RV thing now, this is what you get!…but..damn…I had road 525 on the list for this spring!!

    1. Some people just do not give a damn about anything but themselves. Its all about them having fun. I believe part of the problem has been today’s parenting. Children follow their parents actions and trashy people leave a trashy land.

  7. Walmart is having the same problem and are closing down overnight camping in some of their parking lot. People are leaving trash dumping their tanks and staying several days, not just over night.

  8. We’ve heard numerous complaints from rv parks as well.
    They call them nubies. They say they are rude inconsiderate and mess up their parks. They do not like them.

  9. We have seen this first-hand as camp hosts, trash, people pooping in the shower, no respect for others (mainly due to a lot of first-time RVers). We love being volunteers but you can only take so much everyday.

  10. Thanks for your article, I hope some of the read it. Seems it’s basic common sense and respect to pack-in/pack-out. I’s not just camping, I’m seeing this stuff on hiking trails that used to be clean but now have a lot of trash and bathroom leftovers. Wonder if they do that stuff in their backyard and/or have no plans to come back to the campsite.

  11. It’s not only free campsites this is happening. We are seeing more and more poor behaviors at pod for campgrounds as well. Damages to property is higher, not being good neighbor issues, so many choosing not to respect the land trees rivers – not sure what is happening but pandemic or not you would like to think people could Be kinder with all that is happening in the world.

  12. These “newbies” are not camping for the same reasons that most of us have camped for years — because we love nature and respect it enough to take care of it. The new RVers are in it for the fun…they have been cooped up at home and just want to get out and enjoy life. Entirely different motivation. They likely don’t see themselves doing this year after year as we diehards do, so they could care less how they leave their site. Shameful behavior by folks who just don’t care. And, as usual, those few selfish no-brains mess it up for those of us who do care enough to behave. Not fair but oh-so true.

  13. I’m getting ready to go see the country, but articles like this are discouraging, and good used RVs are harder to find. I think current political trends about only caring for oneself are the root cause of this. Good citizenship isn’t being taught. Many people tell me to wait until next year when all the RVs make it into the used market. I just hope there will be places left to camp!

  14. Thanks for this article. I hope ;some of the campers responsible for this behavior will read this. Really hard to understand why people would treat our beautiful lands in this manner. We have been backpackers, car campers, and now RV’s for 40 years. We camp mostly off the grid and and this summer have noticed an up tick in this kind of camping edicate. Hopefully after this summer of Covid Camping those with little respect for the natural enviornment will go back to their other recreational life and stay out of public lands.

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