Half of being a good camper is about being prepared. The other half is about using common sense. Campers often forget where they are, and they find themselves in situations that could have easily been avoided.
Not every campground is right for every camper. Choose accordingly. If you're new to camping, pick a public campground close to home. Public campgrounds are run by a government agency, and they are consistent in their services and regulations. Private campgrounds vary from one to another. If you are tent camping, avoid RV parks. Believe me, most tent campers don't like camping next to RVs, which can be noisy with their A/C and generators running all night.
2. ReservationsDon't make reservations at a campground that you have never visited. Reservations get lost, campgrounds fill up, and you may travel long distances only to find out that you have no campsite. If you must make reservations, be sure to get a confirmation over the phone or in an email, and get all necessary information while on the phone. Ask about their cancellation and refund policy, check-in times, and visitor rules before you get to the campground.
When you acquire new camping gear, take the time to try it out before you get to the campground. Set the tent up in your back yard so that you can become familiar with how it goes up, and just as import, how it comes down and packs. Use your sleeping bags in the family room for a night to see how comfortable it is and how well you sleep. Cook a meal on your stove to see how well it performs. Try your lanterns outside at night so that you can see just how much light they give off.
They say when buying real estate that it's all about location. You could say the same thing about choosing a campsite. When choosing a campsite, look at its proximity to things like bathrooms, showers, playgrounds, dog loops, lakes/rivers, and garbage disposal areas. Some places are nice to have nearby while others, depending on your personal preferences, are better off further away. Never choose your campsite hastily.
5. Tent placementAs a general rule, pick a high level spot to pitch your tent. You'll sleep better, and should it rain during the night water will drain away from your tent. Erect your tent far enough from any grill or campfire so that sparks won't fly into it. Never set your tent up on low ground. Aim your tent door away from the direction of the morning sun. That way you won't wake up and exit your tent into the blinding sun.
Cook food outdoors in designated areas, usually around the grill or campfire. Never cook in your tent. A small flame or spark can quickly put holes in a tent. Eat wherever you like at your campsite, but never eat in your tent. Critters will not hesitate to eat holes in your tent to get to food crumbs. Store all food in tight containers, preferably in the trunk of your car. If you leave your cooler out, put a rock or something heavy on top to keep critters out. Never leave food sitting out.
Heavy rain, lightning, snow storms, and high winds all spell misfortune to the camper. Unless you are a die-hard camper that camps in any weather, avoid camping when storms are brewing. If the weather forecast looks bad, consider rescheduling your camping trip. If you are intent on camping when it is possible that it might rain, you better have a tent that will keep you dry. There's nothing more uncomfortable than being soaking wet inside your tent.
One of the joys of camping is sitting around the campfire. Wherever you build your campfire, keep it small. A bonfire is not necessary. Keep a bucket of water nearby, and use it to douse the fire before retiring. If you have kids, closely supervise them, and remember that toasted hotdogs and marshmallows can be very hot. Never leave a campfire unattended. Be sure you have bandages and burn ointment in your first aid kit. Ice works well to sooth the pain of burns too.
You are camping outdoors where birds, bugs and other critters live. Watch wildlife from a safe distance. Take sprays to deter bugs. When camping in the woods, check now and then for ticks. Don't leave food out unattended, and don't feed the wildlife, they will continue to come around your campsite and be a nuisance.
When it is time to leave the campground, try to pack your gear dry. If you must pack it wet, be sure to spread it out to dry at home at your first opportunity to avoid mold and mildew. Pick up all trash and debris around your campsite, and dispose of it properly. As a courtesy to campers just arriving, tell the campground attendant when you are leaving that your site is available.