How late is too late to set up camp?

My husband and I always try to get camp set up at a decent hour, but sometimes things come up before getting to camp after work and we end up setting up in the dark. Any thoughts on how late is too late? Just want to be mindful of others nearby!

ETA-The most memorable negative campground review that I’ve read was written by a person who arrived after dark and disturbed her camping neighbors setting up their site. She was upset that they received complaints about how disruptive they were that first night since they proceeded to cook dinner for their family and they received complaints on following days about how loud their kids were. I believe there was a racial profiling element as well since the subsequent complaints were before quiet hours, which sucks.

With that being said, I have only arrived at a campsite once after dark and I slept in my car the first night. I go on long camping weekends where my furthest destination is 5 hours away, if I leave after work I always plan my first night to be at a campground that is no further than two hours away.

I will have to find that review @Krista_T…I have never heard of people being that mean at a campground! Wow!

I’m sure it depends on the campsite; it never bothers me when other people come in late. I would say if you can get to your site and set up your camp with minimal disruption it’s probably ok. Maybe practice setting up your tent in the dark a few times to get used to it or plan to sleep in your car.

What’s not ok is rolling in at 2am pumping the bass, shining your headlights into as many tents as possible and letting your dogs bark at everything, but even then I would just put my earplugs in and ignore it :wink:

If I know I’m going to be late, I make sure my dog gets out somewhere on the way to the site (if I’m taking her) so I don’t have to be wandering around in the dark potentially disturbing people trying to get her to relieve herself. I don’t do anything to set up for cooking either, since my setup can be a little noisy getting it out. I’m pretty much just sleeping when I get there and will deal with setting up camp in the morning.

Some campgrounds have quiet hours, but they differ between regions; I would double check if you can to see what they are just in case. I’ve never really seen quiet hours restrictive enough to not set up camp though. I haven’t gotten in late to a site with a camp host, but I would feel a little bad if I got in after 10pm and was required to sign in with them before heading to my site, so that might be something to consider also.

I guess it depends on where and when. If it’s car camping in a family destination like a state park where tent pads are close together, you might not want to make the noise of setting up. I can remember as a kid arriving late one night and we just slept in the car to avoid the “noise”. I guess it also depends on the quiet hours at the park you are staying in. It’s also possible to be incredibly minimal when setting up. I mean, you don’t need everything (clothes, cosmetics, all your gear). You can throw down your tent, sleeping bags and pads and be done til morning. If you know that’s going to happen, have all that “at the ready” in the car so it’s easy to find and get to quickly and quietly (make sure you know where your flashlight is and use the red mode if possible). Then, you can properly set up in the morning.

If you are primitive camping, then set up whenever…lol. No one will hear you in the back country :slight_smile:

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I try to arrive before dark but there are some instances where it just isn’t possible. On one incident I went to a campground in Louisiana and had enchanted a pretty bad storm on the way down from Texas which pushed me back to arriving at like 1 am, not what was on the plan whatsoever but with road conditions it just kinda happened that way, we called in advance to let them know what was happen so they gave us the code to the gate and said come on. We were at a state park and on top of that someone had set up in my reserved site so I had to find an empty and set up. Lucky for me there was one!! We proceeded to set up as quietly as we could to not disturb neighbors. Under other circumstances I would not arrive that late because setting up in the dark and quietly is hard to do, especially anchoring stakes, that took some creativity to say the least…

I don’t think it matters as long as you have the ability to be stealthy. Be sure your big beams are off and you’ve turned down your radio. If you know you will be arriving late, try to have your things organized so you can access your necessary gear (tent, sleeping bags, headlamps, etc) quickly and with the fewest car door openings and closing as possible. If you know you can’t set your tent up without engaging in a marital spat, then push your arrival back to a more reasonable time.

All in all, you can arrive as late as you need as long as you have the ability to be a quiet as you roll through your set up. And of course, only set up what’s absolutely necessary to get some shut eye. The rest can wait until morning. My two cents.

Sometimes you can’t help getting in late. I usually try to be set up before dark, but have also had times when we just got a late start, or stopped along the way, and ended up setting up dark.
I also have been awakened in the middle of the night by campers who arrived late. (Aluminum tent poles make a lot of noise at night.) And kids can be very loud too.
I think the most important thing is be respectful of everyone else. As has been pointed out, you don’t have to set up completely if you get in late. Get the basics up, secure everything and then wait till morning for the rest.
I think my mist memorable “late night” set up experience was a a state park in Missouri when a young couple got in very late with a tent they had borrowed, and didn’t know how to set up. There was lots of colorful language, and they ended up sleeping in a half set up tent. (I wonder if they are still together?)

This is a very thoughtful question, so right off the bat kudos to you for considering this. I agree with the general sentiment here. Try to avoid arriving after quiet hours, but if you can’t then just be considerate and stealthy. I am one of those people that will get up and have a talk with someone who is being inconsiderate after quiet hours - for things like repeatedly crashing into their pots and pans while drunk or blowing up their electric air mattress 10 feet from my tent at 1 am (both of these things have happened by the way). But if you are quietly setting up, then I think that is fine.

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I really think one should abide by the campground quiet hours - It’s really not complicated. If you can’t get there with enough time to set up and get settled then one should consider another option for the night. No matter how quiet you try to be in a standard car camping campground it’s almost impossible to be completely stealth.
It might just be one night in your journey but maybe it’s the one weekend a neighboring camper has to enjoy nature for the season or - we don’t know what…but I don’t think it’s OK to impose one’s presence on others beyond established quiet hours. Just plan accordingly. Camp closer to home the first night, take a half day off to get there earlier, stay in a hotel if necessary or sleep in the car… there are other options.

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In my travels, I have both set up at every imaginable hour and have had neighbors do the same. The use of common sense and consideration of others reigns supreme. Though I tent camp and set up is virtually silent. I’m not bothered by set up noise, fellow camper’s travel plans all differ, so “ideal” arrival times may not be possible.

Some campgrounds in New England restrict arrivals after 9pm; the gates may even be locked and the office closed! It often is about an hour before quiet hours start, so they allow time to set up. I’d say giving yourself 30 minutes before quiet time is a good guideline for most campgrounds, even if they don’t specify restrictions. If you are arriving late, it’s not the time to be setting up everything. If you can pitch your tent quickly, go for it. That process doesn’t make a lot of noise if you know what you’re doing.

Have the items you’ll need upon arrival (light, tent, sleeping bag, mattress, toiletries) conveniently located. As others have said, headlights lowbeam - and off when you arrive at your site; I hate having headlights shining into my tent. Avoid unnecessary chatter. And don’t plan on blowing up an air mattress after everyone is in bed! Eat before you arrive so you’re not messing with the kitchen.

For those who have kids who can’t be quiet, maybe leave them in the car while you set up (if they’re young, they may have fallen asleep). My parents used to put us into our pajamas before we left so the transition to bed was a quick one after a bathroom run.
Happy camping! A considerate camper makes for good neighbors. Sounds like you’re in good shape.

We frequently arrive to camp late, as we are usually leaving straight from work on Friday. We’ve never had any complaints, but we try to be as quiet and respectful as possible, we wear our headlamps so there’s not bright lights shining, etc. And we know our gear like the back of our hand so set up is pretty quick and easy. We have experienced others arriving late, even walking through our site to get to theirs, and we just offered to help. We are just happy to be out there! So basically a summary of all that rambling is, if you arrive late be as respectful, quiet, and quick as possible

Our scout troop always has people bring a sack dinner or stop for fast food on the way. Maybe this is one reason why! We went with the group one time and my 4 yr old threw up all over the tent at 1 am. Even then we were careful to make as little noise as possible and our neighbor didn’t realize we went home.