Dead dropping gear to reserve first come-first served sites?

Discussion in 'Campground Etiquette' started by Dr. Boondocker, Jul 29, 2014.

  1. Dr. Boondocker

    Dr. Boondocker KV

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    I just got back from a nice camping trip. We had a great time, but were bothered by one thing. In a popular campground with relatively few, spread out sites there was one site that had only a folded chair and mini cooler. This was a first come first served campground where you put your departure date on your payment tag and clip it to the post at your site. The mini-cooler and folded chair sat alone for the entire weekend, from Thursday through Sunday. However, there was a tag posted, but it was blank (ie - no departure date entered). Dozens of campers rolled through each day and were undoubtedly disappointed to be unable to find an available site. When we saw the campground still vacant as we left, we couldn't help but to think how fortunate we were to find a spot and how frustrating that would have been for us if we hadn't. My suspicion is that someone ran up the canyon and dead dropped some POS camping gear to reserve the space, didn't pay, and just pulled a blank tag off a payment envelope and clipped it to the post. Perhaps they did pay, but couldn't make it. Which would be reasonable and not morally questionable. But isn't the host responsible for making sure a date of departure is posted and that a payment made in the drop matches the site tag? 4 days (at least) seems excessive. Anyone have an explanation? What is the etiquette on dead dropping gear to reserve first come-first served site? As long as you pay?
     
  2. Big_kid

    Big_kid Virginia Beach, VA

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    I was near our favorite CG once and on a spur of the moment I went in and paid for a site, then dropped a traffic cone in it to hold it until we got there 5 hours later. I wouldn't have done that for an entire weekend though.
     
  3. dion

    dion Member

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    People with tents or trailers who want to occupy a site but leave for a while to go sightseeing or into town have no problem making it obvious that the site is occupied. People with motorhomes or van campers can have the issue that their sleeping/camping space is also their only transportation to go sightseeing. So if they need to leave temporarily, their only choice is to leave some indication at the site, along with paying the fee and doing the right paperwork. As long as they do the paperwork and follow the normal policies everyone else has to follow, there's nothing wrong with this.

    Many FCFS places have a policy that you must actually occupy the site at night in order to keep it. But that policy may not be universal -- I could imagine places that might say, as long as you pay the fee, the site is yours.

    So when you see some minimal gear at a site and no people to be found, you have no way of knowing whether it's legitimately occupied or not, unless you can check the paperwork and fee payment. Usually it's not hard for an unscrupulous camper to fill out a phony tag and put it on the post, departure date or not.

    After he didn't show up the first night, I might have considered letting the camp host know about it, and they can handle it according to their policy.
     
  4. Glamping Grandma

    Glamping Grandma New Member

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    I have to admit that I am an over-night site saver.
    I only camp at Lake Mead's Boulder Beach.
    I usually go a day earlier and find a site I can use.
    I pay for just one night in case something prevents my return. I cover the table and leave a few mugs and a caddy of table supplies on top.
    I eat an early dinner cooked at the site and usually have a small fire before getting in the TV and drivng home for the night.
    Next morning I load up TV and hitch up knowing the searching for a site is already done.
    I pay for the rest of the nights upon arrival.
    This completely eliminates all my worries about getting a spot that will work. Lost too many hours of sleep over this concern while owning the 27' 5th.

    Once while I still had the 5th wheel I returned to find someone had removed our things from the table and were all set up in the site. Two tents, canopy etc.
    My tag was still on the post.
    Camp host was very reluctant to remove them and I was furious.
    Then another camper approached us and offered their spot as they were leaving in 10 minutes. It was a terrific site and their teenage boys helped me dig my table top items from the dumpster where the new campers had trashed them.
    No, the host didn't even make them pay me for the night.
    Over the weekend we saw their group eating with camp host which explained everything.
    (Site was very near the host)

    I love to write letters and make phone calls and did several. Host was removed.

    I never save the good sites with a lake view, really big sites or the handicapped ones near the bathrooms and now I bring along a very small 1-man tent and put some firewood in it.
    Forgive me please but this system works for this single camper.
     
  5. speckhunter80

    speckhunter80 Well-Known Member

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    If they paid for the site then why care if they actually stay there that night. That is the rangers job to collect monies and make sure every site that is occupied is paid for.
     
  6. Morgan23

    Morgan23 Member

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    I don't think it's a big deal *as long as the site is paid for*. If they filled out the proper tags and actually paid for the site, it's theirs to do with as they please. Maybe they are camping of out their car/truck and take 90% of their stuff with them when they sight see so they are gone all day and only come back at night.

    However, I'd be mad if I saw a site with a blank tag as you stated. If they haven't paid then all bets are off and they better not be upset if they come back and their site is taken by someone who actually paid for it. We were camping in Big Sur a few years ago and someone tried 'squatting' on a site by throwing their stuff on it. They even put a blank tag on the post (maybe it's the same people the OP saw? [;)]). Mind you, the CG was FULL. A few hours later, a family pulled up and went around the loop several times. Finally they came back to that site and the driver got and out checked the tag. He ended up taking the blank tag to the camp host and they all came back and removed the squatters' items. The family set up their campsite and needless to say, the squatters were not happy when they came back that evening. But they had no leg to stand on since they had never paid for the site. They made a fuss, but didn't hang around long when they realized everyone else on the loop knew what they had done and were happy to see them go. [LOL]
     
  7. dcel

    dcel New Member

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    I think if the site is paid for, and the departure date is on the site post... then it is officially reserved and you don't need to put chairs or a tent up.

    That said, it does seem very unfair for people without a site if the site is not occupied by nightfall.
     
  8. Heartman_wa

    Heartman_wa Active Member

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    We have many FCFS state and National forest CG and you see it all the time. Spent a week at a free non potroled CG where someone set up a small tent put some gear in it put a lock on the zippers, it started to rain they left and never came back all week. There are only 6 sites and people came thru all week looking for a site.
     
  9. WingShot

    WingShot New Member

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    Most of the campgrounds I have been too out West, require the site to be occupied by checkout time on the second day of the reservations. But I have never seen a host open one of those sites up.

    As to first-come, first-serve sites it is certainly within someones right to pay for a site for a couple of nights and not occupy it. But it goes back to common courtesy. Certainly not a problem if the CG isn't full, but I have seen lots of folks having to drive by empty sites. I have dropped some stuff off for a couple hours while I relocated, but never overnight.
     
  10. Strut

    Strut Member

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    All the state and federal CGs in my area require you to occupy the site at least the first night. They also have a minimum 2 night stay during peak season weekends (Fri-Sun) and must be pre-paid. Both of these rules are meant to keep this exact thing from happening.

    In my opinion you shouldn't be able to do a "walk-up reservation" just because you happen to live nearby. If the site is reserve-able, great... reserve it, otherwise you shouldn't take it if your not using it. The guy or gal right behind you that took the extra day's vacation to get a good site, or even a site at all, just got the shaft.
     
  11. dion

    dion Member

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    There's a reason it's against the rules at some campgrounds. It can be abused, and become a way for locals to reserve a site for a popular weekend, defeating the nature of "first come, first served".

    On the Monday before a holiday weekend, someone can sit on a nice site, drop some gear and pay the fee to keep the site for a week, then go back home for the week, coming out for the camping adventure on Friday afternoon to their site. Then it can become an "arms race", where people compete, coming earlier and earlier to try and snag a prize spot. If they need to exceed the campground's stay limit, they can have a friend take the site for one week, then they visit the site again to hand the site off to a new campsite occupant. You could end up with the campground mostly occupied by phantom campers for the days preceding Memorial Day or Labor Day.

    True, if they do that, the campground is making their money, so who cares? Except that public campgrounds, especially FCFS ones, aren't run just for the money -- they're purpose is to provide the public with the opportunity to visit and enjoy the public lands, and they don't do that by having a lot of sites paid for and occupied by camp chairs or empty tents but with no people.

    Most private campgrounds will have no problem with you paying for a site and not showing up. And they'll normally take reservations, and sometimes change their fees over popular weekends. They're run with a different set of goals.
     
  12. lugoismad

    lugoismad Active Member

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    After the first night, the chair and cooler would have been in the dumpster.

    What tag?
     
  13. dcel

    dcel New Member

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    It then becomes quite obvious who threw them in the dumpster, no?
     
  14. gruss

    gruss Active Member

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    A blank tag? fair game, I'll go actually pay and occupy it.

    already paid for and left empty? Don't think you can do that in OH SPs, see quite a few with a little tent set up and no one ever there but they paid for it so their wasted $.
    Disappointing? yes, like when you go to park in a parking lot and realize there is a smart car in the space.
    Rude? I think so, but rude people don't shock me.

    With all the budget cuts for parks, I'm not really surprised it's not enforced better. Either they don't have the people to do it, or don't want to stop it since they're getting 'free money'.
    Before a holiday weekend many sites would be unoccupied all week, now they're getting paid for them being unoccupied.
     
  15. tconroy

    tconroy Active Member

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    The first come first serve place i go to makes you pick out the campsight and pay for it at the check in station. you ae not allowed to go "choose" a spot then come back and pay so if you arrive early a couple of days then you are in thier computer for that spot and no one can take it. They could care less if you show up 2, 3 or 4 days early as long as you pay.
     
  16. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    I notice that many people commenting here are referring to rangers and hosts. A lot of the small national forest places we have out here have neither. They are FCFS primitive CGs with 5-10 sites and a vault toilet. Someone comes around once a day to collect the money from the "Iron Ranger" (a 6" pipe set vertically in cement in the ground) and check the toilet's cleanliness status. That's it.

    In my view, if the site has a tag with the required information entered, it is someone else's "property" for the specified time period, regardless of whether any equipment is on it or not and whether it is used or not. If this situation continues for a second day a person might hang around hoping to catch the ranger who collects the money to ask if there is actually a pay envelope for that site in the Iron Ranger. If so, that's their site even if holding it and not using it is rude. It's also silly for them to waste money but that's not our concern.

    Regarding the OP's question, if there is a host I'd ask him/her to look at the site and blank tag to determine if the site is legitimately taken or not. If there is no host then all bets are off. I wouldn't take the site if there were others available. If there were no other sites available I'd remove the blank tag and take the site. I'd place the items that were on the site at the sign-in board next to the Iron Ranger.

    I encountered something like this at Calf Creek CG in the Escalante National Monument in Utah a few years ago. It's a small but extremely popular FCFS CG. Most of the sites are too small for a trailer but there was one very sweet pull-though. I thought I had struck gold until I saw there was a tag on the post. I checked it and it was filled out beginning with that day (Thursday) and lasting through the weekend. There was no equipment on the site. There was a host and I asked him about it. He said someone had paid for the four days. I ended up camping several miles away but passed through that CG every day since it contained trail heads for many of the trails I wanted to hike. No one ever showed up.
     
  17. Jimvw57

    Jimvw57 New Member

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    Hey now lets not be picking on smart cars... I have had my smart for 5 years now and I pay for insurance, licensing just like everyone else. I can't help it if you can't see my car when I park it in a parking spot... But I usually try to use one of the compact or a spot next to a post where other cars don't fit. Most of the time I park with the car at the rear of the spot (parking lots) so others can see there is a car there.
     
  18. gruss

    gruss Active Member

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    [LOL] Not that they are my favorite thing, but I wasn't picking. Just describing the feeling...I guess I could of said motorcycle, but I tend to park mine towards the rear of the spot so someone doesn't come flying in and smash into it so didn't think about it, good to see you do that too!
     
  19. Glamping Grandma

    Glamping Grandma New Member

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    I should have explained in my previous post why I can do it and not get in trouble.
    The rules at Boulder Beach require someone to occupy the site at least 12hrs a day.
    I usually arrive around 10am, pick my site, set up the top of the table and tiny tent with few pieces of wood to keep it from blowing away.
    I leave around 8:30-9:00pm.
    I am back by 10am next day.

    I like that rule because it keeps people from holding an empty campsite until someone arrives days later.
    At $5 a night for Seniors it only takes $25 to hold a choice site empty for a week until the coming holiday weekend arrives. Chump change in this town.

    The issue isn't the money. Sure the CG wants every site paid for every night and many will allow 'dead dropping' just for that reason.

    But I believe that I am a much better person than those other campers and will continue to live a life of compassion and fairness to others.
    It is at least a 5 hr drive to Lake Mead from anyplace else but Vegas and if there are no spots left by 3pm because of 'dead dropping' you could be stuck in my drive way for the weekend.
    Sorry! No fishing in my pool. LOL
    IMHO 'dead dropping' is rude and unfair.
     
  20. WingShot

    WingShot New Member

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    As I understood your earlier post, you were spending a good time of the day at the site and even eating dinner there. Can't imagine anyone ever having an issue with that!
     

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