If you’re 15 miles deep in the backcountry sharing space with coyotes and bears, you can get away with brandishing your flashlight at every snap of twigs, zipping and unzipping your tent enough times to replace the exercise of counting sheep, using that chainsaw you hauled in with abandon (never seen one in the backcountry but if you’re man enough to carry it in…). But if you’re camping in a campground, you’ll need some manners.
We camp to get away from it all. The problem with that yearning is that during high season most campgrounds are crowded. So you either need to toughen up and camp during the off-season (meaning you’ll need to deal with colder weather), or utilize a few things you’re Dad tried to teach you about life in the great outdoors.
Even for those who consider themselves a seasoned camper or outdoors person, the leap to knowing how to play well with others when your playground is a campground isn’t always a given.
I assure you however that it is possible to happily co-exist in nature when the most you’ve got separating you from your neighbor is a few feet and a tent wall.
First things first: Get along with your camp mates
Getting along with your neighbors must be preceded by getting along with your camp mate(s). Camping is not an activity that can be performed solely from the lawn chair. There’s a time for that, but most people do not need that time pointed out. It’s the “participating” part for which they need a gentle nudge.
• Discuss ahead of time duties and who’s going to do what. Do a blind draw and plan to switch jobs mid-trip so that what appears to be the draw for an easy job doesn’t create hard feelings for the entire stay. Besides it makes everyone appreciate what the other jobs entail.
• Everyone should be prepared to volunteer to take on unforeseen chores (guaranteed to be some).
• If you’re the cook, cook like you’ll be doing the clean-up instead of utilizing every pot, pan, and utensil to make your job easier/quicker. If you’re doing clean-up, clean-up like you’ll be cooking the next meal.
• Clean and pick up after yourself. Too basic? Camp with others a few times then share some sob stories about how many people lack the grasp of this basic concept. Get out a hanky – there’ll be plenty of stories.
• If you’re an inexperienced camper, don’t wait to be asked to do something. When meals/clean-up are in process, campfires are being prepared, camp being erected or broken down, hover and be enthusiastic to help and learn.
• Only go camping with people you know and like – another obvious and oft-overlooked basic that deserves to be mentioned.
Getting along with your campground neighbors
About those neighbors…
The tent wall I spoke of previously? They’re thin. As in NON-EXISTENT. Don’t be lulled into thinking that tent protects you from anything other than a bit of weather. In the dark, quiet of a campground even a whisper carries. And if you’re camping anywhere near water, be prepared for the world to hear your every utterance. People get behind tent walls and become the child in a box in the living room floor thinking they’re hiding, all the while giggling and begging you to find them.
• After dark make an effort to keep your flashlight pointed at the ground. That beam of light is even more unwelcome than loud, late conversation. Especially if you’re circumventing walking to the public latrine.
• Pets. Not everyone loves them. Respect that.
• Know the rules of the campground. Follow them.
• Leave the area spotless by picking everything up, including the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that’s harder for others to remove and causes the most unsightliness over time.
• Think about others. Treat them the way you want to be treated.
• Check out the Leave No Trace website. The principles associated with this environmental edict sum it up: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
Don’t be deterred by the fact camping requires a bit of thoughtfulness and civility! My husband and I camp frequently in the late summer and fall in a fairly crowded campground. Most campers are there for the very same reason, are respectful, know the rules and follow them. Regretful instances of pitching our tent are rare. The guy with the chain saw for firewood or the family that zips and unzips their tent enough times to replace the exercise of counting sheep are few and far between.
Most campgrounds have a ranger or campsite volunteers that can be found after-hours if you need them (be familiar with your campground). I’d recommend doing that over directly approaching an offensive camper. Short of finding a ranger, chances are if you’re offended, others nearby are as well. A group effort to quiet a rowdy camp is the diplomatic choice should you be faced with such.
Other camping related posts in this series: