Camping Etiquette

Words by Katie James

Picture this, if you will.

You’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.  Work has been hectic, so the promise of a peaceful, quiet weekend away at that riverside campsite you love, is enough to make you smile through the Friday afternoon traffic.

The car is packed, the kids are excited and you’re all looking forward to some quality time together. After stuffing the last few necessities into the boot, you’re on your way.

When you arrive, you find yourselves in the lucky position of being the only people in the camp ground. You choose a great spot near the river. You set up camp, start the fire, pull out a camp chair, crack open a coldie, and enjoy the blissful serenity. The kids run down to the river and start skimming stones. As you and your better half listen to the birds and the sounds of the breeze through the trees, you can both finally breathe-it’s time to relax.

Sounds idyllic, right?

Then you hear a car approaching. Make that two. No, three. Three 4WD’s full of people, with music blaring. You wave and say ‘G’Day’ as they pass you, hoping that they’ll move to the back of the camp, so you and the family can have some privacy. No such luck. They pull up beside you, and all fifteen of them pile out. Music still blaring, they start setting up their tents.

One of them gets a chainsaw out to cut down a tree for firewood. Another turns the music up. A few of them struggle with their set up, and start swearing and arguing with each other. They pull out esky after esky full of grog, and turn on their generators to power up their speakers. The sun is starting to set now, but the noise is only just beginning. And it’s not going to stop until the sun comes up the next day.

By then, your neighbours are all passed out. Some didn’t make it back to their tents, and are sleeping amongst their mess: A smouldering green log, covered in cans and bottles that they threw into the fire the previous night, hundreds of ciggy butts and leftover food.

The dream of a peaceful weekend is shattered. It’s your worst camping nightmare come to life.

And it’s happened to most of us at one stage or another.

Today, I have my ranty-pants on. Camping Etiquette. It’s the unspoken rules that most of us abide by, and part of what makes camping so enjoyable. The rules aren’t difficult to follow-they’re really all about common sense, decency, respect for the environment and our fellow campers.

But the incident I’ve just described is unfortunately not an uncommon one. It happens all the time, especially on long weekends. Now, pretty much every seasoned camper will tell you that these people have broken almost every single rule when it comes to camping etiquette. However, these anti-social types don’t know or care for these rules, and they aren’t likely to be reading this perhaps I am already preaching to the choir here!

But, with beginner campers in mind (and maybe those of us who need a reminder), I have compiled a list of the most important ‘unspoken rules’ that we all need to follow, to ensure that our next camping trip is an enjoyable and safe one for all.

1. Limit noise. This is the big one. Now don’t get me wrong, I love camping with a big group of people. I love enjoying a glass of wine and a laugh around the campfire (and maybe even a song or two)! But there’s a way of doing things respectfully and without intrusion to our fellow campers. Obey the campground noise restriction rules. Generally, you need to keep it right down after 10pm and before 7am. And, I may only be speaking for myself here, but please, for the love of God, unless you’re Eddie Kamae, leave the Ukelele at home!

If you know you’ll probably make a bit of noise, camp well away from others-but remember that sound carries, especially when you’re camping by the water…which brings us to rule number 2.

Are you Eddie Kamae? If not, leave your Ukelele at home

2. Give your fellow campers space! Whenever possible, camp as far away from others as practicality allows.  No-one likes being crowded in, so if space allows (and it usually does unless you’re in a caravan park), give yourself and your neighbours plenty of room to spread out and enjoy some peace and quiet.

3. Don’t litter-and definitely don’t put your rubbish in the fire. There is nothing that makes me madder than seeing a beautiful area of bushland covered in garbage. I don’t know why anyone thinks it’s acceptable to leave dirty nappies and God knows what else lying around for our wildlife to choke on. Not only is it unsightly, it’s really unsafe-and not just for our native animals. I recently read a story about a family who went camping, set up fire in the designated fire pit, and a few hours later, a can of baked beans that was left in the fire exploded all over their kids faces. Absolutely despicable. It’s not that hard people; put your rubbish in the bin or take it with you if there isn’t one. Get a portable ash tray so you can bin your butts. Don’t put anything in the fire that doesn’t burn. As the saying goes, take only photographs, leave only footprints (I will get off my soapbox now).

4. Don’t chop down trees for firewood. In many places, it’s acceptable to collect your own firewood (as in dead trees, fallen branches etc), and it can help reduce fuel during bushfire season. Often, during busy times, the caretakers will provide some free firewood for you to take as you please. It might be best to check what the camp grounds policies are (especially if in a National Park), and if in doubt, BYO. Cutting down trees is illegal without a permit. And they really don’t burn that well.

A great campfire is essential. Cutting down a tree for firewood? Not so much. 

5. Take care of your pets. There’s nothing like having your best mate by your side when you’re away. I know I used to love taking my two staffies with me whenever I had the chance. But not everyone shares my love of animals, and they don’t know that our dogs are the biggest sooks you would ever meet. If your dog is well behaved, docile, and friendly towards other dogs, then they’ll be welcomed with open arms at designated ‘pet friendly’ campsites. But if they run through other peoples sites, jump up on people (especially kids), bark too much, or are otherwise badly behaved, it might be best to keep them at home.

6.  Respect the local wildlife. By feeding a wild animal such as a dingo, we may inadvertently be signing its death warrant (and risking our own safety as well). Sounds dramatic, I know. But feeding wild animals makes them lose their natural fear of people, and can become aggressive if they don’t get fed. For the sake of conservation, just let the animals do their thing while you do yours. Another good idea is to make sure all your food and rubbish is properly stored when you go to bed-there are plenty of nocturnal visitors that would love to make a mess of your leftovers!

7. Keep Australia beautiful. If you’re camping at a place with no toilet facilities or dump points, be sure to bury your business away from camp-and bury it nice and deep, away from any water source.

8. Dispose of grey water thoughtfully. Use containers to collect grey water so it doesn’t trickle down onto your neighbours site. If you need to shower outdoors or wash up, choose environmentally friendly, biodegradable products, and shower away from any water source.

9. Don’t take over the communal camp facilities. This is a biggie at remote campsites. It’s pretty much the height of rudeness to set your trailer/caravan up right next to an undercover seating area, or the camp kitchen. Particularly if it’s the only undercover spot in the camp ground.

10. Say hello!  Unless you’re camping on a private property, chances are you’ll be sharing the campground with other groups of people. You don’t need to become best mates with your neighbours, but many lifelong friendships have started at a campground. A friendly ‘hello’ and a smile goes a really long way-and if you follow these general guidelines, there will be plenty of those going around ????

Have I left anything out? Be sure to let us know your thoughts!

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