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Campground etiquette works
  |  First Published: November 2004



It’s not long now until we all gather our camping gear together and head off on the annual pilgrimage that is the Summer holidays.

For many it is back to the same camping area, and often the same piece of dirt, to renew acquaintance with friends we haven’t seen for 12 months and to have a great relaxing holiday.

But there are times when the holiday doesn’t quite go as planned and not due to bad weather or gear failure – but by others who can make it miserable for those around them. Not only does it spoil a relaxing getaway, it can lead to nastier problems as well.

In a crowded camping area you are all living in each other’s pockets so there are some things that you can do to make things easier, too.

So these few tips could lead to a more relaxing holiday, great and lasting friendships and provide an example to those out there who just can’t seem to understand that they are not the only creatures on this planet and everything revolves around them.

THE PLOT

Most camping areas have marked areas where you pay a fee to set up your tent and park your vehicle. Within reason, this is your spot and you can set up as you please, but if there is not enough room you cannot plant tent pegs or string ropes on the neighbouring plot. That is unless you have permission to do so.

If you have a boat and a car there is often not enough room so you will have to find some vacant space elsewhere to park one or the other. Parking and blocking off the access strip will win no friends so it is often a good idea to have a reconnaissance trip to see if the space you are renting is enough for your needs.

Keeping your area clean is a good idea because the neighbours, often less than a metre away, don’t need all your garbage blowing into their camp as soon as a light breeze blows up.

Fires are another often overlooked problem. Most camping areas allow fires only in designated fireplaces but at times even these can be put to poor use. A very smoky fire blowing across the whole camping area is about as welcome as a bad smell in an elevator and looses brownie points very quickly.

Even more disastrous are hot embers blowing over tents – which will evoke an angry response and possibly a group of vigilantes, if not the park caretaker armed with hose or bucket to extinguish the offending flames. A simple barbecue will rarely cause any trouble if performed correctly.

NOISE

Noise is one of the major problems that cause bad feelings among campers. Your favourite music thumping out at a deafening volume is not everyone’s idea of relaxation so keep the volume to an acceptable level.

When darkness falls, sounds seem to travel further and become louder so the volume needs to be lowered and most camping areas have strict after-hours noise rules.

It is also a good idea to show a little consideration when heading off fishing in the pre-dawn hours. Revving the car for 10 minutes and talking at the top of your voice or banging things around in the boat is frowned upon. Even a feed of fish to the neighbours may not get them back on side.

BAD LANGUAGE

We are a much more broad-minded society these days but filthy language in public places, particularly where there are children, is not just poor form, it’s ignorance at its highest level.

I had the misfortune, along with many other families, of camping last Christmas hols’ next to a group of holidaymakers who at the best you could say had a very poor grasp of the English language. Every second word that was uttered came straight from the gutter and they had an attitude from the sewer to match.

When asked politely if they could curb the language this only evoked a greater and louder tirade of profanities – and that was from the girls! They left before things got ugly.

ALCOHOL

Much of this language could be attributed to alcohol and no one is saying that you can’t have a drink while on holidays – that’s often part of relaxing. A few beers or wines, a yarn then hitting the sack is part of the deal and some of the best camp arvos are where everyone from all about gets together, has a few drinks and tells stories. This is where fibs are told, legends are created and pass on into camping folklore.

But, as always, when anything is overdone it can lead to trouble and when the grog monster raises its ugly head, it is best finish proceedings and move away from the offender.

SPEED

Camping areas are not racetracks and all have strict speed rules. Driving over the speed limit, or in any manner that may be dangerous particularly in and around tents is frowned upon.

Busy camping areas are packed with kids of all ages and they are all out having fun, which in most cases means they are not watching what is going on around them.

This is where responsible adults have to take care and look out for the littlies, and some of the less observant grown-ups as well. It really spoils the holiday for everyone if someone gets run over and injured.

THE SHOWER

This is where things can get really ugly: There are only five showers, a line-up of 15 people back from the beach late in the evening and someone is having a 20-minute soak in the shower and then spends another 10 minutes getting dried and five getting dressed. You can really earn a bad name for yourself when there is a queue up, so get in, get washed and get out.

Taking your clothes with you and getting dressed mostly outside the shower cubicle after a tub will be appreciated by writing campers. If you need a long shower, go in the middle of the day or late at night when there’s no queue.

HELPING

It can be tough when camping at times so lending a helping hand to anyone who needs it always goes down well – as it does any time during life.

Helping a new neighbour set up the tent is always welcome, as is a hand to pack up, particularly if there looks to be a bit of bad weather on the way or there are kids to be looked after while adults get on with the packing.

If bad weather strikes and someone is doing it tough, it’s all hands on deck to look after each other and those spare pegs and poles or tarp could be the saving grace that prevents further difficulties for someone out of luck.

Sharing a feed of fish or having the community barbecue all go hand-in-hand with good camping. And getting all the kids together for a camp cricket match where everyone gets a bat and a bowl is great camping etiquette.

So next time you head of to that favourite little out-of-the-way spot remember that a little thoughtfulness, help and kindness is often repaid many times over.

Keeping your tent and all its ropes and pegs within the confines of your space and not blocking access ways is good camping etiquette.

It can get crowded at peak times and a helping hand never goes astray.

Camp roads are not speedways and kids can appear at any time.

A group barbecue is always a good way to keep the atmosphere happy and relaxing.

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