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Camping tips: an etiquette checklist for camping holidays

srpen 27, 2010
od Laura Canning | guides

You may think you’re not the kind of selfish soul who’d even dream of annoying other people on holiday, but unless you're a paragon of virtue (like us), the chances are that you’ve probably annoyed someone at some point without knowing you’re doing something wrong. What might seem perfectly acceptable and reasonable to you (midnight campfire songs, Fido ‘just being lively’ with his adorable exuberant barking, your little darlings running about playing first thing in the morning) may have the person next to you rocking in their berth muttering in righteous fury. Follow’s guide to camping etiquette to make sure you’re always a perfect guest.

Cramped tents at a festival

Get your foot out of my face!

 Everyone has their own idea of personal space, as those of us who’ve been pinned against the wall by a colleague relating their weekend adventures can attest. Camping is just the same, and needs you to keep an eye on other people and where they are, especially if you're tent camping at a site with no designated pitches, rather than using marked out spots for motorhomes or tourers.

‘Too close’ will vary according to each camper, so err on the side of caution and pitch as far away from your neighbour as room allows. If space is tight and you’re forced to pitch up closer than you think they’d like, a smile and an acknowledgment goes a long way. Similarly, if you think someone is pitched too close to you, a quick move or a polite chat should sort things out before you’re smouldering as much as your campfire. And remember not to take a short cut through someone’s pitch – it’s their front garden.

Little angels

Sadly not everyone will love your little darlings as much as you do, so if you’re camping with children do your best to make sure they don’t disrupt or annoy other campers. Kids will be loud and excited on holiday, so consider a park aimed at them, where other parents will be less likely to complain and where you can bond over a glass of wine when the kids are finally in bed.

If you do go to a general park, let your kids know about when and when isn’t an OK time to run about or shout, and be very very sure to impress on them that other people’s tents/pitches are private and not for exploring. Finally, try not to take it personally if someone asks you at 8am on a Sunday morning if the volume/screeching could possibly be lowered just a tiny bit. Be aware that tents don’t have walls and so something seemingly innocuous like the beeping and clicking of a games console at night can really annoy someone next to you.

It works the other way too – if you just don’t like children, or want to sleep late in the mornings after visiting the local pub, consider an adults-only park so your blood pressure stays down and so you’re not complaining about what could be reasonable enough noise. If you’re intending to stay up late or play music and you’re in a family park, pitch in an isolated spot if possible.

Pampered pooches

If you’re taking your dog camping with you, search for a dog-friendly campsite – there are hundreds of them on – and make sure your dog is on the lead when and where he’s meant to be. If your dog’s the type that barks all night, especially when somewhere new, start dealing with that by training well before you leave, or pitch as far away from people who might be annoyed (families with kids, for example, are likely to be up very early). And don’t forget to scoop the poop everywhere you need to, onsite and off.

Not a reader of the blog

Smoke, smells and campfire sausages

If you’re staying in one of the many sites where campfires are allowed, only light your fire in the properly designated areas, and bring your own wood unless wood is provided on site – never take wood from standing trees. If you’re a camping newbie anyone on site should be able to tell you where’s best to forage for dead wood to burn.

Don’t burn anything on your campfire, for example plastics or bottle tops, that will give off a bad smell and unpleasant smoke. Generally speaking you can cook whatever you like on your campfire, but you might want to reconsider the kippers at 6am for breakfast if space is tight and it’s a still day.

Finally, the obvious but important ones – always make sure your campfire is fully extinguished when you’re finished, don’t leave your campfire unattended, take care where you put flammables like gas stoves or matches, and make sure all cigarettes are put out properly and the butts taken with you and binned. It’s not just about safety, but all part of camping etiquette.

And the rest...

Etiquette in any area includes things you wouldn’t even think about, and camping is no different:

  • Don’t hog the showers in the mornings or use all the hot water, and remember this is not the place to take your newspaper to the toilet for your leisurely morning read.
  • You likely can’t help it if you snore, or at least that’s what you tell your long-suffering partner, but a rueful smile and an apology, or better yet an offer to make breakfast the next day, will go a long way to appease any baggy-eyed neighbours.
  • You may be very proud of your huge pitches-itself-bells-and-whistles-included BMW of tents, but don’t forget to consider if you’re blocking the sun or light of the poor couple in the tatty two-man tent behind you.
  • And finally...we shouldn’t have to tell you to flush the toilet or clean it after yourself if necessary, put your rubbish in the bin, don’t leave food lying about to attract rats, or play soulful guitar loudly at 4am, but apparently we do...

So play nice, and happy camping and caravanning...If you have pet peeves about poor park behaviour or tips for camping etiquette, let us know below!


Updated October 2012