Camping etiquette: The unwritten rules

Going camping is one of the best activities for stress relief there is, that much has been proven. Countless studies have shown that the fresh air, exercise and the complete removal from day-to-day life can relax and rejuvenate even the most worn-down individuals.

That said, there are one or two niggles that can turn even your most carefree fellow campers into a seething ball of rage – or at least get them mildly irked. So to avoid this fate, here are a few rules to which every camper would be wise to adhere; a Highway Code for camping, if you will.

Be mindful of your parameters

Campers are a friendly bunch and will often invite their neighbours round for a tea, coffee or something decidedly stronger. However, it’s best to give your neighbours a little bit of space before getting to know them properly.

Make sure you know the parameters of your pitch, so you can keep your car and tent within them. Pulling up in a people carrier that could double up as a stretched limo, then proceeding to unfurl a tent big enough to blanket most of Hertfordshire is all well and good, but only if you have sufficient space to do so. The best option will be to first work out where your pitch ends and your neighbour’s begins, then set up accordingly. Keep guy ropes in mind here as well, otherwise it may appear as though you’ve set up a Krypton Factor-style challenge for neighbours to negotiate.

Finally, it’s also worth looking at where a neighbour’s tent is facing. If they’ve angled it to make the most of sunsets over the nearby hillsides, try not to park right in their way.

Treat the campsite as you would your own home

Although everyone will have a different definition of ‘clean and tidy’, it’s worth having as much respect for the campsite as you do your own home. This means keeping the place clear of rubbish bags, not dropping litter, limiting noise and rinsing out the sinks once you’ve used them. This needn’t mean that a camping trip must be quieter and more subdued than a sponsored silence at a temperance meeting, of course, just that campsites are much more enjoyable when everyone treats them with respect.

On the other hand, there are one or two ways in which it might be wise to not bring home habits to the site. If you’re partial to 40-minute showers, for example, it’s probably best to not do this on-site. Not only would you need a reserve of 50 pence pieces to rival a city bank (if the showers are paid-for, that is), you could end up using all the hot water – leaving none for fellow campers. Plus, that walk of shame back to your tent past the queue of people that formed while you were relaxing in the shower certainly won’t be the most enjoyable of experiences.

Be sociable

As noted above, campers are a sociable bunch, happy enough to while away minutes or hours chatting to their neighbours. Proof enough comes in the address books of seasoned campers, which are full-to-bursting with such entries as ‘John and Jean, Blackpool, 1993’ so that Christmas cards can still be sent across the miles – years or even decades since that one fabled holiday.

Likewise, campsite clubhouses are chock full of people sharing their children’s names, day jobs and general anecdotes every night of the week. Even many smaller sites which don’t have pubs or bars on site will often organise social evenings for everyone to get together and have a good natter.

The end result is that campers will often expect others to share in their socialising. Whilst it’s unlikely to go quite so far as having your fellow campers pop round at 6am to see how you slept, expect a trip to the waste water disposal to be met with a few convivial “hello” and “how are you” greetings.

Think of it this way. If you’re having trouble setting up a tent for the first time, or getting your gas stove to work, a sociable, seasoned camper popping over to offer a hand could be exactly what you need.

Respect the environment

The ways in which a camper should protect the environment is pretty much enshrined in the Countryside Code. In a nutshell it is “respect, protect, enjoy”: respect other people, protect the natural environment and enjoy the outdoors.

When camping, though, there are a few more specific considerations to always bear in mind.

First, be aware of local animals and treat them with caution. Many sites are near farms or rolling countryside, meaning there may be cows, horses, sheep or other livestock occupying nearby fields. Avoid them where possible, but if you need to pass through the field do so slowly and steadily, without making any sudden movements. If the animals approach you, however, it’s likely they are comfortable in your presence so therefore pose less of a threat.

Similar caution needs to be exercised when feeding animals. Many farmers would prefer you didn’t, as it could mean they end up getting the wrong food, or too much. Similarly, it could encourage them to go in search of more treats – meaning your fellow campers suddenly have a flock of sheep outside their tents, chewing their guy ropes and trying to make off with their cool bags.

It’s not only animals you need to consider, but the wider environment at large. Campers are always advised against taking wood from standing trees for their fires, whilst Chinese lanterns have been banned by countless sites across Britain for the danger they pose.

The above rules are, of course, just guidelines that can vary from site to site. Keeping them in mind, though, should ensure your camping trips are successful ones, both for you and those nearby.