Camping etiquette


First aired on Fresh Air (19/05/2012)

In the 1950s, camping became a popular pastime for cash-strapped families looking for an affordable vacation. Thanks to today's precarious economy, camping is back and it's more popular than ever. However, just because you're vacationing on the cheap doesn't mean you can succumb to cheap behaviour, argues canoe and wilderness expert Kevin Callan. And he should know: he's authored eight books on outdoor adventuring, including his recently revised book The Happy Camper: An Essential Guide to Life Outdoors. He stopped by Fresh Air to share some tips on basic camping etiquette, and the best ways to deal with some of nature's less inspiring sights and sounds, like yelping dogs, whinny kids or rowdy bros.

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"The people that are being rowdy, they don't think there's rules out in the wilderness. They don't think there's etiquette out there, and there are [rules], we just have to get them to realize it." Whether it's upsetting fellow campers by blaring music after 11 p.m. or clanging pots and pans for 6 a.m. breakfast, Callan emphasizes the importance of respecting and sharing the common space. "We're living here as a community at a campground, we're not in the wilderness by ourselves escaping everybody," he explained to guest host Karen Gordon. "You have to realize other people have different views, different attitudes towards what camping is all about."

According to Callan, it's the social experience that attracts both the nature lover and the party seeker to campgrounds. Often campers want to enjoy the outdoors and the community feeling campsites often offer. "There's a great moment in the campground social etiquette where everybody gets along and its peace and harmony and everything else."

If you're more the nature lover who prefers quiet harmony with fellow campers, Callan suggests searching for campsites that ban alcohol, which helps to restrict rowdy guests. "What those parks are doing is saying we want the money from the families, we don't want the rowdies...Go to those sites, because what they're saying to you is that we want your business."

Regardless of your intentions and preferences, Callan says that keeping camping etiquette in mind can create wonderful opportunities. "You can actually meet someone while you're campground camping and become friends for life with those people and go camping with them for life. Or you can meet the devil themselves."