Camp Etiquette Rant


WARNING: If you are easily offended, just skip this one. Thanks.

I have been a camper for years. I have already talked about the different ways we camp and some of the different people who camp. Today I am upset because somebody stole the wipes I left in the outhouse. The fucking out house!! Whose wipes did you think they were, anyway??? You know they were not yours, right?? I am pissed.

In response, or in addition to my little vent, I want to acknowledge the etiquette that goes with camping. Oh, yes, there is a culture, there are written and unwritten rules. There are even expectations (like not stealing my fucking wipes) that I am compelled to acknowledge. As you read this, know I welcome additional insights for anything I may have missed. 

First, there are the posted rules. The campgrounds I have been in, developed or primitive, all have a registration station. Like a welcome mat but on a sign. Generally, you will see the location name, who owns or operates the area, standard rules, maps if applicable, and pay station. Information one would need to know should a ranger stop in or get a complaint about your behavior. There are no excuses for bad behavior, as the rules are right there. Oh, and the ranger will stop in or drive by. They always do. Additional guidelines include fees, campfire limitations, wood gathering rules, if this is a bear or cougar area, pets and leashes. Some of the rules seem obvious, like not shooting your gun for target practice, and some not so much like how long one can stay or if you can or cannot gather firewood. They are posted and clear. If you choose to camp here, you agree to these rules as they are laid out. Cool. Got it. Don’t be a dick. Roger that. 

Second are the unwritten rules. Those that are part of the culture of camping, or living on the road, or being out of the doors. Some we learn because we fuck up, some from observation, and some we come by intuitively. These include things like the wave. When one sees someone else at a nearby campsite, and if you should make eye contact, it is courteous and common to wave. Just a simple hand up, nothing fancy, not like a parade wave, not like an aerobic movement. Just a hand. This serves as a recognition that I know you are there and you know I am here. Nobody is inviting conversation or a visit. This simple gesture communicates an acknowledgment that we are sharing a space and we know and recognize that. Here I am and there you are. Enough said. 

It is also polite to speak a simple greeting when passing by, or running into someone at the bathroom or shower or water spicket. A simple “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” will do. Some folks strike up a little chat, and that is perfectly fine and  within bounds. One may become suspicious if somebody walks by with no words. I know I do and I will be watching you closer from that point forward. Again, it is more a recognition that we are here, outside, sharing space, sharing amenities, if there are any. We will probably hear each other at some point, or at least share campfire smoke. Besides that, now I have seen you up close and am even more familiar with what you look like, how you dress or other personal characteristics. Another step to familiarity, just in case you go missing or are wanted at some later point and I will have to give a  description to the authorities.

Third, campsites are like homes. Whether it is a tent or a trailer or a car. I am sure this will come as no surprise, I get quite possessive about my site. One shall not walk through a site, unless there is some emergency. One does not simply invite themselves in, no matter how public the space. One shall not touch or otherwise disturb anything at someone else’s site. Unless, again, there is an emergency with a fire or a pet or something. At one camp, the folks thought they could tether their dogs and leave camp for a time. Well, those clever dogs just pulled their tether out and off they went on their own grand adventure, dragging their lead behind. In that case, a knock on the door or taking the dogs back to the space may be in order. In all my years in all sorts of camp sites, I have never had any problems with space invasions or theft. Never. Thankfully!

Anyway, these are boundaries one must not cross. Kids, well, kids can be oblivious and run amok and sometimes they just wander over. OK, forgive the kid and then explain the rules. The kids will only behave as much as the parents demand. Still, kids will be kids and they are not always good listers or remember-ers. Younger children can be a drag when they cry and carry on and have tantrums and such. We do choose to live outside in these public spaces. Babies are still babies and, at times, are inconsolable. They wake up during the night and pity the fool who think they can successfully bargain with a two year old. Most parents do their best, but there are always fucktards who don’t care at home and care even less when camping. I have had that kid and that baby, so I get it. Please be mindful and maybe Junior is just not into camping, either, and it is time to go home. 

Pets, on the other hand, well they can actually cause damage to things at camp. I once watched a dog wander in and out of someone else tent and then pee on said tent. I would have murdered that fucking dog if that was my tent and I would have seen it. I get that you want Fido to return to his natural roots and roam free. But, keep your fucking dog out of my camp and away form my things. I have had dogs come into my camp and eat from my garbage while I was gone. The owner was a little upset that Fido ate something she did not know about. Again, not my problem if you keep your dog under control. Then there is the barking. Those little dogs are no more cute when they bark their fool heads off as they big dog whose sound carries for miles. Just this morning a dog was barking at camp. Then, there was a response. Oh yes, Fido, some creature let you know that you are just a meal and if you get loose, a snack you shall be. It was either a large bird of prey, a wolf or a big coyote. It was a new sound for me, that was for sure. No matter. Fido shut the heck up once word got out a formidable predator was near. Good dog. 

I know a lot of you out there love your dogs and they are your kids and you plan your life around them and all of that. I support you in your choice. I am not alone when I say that I do not love your dog, I do not share your love of dogs, and I really want nothing to do with it. I do not want to pet it or meet it or have it slobber on me or jump on my clean clothes. If I wanted all of that, I would have a dog. Have your dog and love your dog and have a great life together. Please leave me and my camp and my space out of it. 

Just in case you are one of those directionally challenged folks (get lost in your own back yard), please no sneaking around. Sure, walk by quietly if you must, but to wander off into the woods or to the bathroom and then reappear unexpectedly in someone’s camp site may warrant all sorts of havoc. A dog should alert their owner(s), which can cause alarm. Someone like me may pull a gun, still others may draw any number of weapons and stand at the ready. We are, as established, protecting our homes. We may also feel vulnerable in such as way that a fabric tent cannot offer adequate protection from anything. We are more exposed out here, perhaps more isolated as well. Perhaps our sense of safety and security just got ramped up a bit. If you find yourself unexpectedly in someone’s camp, please make yourself known. Own your error, assuming you made one, and apologize for the breach of protocol. Things happen out here, too, and best to own your mishap then find yourself in a tussle you might lose. 

The last part of this that I have not quite figured out is when and how to breach the protocol and strike up a conversation. I am camping alone. I mean, that will be obvious to anyone within visual range. I have seen others who are camping alone. Mostly men, which brings in a completely new complication when we get caught up in gender roles and expectations and fears and all of that. But, let’s take gender out of it for ease and simplicity. The rules get fuzzy when you are alone and others are alone. Can or should you cross the unwritten boundary and stop in for a chat? At what point do or can or should you strike up a more meaningful conversation? I mean, for many of us, that is part of the journey. Meeting new people and sharing stories, recommendations, touching lives for just a few moments. That can make these experiences so much richer. Then again, we are dancing on the lines of camp etiquette and it just got more complicated. 

Most folks do not come to the outside to carry on as if they were home. They come to escape society, not create a new one. But, there are those of us who this IS our society. This is our culture and our neighborhood. I intend to pay more attention to this part, as I would not mind some company now and again. I would not mind hearing someone’s story or listening as they shared part of their life with me. Then again, I do not want to open the door to a constant stream of traffic that forms every time my physical presence is at camp. Being “home” is not always an invitation for socialization. Then again, it may be fun. Then again, I am probably over thinking this as I often do with most things. Analyze it to death, toss and turn it, giving that thing way more time and attention than it deserves. I could just let camp be an organic experience, whenever and however someone shows up. Just let it happen or be or unfold. Perhaps that, again, and as this adventure continues to show me, is probably my greatest challenge. Stop trying to DO and just BE.

Message received.

But, I am still upset about the wipes. That was a couple dollars I do not have. Oh, I think I know who it was, too. There was a couple in a huge RV that only stayed one night. In addition to the swiping of the wipes, I am guessing the same person also left the lid up on the toilet and the door to the outhouse open. Well, Miss Thief Pants, everyone knows you keep the lid down (theres a fucking sign) and the door shut!! Lid down for smell and door shut to keep bugs and critters out. That couple left and the door and lid have been in place ever since. Off with you, Miss Thang! Miss Wipe Swiper! Be Gone!

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