How to camp like a champ over the holidays (or anytime really…)
By Melinda Uys

We’ve struggled through the year, stretching out escapes from the rigours of work over four weeks of annual leave and the odd stolen long weekend. So is it any wonder (when the doors are shut for the final time from Christmas until January) most of us click our heels together, load up the cars and campers and head off to a waterside spot to really loosen up a year’s worth of office knots?

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But the camp spot is overcrowded and the guy next door has pitched his guide ropes a metre into your site. Over the track her kids are ramping up to their 100-decibel noise plateau at 5.30am before their all-day race through the middle of your site to the toilet block. Last night, somewhere in the depths of the camp, a drunken party of dipsticks finally wrapped up around 2am…

It’s time to discuss some Holiday Camping Etiquette.

Ever sat around until the wee hours having a few bevvies with the music up loud, only to be woken by kids playing right outside your tent before 6am? That’s next door returning the unappreciated-noise favour. You may love Kevin Bloody Wilson’s ‘Hey Santa Claus’ but chances are your neighbour would prefer her small children didn’t learn it off by heart just yet. We all know noise travels through canvas and metal walls pretty easily – so don’t be a tool. Turn your noise down at an appropriate hour to avoid waking up to a resounding rendition of My Little Pony to accompany your hangover. The same goes for generators.

Most campgrounds have specific rules; abide by them. If there are no such rules, just act like a normal human being and be aware that others came to listen to the sounds of birds chirping and waves crashing …not your generator charging up your laptop.

We’ve all been hemmed in like caged chickens at a caravan park or camp spot and it’s not ideal, but pitching your tent right on the line with your guide ropes hammered into the next site is poor form to say the least. If the campsite is a free-for-all, try not to spread yourself out over space enough for three groups or you’ll only end up with a HiAce campervan and/or a two-man tent filled with 10 backpackers set up in the middle of your Chez de Outdoor. Parking your car and boat over someone else’s space will also ensure more than your Christmas box of Maltesers has a meltdown. In short, stick to your allotted area and be aware of others.

One of the greatest aspects of camping is the camaraderie of sleeping outdoors and enjoying all that nature has to offer. Throw in the time of year when everyone is full of Christmas cheer and happiness and suddenly camping isn’t just about communing with nature, it’s about communicating with your fellow humans. If you’re not into that, I’d avoid camping at Christmas altogether – it’s going to be crowded! Sure, I don’t always want to make new friends when I’m out enjoying time with my family – but that doesn’t mean I need to ignore those around me completely. It takes very little to say ‘hello’ or, heaven forbid, ‘Merry Christmas’ as you make your way around camp – you may even be invited over for some fruitcake and custard! On the other hand, don’t be a pest by overstaying your welcome or just turning up at another person’s site uninvited.

Pick. It. Up. It’s a very simple concept. Not only do you show disrespect to this beautiful country, but you’re basically giving the finger to whoever turns up after you if you can’t be bothered picking up your rubbish and leaving your campsite clean. If you smoke, have an old bottle where you can religiously bin your butts. If you break a bottle, pick as much of that broken glass up as possible. Had a present-fest Christmas morning? Have a big plastic bag on hand to handle the paper. In short, if you can’t leave your campsite clean, don’t go camping.

As a person who has only bothered to produce children in her thirties, I’ve been on both sides of the camping safety fence. As a parent, yes, there is a strong predilection to let the kids do whatever the hell they like when on holidays. And as a non-parent, there is an equally strong feeling that holidays should not involve high-pitched screaming at 6am, endless games of Marco Polo at top volume or a BMX track through your campsite.

Teach your kids camp etiquette:
• Don’t go onto other campsites
• Quiet time is between 8pm and 7am
• Have designated areas for them to explore by themselves away from other campers

On the non-parent side, have some compassion for these people – they have children 24/7.

Pets seem to be easier to control than kids because it’s okay to tie your dog up, whereas the police frown on doing that to kids. Like at home, pick up their poo. Keep them on YOUR site and make sure they aren’t barking or squawking at all hours – that’s pets AND kids.

Whether you’re in a caravan park, commercial campsite or national park, a lot of effort and money goes into the aesthetics and maintenance of that area. Try and use it wisely.

Fires: If a fire pit has been provided, use it!
Don’t make one on the ground because the park’s crowded and you don’t have one directly outside your door. Apart from being disrespectful, it’s a safety hazard.

Wildlife: Leave them alone in all respects.
This means don’t feed them, don’t touch them, don’t hassle them. Take photos; that is all.

Vegetation: Sawing off a large branch so you can position your dining gazebo ‘just right’ amounts to a brain snap. You are a visitor, not a resident; so treat the area the same way you would when visiting a friend’s house (don’t rearrange the furniture).

Boundaries: Respect the area’s boundaries. Many caravan parks and camp spots back onto private land.

Driving: Don’t drive over vegetation, make use of the tracks already in place. There are always plenty of racetracks and 4X4 tracks around – use them (not the campground) if you want to test your vehicle.

Be mindful of others and your environment and we can all have a good time. Happy Holidays!