Long days, mild temperatures across South Africa and a hint of holiday excitement still in the air can only mean one thing - it's time to head outdoors. It's time to dust off your tent, locate all the things you’ve borrowed to camping friends and give that mattress a good old tester pump.
When it comes to camping and waving the comforts of home goodbye, South Africans are well-equipped with braai tongs, home-made MacGyver inventions and expensive gadgets, but more than often one thing escapes from the ultimate camping pack list: etiquette.
It’s possibly the excitement camping brings about, the new neighbours, the stars or just a good dosage of fresh air, but campers – young, old, the shirtless beer-belly fishermen, newcomers and experts - often tend to forget about the unspoken rules of camping.
Here are a few basics to keep in mind on your next camping trip:
1. Stick to your side
When you are setting up your tent, or caravan, stick to your allotted space; make sure that your tent or awning, tent pegs, shade net and vehicle all fit onto your space. Do not assume that your neighbour won’t mind if you use some of their space.
2. Noise Control
Camping is exhilarating and campers often show the excitement via their mouths and their music. Sound travels in open spaces so be mindful when speaking loudly or playing music. While playing music in a quiet space is often frowned upon, it is not taboo but remember to play it only for your own enjoyment and to wrap things up at 22:00.
Camping grounds are public spaces and respect should be reciprocal; non-music lovers, if you hear a soft and not-too-loud melody, do not call authorities if it's not actually disturbing you.
3. Respect Nature
Campers are unfortunately not always showing their love for Mother Nature. Please adhere to the rules and do your bit for the fauna and flora; don’t pick wild flowers, don’t feed – and attract – animals, don’t fish were you are not allowed to fish, do not violate and vandalise and don’t carve your name into trees or rocks. The first thing you can do to respect nature while camping is to pick up your litter – and if you see litter of someone else, pick that up too.
When sharing a communal kitchen the first rule is to keep it clean. Make your mess at your camp site, pack it up, clean it in the communal kitchen with your own sponges, dishwashing liquid and cloths and don’t leave anything behind. Also make sure that the surface you’ve used is clean and pick up all leftover food to avoid blocking the drain or attracting animals.
5. Bathroom Manners
During peak shower hours, keep the floor as dry as possible for the next user. If you are showering with flip flops, make sure that you don’t bring the dirt under your shoes into the shower; it will create a mud bath and not a pleasant one. Some camping grounds will leave a mob in the bathroom – you don’t have to clean the whole bathroom, just give your shower cubicle a quick sweep.
Space might be limited around the basins, leave some space for the person next to you as well. When you brush your teeth or spill some make-up or gel, be nice and give the basin a quick rinse.
Keep it clean and flush. Please flush. Don’t waste toilet paper and if a toilet is blocked, report it.
6. Watch where you are going
Most camping grounds will have roads or walking paths; try not to cut through someone’s personal space and tent; you might find yourself stumbling over a tent peg and that is never fun.
7. Lights out
When the darkness sets in and the campfires go out, a flashlight will come in handy. Try to point the flashlight to the ground and not into someone’s face or tent. If you are arriving back at the camping grounds late at night, use your low lights out of respect for the campers who are already sleeping.
8. Reduce your speed
Roads in camp sites are limited, possibly not longer than 500 m to 1 km; do not speed. First of all, there are always children on bikes, skateboards or running and skipping around. Secondly, if you are camping where there is a lot of sand and dust you are just creating more dust.
Know your wood and know your fire, don’t smoke up the whole place. Always make your fire in an allowed space, be careful in the wind and never leave your fire unattended or go to bed when your fire is not put out.
Dear parents, children are children and the outdoors truly put them in their element, but do go over a few basic camping rules and manners with the youngsters; especially the rule of respecting nature and other campers.