Long days, mild temperatures across South Africa and a hint of holiday excitement 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 you mid-winter camping friend 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 (or in just plain and simple English: manners).
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, Berlin Wall of a shade net and vehicle all fit onto your space. Do not just assume that your neighbour with the smaller tent won’t mind if you use some of his space.
2. Noise Control
Camping is exhilarating and campers often show the excitement via their mouths and their music. Use your inside voice when you speak, your neighbour and those walking by certainly don’t want to hear, “honey, can you clean the Porta Potti”. 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 stop the noise at 10pm, chances are that the rest of the campers will not enjoy your music. 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 alert the church elders and police if it is not actually disturbing you, and try to be a bit more lenient on New Year’s Eve. SEE: What happened to travellers' inside voices!?
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 because we really don’t care if “Suzie and Lucy was here” and about the unconditional love confessions, “John and Marietjie 4 Eva”. 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.
A communal kitchen is not your kitchen; 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
Again, this is not your bathroom, keep it clean.
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, it is not an ornament but there for a reason – you don’t have to clean the whole bathroom, just give your shower cubicle a quick sweep.
If the basins have no plugs, do not under any circumstances think that toilet paper is an alternative plug. 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. No one wants to see how your business stays afloat. 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, speeding under such circumstances is utterly foolish. Secondly, if you are camping where there is a lot of sand and dust you are just creating more dust, that my friend is utterly selfish. Thirdly, you don’t have to prove to anyone that you can spin or how fast you can drive, that my friend is utterly childish. Keep your speed at 20 to 25 km/h.
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, we all understand that children are children and that the outdoors truly put them in their element, but please go over a few basic camping rules and manners with them; especially the rule of respecting nature and other campers.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Wild Coast: A complete guide to Port St Johns
- #FindYourEscape: Your Lililzela national winners!
- PICS: Explore the Garden Route's top beach destinations