Things to consider at camp
I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more. John Burroughs
Camping etiquette is about making arrangements that are considerate of others sharing the same space. The key here is being more mindful of other people’s reactions and responses, being respectful of other people’s needs and privacy, but at the same time not isolating people either. Be aware that everyone will have different expectations for the night, and respond to things differently: some people are right at home in their comfort zone in the bush, others are completely outside it. On overnight trips, walkers are more likely to be tired and out of their depth, so a little tolerance can go a long way! Again, the etiquette used around camp isn’t a set of rules, but rather a set of guidelines that are worth considering to help create an amicable, respectful environment.
Be mindful of others by keeping personal gear inside tents or at least tidied away in shared areas. Respect that some people may need a bit of ‘down time’ away from the group after a full day of walking. However, if there is a new person to the group that is quite shy, it might be appropriate to encourage them to join the group for dinner rather than eating alone in their tent.
If tensions arise, often, a quiet chat to the people involved can solve it. Similarly, seemingly obvious questions like “There’s not that much space around my tent, would you mind if I set up my stove next to your tent to cook?” can go a long way to making sure that everyone is comfortable with the campsite arrangement. Usually the leader will be able to answer questions regarding departure times, toileting areas, fireplace, communal dinner and so on. If unsure, just ask a simple question.
Sleeping How to make arrangements that are considerate of others
Campsites are often shared by a few different bushwalking groups, so it’s necessary to work together to effectively share the space, yet give everyone a bit of privacy. Upon arriving at camp, think about what tents are in the group and split up the space wisely. If someone is using a fly and needs to be close to a tree, then free-standing tents should be pitched elsewhere. Make sure beginners have help in choosing a suitable spot, more experienced bushwalkers are generally much better at being creative with space use, so help beginners get settled first.
If space is tight, check with adjacent tents first before pitching right next to them: ideally tents with at least a few metres between them. Alternatively, consider sharing sleeping quarters, or at least do a coin toss for good spots so that whoever is stuck with the lumpy sloping ground has won it fair and square. Lastly, be mindful of others and avoid loud conversations late at night.
A classic example of sleeping conflict is when two bushwalking groups arrive at the same camp but have two completely different ideas about how they want to spend the night. One is there to catch up on sleep, the other is there to stay up all night to party. If this appears to be the case, chat to the other group to find a compromise. This might be as simple as inviting the quiet group to join the noisy group for a shared dinner.
Campfires Campfire considerations
Campfires are used as a social place to gather around to keep warm and cook on. However, careful consideration should be given to lighting a campfire because campfires can have substantial impacts. If you do decide to light a fire, seek out an existing fire site and never start a new site in grass.
A good cooking fire is one with lots of smouldering embers, a warm fire is one with lots of fuel and active flames. If people are cooking on the fire, check before building it up because sudden changes in temperature can easily burn food. Conversely, if people are using the fire to keep warm, then putting several billies on the flames won’t keep the fire warm for long. Basically check with the rest of the group how the fire is being used, and consider splitting it into two sides: a hot built-up side, and a cooler side with embers for cooking.
Most paper rubbish can be burnt on the fire. Plastic rubbish should not be burnt on the fire because of the toxic chemicals it releases. Although plastic is burnt in factories, it’s done at a much higher temperature than a campfire, hence producing different and less toxic gases. Any paper put in the fire should be checked for plastic or foil lining. Foil should never be put in the fire because it does not burn and instead produces tiny flakes of foil material that remain in the fireplace.
Camp clean up How to leave no trace at camp
To avoid polluting water, in general, wash well away from any creek or waterway. Anything that’s been washed in a water supply can float downstream to another campsite, and also impact on aquatic wildlife. Hence, billies and cutlery should be washed well away from water courses and huts. Soap must never be used in creeks, rivers or pools. Some soaps say that they are suitable for use in the bush but such claims should be disregarded and should be used well away from water supplies.
Clean up the campsite before leaving and carry out all rubbish, including tins and apple cores. If there is any additional rubbish lying around at the campsite, carry out as much as possible. Pack up any remaining rubbish so it doesn’t get blown or washed away alert the appropriate park ranger when back home. When breaking camp, check for small pieces of litter, left over tent pegs and so on.