If you've been camping long enough, odds are you have stories of all sorts about annoying or unsafe camping behaviors. If you're looking to be a bad camp mate, make sure you do at least one if not all, of these things.
Bring Gear You've Never Used Before, or Don't Know How to Use
I borrowed a shiny new MSR WhisperLite stove from a friend for my first backpacking trip. I'd never used it, had no idea how to turn it on or off, and had no idea how it worked. Before I left, she showed me how to hook up the fuel bottle, how to light it, and how to control the flame. When my backpacking partner and I got out on the trail, I couldn't get it to work, and after finagling with it, we discovered the fuel line was clogged. My partner had used one before and knew how to unclog it, but if he hadn't, I would've been in big trouble.
Getting new gear for trips is beyond exciting, especially when it's a big ticket item. But buyer beware; make sure you test new gear before you leave, bring instruction manuals with you, and make sure you know how to troubleshoot issues. If you snagged a new stove or a water filter, try it out in the comfort of your own home or your own backyard. If you invested in a new pair of boots, put some miles on them before you leave to break them in. It'll prevent your camp mates from having to bail you out.
Don't Read Rules and Regulations Before You Go, and/or Don't Obey Them
On a car camping adventure in Pennsylvania several years ago, some members of our party brought alcohol to our campground despite the fact that the rules and regulations clearly stated it was prohibited. While we were sitting around our campfire relaxing in the dark, park law enforcement dropped in for a visit, confiscated the prohibited substances, and fined our group.
Whether you're spending the night in the wilderness on a backpacking trip or in a campground, it's important to know what you're allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do while you're there. Whether it's collecting firewood from around your chosen campsite, having fires at all, bringing libations, and even obeying noise regulations, all of the rules are there for a reason. Make sure you're aware of what's okay and not okay and avoid being the member of the group that causes trouble for everyone.
Bring Shoes and Muddy Clothes into the Tent
Imagine you're out for a day hike on a spring afternoon on wet trails. You arrive back at camp covered in mud, have dinner, pack up for the night and it starts raining. Your tent mate is concerned about their shoes and clothes getting soaked, so they throw everything into the tent.
When you're out in the woods, your tent is your sanctuary, and if you're sharing it with someone, it's important to be considerate. I'm particular about what goes into my sleeping quarters and what stays under the rain fly because it's a pain trying to clean mud off of the inside of the tent. Tent vestibules are great places to store things like muddy shoes, backpacks, and more. Of course, sometimes it can't be helped, but if it can, leave dirty, stinky gear and apparel outside. (Huge thanks to Mark for sharing this pet peeve on Twitter!)
Make Unnecessary Noise at Night or Early in the Morning
A camper in the site next to you watches a movie in the dark with the volume up. A group of rowdy campers yelling across the campfire into the wee hours of the morning. An RV owner leaves their generator on all night. Early risers in your group or other groups clanging pots and pans and talking loudly before anyone else wakes.
If you've been camping long enough odds are you've experienced one or all of these situations. Most campgrounds have quiet hours for a reason; observe them, and be aware of how much noise you're making and when you're making it. If you're backpacking and you're the first one up, try to keep noise levels to a minimum until it's time for the rest of your party to rise. If you're chatting around the campfire, keep your voice down. In general, exercise common courtesy when it comes to noise-making; your camp mates will thank you.
Don't Pitch In and Help Out Around Camp
Imagine you're on a backpacking trip and you've been on the trail all day. You arrive at camp exhausted, but you know your group needs to get tents set up, get dinner cooked, get water filtered for the next day, clean up after everyone eats, then break everything down the next morning. One member of your group sits down next to the fire and watches the rest of the group take care of the lion's share of chores, then falls asleep in the tent before dishes are done.
When you're camping or backpacking, there's a lot to be done when you finally decide to settle in for the night. As unpleasant as it can be to do anything but sit down and rest after a long day, dividing and conquering camp chores makes it easy to get things done efficiently, and ensures everyone contributes to the group's comfort and preparedness. If you're on a multi-day trip, rotating chores can help the load seem less daunting. Just don't be that guy or girl who doesn't pitch in.
What other camping pet peeves do you have? What stories do you have about less-than-ideal camp mates? We'd love to hear from you!