Five (More) Ways to Be a Bad Camping Buddy This Season

A group of spectacular camping buddies. These folks know how it's done!
I head out backpacking and camping to escape the hustle and bustle of life, to explore new places, to see sights that take my breath away, and/or because I just love how fresh the air smells in the woods.

Over the years, I've run into folks exhibiting a variety of behaviors that take some of the fun out of it for the rest of us, and I've certainly been guilty of some of them myself.

While I was brainstorming and asking friends about thing they've noticed for a bad camping buddy article on the Sierra Trading Post blog, I compiled a list of ways to make camping a lot less fun for the people you're around. Turns out I had enough material for two articles, and I'm sure there are more pet peeves I haven't thought of. If you get to the end of this list and can think of more, I'd love to hear them!

Bend and/or break common sense and/or written rules.

In my piece for Sierra Trading Post, I shared a story about the consequences of not observing rules about alcohol consumption when they exist. Other rules I've seen ignored include keeping dogs leashed, observing posted campground quiet hours, and leaving a bear canister at home to save weight backpacking even though it's a required by a land management entity. But what about Leave No Trace and common sense principles, like not cutting branches from live trees for firewood, building a new fire ring when there's already one available, or rolling up to a campground late at night and shining your car lights all over while you're setting up? At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, remember, rules are there for a reason, whether you agree with them or not. And exercising common courtesy along with common sense goes a long way.

Leave food out at night.

A good friend and her party were sitting around the fire in a campground, backs to a picnic table, when a bag of bread flew off the table and into the woods. They pointed flashlights into the trees behind them and saw dozens of little glowing raccoon eyes. The next morning, they discovered a cooler had been opened and an entire can of butter spread, among other things, had been consumed. Not only does leaving food out at night mean you might have less to eat the next day, it also means you might attract some unwanted company. And as my friend discovered, keeping items in a cooler isn't always enough. Clean up before you turn in, and securely store your rations. This will prevent unnecessarily habituation of animals to human food and ensure the humans in your party have enough to eat the next day.

Our big dinner the night before biking across Delaware. We cleaned up after and stored food in the car. (PC: Patrick Gensel.)

Expect your camp mates to take care of you.

Are you the camper who always goes to bed before the groups dishes are done? Who never offers to help put food away at the end of the night? Who leaves equipment at home because you figure someone else will bring it? Who doesn't look at trail maps in advance because hey, someone else will know where you're going? Even if you're heading out with other people, relying on them to take are of you and to have what you need is a quick way to make camping enemies. As part of trip planning, discuss gear and food needs in advance so you know what to be responsible for. Don't expect your campmates to have extra equipment to share unless it's been decided ahead of time. When you're in camp, pitch in. New to camping and don't know what to bring or what to do to help out around camp? Just ask!

Leave Your Positive Attitude at Home 

Being grumpy didn't make me any drier on Devil's Path
in the Catskills! (PC. Dan Herscovitch.)
If it rains through your entire trip, if you can't seem to sleep well, or if your party includes a few people you don't get along with, it can be tough to stay positive. But the quickest way to turn yourself into the worst camping buddy is to spend the entire trip complaining. By choosing to do camping or backpacking, we put ourselves at the mercy of Mother Nature. For me, that's part of the fun - challenging myself to be outdoors in what can turn into adverse conditions. Be prepared for the weather, and if it turns south, try to embrace it. If you're feeling tired, sore from hiking, or just plain blah, try not to let it get to you. And remember, you can choose who you camp with; if the group dynamics aren't ideal, find ways to cope to get you through the trip, then choose other folks to go with next time.

If you know you're a snorer, don't tell anyone you're camping with.

Vying for the World's Lightest Sleeper Award like I am? Then you know sleeping through the night with a snoring tent mate can be a challenge. But if I know it's going to happen, I can come prepared with ear plugs, headphones, or at least anticipate what might be a less-than-full night's sleep. It's tough knowing and admitting you'll potentially keep your fellow campers up at night, especially if there's nothing you can do about it. But if you're a snorer, a little warning goes a long way. And if you can't give advance notice, one of the nicest things a tent mate has ever done for me was to bring earplugs to share.

Alright, I know there are more pet peeves and stories about less-than-ideal camp mates. We’d love to hear from you in the comments!