Nothing puts a dampener on your caravanning or camping experience quite like the neighbours from hell. Whether it is through ignorance or just plain bad manners, the thoughtlessness of fellow travellers can raise your blood pressure and lead to nasty altercations — not the favoured outcome of a holiday.
The often close confines of campsites demand a great deal of common courtesy and consideration if everyone is to have a safe and enjoyable camping trip. But if it’s common courtesy, how come it isn’t so common?
Much of what we do, and how we behave while camping, significantly affects those around us. Most campers have the basics under control, but there is always room for improvement.
Here are some of the most common gripes you’ll hear from fellow campers, and tips on how you can make sure you are being a more considerate neighbour at camp.
1. KEEP IT DOWN
The sounds of nature don’t include loud music, the ringing of mobile phones, noisy generators or people yelling between campsites. Man-made noise is the clear winner when it comes to the most frustrating camping issues.
The general consensus seems to be that everyone and everything should be quiet by 9pm, and that excess noise should not start up again until after 7am. That said, common courtesy is again the key — and this isn’t a licence to make a racket outside these times.
Music whilst caravanning is a divisive topic. For some it seems to be an integral part of the camping experience; for others it is the most invasive and aggravating form of noise pollution. In my view, if you want to listen to music and make more noise yelling over the top of it, you could have gone to the local pub — or better still you could have just stayed at home. People go camping for peace and tranquility, and loud music has a way of spoiling this experience. If you can’t be parted from your music, invest in some headphones. When camping, the natural sounds of the bush provide all the background ambience you need.
Be aware of other man-made noises that generate angst. Though stereotyped, these are common complaints: the early morning fisherman who insists on warming up his diesel engine for 20 minutes before revving up and heading off; the Grey Nomads who bang and crash around packing and hitching up before sunrise to get an early start (and who you then encounter a couple of hours later having a leisurely morning tea by the side of the road); the backpackers in their campervans with the whizz-bang doors, who never seem to be able to collect everything they need out of the van in one go; the toilet door that bangs loudly every time it’s shut.
But the greatest culprit by far is the generator. For many campers and vanners nowadays they are a necessary evil. Solar panels are great, until the sun hides behind the clouds for the day while the fridge continues to drain the battery. If you do need to run a generator, let your neighbours know and encourage them to approach you if it is bothering them. Letting them know how long you intend to run it for (the shortest time possible to top up your batteries) will often help keep the peace, as at least they know there’s an end in sight. Choose your moment; a generator running in the middle of the day is preferable to one running through sundowner hour. Also make sure your generator is serviced to ensure it is running as quietly as possible, and try to position it in a dip or behind some screening to dampen the noise.
Be aware that voices carry, especially over water and more so at night, so turn your volume down and your hearing aids up. After our camping trip last weekend I can tell you our neighbours’ life stories — sadly they were sitting not 2m across from each other, whilst we were a good 30m away. And who hasn’t experienced an evening tossing and turning in bed whilst that loud-mouthed/obnoxious/shrill voice comes booming from a neighbouring campfire, getting louder and louder as it becomes more lubricated? There is a difference between sharing a few drinks with friends, and becoming drunk and disorderly, and inflicting your bad behaviour on others. Drink responsibly, or at least thoughtfully.
2. RESPECT PERSONAL SPACE
You’ve travelled kilometres off the highway, down barely visible wheel ruts, and bypassed many potential camp spots until you found your own perfect little piece of paradise to set up camp. There’s no one else for miles — until someone comes along that same deserted stretch of track and pulls up right next to you. Some people seem to be afraid to camp by themselves and gravitate towards others. But when you’ve worked hard to seek out some solitude, this can be infuriating.
If there is room, set up well away from already established campers to respect their space. If space is tight, introduce yourself, explain the situation to the existing camper, make sure you aren’t blocking their access and be a considerate neighbour.
3. YOUR LITTLE DARLINGS
They are the apple of your eye, be they children or dogs, but remember they are just that — the apple of your eye and not necessarily of everyone else’s in the vicinity.
Children adore camping and it’s the ideal way to build their love of the great outdoors. However, it’s important to teach them how to behave in a campground so they don’t inadvertently make life miserable for others. Most people love to see kids out there having a great time, but good manners go a long way towards making sure they still love seeing them after a few days. Teach them about privacy and personal space and the invisible boundaries of campsites. Make sure they don’t run or walk through other people’s sites and that they respect other people’s belongings.
Your tolerance of the noise that children make will probably vary a bit depending on your stage in life. Happy play sounds in daylight hours seem to be fairly well tolerated by all. When you do need to discipline, do it up-close, quietly and efficiently. The banshee parent, sitting in a chair and screeching the same thing over and over with no change in the errant child’s behaviour, is not a good look.
If you are camped on top of your neighbours, try to stick with quiet play in camp. A big run on the beach or playground to get the “noisy play” out of their system is a good plan. A game of spotlight just after dusk is a camping institution, but older children running riot around campsites long after dark need to be controlled by their parents.
A bit of a protest grizzle as you settle a toddler at a reasonable hour is tolerable. If you are unfortunate enough to have a baby or toddler who won’t sleep and prefers to scream the night away, perhaps reconsider taking them camping where you’ll be sharing your joy with others.
Much of the above applies equally to your four-legged friend. Keep your dog within your campsite and restrained at all times. Never leave them unattended. Clean up after them. And above all, don’t let them yap or bark incessantly.