Mind Your Manners with Campsite Etiquette

To make sure you mind your manners in the woods, brush up on your camping etiquette before heading out into the wild.

| March 2018

The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids (Roost Books, 2012) by Helen Olsson offers a fully rounded and comprehensive guide to having a fun and safe family vacation in the woods. Olsson offers families tips, checklists, recipes, and more to make any trip into the wild a success. In the following excerpt, she discusses proper camp etiquette.

Campsite etiquette may sound a tad oxymoronic. Do you really need to mind your manners when you’re rolling around in the dirt? The short answer is yes. Campsite etiquette isn’t so much about properly identifying the fish fork and keeping your elbows off the table. It’s about being kind to the environment and considerate of your camping neighbors.

There is no better time than a camping trip to encourage children to become stewards of the land. Being out in the woods, surrounded by the scent of pine and the plaintive cries of a loon, can instill a wonder in kids that will stay with them the rest of their lives. Foster a respect for nature in your children now, and they’ll be more inclined to help preserve the environment for future generations.

Not so long ago in Yellowstone, it was common practice to make a wish and toss spare change into pools and geysers. More egregious yet, some visitors simply hurled trash into the hydrothermal springs. One erstwhile geyser, now called Morning Glory Pool, no longer erupts because it’s clogged with litter. This iridescent azure and turquoise pool is the inspiration for a lovely children’s book by Jan Brett called Hedgie Blasts Off! In the story, a hedgehog is dispatched into space to unplug Big Sparkler, a space geyser that has become plugged up over time by aliens hurling coins into it. Talk about a teachable one-two punch. The combination of reading the book countless nights and seeing the inspirational pool in real time has left a lasting impression on our kids. They have become pintsized preservationists.

Smart Tip: Carry a small plastic bag for your own garbage and for any litter you pick up along the trail.

Don’t Leave Your Mark

Camping affords you the perfect opportunity to teach kids about reducing our impact on the environment. On any given hike, chances are you’ll see evidence of previous generations who clearly did not embrace the “tread lightly” ethic. You’ll see scars on trees where people have carved their names into the bark — “Dwayne loves Brandy” — professing love in a way that’s very unloving to trees. My kids see those scars and shout, “A bonehead did that!” (I’m not saying they heard that from me.)

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