How Close is Close? 4 Top Tips

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A recent day trip with some friends highlighted the importance of good camping etiquette when it comes to how close to camp to others.

After a 2hr hike into a remote area, my two friends and I were hoping for a quiet day by the river. We were not staying for the night as we wanted to practice some night walking in preparation for the Oxfam Trailwalker event we were participating in.

We got in early and settled in a quiet area with a predetermined fire spot so we could minimise disruption to the grass and area. We got a little fire going to keep us warm and boil some water for lunch and brews.

The banter was flowing, and we were having a good chat, enjoying the break from kids and family, while also appreciating the beautiful bushland we’d hiked into.

How close is close?

Tent city. Image courtesy of Flickr
Tent city. Image courtesy of Flickr

Not long after, a group of 4, two couples entered the same clearing. As always we all said hello and exchanged some dialogue. What route we had taken, what time we’d set off, had we been here before.

After a few minutes, the group bid their farewells and said they were going to set up camp.

The flat grassy camping area is quite extensive, with lots of locations to be utilised, which is why I didn’t expect the group to walk no further than 5 metres before dumping their bags and starting to set up.

Personally, I prefer solitude, peace and quiet when I go hiking and camping.  The reason I don’t go to the commercial campsites and prefer to walk into the middle of nowhere is that I want to get away from everything and experience nature and the bush in all its glory.  So to have a group start pitching their tents within spitting distance of us was disappointing.

Granted we weren’t staying the night, which I think we did mention to the group, but they had the rest of the entire camping area to choose from. Pitching that close felt like an invasion of the privacy we had attempted to acquire by driving for 1.5hrs out of the city, then hiking for 2hrs into our location.

The rules of sharing a space

So I started to think about what good camp etiquette looks and sounds like, how close is close, and what fundamental rules hikers and campers should abide by if you’re sharing a space.  Everyone is different, and I’m all for diversity and personal choice, some people prefer group comradery and noise, others prefer solitude and stillness.

Regardless of your preference, from every angle I came at it, the solution boiled down to 4 very simple rules.  It is not rocket science, and these rules can and should be acted upon in the majority of scenarios we encounter on a daily basis, a little reminder always does the world of good.


Rule 1: Ask

If you’re not the first person into a campsite, and you like/want to have a chat with your neighbours (or if space is limited), then it’s always best to just simply ask if the other group(s) are cool with you setting up in your location.


Rule 2: Be polite

If you’re on the receiving end of the question from Rule 1, then it always pays to be polite, regardless of your preference.  My mum has always said, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”  If you prefer the group to keep their distance, be polite about it.  Act with courtesy and manners – they don’t cost anything, and you should always speak to people they way you would like to be spoken to.


Rule 3: Be respectful

The final rule – be respectful and hopefully that will be reciprocated back to you.  Even if it’s not, be the better person and respect another’s decision, regardless of what it may be.


Rule 4: Minimise disruption if you have no other choice

If there simply isn’t any another place to camp and you have to get cosy with your neighbours, then follow Rule 3 again, and do your best to minimise potential disruption to other campers.

That may mean positioning tents, so there is a base level of privacy, keeping the noise down to tolerable levels and without a doubt; following good camping etiquette with the likes of toileting, waste management and fire control.



Like I said, I think these rules are pretty simple and should be the foundation of any collaborative framework in our lives today.

Unfortunately, I think manners and having the right attitude has gone out of the window these days.  We are too self-absorbed in our lives and actions that we forget about looking at if we can contribute to making not only our lives but everyone’s we come into contact with, better and more enjoyable.


Happy camping!



Follow tonyburke:

37 years young, living and working in Sydney Australia. Been into outdoor activities and adventure since I can remember.

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