Camping Etiquette

At the Portage:

  • Don’t create a traffic jam at portage put-in and take-out areas. When arriving at the beginning of the portage, make sure your canoe is clear from the water’s edge and out of the way, and gear set aside to allow others to land at the portage and take their belongings out as well. Same goes for the other end of the portage where you launch.
  • Instead of coming back empty handed to pick up your second portage of gear, bring along someone else’s waiting to make their second portage in the opposite direction to yours. Hopefully they’ll thank you for it and at least you carried it forward.
  • Make way for the person behind you who is carrying a canoe. Get out of the way, plain and simple. They have the right away. If you’re holding up others in the trail, move aside.
  • Be kind. Make sure you say “hello” or at least smile at the person passing you on the portage. Try to have fun and make eye contact. Sometimes a smile of two people passing can be a delightful experience. We’re all out there for the same reason, to enjoy the wilderness. Also, you never know when you’ll need help.
  • Always double check the put-in and take-out areas for gear or forgotten garbage.
  • Put any lost gear found on the portage trail out in clear view at either the put-in or take-out.

On the Campsite:

  • Try to pick up all of your little bits of garbage.
  • Try to leave  light wood and kindling for the next person staying on the site. Imagine if someone did the same for you and you just had a really long day, or its getting dark by the time you arrive. That little help from the previous person can be a huge help. Pass it forward.
  • Share the cooking and cleaning duties when camping in a group.
  • Do not pick, cut, chop, smash, carve, stab or otherwise offend living plants.

Let me leave you with this, a reminder from Sigurd F. Olson about being courteous in the wilderness from his ‘Reflections from the North Country’ Book

What applies to campsites applies equally to personal cleanliness. Of course you can look as messy as you choose, but the fact remains that in nature filth means disease and death. Animals keep themselves spotlessly clean and spend much time grooming their fur or feathers, not for personal vanity, but because it is a matter of health and survival.

There is also the impact psychologically of cleanliness. No excuse is good enough for not washing body and clothes, or for putting dishes, pots, and pans covered with the remains of food or soot from the fire into the food pack. I have met many wilderness travelers… and one look at some of them and their outfits tells me how they will react with respect to common courtesies and the country. They are the ones who leave campsites dirty, chop up tent poles rather than leave them for others, and after cleaning fish either leave the skins, heads, and entrails on the rocks or throw them into the water just off shore. They are the kind who leave beer cans and Coke bottles-or, worse, break them on the rocks – who mutilate Indian pictographs or portage signs, and use tables and benches for firewood.


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