There are people I’ve been camping with that I will never, ever, ever share a tent with again. And there’s people I’ve gotten along great with even though we were hunkering down a some crazy storm that raged for days. What makes a good camping partner? Here are some things that help make someone—including you—a good camping buddy when the going gets rough.
1. They Laugh More, Whine Less
As tempting as it can be to complain about bugs, heat, cold, rain, or any number of other imperfect things, complaining doesn’t help and can sink your collective spirits. It’s far better to make fun of the predicament, crack jokes, and keep the energy high.
2. They Entertain Themselves
Inevitably, camping clocks will clash. One person will sleep in, another will be eager to hit the trail. Down time is why we go camping, but we all deal with it differently. Sooner or later, we’ve all felt that the constant chatter or “let’s go!” from our pals gets old when you just want to sit by the river and watch it flow by. So seek out campers who can entertain themselves when they need to by going for a hike, reading a book, stacking rocks by the river…and be one yourself. Camping without some time for introspection defeats the whole point.
3. They Share the Load
When the going gets rough, everyone should share the load: loading and unloading the gear, doing dishes, rigging the tarp over the kitchen. A good camping buddy always pitches in.
4. They Know Their Foibles Are Different on Day 6
When you’re part of a small group that’s together through thick and thin for a long time, it’s inevitable our little quirks that are cute and funny on days 1 and 2 will be getting old down the road. On long trips, good camping partners moderate their natural tendencies in the interest of the group getting along.
5. They Have Skills
Fire building, tarp rigging, navigating off-trail, whipping up a great desert, fixing broken tent poles. To be a good camping partner, bring some set of skills to the table that can help the group. Nobody will know everything, but if you get enough skills amongst the crew, you should be able to make it by just fine.
6. They Know Something About Nature
Find camping partners that know something about nature: what the trees and birds and plants, are, the area’s geology or history. It adds depth to the experience, and you are camping to commune with nature and the history of the place you’re visiting…so knowing what’s going on is a plus.
7. They’re Creative
There’s always improvisation: rigging up a tarp when you left the cord at home, coming up with Plan C when Plans A and B have been weathered out, inventing games to play during the rain…. Camping rewards creativity and flexibility, so be prepared to not have a plan.
8. They’re a Diplomat
Every camping group needs a diplomat: the person who can chat up the folks in the next site to convince them to be a little quieter late at night, share firewood, or divulge the best hikes or swimming holes that aren’t listed on the map. Look for the person with the ability to chat up strangers you encounter in the outdoors.
9. They Keep a Cool Head
Keep calm when things go kooky: when a storm turns your campsite into a windblown lake, the stove gets knocked over, or some other unforeseen thing happens. Calmness amidst adversity keeps groups together and makes it a lot easier to make it to the end and have fun.
10. They Leave No Trace
This should go without saying, but good camping partners do what they need to protect the environment. In the frontcountry, it’s managing trash and fires, and keeping a clean site that doesn’t attract critters. In the backcountry, it’s picking sites that are either resilient or already impacted, camping and managing wash water away from water sources, and not camping on prime animal trails. Leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.
Good camping partners don’t grow on trees. When you find ‘em, keep ‘em. And be one yourself.