I respect that we’re all different and are out camping for different reasons. Some of us use camping to get away from busy and hectic lives and seek the solitude of a natural setting. I respect that. Others like camping to be part of a gathering and love the fellowship of being together. I respect that too. I do both.
For me, camping has always been about going to new places, getting a change of venue, having a new experience, learning something new, and meeting new people. I will tend to avoid traveling on busy days because I prefer not to spend time waiting in lines and sitting in traffic jams. But, I don’t mind camping with a group or on a busy week-end, or in a jam packed field at a festival. If fact, I kind of enjoy it.
|Camping with 1,500 bikers at Bike Florida in Apalachicola|
For me, camping is not about the campsite or camping spot. Its about the reason you’re why you’re at a particular place. It could be wanting to be near a certain lake or natural setting. It could be a rally or an event that you’re attending. It could be a festival, a group activity, or just a place to layover for the night while on a journey. The camping part is really secondary to why I packed up in the first place.
A few years ago, when I was into serious long distance cycling, I went on numerous organized cycling trips that involved camping with lots of people. I went with a group cycling over the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Canada and we camped in open fields. Another group I went with biked along the coast of Maine and camped in fair grounds and city parks. I did several years of Bike Florida week long rides camping mostly in school yards. And I did the bike ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI) where we camped in any open space we could find. All of these involved camping in close proximity, sometimes with thousands of people.
|Camping with 12,000 bikers at RAGBRAI in Iowa|
Then there are the music festivals that I love to attend. I usually attend at least three each year that involve rustic camping in fields and city parks. Again, most of these have thousands of people camping shoulder to shoulder. And music festival can be noisy with people playing music and parting through all hours of the night and morning.
I’ve had some great times at these events and activities and have seen some great country. I’ve also met some great people along the way. My guess is that 99% of the people I’ve met camping were super fine people. Sure there were the drunken guys who kept me up all night singing Rod Stewart and Rolling Stone songs till the wee hours of the morning and there were the drunks at a state park that did the same thing, but they were the exception. Some of the people I’ve met while camping have become permanent friends and I’ve learned a lot from some of these acquaintances.
|Camping at Rhythm & Roots Festival|
I’ve also had many rewarding experiences helping others set up their tents, rescuing blown down canopies, lending out an axe, a hammer, and eating utensils. I remember fixing a lady’s broken tent pole and saving her week-long camping trip, helping with flat tires, giving directions, giving campground recommendations, sharing some dry firewood, etc. I never looked at these instances as intrusions but rather rewarding chances to help my fellow camper.
|Music festival campers with a water front spot|
Camping in a crowded setting is not for everyone and it requires you to reset your expectations, needs, and attitudes. First, get used to the idea of not having lots of personal space and don’t assume you have ownership rights to the space you’re on (its all there to be shared). Second, get used to hearing body noises (e.g. snoring, belching, crying, laughing, etc). Also, be comfortable meeting and talking to total strangers who may be camping right at your doorstep.