The Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide to Etiquette

The name Emily Post is synonymous with etiquette, but did you know that Emily Post’s descendants have carried on with the family business of teaching others how to mind their manners? Currently, Emily’s great-grandson Peter writes a business etiquette column for The Boston Globe, and has authored several books on the topic. His wife, Peggy, has also penned books on etiquette, writes a column for Good Housekeeping, and is the spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute. Two of Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughters also make their living helping others navigate the tricky waters of good manners and polite society.

The Post family has made it easy for people to learn which fork to use at a formal dinner, what color dress is appropriate for mothers of the bride, or how to address a member of British royalty. But what about everyday etiquette? What about us regular guys, who don’t need to distinguish between an asparagus fork and a tiramisu fork, but who nevertheless face tricky situations every once in a while? We’ve got you covered. Read on to learn how not to be a douche when you’re enjoying the great outdoors.

Outdoor Etiquette

There’s one rule that always applies when you’re outdoors, whether you are hiking, camping, boating, playing beach volleyball, or just chasing your toddler around the playground, and whether you’re in a national park, the middle of the Atlantic ocean, or your friend’s suburban backyard.

Leave no trace.

Every last little bit of garbage that you generate during your time outdoors — paper plates, soda cans, cigarette butts, napkins, food scraps and bottle caps — should go into your pack or your pocket so it can be schlepped out and disposed of properly. In addition to being environmentally friendly, it’s just the decent thing to do.

An even better idea is to leave the area better than you found it. This means going out of your way to pick up any trash that others have left.

Boat Etiquette

If you are lucky enough to have a friend who owns a boat, you need to brush up on your boating etiquette. While many of the etiquette tips you practice ashore will be fitting at sea, as well, there are a few maritime manners to bear in mind:

  • Wear a lifejacket.
  • Don’t show up empty-handed; bring an offering of food or drink, just as you would when attending a land-based party.
  • Don’t smoke on the boat without getting express permission.
  • Do as the captain says, in all instances. He or she knows best when it comes to the boat.
  • Hands off the controls unless you are asked to help hoist, steer or sail.
  • Keep boorish behavior in check. Getting wasted, then standing at the boat’s prow and hollering “I’m king of the world!” isn’t funny to anyone but you.

Beach Etiquette

Unless you (or your boat-owning buddy) own a private beach, you’re likely to be sharing the sand with loads of other people, especially if it’s a hot day, a holiday, or both. A few guidelines to remember when heading out for a day on the beach:

  • Leave some space between your beach blanket and your neighbor’s.
  • Keep your noise level to a minimum, and watch your language if there are children around.
  • Don’t smoke unless you are far away from other beachgoers.
  • Go easy on the alcoholic beverages; the beach should be a family-friendly environment.
  • Use the public restrooms (not the ocean or lake!).
  • When it’s time to go and you’re shaking the sand from your belongings, make sure you’re downwind of anyone in close proximity, so that no one gets a plateful or a faceful of sand.

Camping Etiquette

Is there anything better than getting in touch with your inner caveman around a roaring fire? Camping can be an absolute blast, whether you’re roughing it with tents or indulging in the luxury of a motorhome with all the amenities. Either way, just because you’re getting away from it all doesn’t mean you can leave good manners behind. Observe the campground’s quiet hours, particularly if the campsites are cheek by jowl. If no quiet hours are posted, be reasonable and keep the noise down between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

  • Learn how to safely build and maintain a campfire, never leave a fire unattended, and triple-check that the flames are all extinguished before you depart.
  • Never burn anything but kindling and wood. A burn pit is not a garbage heap.
  • Don’t cut across others’ campsites, or invite yourself to join their s’mores party. A friendly “hello” as you pass by is fine, but don’t treat the campground like a cocktail party.
  • Secure all foodstuffs and make sure anything edible is safely stored, either in your rig or vehicle, or in a bear proof container that’s out of bears’ reach. If your campsite becomes a tempting buffet for animals, you are putting all the campers nearby at risk.
  • Pack out all of your trash, including toilet paper, and leave the campsite a little nicer than you found it.

Final Thoughts About Outdoor Etiquette

It’s wonderful to enjoy the great outdoors, especially when you’re surrounded by friends. Remember that just because you’re not hemmed in by four walls, you can’t throw etiquette out of the window! Use your common sense, be considerate of the people around you, and treat the natural world with respect. That way everyone can make the most of their trip to the beach, the woods, the park, or the lake — and preserve those natural resources for generations to come.

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