Pillory: Bad Campers

Pillory bad campers messy camps

Messy sites and noisy neighbors.

It’s a warm summer night, tucked away on a remote Forest Service road. The only sounds are a chorus of birds and the rushing of a nearby creek. A peaceful evening, and a much-needed respite from the sensory overload of Bozeman, where the sound of semi-trailers downshifting on I-90 reverberates through your apartment. Here in the woods, you’ve found soul-nourishing quietude. But just as the sun drops below the horizon and shadows overtake camp, a new sound enters the air. A low hummm, growing louder and louder, until it’s joined by another, of slightly different pitch, and then another. It’s a cacophony of RV generators—exactly the kind of anthropogenic sounds you came here to escape.

We’ve all experienced this unfortunate and aggravating phenomenon, and all too often the perpetrators get away unscathed. So too with their hyperactive canids who invade your camp and snatch hot dogs off the picnic table. “Sorry, he never does that!” hails the oblivious owner. Thanks for the reassurance. We won’t be surprised when we catch you spinning donuts in your UTV around the privy.

And then there is the bad-camper coup de gras, wherein people park their massive RVs in primo spots on Wednesday, to claim them for the weekend. They show up Saturday at noon, all smiles, while a half-dozen hardworking Bozemanites rushed over Friday after work, only to be relegated to lesser locales. News flash, you egocentric ass-hats: if you’re not sleeping there, it’s not camping, it’s storage. And to store your shit on public land, preventing others from enjoying said land, is the pinnacle of selfishness. Don’t be surprised if we haul your RVs off into the grass and take the spots for ourselves, while you’re at home watching Netflix on the couch. Or better yet, we may just kick in the door and let our muddy dog sleep on your fancy bed, as we drink beer around the firepit.

Speaking of firepits—whether it’s a smattering of half-burnt trash or a pile of smoldering logs, anything left beyond a bed of cold ash is downright inconsiderate. This is the centerpiece of the camping experience. Don’t just leave it the way you found it; leave it clean.

We’ll give credit where credit is due—at least the firepit trashers are bearing some semblance to traditional camping activities. But nowadays, a new malefactor has emerged: he who brings the indoors, out. 50-inch flatscreen TV mounted outside the camper? Seriously, next time just relish the comfort of your living room. Either that or risk a stray stone hurled through your Samsung.

The real problem, though, is that nobody uses discretion anymore. Is it that difficult to consider the experience of other people? They don’t want to listen to your generator, your barking dogs, your 3am party, your blaring TV, or your Cardi B at full volume. They don’t want to see your trash, your ungodly large trailer, or navigate the ruts made in the muddy road from said trailer. And when there’s a whole forest to spread out in, must you really pitch camp beside the only other vehicle in sight?

Whether you’re an inconsiderate campground miscreant or just a clueless newbie, it’s time to re-think your approach. Enjoy nature for its true virtues—reverence, tranquility, and wonder. And for those of us on the receiving end, let’s re-think our response. If someone else is preventing you from enjoying the camping experience, stand up for yourself. Walk over and switch off that generator. Discipline that dog, if the owner is too spineless or apathetic. Or, if you’re a kind and gentle soul, take a more sensitive approach—politely confront the offenders, explain the problem, and ask them nicely to re-evaluate.

So this summer, it’s off to the pillory with bad campers. Our proposed punishment? Lock ’em in the shackles as we pitch a ditsy little tent in their Fourth of July block-party campsite—the one they would otherwise lay claim to a week in advance.