The Step-By-Step Guide To Really Pissing Off Kevin Callan | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
The Happy Camper isn't always happy Kevin Callan

The Happy Camper isn't always happy

The release of my book, The Happy Camper: The Essential Guide to Life Outdoors back in 2005 is what probably kicked it all off. Now my Facebook handle is @thehappycamper. My YouTube channel is KCHappyCamper. I’m introduced at public speaking engagements as The Happy Camper. For the most part being The Happy Camper is really great.

I’m generally a happy person and the happiest when out in the woods camping. So the stage name makes sense, right? Except when I’m not happy. It’s true. I have a dark side that shows its demonic face now and then.

I’m not unhappy when I’m trudging up long, rocky and buggy portages. I’m not unhappy eating porridge for the fifth morning in a row. I don’t even mind being chased off lakes by lightning. These are unavoidable circumstances. These and the other elements of outdoor adventure like them are the challenges we enjoy overcoming and without these adversities we would not have as many fond memories.

What does make me an unhappy camper is when a campmate does something immoral. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Call these behavioural faux pas, pet peeves, personal vexations, disgruntlements or whatever. But here, in rough order of magnitude, are a few ways to piss off The Happy Camper.

Let’s begin with the mild irritants. Having a paddling partner arrive late at the access point. Doing so without good reason or apology bumps this up a level. Not paying an equal share of trip costs. Not doing one’s fair share of camp chores. And at the top of this list, constantly complaining about the unalterable weather.

Then there’s the moderately annoying tendencies which include, in no particular order: yelling “There’s a moose” and watching it run away before anyone can get a camera out; carrying less than me but complaining about the weight; constantly comparing gear choices and extolling the virtues of theirs over mine.

I’m also not a big fan of people sneaking into my supply of gummy worms and eating the Smarties from my stash. I don't like it when someone borrows my toothbrush and doesn’t tell me about it until the last day. Or when you run out of toilet paper then use my supply, in outrageously generous amounts. Or when you critique how I run rapids, start fires, hang-the-food and make and clean up meals.

Going poop too close to camp is just wrong. Not digging a deep enough hole is gross and lazy. Singing the same song over and over again is okay if you’re Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd, otherwise annoying.

Why would you use a sharp metal knife to cut the cake I baked in my non-stick coated Outback Oven? And then there is showing off, getting hurt and whining about it while I have to take care of you.

The absolute worst—worse than littering and blocking the put-in of a portage; worse than dog owners who don’t control their dogs; even more bothersome than having the camp cook not wash his hands—is being obsessed about completing the planned route sooner than expected.

It makes me a really, really unhappy camper being with a person who is determined to rush through a canoe trip that took us weeks to plan and sleepless nights wondering about route choices and gear options. With days, weeks and months spent waiting to escape from the crazed normality of day-to-day life, it makes no sense to race through the wilderness and finish a trip early. A seven-day canoe trip is a seven-day canoe trip. Why turn a seven-day trip into a five-day trip? So you can go back to the rat race you were trying to escape in the first place?

I’ll be sleep deprived and grumpy if you snore. I’ll become irritable if you drink all my whisky. But I’ll be the extremely unhappy camper if you shorten our time in the woods.

 PM Joomla Additional Photo The Unhappy Camper


Kevin Callan is the author of 16 books, including the bestselling, The Happy Camper and Wilderness Pleasures: A Practical Guide to Camping Bliss. He is still presenting across North America and has been a key speaker at all major canoe events. Butt End first appeared in Canoeroots magazine 16 years ago. Kevin lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

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