10 Mistakes People Make While Camping and How to Avoid Them

When everything goes according to plan, a great camping trip can recharge you and make you feel ready to take on all of life’s challenges, but a bad camping trip can leave you ready to give up on the whole nature thing for good. Numerous things can go wrong when you are camping and sometimes it’s completely out of your control, but other times it’s your own mistakes that can ruin your trip. Read along to learn some common camping mistakes and how to avoid them!


1.) Bringing an unreliable fire starter

If you are camping and hiking smartly you should always be carrying the 10 Essentials with you. This always includes waterproof matches and the UCO Gear Stormproof matches are the best ones I have used. They burn for up to 15 seconds in high winds even after being submerged in water. I have seen multiple campmates bring a lighter and be surprised when it’s out of fuel or not working for some unknown reason. I have also seen people depend a little too heavily on the ignitor switch for their camp stove. Word of warning, those ignitors fail, often. Always carry Stormproof matches to light your camp stove or create an emergency fire if needed.

2.) Relying on a cheap air mattress to sleep on

Most people don’t realize how much heat you lose from under you while camping. I learned this lesson the hard way camping in 15 degree temperatures with a $20 air mattress in the back of my car in the North Cascades this fall. Even though my sleeping bag was rated for that temperature I was shivering all night because I was losing all my heat due to the uninsulated air mattress below me. Bring a sleeping bag rated for the temperature you will be camping in, but also bring a sleeping pad that is insulated, or a foam pad to help keep your body heat in.

3.) Storing your food inappropriately

While camping at Havasupai my campmate mistakenly left her snacks in her tent while we went out for a day hike to Beaver Falls. We returned to find a hole in the tent and that all of her snacks had been devoured by freeloading squirrels. The rest of our group had stored our food in dry sacks we hung from trees and had no issues. Make sure you aren’t leaving  food in your tent, especially in bear country. It’s also worth noting that a lot of places you camp at will have different rules and regulations about how to store your food. For example, all National Parks in Washington require bear canisters. Research your location and know what kind of critters to expect and how to protect your food from being stolen (or waking up to a bear trying to get into your tent)

4.) Forgetting backup power for your phone and light sources

Planning on using your phone for navigation? Have a headlamp to use while you are at camp? Don’t forget to bring extra power. I love the UCO Vapor+ Rechargeable Headlamp for this reason. I can charge it in my car on the way to the trail, but when I drain that battery I can pop it out and replace it with three triple AAA batteries. When I am not trying to do ultralight backpacking I also bring along the UCO Rhody+ Lantern. I can use it to charge my headlamp, phone, and also illuminate my tent at night!

UCO LED Lantern USB Rhody

5.) Lack of water storage

Once while backpacking I secured a site pretty far from the lake that was the only water source. I didn’t bring anything other than the 24 oz bag my water filter comes with to store clean water in. I set up camp, walked to the lake to filter water, and promptly used all of it to make my dinner and rehydrate after my hike to the campsite. I was super tired after dinner and opted to fall asleep without filtering more. That turned out to be a mistake because I woke up with a pounding dehydration headache. I had to hike down to the lake feeling terrible and filter more water. After that experience I bought extra water bladders to store water in. That way if I need to hike a little to filter water I can filter enough to keep me going until the next morning!

6.) Thinking it will be easy to fall asleep

Sleeping outdoors can be a little weird and anxiety inducing. I always struggle to fall asleep while camping. Every tiny noise I hear is obviously a bear or a serial killer coming to get me. There is nothing worse than being exhausted from a hard hike and unable to fall asleep because of your own over-active imagination. Keep some Melatonin or a sleep aid of choice in your first aid kit for those nights your brain won’t let you shut down, although I wouldn’t recommend anything that would make you groggy enough to be useless in an emergency. If you forgot a sleep aid and falling asleep is impossible, you can always work on your astrophotography skills to pass the time!

7.) Packing without a list

Not everyone is a planner, but you really want to be when it comes to camping. Otherwise you might accidentally show up at your campsite with four pairs of socks and no sleeping bag. There are plenty of camping lists online, but I prefer to make my own a couple of days before my trip based on the weather conditions and activities I want to do. Then I will cross reference my list with an online list to make sure all my bases are covered. The night before I leave I take everything out of storage and only check it off  my list once it has been packed into a bag. Since adopting this system I rarely forget important items!

8.) Setting up your tent for the first time on the trip.

Tents aren’t always straightforward, you want to know how to set it up before it’s your source of shelter for the evening. There aren’t many things more frustrating than arriving at a campsite in the dark with no idea how to put your tent together. Practice setting up your tent in your living room or yard before you leave. If it’s complicated enough, do this multiple times so setting it up becomes second nature. This is especially useful when camping in bad weather, the quicker you can set up your tent, the dryer you will be!

9.) Counting on being able to have a fire to stay warm and cook food.

Have you ever driven out to a campsite with a large bundle of firewood and cooler full of food to cook only to realize there is a burn ban in effect and you aren’t allowed to have any sort of fire? I have! Luckily when you are car camping you can drive out of there fairly quickly. Not the case with backpacking. Make sure you know the fire regulations where you are camping and have a camp stove and plenty of warm layers to keep yourself warm in case fires aren’t allowed! I like to plan every trip as if fire isn’t allowed, even if it is. That way there are no unpleasant surprises when I arrive.

10.) Forgetting to bring something to entertain yourself.

Camping is great because it’s forced time to unplug, commune with nature, and spend some quality time with yourself or friends. All this down time can become a bit of an awkward nightmare if you forget to bring anything to do once it gets dark. Packing a deck of cards, or a book if you are flying solo, will go a long way in keeping your camping trip from turning into a mind-numbingly boring situation.

About the Author

By: Kaelee Butner
Find out more about Kaelee at her site: http://www.seattlebred.com/

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