Common Mistakes New Campers Make? Camping is a fun and adventurous activity for many people, but if you’re new to it there are some common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid. In this article, we discuss 7 of the most common camping mistakes that beginners make so that you don’t have to learn them the hard way.
Any camper who claims never to make a mistake in their nature adventures is either telling a bit of fib or they really don’t get out there too often. No matter how many years we’ve been at it, all of us are guilty of an occasional error of judgment.
But is that such a problem? Certainly not. If we admit to the blunder, carefully think through it, and try to salvage a lesson from it, each mistake becomes a more effective learning experience than any number of trouble-free camping trips.
Common Mistakes New Campers Make
It seems to me, though, a few campground blunders crop up more frequently than others, particularly among newbies of the outdoor scene. Here are seven bloopers you should watch out for:
Mistake #01: Poor Choice of Equipment
No doubt the earliest trap of all for enthusiastic but inexperienced campers lurks among that vast array of equipment and hardware that confronts them in a well-stocked outdoor supplies store.
It’s right here where they are most vulnerable to the well-meaning but poorly informed — and usually equally inexperienced — sales assistant. Woe is you if they work on commission! You are likely to end up with expensive, inappropriate, insufficient, and unnecessary camping gear.
This is number one on our list of Mistakes New Campers Make because it simply makes the largest difference.
Solution: Start slowly. Hold off buying too much stuff until you get a feel for the outdoor lifestyle and activities that most appeal to you and your family. Read, ask, look around; maybe borrow or rent some gear at first, to see if it suits. After each trip, review your equipment options, then add (or discard) according to your needs, wants, and outdoor aspirations.
Mistake #02: A tough first trip
By leaping straight into the deep end — perhaps a week-long trip through a remote and uninhabited desert country — it is possible that you or your family may never want to go camping again. Unfamiliar equipment, seemingly hostile terrain, lack of established routines, and very little skill add up to a trip you all, quite probably, would prefer to forget.
Solution: Take your camping one step at a time, progressively developing each trip from the one before. For example, try a shake-down trip, first up, to a not-too-distant country town where there’s a commercial campground or RV park.
Next, visit national parks that offer basic facilities and amenities. Finally, venture into the real bush or further into the backblocks where higher levels of self-sufficiency are necessary. This is if you are really into the idea of off-grid experiences.
Mistake #03: Traveling too far or too fast
Many outdoor people fail to distinguish between camping and road-tripping. They spend maybe a week of their two-week camping vacation just getting to and coming from. Or they travel on such a tight driving schedule that the whole trip becomes one frantic dash from campsite to campsite. Isn’t this meant to be a holiday or a relaxing vacation?
Solution: When road-tripping, or touring, take time to see and experience the country. A good daily maximum is 200-225 miles. On the other hand, when off on a camping trip, try to spend no more than 25 percent of total holiday time traveling. Plan your route or your destination accordingly.
Mistake #04: No stand-up-height shelter
With the increased popularity of small, low-profile tents, more and more campers get caught with no other form of shelter. A two or three-person hike tent is fine for sleeping, but that’s all they’re good for. Who wants to spend a day of foul weather hunched and huddled in a space the size of a dog box. After all, no matter where you go, one day it’s going to rain. Every so often, it will come down in buckets.
Solution: As well as your sleeping accommodation, take along a large tarp or awning to string up, at head height, between trees, vehicles, poles, or whatever to provide day-to-day living space during pouring rain or blazing sun. Go for quality and sturdy construction, with sufficient room for all in your group, plus a bit of camp furniture. You can get these at the local Dollar Tree for just a buck!
Mistake #05: Unsuitable toilet arrangements
If there’s one thing that’s inevitable in the city or the countryside, it’s the need for a toilet. On unimproved campsites for a night or two, the camp shovel and a long walk are often adequate.
Yes – camp shovel. Not every campsite has flush toilets or even pit toilets. Unless you have your own portable toilet, a shovel is your friend.
But always use the shovel. There’s not much worse than finding toilet waste around the perimeter of a campsite — the hygiene implications don’t bear thinking about!
Unfortunately, this is so common I can only conclude that few campers give toilet arrangements any forethought at all.
Solution: Add a small shovel to your camping gear and take it along on every trip. For camps of four days or more, a bucket-style chemical toilet will be more convenient, but you still, eventually, need to bury it.
Indeed, in some areas, taking all forms of waste back out with you is now the only legal option, so prepare accordingly.
Ohhhh – and don’t forget the TP!
Mistake #06: No campfire preparations
A cozy campfire — where they’re allowed — is an integral part of camping’s attraction, so it’s always a surprise to witness the blundering, half-hearted attempts of many new campers.
Scrounging for damp wood, huffing, and puffing (even dousing their meager efforts with lighter fluid!) they usually finish up with more smoke and frayed tempers than flames and comfort.
Believe it or not, most campsites — particularly the popular areas — rarely provide sufficient kindling let alone dry firewood unless you buy it from them.
You are NOT allowed to bring wood in from outside that area in most campgrounds.
Tree-killing insects and diseases can lurk in or on firewood. These insects and diseases can’t move far on their own, but when people move firewood they can jump hundreds of miles. New infestations destroy our forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control.dontmovefirewood.org
Solution: Plan ahead. Find out where you can collect enough dry firewood and kindling for your first campfire in the area you will be camping.
Also, a supply of waterproof matches, newspaper, and firelighters should be packed on board where you can get to them soon after arrival. Check out our article on how to build a perfect campfire!
Tip #07 – Inadequate refrigeration
It seems to me, whoever came up with the idea to carry an icebox on roof racks or in an open trailer is a couple of cans short of a six-pack. He’s probably the same guy who buys a bag of party ice for a long weekend camping trip and wonders why the steaks are sloshing about in a cooler of bloodied water by Saturday night. Getting the most out of a cooler requires a bit of thought and careful nurturing.
It is HUGE as one of the Mistakes New Campers Make so you don’t end up with food poisoning.
Solution: If possible, use block ice. (Make your own in the freezer at home.) If party ice is your only option, choose bags that are frozen solid and leave them unbroken.
Carry more ice than you think you need. Better still, find a supplier of dry ice. Always carry and store the cooler in a shaded spot, or cover it with a heat-reflective tarp. Keep a layer of cans or watertight containers across the bottom to keep food (in containers!) out of the water.
Also – have a cooler for drinks that is separate from the cooler for your food. You tend to open the cooler for drinks a lot more often and this would keep your food cooler, for a longer period of time.
Don’t be too surprised if, in your early camping days, you bump up against a lot more mistakes than these. But take heart: each error you make eventually adds to your outdoor savvy. And although there will always be campers with more experience than you, there are even more with considerably less. Watch and learn from their mistakes, so you don’t find yourself repeating them.