12 Costly, Dumb, and Deadly Mistakes To Avoid While Camping

Camping Mistakes to Avoid

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Camping Mistakes to Avoid
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Camping Faux Pas

Spending time in the great outdoors is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It allows us to unplug, breathe in fresh air, and immerse ourselves in all that nature has to offer. Whether it's camping in a forest, a mountain range, or by a tranquil lakeside, the natural world has a unique way of helping us recharge, find new inspiration, and get away from the stresses of the usual grind. 

But while camping offers a fantastic (and budget-friendly) way to experience these wonders, it's also crucial to avoid common mistakes to ensure a safe and pleasant experience. Here are 12 commonly overlooked camping mistakes to avoid making. 

Equipment and accessories for mountain hiking in the wilderness

1. Not Testing Equipment Beforehand

Before heading out, remember to test all your camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags, and flashlights to ensure they're in working order. Discovering a hole in your tent or a malfunctioning stove when you're miles away from home is not just inconvenient — it can be dangerous and expose you to harsh weather conditions. Not to mention how frustrating it would be not being able to enjoy a warm meal at the end of a long day.

Man caught in a rainstorm while camping

2. Not Accounting for the Weather

Weather can be unpredictable — especially in remote areas like mountainous regions and deep forests where weather patterns can change quickly without warning. Being unprepared for rain, cold, or heat can lead to discomfort or even health risks like hypothermia or heatstroke. As such, remember to check the forecast before heading out and bring extra clothing just in case you encounter rough weather. 

Bear Invading Campground

3. Leaving Food Unattended

Unsecured food and drinks, including table scraps and leftovers, can attract animals to your campsite. These can range from small critters to larger, potentially dangerous wildlife such as bears and mountain lions. To avoid unwanted visitors, remember to pack all food items in airtight containers and use designated bear-proof lockers if available. You can also keep your food out of reach of animals by hanging it from a sturdy branch, away from your campsite. 

Top view camping and hiking travel and hiking gear, equipment and accessories for mountain trips

4. Forgetting Essential Gear

Before leaving the house, consider making a checklist with all the essential items to pack. These can include: a first-aid kit, flashlights, a multi-tool knife, toilet paper, protein bars, and matches. Forgetting to pack essentials can turn minor inconveniences into serious problems, and can even result in preventable injuries. Trust this experienced camper, there's nothing more frustrating than trying to use the bathroom in the dark without proper light or TP! 

Related: The Best Tents and Gear For Camping in the Winter

Entering Yosemite Wilderness Rules Sign

5. Ignoring Campsite Rules

Another common mistake is failing to get familiarized with and adhere to campsite regulations. These rules are designed to protect campers, wildlife, and the surrounding environment. Not following them can lead to accidents, fines, or damage to the area. Some regions also have strict bans on campfires, so remember to always check these rules beforehand. 

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asian muslim woman squatting position when camping

6. Arriving Late at the Campsite

Setting up camp in the dark can be challenging and lead to poorly assembled shelters, which can increase the risk of exposure to elements or wildlife. It can also disrupt the peace of the campground and your own ability to get good, quality rest. It's advisable to arrive a few hours before sunset to allow plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the area and set up your tent and gear at leisure.

Related: 10 Essential Multi-tools for Your Camping Trip

Hands of friends roasting marshmallows over the fire in a grill closeup

7. Poor Fire Safety

A lack of caution with campfires can lead to dangerous forest fires, which can put everyone in the vicinity in danger. Responsible fire management is crucial to prevent catastrophic events and wildfires, especially in areas like California and Colorado where dryer conditions can pose a greater fire risk.

Plastic garbage in forest. Used disposable plastic bottles, containers and glass bottles in forest clearing. Pollution environment. Long decaying waste in nature

8. Littering or Not Cleaning Up After Yourself

Whenever you're out in the natural world, remember to "leave no trace" and to always pack out what you bring in. Failing to do this not only harms the environment but can attract more wildlife to campsites. Littering also diminishes the natural beauty of outdoor spaces and can impact ecosystems by disrupting the delicate balance of flora and fauna.

Friends preparing breakfast at campsite
Morsa Images/istockphoto

9. Not Bringing Enough Food or Water

Underestimating your need for hydration and nutrition is another common camping mistake. Suffering from dehydration and hunger can quickly turn a fun camping trip into a survival challenge, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of spending quality time in nature. A general rule of thumb is to pack half a gallon of water per person, per day, as well as high-energy, nutritious snacks like nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars. 

Related: 33 Amazing 5-Ingredient Recipes for Cooking in a Camper

Our first camping trip

10. Wearing Inappropriate Clothing

Bringing inadequate clothing on a camping trip can lead to discomfort, exposure to the elements, or even serious health risks like hypothermia or frostbite. To avoid this scenario, consider dressing in layers and preparing for all weather conditions by bringing extra gear including waterproof clothing, extra socks, air-activated hand warmers, and thermal wear.

Mature person is packing big rucksack for hiking

11. Overpacking Unnecessary Things

While it's important to be prepared, bringing too many unnecessary items (like expensive electronics) can make your camping experience cumbersome and disorganized. Overpacking not only makes transporting and setting up your camp more difficult but also clutters your space, which can become stressful and take away from your outdoor experience. 

Hiker woman applying sun cream to protect her skin from dangerous uv sun rays high in mountains. Travel healthcare concept

12. Forgetting Sun and Insect Protection

Sunburns and insect bites not only cause discomfort, they can also lead to longer-term health issues like allergic reactions, Lyme disease, or West Nile virus. To prevent this, remember to always pack a high-quality sunscreen and insect repellent to avoid pesky bug bites and protect yourself from the sun's UV rays. 

Next up: We Tried 4 Bug Sprays and This Is the Best