Camping mistakes occur most frequently with those new to the wonders of the great outdoors. The consequences for these can run the gamut from minor irritants to major disasters that spoil your enjoyment of the entire adventure. While there are a great many points to keep in mind when planning your journey into nature, we’ve listed ten of the most common issues people experience. Learning from mistakes can be valuable. Learning from the mistakes of others saves time.
1. Not Ready to Wear
Perhaps the most common camping mistake that nearly everyone new to the field makes at least once is failure to test new equipment. Test and retest is the mantra when it comes to new backpacks, tents, camp stoves, or even boots. Experts recommend allowing plenty of time to become acquainted with how to set up a tent. You should get into a new sleeping bag to ensure it’s the right size. Above all, break in new hiking boots. Be sure you know how everything works before you hit the trail.
2. Carry That Load
For individuals who have been dreaming of a serious camping trip, but who’ve never really packed or worn an external frame backpack, this error is rather typical. First, you should train for the trail. If you want to hike even one leg of the major wilderness trails, it’s advisable that you should be able to complete at least ten miles a day. That pace should include a loaded pack because, while there may periodically be towns in which you can buy supplies, you’ll be carrying everything you need for the journey. Well ahead of your prospective trip, buy your pack and practice wearing it, at first empty, then packed.
3. Water Seeks the Lowest Point
While it’s common knowledge that you want to pitch your tent on a flat surface, many who are new to camping will make the mistake of doing so in a hollow. Even prepared camping sites may have low points, to which any water will flow. If rain falls at a higher elevation, you may be in for a rude awakening as the water searches for sea level. Hollows also trap moisture, which means that the precipitation that found your campsite may not be in a hurry to leave. A good rule of thumb is to read your prospective site, determining the lowest points and steering clear of them.
4. Patching and Mending
Seasoned campers will tell you that one of the most indispensable items you can pack is a repair kit. This should include a sewing kit for mending tears in tents, garments, sleeping bags and ground cloths; patches for larger holes in tents; metal pole sleeves in the event that a tent pole bends and must be straightened; a multi-tool in case you must break or cut, tighten or loosen, splice or sever any material or item in your camp. However, because many novice campers are unaware of the many useful items such kits contain, they fail to include them in their packs.
5. Police Your Flames
For those whose experience with fire is limited, this may be one of the most dangerous mistakes they can make. Fire safety is stressed by the Park Service, but many people mistake an ember that is no longer glowing red for one that is cool and safe to leave unattended. Hot ash, caught by even a gentle wind, can lead to uncontrolled blazes. In certain parts of the country or during a drought period, this small oversight can lead to extensive fire damage and even property loss. Always be sure to examine your fire area, scatter the remnants of your campfire, and use sand or dry soil to completely ensure your fire is out.
First time campers will understandably not know what they should bring. The thought of leaving behind something you might desperately need often leads to packing inessential, bulky items. What it also means is that they can sometimes neglect to pack things they really need. Most seasoned outdoor enthusiasts will recommend that they make lists and give themselves plenty of advance time to pack, unpack, sort, and repack before it’s time to hit the road. In this way, they’ll ensure that they don’t wind up with too much excess baggage their first time off the beaten path.
7. Setting Up Camp Too Late
In modern society, many of us are accustomed to a routine that carries on long past sunset. However, in nature, when the daylight is gone, it’s gone. Pitching a tent in the dark is a nightmare, even for veteran campers. What’s more is that, while you may prefer to eat your dinner late, when you must start a fire, prepare food out of doors, and clean up before it becomes too dark to see what you’re doing, setting up camp in the afternoon is the best policy.
8. Underestimating the Weather
We live sheltered lives, quite literally. As a result, many of us have become passé about the impact of high wind or a thunderstorm. The consequences for this can range from mild to severe, depending upon the circumstances, the landscape where you’re hiking or camping, and the severity of the storm. You may only have to cope with wet socks and underwear for a day, which is miserable enough. At the other end of the spectrum of consequences, you could be introduced to your first mudslide, which can be life threatening. Always check the weather, and be certain you stay informed about any sudden changes that may occur.
9. Forgetting First Aid
In the frenzy of trying to remember what should be packed and what must be left behind, you might be surprised at how many new campers forget a first aid kit. It’s something many of us don’t think about, given the ubiquity of many of the elements of such a kit. But when you’re out camping, there’s no antibiotic ointment to be had unless you brought it with you. Such a kit should include adhesive bandages, ointment, bug spray, an ace bandage, gauze, tape, scissors, and pain reliever. Some might also toss sunblock into the box, since it’s a must-have for the trail.
10. Not Filing a Trail Plan
Many of those new to the camping world might laugh at the idea of filing a camping or hiking plan with both family and friends as well as the park or regional custodian where they will be camping. That would be a mistake, because, even short excursions can hold unforeseen accidents that leave you unable to call for help. The longer you intend to go camping, the more detailed your plan should be. Additionally, many expert outdoor enthusiasts recommend carrying with you at least one additional way to make contact. In instances where cell reception is unreliable, you need to have a way to reach help in the event of trouble or injury.
Getting out into nature can be rejuvenating and an important way to keep life in perspective. However, those who are new to it, as we all are in the beginning, should be careful about how they approach the pastime. While some oversights or instances of thoughtlessness are simply irritating, others can be damaging or even life threatening. Preparation and education are key factors that will help you avoid common camping mistakes.
Related article: 10 Camping Terms Every Novice Camper Needs to Know