Family of five camping at night with campfire

9 Camping Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

By Breana Johnson

Summer season is camping season! It’s finally warm enough to sleep outside and get a look at the Milky Way at night. Are you packing up your tent and getting ready to hit the wilderness? You’re in the right place! If you’re a camping newbie (or just browsing the ‘net looking for laughs), check out this list of nine camping mistakes.

  1. Bringing terrible food. It’s really hard to make awful-tasting food when you go camping. Somehow, everything tastes better in the woods! I’m convinced this is why Dinty Moore Beef Stew is still on the shelves. However, not all food is good for camping! One of the most common food fails is bringing a can but no can opener. How much blood has been shed by those who try to open a can with a blunt knife? I shudder to think of it. Also, avoid food that perishes quickly or anything that a wild animal might like to carry away.
  2. Wearing warm-weather clothes. Summer is nice and warm, right? It’s like 85 degrees out there, so it might be fine to just pack shorts and a t-shirt—right? Wrong! Temperatures drop significantly after dark, even in the warmer months. It gets really cold in some areas, so be sure to bring cold weather clothes, jackets, and blankets! You don’t have to prove your hardiness by freezing all night.
  3. Forgetting the essentials. How many campers have bent their tent pegs in half by pounding them into the ground with an unaccommodating rock? Don’t be that guy! Be sure to pack a hammer for the tent pegs in addition to matches, a lighter, a flashlight, and a good knife. To avoid forgetting the essentials, make yourself a list before you leave and check off each item as you pack it.
  4. A flying tent. One of the most entertaining moments of my life was watching someone’s tent fly away—sleeping bags and all—while camping on a beach in Mexico. I guess they had an excuse, since sand isn’t exactly the best material for anchoring a tent. Still, you need to be prepared for wind, particularly in wide-open, windy areas! You can avoid chasing your tent along the road (and being the entertainment for a campsite full of people) if you take some time to anchor it down. You may have to invest in some metal tent pegs or sand anchors, but it is worth it.
  5. A collapsing tent. One of the least entertaining moments of my life was the night when I was camping in the woods and my tent collapsed on me during a rain storm. This is pretty common among budget campers, since some of those low-priced tents just can’t survive monsoon season. You can avoid this if you invest in a heavy-duty tent or just select a sheltered location where you’re not likely to be attacked by rain or snow.
  6. A leaking tent. There’s nothing quite as miserable as trying to sleep in a damp and leaking tent. Most tents these days have rain shields so that the water won’t get in the tent from above. The biggest problem for these tents is the leakage underneath. Imagine waking up in a stone-cold sleeping bag, drenched at the bottom from rain and soggy with mud. Yuck. Fortunately, this is an easy fix! Just put a tarp below your tent and secure it with large rocks or tent pegs.  Editors Note: Check out our article How to Stay Dry While Camping for some helpful tips on this topic.
  7. Wearing the wrong shoes. Finding the right shoes for camping can admittedly take some trial and error. However, there are some shoes you should never wear! First, never wear new shoes. Make sure they are broken in so you don’t get nasty blisters. Also, leave behind your flip-flops and sandals. The ideal camping shoes are either hiking boots or lightweight walking shoes with thick soles.
  8. Trying to look Insta-ready. I am reminded of the Hannah Montana episode where some of the girls on the school camping trip went searching among the trees for a place to plug in their blow driers. None of us are quite that dumb, but we sometimes still try a little too hard to look perfect for the social media world. But you know what? If you want to get great snaps, you’ll have to head to downtown L.A. or something. Camping can’t be about image—it has to be about the experience! So let loose and have some fun. Leave your smart phone in the car and go hiking. Get dirty, let your hair be messy, and forget about makeup. You have to deal with those things every other day of your life, so just enjoy being one with nature for a little while. Nobody is going to care.
  9. Burning down a forest. Okay, this one is a little extreme. While campers have been known to turn entire forests into acres of charred ash, I don’t expect you to start the next disaster. But it is common for campers to light things on fire that they didn’t intend to burn! It’s easy to avoid fire mishaps. Make sure you only build fires when the forest service says it’s OK (there’s usually a fire risk sign at the entrance to forested areas), keep your fire pit far away from flammable things such as leaves, and put it out all the way when you’re done. Also, don’t throw your cigarette stubs into the woods if you smoke while camping. As Smokey the Bear would say, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

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