We’ve all been new to camping at some point, myself included. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot and to minimize catastrophes. To help you avoid making them, I’m here to give you the heads up. As always, I really want your trip to be awesome and hassle-free (because who enjoys a hassle when on vacation??). Follow my advice, and you won’t make rookie camping mistakes:
Not understanding your equipment
If you buy an air mattress, but don’t read the information on the packaging, you could mistakenly think you’re buying a self-inflating air mattress, when in fact, you need to buy an additional pump (no, they usually don’t come with – that’s how manufacturers make their money!). How are you going to feel when you get to your destination and find out there?
Take the time to make informed decisions when buying your equipment, and try it all out at home before you leave. It will minimize surprise and costs, especially because you could very well pay double for it closer to your destination if supplies are scarce!
Not researching your destination
If you haven’t done your research, how will you know what you should and shouldn’t bring? How will you know what kinds of facilities are available? This is so important because if you CAN do laundry when you get there, you can plan to bring detergent and spare change. If there are no showers at your campground and you bring all your shower supplies… you’ll look silly washing your hair in the lake!
Take the time to research your campground WELL before your trip, so you can plan exactly what to bring. Check weather (sweaters or t-shirts?), conditions & privacy, reviews (did others enjoy their trip?), and available activities (will the kids be bored to tears?). Check the website if the campground has one, or make a phone call. Better to be prepared ahead of time.
Depending on a campfire for cooking
Just no. Take into consideration that there could very well be a fire ban by the time you get to your campground. Then what can you do? Even if there isn’t a fire ban, if you rely on a campfire for all your meals, you’ll be spending a LOT of cash on firewood.
Bring a propane camp stove, and make sure it works before you leave the house. They make these ultra portable, so there’s really no reason to not bring one with you. Bring a backup propane canister and cooking pots/pans.
Spending a fortune on camping supplies
It’s always smart to start small and build up. If you’re a first-time camper, you MIGHT not like it. if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on equipment, you’re either stuck with it or you have to sell it to someone who does enjoy camping.
Start with basics: a well-constructed, durable tent, air mattress (and pump if necessary), sleeping bags, a camp stove and a mess kit. Don’t spend a fortune thinking the more expensive the items are, the longer they will last (it’s not the case, we live in a very disposable world, don’t forget!)
Like researching your destination, research the products you need too. Choose quality items, but don’t go overboard. A tent for two people shouldn’t cost more than one or two hundred dollars. Ask friends, check reviews and spend some time comparing items.
Spending too little on camping supplies
Just like you shouldn’t break the bank to stock up, you shouldn’t choose the cheapest options, either. When you choose large items, you want them to last. For a simple example, we bought a mess kit when my husband and I started camping regularly. We still have it, and it might have been $25-$30 when I bought it.
Don’t go cheap, because if you’re replacing it each year, you’re really not getting your money’s worth. A rookie might think it’s wise to spend as little as possible, but a rookie should also be smart about their supplies.
At the same time, if you’re buying stuff at the end of the season, take advantage of clearance items, but only if you’ve researched the items ahead of time. It will give you even more bang for your buck!
Not investing in quality (warm) sleeping bags
This is one of many reasons it’s important to do your research ahead of time. If you’re only camping in the summer, you will need to check the temperatures your campground experiences at night time. Based on the lowest temps in your research, you can make an informed decision on your sleeping bags, because each has a temperature range that they’re best for.
If you enjoy winter camping, you will need to take that weather into consideration when buying your bedding. As with all camping supplies, choose quality over price!
Not thinking about lighting
Sure, cell phones with lighting features are great in a pinch, but how reasonable is it to wash dishes after the sun goes down, using just the light from a cell phone?
Even a rookie should ideally have one flashlight for each person, and at least one good camp lantern that has the ability of lighting up your camp site. It’s not fun being clotheslined by your clothesline, or tripping over tree roots just because you can’t see.
Arriving at your camp site late at night
This is one of my pet peeves, and nearly every year, there is at least one family that does it. Everyone’s in bed for the night, it’s 11 p.m. and we’ve all had a great day in the fresh air, and we’re tuckered out. Someone’s just arrived, illuminating half the campground with their headlights while setting up their tent. To top it off, they all talk like it’s the middle of the afternoon. No consideration for others who are trying to sleep.
Don’t be that person. Yes, unexpected things can happen, but if you don’t have a reservation, don’t spend an hour driving around, looking for an empty spot and disrupting everyone. That is the tell-tale sign of someone who didn’t do their research and didn’t plan ahead. Plan for the unexpected, and plan to get to your destination well before dark. Your neighbouring campers will appreciate it.
Leaving garbage and/or used dishes out in the open
If you haven’t read this post, you need to know: bears are no joke. They don’t care if food was left out by accident or not, they think they’re being fed. They will remember that they found food at a campground, and consequently, lose their fear of humans. Then they will become a nuisance and will have to be put down. All because of rookie carelessness.
If there was ever a time to be scrupulously neat and clean, camping is IT!
Darkness is the perfect cover for animals who are usually timid, the ones who avoid humans. Just because you don’t see them during the day doesn’t mean they aren’t roaming at night. Clean up all garbage, and wash your dishes. At the very least, lock it all in your vehicle if you can’t get to it before bed.
Forgetting to have a good time
Camping is spending time in nature. Spending time in nature is therapeutic and good for the soul. If you’re camping with your family, consider it a great time to bond and build connections with your loved ones.
Star-gazing, roasting marshmallows, playing card games or simply talking are all great ways to have fun, and enjoy camping for what it is: a mind and soul reset.
Can you think of any other rookie mistakes to avoid? I’d love to hear your input!