Going camping for the first time? Here are the crucial camping mistakes to avoid to have an amazing adventure in the outdoors.

Let’s face it, we’ve all been camping beginners and we’ve made our own share of mistakes while enjoying the outdoors.

I remember my very first camping trip was not so great. Though I had fun, when I look back, I realise there are a number of things i should have done differently.

And now that I know better, I at least avoid all those unnecessary camping mistakes that most beginner campers make.

Although I cannot change the mistakes I made while camping for the first time, I can pass on the tips I’ve learned throughout my camping journey to others.

So if you’re going camping for the very first time or you just want to refresh your mind on what to do and not to do, here are the biggest mistakes to avoid when camping.

But before you head out, make sure that you read these camping tips for begınners to fully prepare for your outdoor adventure.

Disclaimer* This post contains affiliates and I might earn from qualifying sales without any additional cost to you.

Biggest Camping mistakes to avoid

1. Not researching your camping grounds

One of the biggest camping mistakes you can ever make is not researching your camping destination prior to your trip.

You don’t need to spend hours and hours researching but a good knowledge of where you’re going is important.

Some of the things to look out for include the campsite facilities and amenities, what other previous campers said about the location, how to get there, and everything you might need to know.

This will give you an idea of the exact things you will need to pack and others you don’t need to.

You will also get to know the best way to book a camping spot in that campsite if you need to pre-book or just showing up is ok.

mistakes to avoid when camping

2. Arriving at the campsite late

Arriving late at the campsite late is a totally bad idea. It’s not fun trying to put up your tent in the dark, getting all your gear ready and worse of all is actually trying to find a proper spot to camp especially if its a popular campsite with many campers already there.

The worst is when there are no camping spots left and you have to go to another campsite.

Trust me, it’s not fun at all and you don’t want to go through all the hustles especially if you’re camping for the very first time. You might just end up hating the entire camping thing on your very first go.

Make sure that you plan your day well so that you arrive at the campsite during the day. This will give you plenty of time to get everything in order instead of panicking and rushing through everything in the dark.

Related post: Big mistakes to avoid while backpacking

3. Not testing your camping gear before you go

Before you go camping, it’s paramount that you test out all your camping equipment to be sure that you know how to operate each and every item or that everything works as expected.

It would be such a shame to reach the campsite and not know how to pitch a tent or even how to use other useful camping essentials.

What most camping beginners assume is that they will be able to follow the user manual while there.

Although, this might be effective, who wants to spend 2 hours on a manual while in the outdoors which time you would have spent on activities instead of trying to figure out how some item works.

To make matters worse is when you even fail to follow the user manual with no one around to help. So make sure that you try out all your camping gear before you leave for the outdoors.

4. Forgetting to pack the essential camping gear

Another major mistake campers make is leaving behind some essential camping gear. This might happen either because you don’t know what to pack or you want to travel light so badly.

However, not carrying the essentials can lead into trouble as you explore the wild.

Imagine you get an injury/cut and later realize that you forgot to carry a first aid kit or running out of clean drinking water and remember that you actually didn’t pack a water filter.

That can be terrible especially if there is nowhere nearby to get those items from.

What I advise you is to create your own camping checklist of all the essentials you will need so that you don’t forget anything behind.

And while at it, below are some of the camping essentials you should pack.

  • Camping tent: Take one that is big enough to accommodate the people you’re camping with, sturdy enough to withstand the wind, and also waterproof to keep you safe in case it rains. For 1 or 2 people, I recommend taking this Coleman Sundome tent and for bigger groups or families, this camping tent can accommodate up to 6 people.

  • Sleeping bag: By all means, you’ll need one as it gets chilly in the night. Don’t skimp on a sleeping bag but rather carry one like this that is super warm and comfortable. 2 People can actually fit in this sleeping bag. Yay to couples!!

  • First Aid kit: Spending time in the outdoors can expose you to a number of minor accidents and cuts, so before you go, make sure that you have a first aid kit. This first aid kit has all the items to provide the first medical assistance but also small enough to not take a lot of space in your luggage.
  • Head Lamp: It is very likely that the campsite won’t have electricity so carry a powerful headlamp like this one. 
  • Camping stove: Since you’ll be preparing your own means, it’s important to take a cooking stove. This Coleman camping gas stove is small but will do a great job while in the outdoor.

These are just a few of the camping items but you can check out this comprehensive car camping packing list that has everything you’ll need in the outdoors.

Alternatively, you can grab yourself this free camping checklist to make sure you never forget anything.

5. Packing to much stuff

While still at packing, packing all the essentials doesn’t mean carrying your entire house for a few days’ camping adventure.

This is because, in fear of not having everything needed while far away in the wild, most campers make a mistake of carrying all the unnecessary clutter which in turn becomes a burden by weighing them down.

Of course, carry all the essentials mentioned above but as a rule of thumb, only carry items that can be used for a number of things and substitute your heavy items with light ones and if there is an option of a compressible travel item, opt for that instead of the solid one.

For example, instead of carrying an ordinary water bottle, replace it with this compressible one to save space. Instead of packing a large cotton towel, take a lightweight microfiber towel like this to save space, and reduce your overall weight.

This will help you to carry less and also reduce the weight of your entire backpack. You can check out these tips for packing light from my previous post if you still struggle with packing too much.

Related post: Backpacking hacks you need to know

6. Not understanding the weather before your trip

The biggest camping mistake you’ll ever make is to not research the weather conditions of the place you’re planning to camp at.

I can’t emphasize how important it is to know the weather. Make the weather forecast your friend as this will be very important when it comes to making crucial decisions.

If it will snow, rain or be sunny, you’ll know exactly the gear to pack, clothes to packs, plan your activities well instead of being completely surprised by mother nature.

7. Not packing enough warm clothes and sleeping gear

Regardless of what the weather is, it gets really cold in the night when camping in the outdoors. It would be a mistake not to take a warm sleeping bag assuming that it won’t be cold in the night just because the general weather is a bit warm.

In the same way, even when it’s during the warm months, throw in a warm fleece for those chilly nights and also don’t leave behind your raincoat because the weather can change drastically in some places.

You can carry a warm fleece like this one and a waterproof lightweight rain jacket but whatever you do, don’t forget to carry this really super warm and comfortable sleeping bag.

Beginners always tend to ignore them in hot countries or places but regardless of the temperatures, warm clothes and covers are some of the camping essentials and it would be a huge mistake not to pack them.

8. Leaving your food unattended to while at the campsite

Camping means cooking in open space, which open space is shared with other wild animals. While this might sound like a small mistake, its actually a big one.

Leaving your food unattended to can attract animals at your campsite. Other than just losing your food to sneaky monkeys (and wasting food while in the outdoors is not ideal), you might attract other not so friendly animals like bears.

Remember that feeding wild animals with human food is not acceptable as you might end up harming them. So by all means, cover your food well at all times and make sure that you keep an eye out for the wild animals while cooking.

9. Forgetting to learn the outdoor survival skills

Being in the outdoors sometimes means being exposed to a number of challenges and that means stepping out of your comfort zone.

This is not meant to scare you but rather to inspire you to equip yourself with some survival skills.

It will be such a shame to get a small injury and not even know to dress it. So before you venture into wild camping, make sure that you learn some survival skills.

This can range from learning how to use a first aid kit, learning how to use a water filter, learning how to behave when wild animals come near you to learning basic self-defense skills.

By all means, a first aid kit is necessary camping essential and if you don’t have one yet, you can buy this one. It has all the important items for the first medical assistance.

Also learning how a water filter works will save you from dying of thirst when you run out of clean drinking water.

Though most camping beginners do not take it seriously, it’s important to know how to survive in various situations before going for your outdoor camping adventure.

Related post: How to stay safe while traveling

10. Not observing the Leave no trace principles

As campers, we ought to be responsible travelers who value the wild and respect nature in general. Frequent campers might know this but not all first time campers.

Do not leave leave trash at the campsite. Most campsite do have trash cans where you can dump your trash but if not, wrap it up and take it with you till you can dump it in the appropriate way.

In the same way, if you made a camp fire the night before, do not leave the ashes and unburnt firewood behind. Be a responsible traveler and leave the campsite as clean as you found it or even better.

While still at leaving no trace behind, if you are camping in the wild with no toilets, dig a hole where you can put the human waste and if you take a bush pee, do not look the tissue there.

Basically leave no trace – no one should know that there was a human being there. If we all do that, we will be able to conserve the wildlife even for future generations.

11. Not informing anyone about where you’re going to camp and when you plan to return

One of the major camping mistakes to avoid is leaving for a camping trip without letting someone know about where you’re going and when you plan to return.

This can actually cost you your life in case you get into trouble and no one knows where to even start from.

The outdoors are fun but they also expose one to undeniable risks especially if you’re camping alone and poor phone service doesn’t help one bit.

But when you tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return, if you don’t return on the intended date, that person will know where to look for you from.

You can also go ahead and inform them about the outdoor activities you’ll be participating in just to have an “evacuation plan” in place just in case something goes wrong.

Related post: What to do before any trip

12. Carrying insufficient food

While going camping, you should avoid carrying insufficient food. It is so painful to run out of food yet your camping days are not yet over.

It’s even worse when there is nowhere nearby to buy it from. So what I advise you to do is to plan out your meals daily.

Plan what you will have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the number of days you will be camping.

On top of that, add some extra food that can take you another full day to make sure that theyre zero chances of having insufficient food at any time during your camping adventure.

While still at that, carry food that can be prepared easily. Some of the camping food you can take include:

  • Rice
  • Noodle
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Porkchops
  • Vegetables

The idea is to take food that is easy to cook and doesn’t take long to get ready. Tinned food is also a good option but also don’t just pack fast foods as doing outdoor activities requires some good/heathy eating.

13. Not carrying a sleeping pad or air mattress

One of the camping mistakes to avoid that most campers make is not carrying proper sleeping gear.

For some, they think that just carrying a sleeping bag is enough but no it’s not.

A sleeping pad/mattress will give you extra comfort by not sleeping directly on the ground and you’re guaranteed more warmth as it normally gets cold in the night regardless of the weather conditions.

Depending on the way you’re traveling, you can either opt for a sleeping pad or a mattress.

If you’re taking your own car and not worried about the weight, I recommended opting for this air mattress. Yes it is a bit heavier but it provides the most comfort and warmth and you can easily carry an air pump in your car.

However is you’re going camping strictly as a backpacker with no personal vehicle, then I recommend taking this sleeping pad. It is light which makes it easy to carry with a backpack.

And if you’re all about sleeping super comfortable even while camping, then I’d recommend adding this Inflatable travel pillow to your sleeping gear list. It is not only comfortable but also lightweight which means that you carry take it with you wherever you go.

Related post: Best hiking tips for beginners

14. Leaving behind the cooking essentials (Stove and utensils)

I’ve heard of some people who leave behind camping cooking essentials saying that they will just cook using a campfire.

This is a huge camping mistake which can see you going hungry some days. (Unless if you’re a pro and you’ve done it a couple of times.)

Imagine you’re unable to make a fire at that particular campsite because the weather is just too bad to keep the fire burning, imagine there is no designated ”fireplace”.

All these clearly show how risky it is not to take cooking essentials. And even when all those conditions are in place, it will take you a while to create a fire that is able to cook a meal especially if you’re not great with fires.

As you go camping, take a gas stove where you can make your meals easily without worrying about the weather.

You don’t need to take a big one, this sizeable Coleman gas stove is perfect for camping and other outdoor activities.

On top of the gas stove, other cooking essentials you should take iclude;

  • Camping mug: This GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug is perfect for a cup of coffee either in the morning or on chilly nights as there are zero chances of breaking.
  • Tupperware: You will need to store your food well and this set of leak-proof Tupperware is perfect for that.
  • Cutlery: Take a fork, a spoon, chopping knife, table knife, serving spoon. You take 2 for each or just buy this cutlery set.
  • Stainless steel cooking pans: If your camping trip is quite long, then 2 or 3 pans are enough.
  • Plates: Don’t forget to carry some plates. I advise taking melamine plates for any camping adventure since they don’t break easily.
  • On top of these, don’t forget that you will need to clean the camping utensils after a meal. So carry soap, a washing sponge and a washing basin.

However, as you pack your cooking equipment, remember that it’s for a short while which means that you don’t need to empty all your kitchen cabinets just to go camping. And remember to check out this complete list of camping cooking essentials to know all the essentials to pack.

what not to do while camping

15. Poorly storing your food

While still at the issue of cooking and food, it’s paramount that store your food well.

Like I mentioned earlier, most of the easy camping foods are perishable which means that they need to be kept in a cooler at all times to stay fresh.

This is why you need to carry a cooler especially if your camping trip is quite long. This Coleman rolling cooler is small, keeps ice for over 5 days, and is also easy to carry due to its rollers.

If you have leftovers, keep them in different Tupperwares and later transfer them into a cooler.

But even without the foods that don’t need a cooler, you will need to store them very well. Keep fluids tightly sealed at all times so that they don’t mess up your other items.

Another useful but simple tip for storing food in a cooler is to put the food you plan to eat last at the bottom so that you dont keep removing everything all the time.

Related post: Things not to do while traveling

16. Forgetting to take a bug spray

Just like any other outdoor activity, you’ll need to take a bug spray and forgetting it is one of the camping mistakes to avoid that could even result in sickness if not taken care of.

I recommend taking a general bug spray like this one if you’re not aware of the specific bugs in that area but if your camping trip is in Africa, then you’ll defınetely need to take an anti-mosquito repellant. You don’t want to skip the cozy night campfires because of the bugs.

In the same way, if you’re camping in a place with a number of bears, I advise you to take this kind of bear spray to keep them away. It’s totally safe for humans, the bear, and the environment.

17. Scrimping on light

In my camping experience, a number of campsites do not have electricity or light nearby. But even if they do, it’s very likely that it won’t be enough to reach your tent.

So it will be a huge camping mistake to not carry enough light. A strong headlamp like this is a must-have while camping but you can also add this battery-powered lantern so that you always have light even when you’re unable to recharge your flashlight.

It is super strong, durable, and above all collapsible which makes it ideal for all campers and backpackers.

Trust me, it’s not fun being in total darkness at night in the wild or having a light that goes as far as just 1 meter. So light is one of those camping essentials you shouldn’t skimp on.

camping mistakes to avoid

18. Sleeping with food in you tent

One of the deadly camping mistakes to avoid is keeping food in your tent. This will attract wild animals closer and if they smell food inside your tent, they will want to access it and you don’t want to imagine what could result from that.

However much you might want to ”store your food well” as I advised earlier, keeping it inside your tent is the worst idea ever. Do not do it otherwise you might get in trouble.

19. Not researching the rules about Pets at the campsite

We all love to travel with our furry friends and camping can’t seem to stop it. However cool that is, not all campsites accept pets around.

So before you put your pet in the car to hit the outdoors, find out if the campsite you’re planning to stay at allows pets.

And if they do, ask for guidelines that have to be observed and all the relevant information.

And if they don’t allow them, you still have time to figure out what to do – either to find another campsite or decide to leave the pet behind.

It will be terrible to reach the campsite and you’re turned away because of your pet.

20. Failing to figure out the trash situation

One of the other camping mistakes to avoid is leaving trash outside during the night. Yes this also includes trash you put in your trash bag.

Wild animals are always scouring for food and they will by all means try to look for some in your trash hence pouring and discarding everything at the campsite.

This will create more work for you since you will have to clean it up. I know how annoying it is because I made the same mistake while camping in Botswana and I learned the lesson the hard way.

So before you retire for the night, make sure that you put the trash in a place where wild animals can’t play with it.

21. Not carrying enough water

One of the advantages of carrying out research about the campsite is that you’ll get to know whether it has access to water or not.

If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to carry enough drinking water plus what you’ll need for other things like cooking or cleaning stuff in a separate tank (preferably one of 20 L).

But even with that, the drinking water you carry might end up not being enough, so make sure you take a personal water filter with you so that if the clean drinking water gets done, you can easily filter any kind of water you find and it will be safe to drink.

While you plan your camping trip, make sure that you don’t forget any of these camping essentials. Grab this free Car camping checklist below.

There you have it campers, those were some of the crucial mistakes to avoid while camping especially if it’s your first time.

If you follow them, you’re bound to have an amazing camping experience.

And finally do not forget to enjoy every part of the trip. Challenges will always present themselves in whatever situation but they make us better campers.

Remember that your first time camping may not go very smoothly but as you go on, you’ll get better. So enjoy the ride and if you make mistakes, don’t let them ruin your camping trip but rather learn from them.

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