Camping is one of the best ways to escape your busy schedule and center yourself in what Mother Nature has to offer. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the dawn of a new day under a forest canopy surrounded by fresh mountain air. A weekend camping trip can calm the mind, rejuvenate the body, and feed the soul.
Yet sometimes, camping entails less feeding of souls and more becoming fed up. Even the most seasoned campers have experienced torrential downpours, blown away tents, forgotten items, inedible food, and intestinal woes. Many beginning campers are turned away from the hobby by a seemingly unending flow of mishaps which they can only attribute to some sort of camping curse. Don’t let that be you.
Camping really can be fun, when you’re not waking up in pool of water from your leaky tent or choking down charred remnants of what used to be a hot dog. Here are some common camping mistakes and the best way to prevent them before you head out on your journey so you can spend more time gathered around the campfire and less time gathering your last ounce of patience.
Forgot the Tent Poles
A tale as old as time: “I thought YOU packed the tent/water/food/socks/dog/flashlight!” There’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling when you realize the tent poles weren’t in the bag you thought they were. It’s not a problem if you enjoy sleeping with a tarp on your face like you’re trapped under the parachute from elementary school gym class, but most of us like our tents three-dimensional.
Solution: The best way to prevent forgetting is to not forget! Luckily, we all have devices on hand that assist our not-so-reliable memory. Before a big trip, create a camping checklist on your phone. Visualize all the things you need for your camping setup before you start packing, and be as detailed as possible. Then lay out all of your gear and check it off the list. Make sure you check off all your gear before putting it in your car, so you don’t have to play bag Jenga trying to check if your stove made it in the car or not. Save the list and add to it when you need to so you have an exhaustive list every time you camp.
Campground Isn’t What You Expected
Nothing ruins a weekend getaway like arriving at the secluded lakeview campground you saw on Instagram to realize your only view is of a sea of people and RVs. If you had an image of secluded camping below a starry sky, it can be disappointing to arrive at a campground that looks more like Times Square than a relaxing outdoor hideaway.
Solution: Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to know the local secret spots to have a good camping experience. Start your planning at a site like Hipcamp, where you can find public and private campground info, locations, reviews, booking information, and photos of the real thing. Find the best campsite for your needs and book online to save yourself from driving hours only to pull up to a full campground.
Don’t Know How Your Stove Works
A common mistake from beginners - arriving to the campsite only to realize you don’t know how to set up your brand new gear. Sometimes a tent seems more like an elaborate booby trap than a form of shelter, and it’s not fun to try to solve that puzzle in the dark after a day of hiking.
Solution: Avoid having to live off of granola bars and practice using all your gear beforehand. The best way to practice is by having a backyard campout! Make sure all your gear is in working order and you can assemble, use, and disassemble all by yourself it before you leave home. This is helpful whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, and it’s a fun way to get ready for the camping season and catch any gear malfunctions before you head out.
A backyard campout can help you catch worn out or broken gear in your repertoire, but sometimes camping gear likes to wait until you’re deep in the woods before they give up. We all dread the sounds of gear failure: riiiiip, crack-crack-crack, or SNAP! These things happen, but equipment breakdowns can be a major fail if you’re not the MacGyver type.
Solution: Sometimes you can’t prevent a ripped seam or broken zipper, but you can be prepared. Alongside your first aid kit, you should have a gear aid kit, filled with duct tape, sewing tools, zip ties, paracord, extra tent stakes, tent repair tape, rubbing alcohol, seam sealer, carabiners, wire, etc. Make sure you bring a Knife in case you need to engineer some tent poles out of sticks or cut your paracord for a backcountry repair. If you lose or break a part in your GSI gear, check out our Spare Parts or contact us for a replacement.
Nowhere to Go
Nature is calling and I must go… Most frontcountry campgrounds have some kind of bathroom facilities, but what do you do if you’re camping without access to a toilet? You can’t hold it all weekend, so do you just squat behind a bush when no one’s looking?
Solution: No, we can’t just do it like the animals do. Get yourself a handy dandy trowel for cathole digging! Make sure you check the regulations about human waste where you’re going, as different sites have different rules. When digging a cathole, choose a spot at least 200 feet from your campsite or a water source. Holes should be 4 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. Remember to cover the hole and pack out any toilet paper or wipes to Leave No Trace!
Camping mishaps are bound to happen, whether you’re a tent pitching novice or an ultralight expert. Keep these camping fails from ruining your outdoor experience by being prepared, learning how to improvise, and remembering that when everything fails, sometimes you just have to laugh it off.