If you think camping is a dangerous activity, or have had bad experiences in the past, you’re doing it wrong. When done right, camping is both extremely safe, has massive benefits and is a lot of fun when compared to other outdoor activities – you just need to know what to bring and the main camping safety tips.
That’s why we wrote this article on campsite safety with the top camping mistakes that people (and ourselves) have done in the past, so you won’t have to go through them! This is also useful if you’re thinking about living in a tent full time.
This article isn’t for you if you think you’re too cool for rules and safety tips. We’ll know that you’ll regret it, but in the meantime, best of luck…
Camping Mistake #1: Not Researching/Reading About Your Camping Destination
This isn’t going to work out.
Unless you know where you’re going and what you can do there, your camping trip will be a disaster (i.e. boring) – and that’s why this is one of the crucial mistakes to avoid.
How else will you know whether to take a waterproof bulky jacket or swimming trunks? On the clothing angle, you’ll be clueless and will pack things that won’t be needed and miss things that you’ll regret not bringing (don’t miss out our article on clothes to bring to camping if you’re looking for an extra hand)
What about activities to do with the family? You won’t know if hiking is an option or if you can grab your shotgun and go hunt rabbits.
You’ll just end up on the tent all the time scrolling down on Facebook. Isn’t this a waste of time? If your plan is to ultimately do this, save your energy and just stay home. Nothing is worse than hyping up the kids and then disappointing them.
If you’ve been promising your partner a romantic getaway for the next weekend and you plan on gong camping, just spend some time doing proper research. You won’t regret it.
Camping Mistake #2: Choosing a Bad Camping Spot
This is what will happen if you fall for #1.
Although there are few “wrong” camping spots, you need to adapt your choice to the type of camping you want to do. Don’t think it’s all the same.
Choosing a camping spot known for X and packing and preparing for Y will just ruin your camping trip. Example: choosing a spot in a region where rains are very heavy and bringing light clothes will not work.
Also, you should also check the type of wild animals you can encounter in the camping site you are eyeing. Some will be more dangerous than others so make sure you and your family will be safe.
P.S. Other animals, more harmless, such as rabbits are totally fine to have around.
Camping Mistake #2: Not Knowing a Thing About the Trail Takes You To The Campsite and Arriving There Too Late
Being familiar with the final destination (aka the campsite and the surrounding areas) is not enough.
If you really want to become a great camper and have amazing camping experiences (the ones you’ve heard of or read in online blogs), one piece of advice is: look at the camping experience as if you were looking at an investment: knowing the inside out of the “deal” will be key.
Although this approach seems excessive, if you adopt it, you will be mistake-proof 99% of the time, not only in camping but in life in general, as too many times decisions are taken lightly… but we digress. Back to the camping safety tips:
When doing your research about the campground site where you will set up your tent, also read and check in a map the track that will take you there. Can you walk? Or is it too warm and dirty and so driving is better? Don’t leave these things for last as a stressful beginning can ruin the fun in the experience.
Along the same lines, don’t leave things for last. You’re going camping and you’ve planned it for a while, so make it your priority for that day.
Schedule things around the camping trip, not over it.
The beginning of the camping adventure is one of the times you will remember the most, so make it enjoyable and fun for everyone. You’ll be sucking out all the fun if you’re shouting at your kids to be faster setting up the tent because it’s getting dark. Just don’t do it.
Camping Mistake #3: Not Sticking to What You Know
This one seems more obvious that it actually is.
Pretty much everyone that has gone camping before has seen a middle-aged guy asking other people for help on some new gear he brought to impress his kids or partner.
Don’t be this guy. You’ll just stress everyone out and by the time you solve the problem, no one will have patience for it. It’s not worth it.
Either stick to what you know (and bring things you know you can handle & want to teach your kids how to use them) or learn before your next camping trip. With so many tools available (YouTube, Google, etc.) there’s really no excuse to be that guy.
Again, make your camping trip a priority and invest time before.
Camping Mistake #4: Overestimating Fire
We’re in the 21st century ladies & gentlemen. Fire isn’t going to cut it anymore.
If you still don’t get it: thinking that you can use fire for everything (cooking food, being warm at night, etc.) is an outdated strategy.
Yes, you can go primitive and sleep outside a tent at night, cook the fish you hunt on a small fire and light up a larger fire when you’re cold, but let’s be real: 99.9% of campers will not do this. And that’s good news, because you will need significant camping experience and overall survival skills to pull this off. And 99.9% of people don’t have those.
Now that it’s clear that we don’t recommend the primitive way of camping, what should you do instead? Simplify things by using electrical equipment. Simple gas stoves will be more than enough to prepare tasty cooked meals and in case of severe cold, a portable heater to set up inside your tent will feel like heaven.
You can go primitive in some things and use fire, just don’t think you can effectively use it for everything.
Camping Mistake #5: Underestimating Weather
Contrary to fire, you will be wise in counting on weather for everything.
Weather is the #1 external factor of your camping trip: it can make it perfect or can ruin it. And that’s why you need to always account for it.
The name of the game is skepticism. Don’t do X because the weather forecast says Y and don’t avoid A because it feels hot and your gut tells you it won’t rain in the weekend.
Things are unpredictable and change a lot (and truth be told, the weather forecast is not always very accurate…)
Our recommendation is to always be on the safe side: no matter what happens (within reason), you will still have a lot of fun. Always bring:
Waterproof clothing & tent
Extra sets of warm and dry clothes
Board games, books, etc. (things to keep you entertained if you have to stay inside for a while)
No need for digital devices
While you will never have 100% “insurance” against bad weather, bringing the above to your camping trip will minimize the damage and ensure you and your family still have a great time.
Camping Mistake #6: Not Scrutinizing Camping Gear Upon Purchase
No, that sleeping mat won’t magically make you asleep if you pick the wrong camping spot.
Camping gear is like an orchestra: each item plays a fundamental role and things won’t work out if they are incompatible.
Don’t just start buying random stuff without a logic behind it thinking you’ll do great. News flash: you won’t.
When buying camping gear, you need to think about why you are buying the item in the first place. Think with your own thoughts, don’t just read ads and believe them – they’re there to make you buy. Advertisers won’t care if your camping trip wasn’t a success.
If you already have a waterproof tent that is big enough for your family, you don’t need a new one just because the ad says it will automatically repel insects.
Keep your head in the game and think through things before buying gear.
Camping Mistake #7: Bringing the Full Make-Up Kit
You’re going camping, not to a fashion show.
You should be putting comfort above looks. If you don’t want to, don’t bother going camping.
Even in glamping (aka the fancier version of camping), people put comfort above all. Comfort is king in this world. Never forget that.
Some make-up and a shampoo & conditioner are totally fine and you’ll be able to use them in nearby restrooms, but no need to bring the whole beauty arsenal.
Camping Mistake #8: Squeezing in a Demanding Diet
The comfort is king rule applies everywhere, not just clothes & looks.
Don’t go camping if you’re planning to maintain (or start) a rigorous diet. Remember the orchestra analogy? It’s the same here: camping & trimming down on your calories are close to incompatible.
To be clear: yes, it’s possible to combine both; we juts don’t recommend it.
When you go camping, you want to completely relax and have no worries. You want to do whatever you feel like doing, without anyone saying a word. If you’re on a diet, your mind will be guilt-tripping you for that barbecue with the family & friends. It’s not worth it.
Camping Mistake #9: Trying to Save $$ by Not Investing in the Sleeping System
This is a rookie mistake that you will pay dearly.
Sleep quality is crucial everywhere, and camping is not an exception. You will feel in a better mood, more energized and will actually rest if you invest in a good sleeping system (remember, comfort is king).
Saving some $$ and buying a sleeping bag that isn’t as good or even skipping the sleeping mat will ruin your camping experience: you will sleep awfully & cold, and your back will hurt the next morning. You can kiss goodbye to any hiking or jogging plans.
We repeat once again: invest in your camping trip; there’s no point in going halfway.
Camping Mistake #10: Relying on an Outdated Map
Are you alright?
Unless you want to get lost in the woods, spend the 10 bucks and bring an updated one.
Camping Mistake #11: Neglecting the Insect Repellent and Sunscreen
Oh, you will suffer.
Some of the best camping spots are deep in the nature, where the stressful city life has not yet reached, and which are populated by mosquitos and other insects that may carry diseases, so don’t take any chances.
They won’t hesitate in biting you if you give them a chance, so don’t; bring the repellent.
Camping Mistake #12: Sleeping Naked
Did you read that about insects? Yep, better cover yourself with some clothes.
They will also help you with the cold, so it’s a win-win.
Camping Mistake #14: Not Properly Planning Water Refill
This is mainly a problem if your campground site has difficult access and no other campers.
Although camping trips where you are alone with your family and reach a spot that is hard to get to are arguably the best ones because you will truly be in peace and will likely be in a great camping spot (for views, hikes, etc.), you will need to be more responsible and cautious.
You cannot afford not to bring additional water & snacks (in case you get stuck there) but you will also need to spend some time planning your water refills (as you won’t be able to just ask the fellow campers next door).
Rivers will be your best friend, so check for any close by before embarking on your journey.
Camping Mistake #15: Ignoring Medical Needs
This often gets overlooked but it’s one of the few things that you really should not ignore.
Stuff that sounds simple like painkillers, hand sanitizer, a basic first aid kit and other medications can really make the difference in your adventure if you by chance get sick.
Medication is crucial because it doesn’t take a lot for you to get sick while camping.
You can mistakenly drink dirty water, eat poisonous plants or contaminated food and even get insect bites and you will be down on your air mattress feeling sick.
So don’t take any chances, come with medication to ensure a safer and fun experience.
BONUS Camping mistakes
A: Ignoring Camping Rules
B: Bringing Pets Where It’s Forbidden
Don’t risk getting kicked out of the campsite.
C: Taking Heavy or Delicate Food
No one will eat these and it will just be a waste (of food and space in your backpacks).
D: Forgetting a key piece of equipment
Nothing like forgetting a sleeping bag or a first aid kit. Bringing a life jacket for your children is also a good idea.
These mistakes look obvious, yes, but if we’re spending time listing them, it’s because we’ve seen firsthand how common they can be.
People forget things, neglect basic camping safety tips and overall rely on a sense of positivity that can be tricky.
“In the end, everything will be fine” is a great motto, but saying it out loud countless times while stuck in a tough spot with no water will not do anything.
Just don’t put yourself in vulnerable positions; that’s it.
Camping safety is not a myth, so print this article and read it a couple of times & before the trip, spend some time brainstorming (alone or with your partner) what you are planning on bringing and if there is anything obvious missing.
Never forget the rule of thumb: comfort is king.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my campsite is safe?
Stick to the basics: water nearby, other accommodations besides your tent (e.g. public restrooms), other campers’ tents or RVs and no sightings of wild animals around area are a solid starting point.
What are the most common hazards while camping?
When people stop using common sense: leaving a fire unattended, going to campsites alone having physical limitations, picking campsites that are known for having wild animals nearby (exception if you are going camping and hunting), etc.
What should you not do while camping?
Besides the above, don’t drink water that is not drinkable, ensure you separate raw foods and don’t let your children play with fire rings or get near the fire pit. Again, use your common sense and you’ll be fine.