If you’ve ever wondered how to travel cheap and have amazing experiences at the same time, camping is the answer. Whether you’re camping as part of a year-long backpacking trip or whether you’re camping over a long weekend, getting outdoors and sleeping under the stars is an easy way to relax,unwind, and get back to nature.
But even the most experienced campers can sometimes make mistakes that quickly turn the perfect trip into a nightmare vacation. So you don’t end up regretting every minute of your adventure, here are the ten most common mistakes made by campers and tested advice to help you avoid them!
1. Picking a Bad Tent
It’s true that going camping is an easy way to enjoy cheap holidays, but it’s important you invest in a good tent. Some important things to consider while shopping for your perfect tent are:
- Size and weight – if you’re backpacking alone, you’ll want a small and light tent, but if you’re traveling as a group, you’ll need a large tent big enough to sleep everyone
- Ease of setup and packing away – personally, this is a huge deal to me because when you’re packing up, the last thing you want to be doing is fighting to put away your tent
- Weatherproofing – you can never tell what the weather is going to do, so choosing a reliable and waterproof tent is vital
2. Not Testing Your Equipment
Testing your equipment at home before you need it not only gives you the chance to find out exactly how it works, but also helps you make sure that everything is in good working order. Imagine reaching for your torch just as the sun sets, only to find out it doesn’t work? You do not want that!
3. Turning Up Without a Reservation
This tip doesn’t really apply if you’re a backpacker, since you’ll probably be setting up camp at random places along your journey, but for your everyday camper, it’s incredibly important that you check the rules of your campsite before you go. Some sites require you to have written permission from the local authorities to camp and if you don’t have it, they’ll kick you off immediately, no excuses. Believe me, I’ve had to pack my tent up in the dark because I didn’t have the proper camping permission and it’s not something I’m in a rush to repeat!
4. Bringing the Wrong Food
Exactly what type of food you’ll need depends on how long you’ll be camping, but as a general rule, stick to non-perishable and dry goods, like tinned food, pasta, and rice. Remember that you can easily pick up additional fresh ingredients from nearby stores to make your meals more interesting if you need them. When packing snacks, it’s really important to avoid anything that can be crushed and destroyed, like potato chips.
One of the first rules for any backpacker is to never over-pack and the same applies when you’re camping. Start by packing a spare sweater, an extra book and your favorite condiments and all of a sudden your bag is so heavy you can’t even pick it up! It’s best to stick to the must-have essentials so you can easily carry your bag around with you for as long as you need to.
6. Arriving at Night
Turning up in the dark and having to pitch a tent and cook dinner is another one of these mistakes I’m guilty of and I swear I’ll never do it again. Having to choose a tent spot when you can’t see your hand in front of your face always means you end up somewhere terrible and making a racket searching for firewood when all your fellow campers are fast asleep will not get you on their best friend lists. Plan to arrive at your campsite at least two hours before sunset so you can get set up and get a feel for your surroundings while it’s light.
7. Keeping Toiletries Inside Your Tent
Cooking your own food is an essential part of cheap holidays, and while most people know to keep their food away from their tent to avoid unwanted wildlife attention, many campers don’t realize all the animals you can attract with toiletries. Shampoos, soaps and moisturizers can all smell incredibly attractive and delicious to hungry animals and you can bet they’ll try and claw their way into your tent to get at them if you’re not nearby. Best play it safe and keep your toiletries in your vehicle or inside a plastic bag near to where you wash.
8. Packing Insufficient Lighting
You might think this goes against the over-packing mistake, but one torch is never enough. I always take one hand-held torch, one head lamp and one table lamp whenever I go camping. This means whether I’m sat down a table playing cards, carrying equipment with no spare hands or searching for a spot for a makeshift restroom, I’ve always got the right kind of light to guide my way.
Extra tip: if you can get solar powered lights or lights that you charge by cranking a handle, even better! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been left in the dark after batteries have died on me.
9. Underestimating the Weather
If you look out of the window before you go camping and see nothing but glorious blue skies and bright sunshine, don’t be fooled into packing just shorts and t-shirts. Always assume the worst when it comes to weather and throw in a warm sweater, pair of long pants and a waterproof jacket. Even if the weather stays warm and dry, you’ll still be able to use your extra clothes as pillows.
10. Leaving the First Aid Kit at Home
Even if it’s a super-simple box with Band-Aids, pain killers, insect repellant, and anti-septic cream, a first aid kit is a must-have item whenever you go camping. You can never tell when an accident is going to happen and by being a little prepared, you can ensure you don’t have to cut your trip short or risk getting really sick should something bad occur.
The next time you’re planning on getting back to nature and going camping, take these ten mistakes onboard and do everything you can to avoid them so you have a camping trip you’ll remember for all the right reasons.