21 Mistakes I Did As A Beginner Camper (how to avoid them)

a guy camping besides a lake and a bonfire

I started camping when I was a teenager. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years and I bought many things that were useless. After years of camping, I have become confident that I can teach new campers what to do and what to avoid, so I decided to write this post.

I hope you guys will learn from my mistakes and keep your camping interesting and fun for the years to come.

#1. Taking perishable food

Perishable foods are those likely to spoil, decay or become unsafe to consume if not kept refrigerated at 40 F° (4.4 °C) or below, or frozen at 0 F° (-17.8 °C) or below.

Ask USDA

I wouldn’t recommend taking perishable foods on your camping trips, I know most people do that. What you have to know is you can get food poisoning if you are not careful enough.

I know you want to eat a good steak while camping but it won’t be worth the trouble you might go into. But if you decide to take some fish or meat to make fish and chips or make a stake, make sure you cook it very well.

What to take instead?

  • Canned foods: Canned foods are one of the safest things to consume while camping. Just make sure you handle them carefully, otherwise, it’s going to be a mess and it might even go poisonous if it is not sealed airtight.
  • Dried foods: Dried foods tend to last longer, that is why they are great for camping trips. They are great for a snack and they last very long too.

You can take veggies and fruits too, but don’t forget to wash them well. Check this post I have written “camping food that doesn’t require cooking and refrigeration” it is a list of food you can take to your camping trip that will be safe to eat for a good amount of time.

the last thing is if you decide to take perishable foods I would recommend you to have a cooler with you, it is way better if you can use a refrigerator.

Lesson learned: Never take food that has a high probability of going bad.

#2. Trying not to make mistakes

You should never think that you shouldn’t make mistakes because that is the best way to learn. Like moms let their kids do wrong things and the reason is simple so that they learn from their mistakes.

Just make sure you don’t get upset about the mistakes you make just and don’t do it next time.

Lesson learned: Make mistakes🙃

#3. Getting a cot instead of sleeping pad

When I was starting out camping I read an article which said camping cots are better than sleeping pads so I bought a camping cot and it was literally the most uncomfortable thing I have slept on in my life.

If you also have the question “should I get a sleeping pad or a camping cot?” the answer is, get a sleeping pad, if you can a foam sleeping pad is also nice.

What is wrong with camping cots? one is the size and the distance they have to the ground, I move a lot when I sleep, if you are like me I would suggest you not to get a cot cause it won’t definitely be comfortable.

The last choice is an air mattress, an air mattress is another great choice. If a beginner camper were to ask me what to get I would definitely recommend getting an air mattress more than anything.

Lesson learned: It is always better to get a sleeping pad than a camping cot

#4. Over packing

This is a thing a lot of beginner campers do when they start out camping. I remember the first time I went camping it was with my girlfriend, we took a whole bunch of camping gear, unnecessarily excessive water, a bunch of food which we had to leave at the campsite when we came back.

Pack as minimal as possible, the less you pack the easier it will be for you to carry your stuff around. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack all the necessary things you might need.

When camping you have to know every pound you take counts, make sure everything you get is as lightweight as possible. This starts from your sleeping bag, the first sleeping bag I got was almost 5 pounds and very bulky. I had a hard time with that sleeping bag alone luckily. I have bought a perfect tent.

I would suggest to getting an experienced friend to help you buy gear and also to help you pack.

Lesson learned: Not to over pack

#5. Thinking I need new gear

This thing happens almost to all humans, thinking you don’t have enough like music producers think they don’t have enough things equipment, or carpenters think they don’t have enough tools, this is the behavior of human beings always thinking we need new things.

When I first started out camping I always used to think I needed some more new things when I see someone on youtube with some kind of fancy gear I end up wasting a bunch of money on it, and the sad thing was I never use it.

One time I wasted $50 on some kind of fancy water filter which I still don’t know how it functions. So what I would say to you is to be satisfied with what you have and go on your camping trip.

Many time I hear people say I hate camping due to different reasons which don’t even make sense, like “I don’t have a nice sleeping bag” or “I need a new tent” but what I have learned is that when I get the thing I wanted so bad I get bored and I will start looking for new things.

Lesson learned: Be satisfied with what you have and enjoy your camping

#6. Getting wrong sleeping bags

I am a side sleeper, it is hard to find a good fit sleeping when you are a side sleeper. I have bought many sleeping bag which I haven’t found to be comfortable at all.

When I started out camping I bought a mummy sleeping bag cause at the time I thought that was more pro and good looking but I haven’t had a great experience with that sleeping bag.

Long story short if you are a side sleeper you need something wide at the shoulder and also around the hip if you are a woman. You also need something which has a good and thick cushion at the bottom of the sleeping bag because when you sleep with your side your weight will not be evenly spread, there will be more pressure on some areas.

Best sleeping bag for side sleepers, check this post I have written a few months ago if you are a side sleeper.

Another thing you might learn from me is one time I bought a sleeping bag which says it can fit people up to 6 feet, but it was not even close. I bet it won’t fit someone who is 5’9. So make sure you read customer reviews before you get anything from an online store.

Lesson learned: Making good research before buying camping gear can help a lot. If you can get someone who has some experience before that would be very helpful too.

#7. Not checking the weather forecast

I see many people doing these even pro campers. Depending on the weather you might have to take different kinds of gear, and sometimes if the weather might be too harsh so you will have to postpone your trip so it is a nice thing to check the weather in advance.

I know what you are thinking right now, “but I will be camping on a summer season” what I would say to you is just to take 5 minutes and check the weather forecast, it won’t take much time but it can save a whole lot of things.

Make sure you check the weather forecast 2 or 3 days before you set out camping just to make it easier for you to cancel or postpone it to a different date.

Lesson learned: I haven’t learned anything cause I always check the weather😁, but don’t forget to check the weather anyways

#8. Not using a camping checklist

checklist

Forgetting one tiny thing might ruin a whole camping trip, so it is a must that you have a good camping checklist that will help you to get all the things you might want on your camping trip.

One time I forgot my phone charger so I had to walk a mile to the nearest restaurant every time my phone died and that ruined my experience totally.

You can write your own checklist, start writing some days before you to to your trip, every time you remember a new thing write it down and when you are about to set off to your trip to check everything you have written or the other and the simpler method is to check other checklists from websites, the are 100s of them you can take a look at this camping checklist form REI.

Lesson learned: To use a camping checklist and to make sure i don’t forget anything.

#9. Not taking a camping stove

green camping stove

It is always better to take a camping stove than using a campfire. If your aim is nothing but to cook you should definitely have a camping stove instead of using a campfire.

Using a campfire can have many side effects on you and the environment. CO emission, CO is one of the most dangerous gases, it doesn’t have a color or a smell be it can be fatal. The second gas released when a wood is burned is co2, co2 is known for causing many bad things like global warming, and also a bad headache which can last for some time.

At first, I was obsessed with campfires. I mean I am not saying I don’t enjoy them now but they don’t worth the effort.

Anyways it is nice to have a camping stove. it has many uses you can boil water, cook your food and many other things. I personally like this stove on Amazon. I have been using it for over a year now.

Lesson learned: It is definitely worth getting a camp stove.

#10. Not doing enough research of the campsite

Campsites may look similar from outside but the fact is they have many differences that is why you need a good solid research of the campsite you are planning to go to.

All campsites have their own rules and regulations. most campgrounds have a website too if not there are other websites to tell you what you can do and what you can’t while you are camping. The rules are on pets, how long you can stay, alcohol usage, campfires, and many more. You can get charged if you break rules so be careful about that.

The second thing that might ruin your trip is choosing the wrong campsite, never make this mistake. You might have the gear you want but if the campsite is crap trust me there is a low chance of enjoying your trip.

You have to be wise when you choose your campsite, there are many things that decide if your campground is legit or not but most of it depends on your preference, I personally like if there is some kind of water body cause there will be some breath and it is also a great view.

Lesson learned: Doing a good amount of research can save up a lot of time. 30-minute research can save you days of hustling so why not sit for half an hour

#11. Arriving at the wrong time

You might have read this a lot of places, and it is correct never arrive at the wrong time. This is a mistake I still make every time and I always end up regretting it.

There are many things you will have to do after you arrive at your destination, you have to unpack your staff, pitch your tent if you are tent camping, inflate your sleeping pad and many more things but all this is impossible if you arrive late.

You should give more emphasis to this if you have kids with you, I mean if you are alone it is not that hard you can still make it, but with the children with you it might get very hard.

What is the best time to arrive at the campsite? personally my ideal time would be around noon. It might depend on how far the campsite is, try to start your journey as soon as possible no matter the distance. A lot of people start packing the same day they will go camping, this is wrong and it is probably the worst thing you can.

Lesson learned: To always pack some days before my camping trip and never to arrive late.

#12. Not learning how to camp on a budget

You must learn to camp on a low budget, I see a lot of beginner campers buying high-end camping gear and they end up wasting a bunch of money this is a big mistake you have to avoid.

You have to know buying expensive gear won’t add anything, like if you buy a $300 sleeping bag you might not find it any different from a $60 one, most high-end gears are for experienced campers, like for mountain climbers so if you are not going to hike through the rocky mountains the $60 one is enough.

First you have to know how much does a camping trip cost on average(this is a detailed post on how much you should expect to spend. There are many ways to save money on a camping trip.

  • Going for a free campsite: Most campsites charge from $30-$150 per night, but there are free ones too. Freecampsites.net is a website that can help you find one, what you know is you might not find free campsites very pleasing sometimes.
  • Buying discounted gear: At first, I didn’t know this was possible. Big camping online retailers have a category for used and discounted gears. For example, REI’s used page offers many amazing products that help you to save a bunch of cash.

Lesson learned: Try to save up as much as possible.

#13. Over/under packing

You should take all the gear you have, try to go simple as much as possible this is the meaning of camping anyways to avoid technology and stick with nature.

Your gear depends on the place you are camping in some places with harsh elements you might need more gear and for some places you can go very simple.

The other problem is under packing, not taking things you might need this, in my opinion, is not a great thing to do. So what I recommend is to pack the things you might need and leave the things

For a 3 days camping trip 40-liter backpack is more than enough if you can use it properly. Just make sure you get a good quality backpack and also pack properly.

Lesson learned: To take what i need not taking what i don’t as simple as that

#14. Not having lighting

I don’t know what I was thinking but at first, I didn’t take any kind of light with me. From what I guess I was thinking I could use my phone flashlight but that was very wrong and the reason was I forgot to take my phone charger.

Anyways you need good lighting, it might be a flashlight or a lamp, you need something to light up your tent or you might need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. Well if you don’t have a flashlight trust me it is not easy to navigate around the campsite in the middle of the night.

When we talk of flashlights I would like to suggest you a flashlight I have found to be the best for camping, ThruNite Archer on amazon, this right here is a lifesaver you can use this for years with no problem.

lesson learned: taking a flashlight to a camping trip is nice thing to do.

#15. Not giving enough care for my pet

So I have a pet dog whom I love a lot, and most of the time she goes camping with me. At first I didn’t have all the gears she needed and I remember one time I was camping on a snowy season and she had a hard time walking on the snow barefoot which made me felt bad.

If you are going to go camping with your pet there are some things you have to check. One of them is the campground rules and regulations, there are some campgrounds which don’t allow pets in the first place and there are some which do allow but have some things you have to follow, just make sure you are doing everything.

Anyways what I am trying to tell is if you is, your pet has to have everything they might need while camping whether it is a cat or a bird it has something it will need.

Lesson learned: It is better not to take a pet if you are not going to provide what they need.

#16. Bugs!

The worst thing about camping on a summer season is you get a visit from all kinds of bugs, especially from mosquitos which can make your night hell! there is a saying ”if you think you are too small to make a change spend one night with a mosquito”

After some time i learned how to avoid bugs

  • Get a tent with a net: This is not a very common thing but there are tents with a net which helps you to avoid different kinds of insects from entering your tent
  • Bug spray: there are many types of bug spray and they help to an extent, you have to make sure the one you get is a good one cause there are a lot of crappy ones that don’t even work.
  • Mosquito repelling worst bands: I haven’t tried this for myself but I have seen people use them. You can try them too but just don’t make this mistake and go crazy by bugs.

For RV campers make sure there is no opening, while for hammock campers you can try hammock with nets which can be a lifesaver.

Lesson learned: Bugs are the main reason people hate camping; it it is easily avoidable.

#17. Wrong tent footprint/tarp

What most beginner campers don’t know is that your tent footprint has to be smaller than your tent by a couple of inches or so. why is that, if the tent footprint is bigger water will be collected and the next thing you know you are swimming.

The other thing is getting heavy-duty tarp if you are backpacking this can be a wrong thing to do. The first time I got a huge 2.5-pound tarp and I just didn’t know what to do with it.

Lesson learned: Make sure you get the right size tent footprint or don’t get it. The other thing is you can do is get an equal size and cut it as you like.

#18. Not testing your gear beforehand

You buy a gear from an online store then you put it in your backpack, if you do this you are wrong and you should never do it.

One time I got a water filter that doesn’t work(this is not a real story but you get the idea😁)imagine getting a self-inflating sleeping pad and you find out it doesn’t work while camping and probably at night that would be a bummer right!

If you are doing everything right you have to get all your gear a couple of weeks before your camping trip and if you find a product to be dysfunctional you will send it back and get a new one.

Lesson learned: This is not a thing a lot of people do because as humans we get excited when we get new things and we like to try but if you are not a curious person you might do this.

#19. Get a heater

Don’t get fooled by the season it might be hot but at night the temperature can drop. This is where weather reports come in hand. Go to one reputable site that can provide a good weather report and check the hourly report if the temperature is less than 40°F(5°C), I would recommend getting a heater.

I would recommend an electric or a high-end propane heater, there are other types too but these ones are your best bet.

Lesson learned: If the temperature drops below 40 it is always great idea to get a heater

#20. Pitching your tent at a lower place

This is a thing you should never do especially if it is rainy, and even if there is unexpected rain your tent will be filled with water in some minutes. The best thing you can do is find a place higher than but that is level and straight at the same time.

If you can’t do that you can always go for a camping cot instead of a sleeping pad which elevates you from the ground.

Lesson learned: For the most part pitching your tent at a higher place is nice

#21. Not knowing I can work while camping

This one right here is big, people who work online can work while camping. At first, I didn’t know I could do this but it is doable. I am a full-time blogger and social media influencer so I send most of my time on a laptop which made it possible for me to work from any place.

If you are thinking how do you get a connection there are actually many ways and the one I like is using my mobiles connection and connecting it using a mobile hotspot, this right here can get a little tricky like it will drain your battery which is the last thing you want while camping and if you don’t have unlimited mobile data plan it might be hard too. Some campgrounds charge some dollars per day for a wireless network, anyways there are many ways to get a connection.

What if your work can’t be done like this, this can get tricky and you might have to find someone to do it for you or take a break for a couple of days.

Lesson learned: I learned that I shouldn’t be stressing to what is happening to my business while I am camping and that I can still do my job

Things you can take to make things easier

  • First aid kit
  • Solar panel
  • Flipflops
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimsuit
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Power bank
  • cooler