7 Common Camping Mistakes Beginners Make

We have been cottagers all my life and we have done many memorable glamping trips, including this one to Norfolk County where we stayed in a gorgeous safari tent. But camping, well that was one we came to later in life. Seems to be our way. Late bloomers perhaps? I mean I only learned how to ski in my forties with my family and I banished my fear of heights in my mid 40s too. Finally, I realized we were missing a lot of opportunities to travel affordably by out ruling camping all of the time.

So, now we camp and glamp and go RVing, or skiing, or we stay in a hotel too. Nothing is really off limits at this point because travel opens up new worlds and so does camping.

women with tent near river
Courtesy of Patrick Hendry UNSPLASH

Preparation is Key

If you have ever camped then you know the importance of planning ahead. When you are heading into the wilderness, you need to be sure you’ve packed the right things to make your trip go smoothly. And you also need to be sure you know where you are going and what to expect when you get there.

An otherwise pleasant camping trip can go sideways fast if you don’t have some knowledge of camping basics. The following are common mistakes often made by beginner campers.


Common mistake #1

Just like every other form of travel it pays to plan ahead when camping. But unlike every other type of travel, if you forget something big when traveling to a campsite or you go into the wilderness unprepared you can encounter big problems. As in, if you can’t get to a store from your campsite you are out of luck.

Forgetting to bring essential items such as: a flashlight, a waterproof container to store your matches in, extra newspaper for starting a fire, a clothesline to dry your towels on, layers of warm clothing for nighttime, an extra bathing suit for when your first one is wet, and plenty of books and card games for something to do during those long, lazy afternoons. Make a list before you start packing.

Know your camp site too. As in, does it have electrical or not? These are all important things to know before you go. Check into amenities. Proximity of showers, bathrooms, and things like hiking trails nearby. Maybe they have fishing poles, canoes or kayaks, on hand for use.

Common mistake #2

Neglecting to practice putting up your tent at home before you go camping. OR skipping the practice part on how to hook up your trailer or pop out the sides of an RV. Always do a dry run at home in your back yard, driveway or parking lot of you rented an RV. This will give you the confidence you need to set up your tent, RV trailer, or motorhome at the campsite in a timely manner. It will also help you identify if any pegs or tent poles are missing from your tent before you set out on your trip.

Camping mistake #3

Pitching your tent on bumpy ground. Make sure there are no trees beside your tent, because you could find yourself sleeping right on top of the tree’s roots. Bumpy tree roots underneath your head or your back can turn an otherwise peaceful night into an uncomfortable experience. If you are an RV family instead then do the walk around and be sure you are not too close to trees or branches. Nobody wants to leave a fun week at a camp site with a giant dent or scratch on your trailer.

Last year in the fall we did the OP Escape tour of five camp sites and LOVED it. Would return any day to Killarney or Grundy.

Common camping mistake #4

Forgetting to lay out your mattresses and sleeping bags until it gets dark out. There is an easy way to prevent this from happening: simply lay out your mattresses and sleeping bags immediately after you pitch your tent. This way you won’t be stumbling around in the dark.

Sometimes there’s no way around arriving late to your camp site. Last year we arrived at Grundy Provincial Park late in the day after driving through horrible winds all the way. Ideally, you arrive before 5 or 6 when sun sets and you can see your way around. Plus, in daylight there are fewer problems setting up your RV, and checking into a camp site because someone is always at the kiosk or in the area to help if needed.

Common mistake #5

Leaving flashlights and other essential camping tools at your campsite while you are gone for the day. Many campers can be trusted but not all of them all of the time. Pack up your camping items and bring them with you in your car or van on all outings.

Common mistake #6

Not preparing some foods ahead of time at home before you go camping. It’s a great idea to slice up carrots, celery or other veggies for snacking and putting them in small baggies. It’s also smart to wrap up washed and sliced potatoes in tin foil ready for the campfire. Don’t forget your small containers of butter, chives and sour cream on the side.

Camping with kids? Do not forget the tin foil and the ketchup!

Thinking ahead and preparing foods at home gives you more time for doing other things such as setting up your tent and exploring the campground.

Mistake #7

Feeding the animals. No matter how cute or cuddly they look, feeding wild animals will always backfire. Let’s say, for example, you feed a cute chipmunk some pieces of leftover bread. Harmless fun, right? Wrong. This chipmunk will eventually become so tame it will be digging into any food stash left on the table or dashing through open car windows the moment you turn your head. Your souvenir of this “friendly” creature will be chipmunk droppings on your picnic table and on your car seats.

Not to mention that feeding wild animals is just not healthy for them. So don’t feed the ducks, or the chipmunks because they are not supposed to eat human food. Also feeding any of those creatures leads to attracting bigger animals and pests you don’t want near your camp site. Don’t want skunks, ants or bears near you, then stop feeding the smaller wildlife. Keep your food locked down and up off the ground. Keeping the area clean is the best way to maintain a safe pest free camp site.


Camping is Affordable and Fun

If you avoid these common camping mistakes, you’ll be on your way to having a camping trip that is memorable for all the right reasons. Better yet, plan your first camping trip with input from experienced campers so that you can learn from some of their past mistakes.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Darlene Schuller

    Excellent tips, I wouldn’t have thought about pitching under a tree..I would just see it as shade and protection from the elements .. you are so very right!

  • Deanna Tousignant

    I went on a camping trip from hell with an (ex)friend who convinced me that dirt camping with her two-month-old baby would be fun.Oh man, mistakes were made.

    The first was arriving late in the night to an unfamiliar site and having to pitch our tent. The rain didn’t help. Or the screaming infant. Between the noise and leaving our car lights running so we could see to pitch the tent, we did NOT make friends with our new neighbours.

    Also, just say no to fiddly food. You want simple things. On that same trip my friend, who was studying to be a chef, brought along meals that were pre-prepped but still so fiddly as to be ridiculous. I remember standing int he rain assembling pot stickers. She had premade the filling at home and brought wonton wrappers, and I just had to put some filling in each wrapper and then pinch it closed, then drop in a pot of boiling water. Which sounds easy enough but was sort of hell like. All future trips involve things that want to be fried over the campfire in my cast iron pan, or wrapped up in tinfoil.

    • Paula

      OH MY GOSH well that sounds amazing!! NOT! Yeah wow with a two month old? UM I think not. There are some people who can manage that kind of thing and I am fully aware that I am not one of those people. I generally speaking am also not a tent gal.Give me a cabin, or a yurt or a small RV and I am happy as a clam. No to fiddly food like ever and double no to fiddly food at a camp site. That is nuts.