12 Biggest Camping Mistakes ... and How to Avoid Them!

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or venturing out into the wilderness for the first time, these are the tips and tricks you need to know from the experts.

One of the best things about camping is the sense of adventure of surviving on the bare essentials and enjoying getting back to nature. But as every seasoned camper knows, if you’re not properly prepared, even the most idyllic camping trip can quickly turn into a nightmare.

We talk to Nathan Thomas, owner and Director of Kokoda Trekking as well as Anaconda Ambassador Jennifer Adams about how to avoid those rookie mistakes!

1. Not checking the weather forecast

The weather forecast will have a huge impact on what you do, and don’t, bring. If it’s cold or raining, bring extra thermals, blankets, tarps, fire starters, and alternative cooking equipment and food. 

“Check your camping equipment well in advance of a planned trip to ensure everything is in order,” says Nathan.  “Camping items required will vary and change based on the environment, duration and activities.”

Remember, it’s very hard to get your equipment dry once it’s been wet! 

2. Not telling family and friends where you’re going.

Whether you’re going for a weekend or a week, it is essential to tell your family and friends where you are going, for how long and any changes to your trip. If you’re in a location with limited reception, Nathan recommends going the extra mile and taking a back up device as well as your phone.

“Communication devices are light weight and can be used easily. For example I use a GPS device that shares my location with family and friends through social media. Also make sure there’s an emergency plan in place should something occur.”

3. Not researching your location

If you’re not prepared for where you are going, a relaxing camping trip can quickly descend into chaos.

“Choose camping and trekking locations which you are familiar with or research them before you go,” says Nathan.  

If you are unfamiliar with the area, The National Park Authority in your state is a good place to start. This will give you information on booking your site, any road closure and parking.  Some other things you might want to take note of is whether your spot has facilities such as barbeques, toilets, showers and power as well as the terrain, and if there’s any running water near by.

“We prefer places that are not close to main roads. There is nothing worse than setting up camp and waking up in the morning realising you’re on the side of a highway - yes it has happened! Good, clean amenities and plenty of grass on the ground go a long way for us,” says Jennifer.  

Also remember that some campsites book out months in advance – you don’t want to be left trying to find another camping site!

“The best way to find a great camping spot is a mixture of prior research and a bit of trial and error,” says Nathan. “You can obtain maps of locations you wish to visit and most camping grounds have designated camping sites, but if you are off the beaten track it is always good to stay close to water spots with running water.”

“Join a bush walking club in the areas as they know all the best locations to walk and camp.”

4. Not testing out your equipment

Once you’ve wrangled with a new tent in the dark, you’ll know how important this piece of advice is.

“If you’re new at setting up a tent I recommend practicing a few times in the backyard prior,” says Nathan.

Same goes for new lights, cooking equipment, torches and batteries.

5. Getting to the campsite late

Scrambling for a camp spot at night is no fun for anyone. Make sure you arrive well before nightfall so you can get a decent spot, and clearly see where you are pitching your tent. Sleeping on an ant colony isn’t going to make for a comfortable night.

“Once the tent is set up and ready to go, ensure all pegs and lines are secure. Take note of lines and pegs so as not to trip over in the dark at night,” says Nathan.

“Preferably don’t take your tent down in the rain but if you have to, then put it up again at home and dry it out before storing,” adds Jennifer. “It’s best to store your tent in a dry place that’s up off the ground.”

6. Relying on a campfire

There’s nothing nicer than sitting around a campfire, but as experienced campers know, you can’t always rely on one – especially for cooking.

Not only do they take a while to get hot enough to cook on, there are many campsites that do not allow open fires at certain time of year. Always have a back up if the weather turns soggy – such as a gas BBQ. And if you do have a campfire, make sure you put it out properly!

7. Leaving your rubbish behind

It’s always heartbreaking to find a beautiful place in nature trashed by inconsiderate campers – so follow the expert’s advice and take out what you take in.

“It’s always important to leave the campground as you found it. Sounds like a pretty simple rule but a big one to remember,” says Jennifer.

And don’t rely on the rubbish collection areas at camping areas. “Sometimes are not emptied regularly and can cause local wildlife to be a nuisance for other campers,” says Nathan. “Also be sure to use biodegradable cleaning products.”

8. Stocking up on junk food

While sugar laden treats and junk food might seem like a good idea, if you’re going for longer than a couple of days you need to be prepared with some decent meals. 

“Food is what keeps us going and when camping we need to ensure we have enough fuel in the tank to do all the activities that are associated with camping,” says Nathan. “If you’re trekking, climbing, swimming or running you will need more energy, so I recommend a higher carbohydrate and protein intake. “

It’s so important to plan your meals carefully when you’re camping.  Write a meal plan before you go and make sure you plan for a few scenarios such as cold or wet weather, when you may not have access to a fire.

“If you’re planning on going trekking or other activities that will take you away from campsites to new campsites, you will need to pack more processed or pre-prepared foods. Most camping stores offer a fantastic range in ‘freeze dried’ meals that help make your camping experience a little easier.”

“If we are staying on a powered site, we always pack our big electric fridge (that plugs into our car for the journey, and also the site when we arrive) and we make sure we take lots of fresh salad and barby food, bacon and eggs for breakfast, and easy salad wraps for lunch before firing up the barby as the sun starts to set,” says Jennifer. 

“A tip is to have each night’s meat in suction wrap, and make sure you pack lots of plastic containers for your salad.” 

9. Sharing your food with the wildlife

Be aware that you’re not the only one who is hungry, so make sure you secure all your food so you don’t attract any unwelcome visitors. “We recently camped at Wilson’s Promontory in Gippsland, Victoria and had to keep ALL foods, including the fridge in the car - for the wombats have a way of sniffing out your food, even when it’s hidden in your tent,” recalls Jen. 

10. Not being prepared

“The thing about camping is you must always be fairly prepared as once you are there, it’s pretty hard to find a store that would accommodate all the little things you need.” 

That means preparing for the worst-case scenario, without going overboard!

Water purification tablets are always good to have on hand, as is toilet paper, spare batteries, a GPS if you are going off the beaten track, plastic bags, extra blankets and water, wet weather gear, maps, suitable lighting, warm clothes, suitable boots and mosquito repellant. And don’t forget the toilet paper, even if you are staying somewhere that has toilets.

“One thing that always comes in handy is we always make sure we pack a power deck and extensions leads for all of our devices (like the fridge, kettle, mobile phones etc,” adds Jen.

11. Not taking a medical kit

The right medical kit is essential for any camping trip.

“We always pack a first aid kit that has all the usual suspects in it like bandages however we always add extra band aids and kid’s Panadol,” says Jennifer. 

“Sounds like common sense but alongside your first aid kit, make sure you always have insect repellant and sun screen – these are definitely must haves!”

“Always re-check your kits prior to you leaving to make sure items are replaced from previous use,” adds Nathan. 

12. Forgetting essential luxuries

Sure, camping is all about getting back to basics. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be comfortable!

“There are always some luxuries that are worth taking on any trip and the extent of the luxuries will depend on your environment, duration and activities,” says Nathan.

“Items such as pillows, air mattress are personal favourites as nothing beats a good night’s sleep.”

“We always love to pack games and always take our 6 year-old daughters bike,” says Jen. “Even though you may be short on room in the car, camping is all about having fun and creating family memories.”

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