I’ve worked at a Campsite for 5 Years—These Are the 15 Mistakes Every Camper Should Avoid

What you should know in order to prepare for a camping trip hamburger buns. It may sound absurd, but when people ask me what they should bring camping, that’s one of the first things I always recommend because it’s one of the things my campers almost always forget. The hot dogs for roasting are what everyone remembers, but not the buns.

As a result, during the camping season, we sell an astounding quantity of hot dog buns at our camp store. But that’s only one of the frequent mistakes I observe when camping, as well as one of the camping advice I’ve picked up over the years.

Mistakes Every Camper Should Avoid
Mistakes Every Camper Should Avoid / Getty Images

I wasn’t a camper when I was a kid. In fact, I didn’t even consider trying to sleep somewhere other than a bed until I met my future husband, Alan, in college. But as I grew to love him, I also grew to adore the great outdoors. As a result, in 2019 we bought a KOA campground in Brattleboro, Vermont, which we now jointly own and operate nine months of the year.

We have tent camping sites, RV camping spaces, and camper cabins to suit every level and kind of camper. So trust me when I tell you that I’ve seen it all and picked up a lot of knowledge along the road, including the nasty customs that other campers find annoying.

You’re about to learn something, whether you’re a novice camper looking to get started or a seasoned camper searching for fresh camping tips. And it will significantly improve your next camping trip.

Refraining from a “shakedown trip”

A shakedown trip is a practice camping trip that you take close to home with all of your gear. You may check everything out, see if anything is missing, and—most importantly—assure yourself that you understand how to set up your tent. Too many campers have shown here with brand-new camping supplies still in the box, but they have no idea how to use them. The tent stakes have also been neglected by experienced campers who haven’t checked their bags since the previous season.

Alternately, do this :
Set up all of your equipment for a test run, turn it all on and off, and ensure it’s in working order. Although it will add a few hours to your trip, it is preferable to spend the extra time now rather than scrambling once you arrive at your campsite because your camp stove is broken. One of the best camping advice you’ll ever receive is this.

Traversing occupied campsites

Do you want to fight a stranger? Cutting through another camper’s site is the quickest way to create enemies while you’re out camping. When you pay for a site, it is set aside exclusively for you to use, thus it is reasonable to anticipate that during that time, people will respect it as your property. It also raises safety concerns: It’s possible to trip over an invisible guy line, which connects a tent to ground pegs or get bitten by a dog when exploring new locations.

Alternately, do this:
Always stay on the designated trails. There is no need for shortcuts because each campsite is accessible via clearly marked paths. This is also a good moment to remind you but for different reasons, to stay on designated hiking routes.

Leaving food or personal care products in your tent

Even if large creatures aren’t a problem, raccoons, opossums, mice, and other vermin love a free meal, and your tent wall won’t be able to stop them from gorging themselves. Bears are close to our campsite. Fun fact: Animals typically don’t distinguish between toothpaste and chips as food. Anything aromatic can catch their attention, and bears in particular are susceptible to this. Here’s what to do if you see a bear, by the way.

Alternately, do this:
It’s crucial to abide by all campsite regulations regarding the storage of food and personal care products if you’re camping in a bear-infested area. As bears have been known to break into cars, this typically entails keeping them high up in a tree in a “bear bag” or on the ground in a “bear box.” Otherwise, make sure everything is wrapped up and stored in your car. Never leave food alone in your tent, luggage, or on tables outside.

What ought you to do with your trash? Be cautious to put your waste in the appropriate bins because most campsites have critter-proof trash cans. (This can entail taking your trash to the designated dumping site by car.) However, some campgrounds need you to haul away your own trash, so find out the precise rules from the camp host when you get there or check the website.

Using pegs for plastic tents

Priorities First Don’t forget to bring your tent stakes! They are typically kept in a bag separate from the tent, making it simple to forget about them, but doing so will make setting up your tent practically hard. However, if the stakes that came with your tent are plastic, it might be worthwhile to replace them. The purpose of tent stakes is to keep your tent sturdy during storms because plastic is brittle and prone to breaking.

Alternately, do this:
Make sure all of your tent stakes are present and undamaged, at the very least. Purchase metal tent stakes to be extra safe. (You can buy them online or at any camping supply store.) A little rubber mallet to pound them into the ground is a must-have camping accessory. You can always break your toe and bend the stake with a rock.

Not carrying enough insect repellent

The best defense against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, and other pests in the outdoors is a bug spray with DEET. While most campers do remember to pack one can of bug spray, they frequently underestimate the amount they’ll need. The same is true with sunscreen; the more time you spend outside, the more sunscreen you will need; A family can easily consume an entire bottle of sunscreen in a single day at the lake.

Instead, do this

If you’re staying for a weekend, I advise carrying at least a few cans of bug spray, and more for longer stays or larger groups. Having at least one extra bottle of sunscreen is also a smart idea. But don’t worry—the majority of camping stores carry them. Just be aware that they will cost extra.

Misjudging the weather

You already know that there aren’t any heaters or air conditioners in the wilderness, but because most of us are accustomed to central air, we tend to underestimate how much the temperature can fluctuate and how uncomfortable it is. For example, it’s not unusual for our campsite to be close to 80 degrees during the day and 40 degrees at night in June. Too many campers experience nighttime shivers as a result of failing to comprehend this. The weather can swiftly vary from being pleasant and sunny to thunderstorms.

Alternately, do this:
Verify that the sleeping bag is rated for the environment in which you will be camping. The weather report can be found on the website a few days beforehand. Additionally, remember to include a hat, a rain jacket or umbrella, a rain screen for your tent, and at least one warm coat or jacket.

Overlooking propane

What are two common errors that RVers of all types make? failing to pack enough propane or forgetting to refill their tanks. Propane isn’t simply utilized for cooking; you’ll also need it for the RV’s heating and cooling systems. Additionally, smaller propane cylinders compatible with their camp stoves should be brought by tent campers.

Alternately, do this:
Before you leave, check the propane tank’s level and have it refilled if necessary. Bring an extra propane bottle for camp stoves. Your camp host will be able to advise you of a site close to filling up if you run out.

Refusing to wear layers

Even if the entire trip is bright and pleasant, you’ll probably need more than just a T-shirt and shorts to be comfortable and secure. However, a disproportionate number of campers arrive dressed only for the beach. You can better acclimatize to the temperature by bringing a variety of clothing alternatives. Additionally, layering your clothing is one of the greatest strategies to protect yourself from the sun on very hot days. Additionally, it might assist you in avoiding bumps, mosquito bites, and other outdoor dangers. You should start out in the cool of the morning with slacks and a sweatshirt to be comfortable. Layers are something you’ll find yourself donning in the morning and then taking off when the sun sets.

Alternately, do this:
To be ready for anything that may arise throughout the day, pack at least one pair of sturdy pants, a long-sleeved top, a warm jacket or sweater, a sun hat, and a swimsuit. Don’t forget to pack socks and hiking boots while we’re talking about attire.

Bringing wood on the road

Even though you might have extra wood lying about the garage or know where to find it for free, it is not a good idea to bring your own wood to burn in the campfire. First, a lot of the wood used in buildings has undergone chemical treatments that render it poisonous when burned. Second, most places have laws against it. Most states currently have legislation that forbids carrying firewood across state lines due to invasive insect species that move in wood and damage trees.

Alternately, do this:
Plan to purchase your firewood from the campground host, a nearby gas station, or a camp supply store. To ensure that it is bug-free and to ensure that it burns more efficiently, every firewood should be kiln-dried.

Storing perishable food incorrectly

One of the finest aspects of camping might be the food. Everything tastes really amazing when you’re outside, but not if you wind up getting food sickness. Most campsites don’t have refrigerators (not even for the rangers, so don’t ask), and RV refrigerators aren’t always dependable. This means you should be especially careful about food safety if you’re carrying meat (even lunch meat), seafood, milk, yogurt, or other perishable goods.

Alternately, do this:
Before leaving home, ensure sure the refrigerator in your RV is in good operating order. A food-grade cooler and extra ice should be brought. You’ll need to purchase additional ice to replenish the cooler if you plan to remain longer than a day or two. Verify at the convenience shop or nearby petrol stations.

Omitting essential ingredients for cooking

Salt and pepper can significantly alter the flavor of your food, but while these household essentials are readily available at home, many people neglect to bring spices and seasonings when they go camping. The same is true for cooking oils and tools like spatulas, knives, cutting boards, napkins, and measuring cups.

Alternately, do this:
To keep with your camping goods, purchase a separate set of salt and pepper shakers. If you frequently camp, invest in a set of camp plates, pots, and utensils that you can store with your equipment. One of the camping advice that will greatly simplify your life is this. Have a master checklist that you can print out and go over before each trip if you only travel sometimes. (While you’re at it, throw in some sanitizing wipes, dish soap, and a tiny broom.)

Leaving your dog unrestrained

Bringing pets camping? Bringing a pet companion along can make your journey much more enjoyable. Outdoors, things seem more liberated, and they usually are, so it makes sense to offer your pet more space to explore. Many people want to let their dogs off-leash while they are hiking or camping, but I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is! This is a recipe for a dog to go lost, to get bitten, or (tragically) to get mauled. Wandering dogs may also get into fights, defecate on trails cause a mess, or consume abandoned food that may be harmful to them.

Alternately, do this:
At all times, keep your dog on a leash or a tie-out that keeps them close to your campsite. Because they will be exerting themselves more than usual to maintain a stable body temperature, bring extra food and drink. Additionally, under no circumstances should a dog or other pet be left alone at a campsite.

Additionally, these necessities for dog camping gear might be useful.

Preparing a campfire

Without a cozy, roaring campfire, what is camping? Unfortunately, this cherished ritual isn’t always safe as many campgrounds are under a burn ban because of the ongoing droughts in many parts of the country. There are various levels of burn bans, each of which imposes a distinct set of limitations. For example, you might be permitted to cook your food on a lit stove but not outside on a fire.

Alternately, do this:
To be informed of any fire restrictions in your area, check with the camp host when you arrive or visit the website a few days before your vacation. Then stick to the guidelines exactly, even if it makes your campfire tales a little chillier than usual!

Coming after sunset

It’s simple to start late and travel plans can alter at the last minute, but when you’re camping, these things have greater repercussions. Setting up your campsite will be quite challenging if you arrive just before sunset or after dark. Have you considered using your car to provide some light? The direct beam of another person’s car headlights into their tent is one of the most annoying things that campers complain about.

Alternately, do this:
Prepare in advance to arrive with plenty of time to set up your site. Although it can be done in the dark, it would be best to avoid it. Check for luxury camping if setting up your own campground sounds too laborious. Naturally, you’ll still want to follow this camping advice, but other parts of your trip will be simpler and less primitive.

Being loud while it’s silent

Most campgrounds have guidelines that specify when it’s acceptable to play loud music, sing, or converse. Sure, you might enjoy partying till the wee hours of the morning while dancing, laughing, and singing campfire songs, but your neighbors with a baby might not, and noise easily travels through flimsy tents or RV walls.

Alternately, do this:
Understand and abide by the regulations of the campsite. Typically, this entails making an effort to maintain silence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Don’t dispute and try your best to cooperate if the ranger or campsite host requests you to be quiet or follow a different guideline (such as parking in the specified zones).

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a KOA campground is co-owned by Kathryn Berta. In 2020, 2021, and 2022, USA Today’s 10 Best named it one of the Top 10 Campgrounds.

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