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Hiking, swimming, making s’mores, singing campfire songs: we all know that camping can be a lot of fun and a great experience overall. There are several common problems that many campers face, though, and it helps to be prepared for them.
With a little bit of forethought and preparation, you’ll be able to avoid many of these troubles altogether, and those problems that can’t be avoided can still be dealt with much more easily if you are prepared.
Check out this list of 20 common problems faced during camping.
1. Unexpected Bad Weather
Rain, snow, hail, lightning storms. All of these can be beautiful parts of being out in nature, but if you are unprepared, they can definitely dampen your camping trip.
When planning your trip, don’t just rely on local weather predictions. While checking out the forecast is often helpful, it is important to know that this is just a prediction; it is not set in stone.
Especially if you are looking a few days in advance, remember that the forecast is likely to change as meteorologists get more updated information.
In order to better prepare, think about the extremes of weather that commonly occur in your location during this time of year, then just make sure that you are prepared for these extremes to actually occur.
2. A Bear Eats Your Food
Don’t ignore those signs at campgrounds warning of bears getting into improperly stored food. This happens quite often, and it causes a long-term situation that is dangerous to both people and bears.
When bears regularly find food in an area, they return frequently and can lose their fear of people. Before you leave for your trip, make sure to read the National Park Service (NPS) guidelines on storing food while camping.
NPS also recommends checking with the campsites or parks you are planning to visit to make sure you know their own special guidelines, as it differs a bit from region to region.
3. You Don’t Know How to Set Up Your Tent Properly
This one is incredibly common and can really cause a problem. Many tents come with instruction manuals that are rather sparse or hard to follow. If you’ve borrowed a tent from someone else, you may not have the instruction manual at all.
So, what is the solution to this one? If you’re missing the instruction manual, you can try doing an online search for it; some manuals are available for download. If you do have the manual, make sure you pack it.
Also, consider searching for your specific tent model on YouTube; there are many tutorial videos which will allow you to watch someone assemble a tent. While not all of these videos are helpful, some of them are, so it may be worth taking a look.
The best preparation, though, is to do a full trial run before you leave. Take your tent out of the box and try assembling it in your living room or backyard. That way you’ll know of any problems (like missing tools or parts) before you set out for your trip.
For some additional tent set-up guidelines, check out this expert advice from REI.
4. The People Camping Near You Are Loud
You’ve come out to the wilderness with the aim of enjoying the peace and quiet, and you can’t wait to relax while listening to the soothing sounds of nature. Then, unexpectedly, your neighboring campers start blasting music.
It can definitely be frustrating, but a bit of diplomacy goes a long way in situations such as this. Remember that your idea of the perfect camping trip may differ from what others enjoy about camping.
Your neighbors likely aren’t intentionally trying to bother you, but rather have a different notion about what a fun camping trip consists of. You can try talking to them and compromising on the music (or whatever else is causing the noise)—maybe they will set aside a few hours of quiet time in the evening.
If you know this kind of thing will really bother you, though, consider it when you plan your trip. Maybe look for campsites which are out of earshot of each other.
Also, if it is practical for you, try camping during the off season. Spring break and summer tend to be the busiest times with the most crowded campsites. Maybe you can arrange your trip for early fall in order to miss the crowds.
5. You Get Lost Hiking
Getting lost while hiking can be both frightening and dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to get lost than you may expect. Both novice and expert hikers can lose their way, but there are a few things you can do and learn in advance to help with your navigation.
For starters, if you will be hiking anywhere beyond the most common trails in your site, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the route you will be hiking in advance of your departure. Find out about important landmarks such as rivers or streams you will be able to identify easily along the way.
Learn how to use a compass for navigation. Also, make sure to leave early in the day, so you won’t be trying to find your way in the dark.
If you are hiking as a family or with a group of friends, make sure not to let the conversation distract you from your navigation. Pay attention to where you are going and what you’ve seen along the way.
Even with the best preparation, getting lost is a possibility, though. Make sure to tell a friend the route you will be taking and how long you expect to be gone.
If possible, leave a map of the route with your friend. Before you leaving for your camping trip, be sure to check out the U.S Forest Service guidelines for what to do if you get lost.
6. Your Matches Get Wet or You Run Out of Matches
You may think you’ve packed plenty of matches, but in windy weather, you can go through a lot of matches trying to get a fire started, so make sure you pack more than you expect to need.
Many people also make the mistake of leaving matches out in the open; even if it doesn’t rain, the dew can actually soak your thin matchbook.
7. You Forget Something Important
We’ve all been there: you leave for a trip and a few hours later you realize with a sinking heart that you forgot something absolutely essential.
If this happens, improvisation is probably your best bet; try to figure out how to make do with what you have. Sometimes, unfortunately, this isn’t possible though.
If you’ve forgotten a medication you or a family member needs, for example, you’ll likely have to head back for it. This is why not forgetting in the first place is really the best course of action here.
Begin a packing list about a week before your departure. Every time you think of something—no matter how mundane or hard-to-forget you think it will be—add it to your list immediately.
Include the basics: food, bottled water, socks, hiking boots, cell phone charger, tent. Even these simple necessities are easy to forget at the last minute.
8. You Get a Rash From Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac
These itchy, blistering rashes can really mar your camping trip. Make sure you—and your children—know how to spot these plants. Check out the FDA’s Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants tutorial.
9. Bugs Are Biting or Stinging You
Ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, fire ants, and wasps are some of the most common bugs that bite or sting campers. Bug bites are very common while camping, so make sure to prepare for this as much as possible.
Covering exposed skin with clothing, judicious use of bug repellent, and avoiding areas such as tall grasses where bugs tend to accumulate can all be helpful. These tips and more are covered on this Terminix blog about keeping bugs away while camping.
10. Someone Gets Sick or Injured
Sometimes this one is unavoidable, but it helps to prepare for unexpected illness or injury by packing a well-stocked first aid kit. REI has a useful first aid checklist that will help you make sure you don’t forget any of the essentials.
In addition to this, make sure you follow proper food safety guidelines. Food poisoning is especially common while camping because many people are unaccustomed to handling and storing foods properly while away from home.
11. You Arrive at the Campground But It Is Fully Booked
It can be really disappointing to make it all the way to your campground only to find out that it’s completely full. Prevent this from happening by knowing the trends at your camping location during the relevant time of year for your trip.
Certain campgrounds are fully booked months in advance while others rarely or never reach full capacity. Campgrounds that book reservations far in advance also frequently have cancellations, so they still may be able to fit you in, especially if your travel dates are a bit flexible.
The key here is to call in advance and book reservations if there is any possibility that your chosen campground will be full during your travel dates. If you are unsure, it’s best to just go ahead and book a reservation or call and inquire about vacancies.
12. You Are Too Cold at Night
Even during the hottest summer months, in many areas the nights are surprisingly chilly. Make sure to pack enough warm clothes and sleeping bags to keep everyone comfortable. If you don’t have a sleeping bag, you might have to get creative.
13. Your Gear is Too Heavy to Haul to the Campsite
If you will be parking your car somewhere and walking or hiking out to your campsite, pay particular attention to how heavy your bags are. A bag that may easily be carried from your front door to the car can grow surprising heavy after several minutes, especially when you are tired or it’s hot outside.
Think about how many people will be carrying the bags and how easy it will be to transport them. This may be one of the instances when you really need to concentrate on determining what is truly essential when it comes to packing for your trip.
14. You Get Stranded at Your Campsite
Sometimes weather—particularly snowstorms—can leave campers stranded and unable to travel from their campsites. Another potential problem is a car that won’t start or has a flat tire.
Prepare in advance for these possibilities by packing extras of essentials such as food and medications. Also, make sure to have basic tools and a spare tire with you.
15. Someone Gets Sprayed by a Skunk
The best way to avoid this one is to keep skunks away from your campsite in the first place. In order to do this, be especially fastidious about not leaving food or trash out at night.
If you are really concerned, you can also try leaving a bright flashlight on outside your tent; skunks are nocturnal and do not like the light.
If despite your best efforts, someone does get sprayed, you can usually neutralize the odor with a solution made from a few common ingredients you might want to consider packing. Check out this guide to removing skunk odor which includes a simple recipe for an odor eliminator.
16. You Didn’t Bring Enough Food
Running out of food while camping can be awful, especially if your campsite is far from any grocery stores. To avoid this common problem, always pack more than you think you will need.
Also, plan ahead if there is any chance of being snowed in or otherwise stranded at your site. If you do see that you are running low on food and still have a couple more days remaining, you can always try asking departing neighboring campers if they have anything left over.
If they packed extra canned foods and other non-perishables, they may be happy to leave some with you.
17. Tent Is Too Small for the Number of Campers
Trying to sleep in an overcrowded tent can be truly awful. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many people the tent is intended to sleep.
Also, consider the space requirements of anything you intend to keep in the tent with you at night. Bedding, blankets, and such take up quite a bit of space as well.
18. There are Wildfires Nearby
In some parts of the country, wildfires are very common, particularly during the hot, dry summer months. Most of us already know to avoid areas where an active wildfire may cause evacuation, but don’t forget how far the poor air quality from wildfires can extend. You may be well out of the danger zone, but still experience burning eyes or breathing difficulties.
Enter the zip code of the area you will be camping into the search bar on the government-run AirNow website to check the current air quality index. You can also search by state if would like to see the conditions within a wider area.
19. You Get a Bad Sunburn
Remember that while you’re camping you’ll be spending hours each day outdoors. Sunburn is a real threat at any time of year, even when it’s cold or overcast.
Make sure that your packing list includes a well-formulated sunblock, and don’t forget to reapply sunscreen frequently when you are swimming.
20. Your Dog Won’t Stop Barking
Earlier in this list, we talked about having loud neighbors while camping, but what if your own group of campers is the one causing the disturbance?
A dog that won’t stop barking is a common nuisance while camping. This most often happens when you bring along a dog that hasn’t previously spent much time outdoors in unfamiliar locations.
If your dog hasn’t been camping before, do a test run and spend a day together at a large park. This will help you to see how your dog reacts and if barking is going to be a problem, this will let you know in advance.
Adventure and uncertainty can certainly make camping an enjoyable and memorable experience for you and your family, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for the potential problems you many encounter.
While some things are simply out of your control and others are truly unforeseen, many problems that arise during a camping trip can be easily prevented with a little forethought.
With the list of camping problems and preparation tips above, I hope I’ve given you at least a few things to consider when preparing for your next camping adventure.