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20 Common Problems Faced During Camping (And How to Prepare for Them)

20 Common Problems Faced During Camping (And How to Prepare for Them)

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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

Bad Weather While Camping

Rain, snow, hail, lightning storms. All of these can be beautiful parts of being out in nature, but if you’re 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’s important to know that this is just a prediction; it’s not set in stone. The forecast may change as meteorologists get more updated information.

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’re prepared for these extremes to actually occur.

2. A Bear Eats Your Food

A Bear By The Picnic Table

Smart campers follow campground warnings about storing food properly. Bears get into improperly stored food quite often, resulting in potentially dangerous encounters between bears and humans.

When bears regularly find food in an area, they return frequently and can lose their fear of people. 

So 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’re planning to visit to make sure you know their own special guidelines, as they can differ from region to region.

For example, some parks may require bear-proof containers for food storage, while others may have specific protocols for disposing of trash to minimize wildlife interactions.

3. You Don’t Know How to Set Up Your Tent Properly

Setting Up Tent

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’s 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, familiarize yourself with your tent model on YouTube. Many models have dedicated assembly tutorials on YouTube. While quality can vary, these videos can be a great way to see the process in action. It’s definitely worth a quick search before your camping trip.

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

Loud Campers

You’ve come out to the wilderness intending to enjoy 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. 

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. 

In such situations, a friendly conversation might be the solution. Discuss the noise with your camp neighbors and see if you can reach a mutually agreeable solution, such as lowering the noise or playing music at specific hours of the day.

If this kind of thing really bothers you, though, consider it when you plan your trip. Maybe look for campsites which are out of earshot of each other.

You could even aim for an off-season trip if your schedule allows. Spring break and summer bring peak crowds to campgrounds. Opting for early fall could significantly reduce the number of fellow campers and the noise that comes with them.

5. You Get Lost Hiking

Hiking In The Mountains

It’s surprisingly easy to get lost while hiking, especially when trails are poorly marked or when hikers get a bit too adventurous and stray off the designated paths.

Getting lost can happen to anyone, regardless of their experience level or confidence on the trails. Luckily, there are a few things you can do and learn in advance to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

For starters, if you’re planning to hike anywhere beyond the most common trails on your site, familiarize yourself with the route in advance. Find out about important landmarks, such as rivers or streams, that you’ll encounter along the way and take note of them.

You should also learn how to use a compass for navigation. Your compass will be your best friend if you encounter unexpected detours. 

If you’re hiking as a family or with a group of friends, don’t let conversation distract you from your navigation. Pay attention to where you going and what you see along the way.

If you’re hiking alone, tell a friend your route and expected return time. If possible, leave them a copy of your map. And before you set off, familiarize yourself with the U.S. Forest Service guidelines for getting lost.

Another potentially life-saving tip is to hit the trail early to avoid getting caught in the dark. Night hiking has its appeal, but it’s best to avoid it for safety reasons—especially if you’re hiking in unfamiliar terrain.

6. Your Matches Get Wet or You Run Out of Matches

Lighting A Match

You may think you’ve packed plenty of matches, but in windy weather, you can go through a lot of them 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.

If you’d like to avoid the problem of wet matches altogether, check out this list of the best waterproof matches, or you can even make your own.

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.

In a pinch, you might be able to get by without something you forgot. For example, you can use a knife in place of a can opener or a bandana in place of a towel. 

Unfortunately, improvisation has its limits. 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’ll 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.

Here’s a general overview for spotting potentially poisonous plants: 

Leaves of Three, Let It Be

This common rhyme applies to many poisonous plants in North America, including poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. 

These plants belong to a family called Anacardiaceae, also known as the Cashew family. 

Members of this family often feature leaves with three leaflets and produce an oily resin called urushiol, which can trigger allergic dermatitis upon contact with the skin.

Unknown Berries Are a Big No-No 

Especially brightly colored berries. Some wild berries are poisonous and potentially fatal. 

Holly Berries, for example, can trigger vomiting, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Mistletoe can cause severe stomach problems, while Jerusalem Cherries can result in gastrointestinal infections. 

Though they look appetizing, they pose serious health risks if ingested. 

Bright red, white, orange, and green berries are often toxic.

Avoid Glossy Leaves

They might look beautiful pressed in between the pages of the journal, but some poisonous varieties like poison ivy and rhododendron share this characteristic. Avoid unknown plants with glossy leaves as much as possible.

Unusual or Strange Scents Are a Warning Sign 

Plants with strong, unpleasant smells often indicate the presence of toxins or other harmful compounds. 

Examples include the Skunk cabbage, Poison hemlock, Stinging nettle, and White snakeroot. 

All these plants can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, or even poisoning if handled or ingested improperly.

9. Bugs Are Biting or Stinging You

Swarming Bugs Biting And Stinging

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 can help you pack the necessary first-aid essentials. Among these essentials include antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication, and medical adhesive tape.

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

Fully Booked Campground

It can be 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 to see if your chosen campground will be full during your travel dates.

12. You Are Too Cold at Night

Nights can get surprisingly chilly, even during the hottest summer months. It wouldn’t hurt 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. Pack extra blankets or use layers of clothing to stay warm through the night.

13. Your Gear is Too Heavy to Haul to the Campsite

Heavy Hiking Gear

If you’ll 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 surprisingly heavy after several minutes, especially when you’re 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’s 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

Skunk Walking By

The best way to avoid this one is to keep skunks away from your campsite in the first place. 

To do this, be especially fastidious about not leaving food or trash out at night.

If you’re really concerned, you can also try leaving a bright flashlight on outside your tent; skunks are nocturnal and don’t 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

Food In A Cooler

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’ll 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’re 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

Small Tent

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.

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.

If you’re camping solo, look for a tent with at least 30 to 40 square feet of floor space. This allows for comfortable sleeping and some gear storage.

For two people, aim for at least 50 to 60 square feet of floor space. 

For three or more, a tent with 80 square feet of space will suffice. 

18. There Are Wildfires Nearby


Wildfires are very common in some parts of the country, 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 your campsite on the government-run AirNow website to check the current air quality index. You can also search by state if you’d like to see the conditions within a wider area.

19. You Get a Bad Sunburn

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 swimming.

20. Your Dog Won’t Stop Barking

Barking Dog

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 gone camping before, do a test run and spend a day together at a large park. This lets you observe his behavior and address any potential issues in a controlled environment.

Final Thoughts

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 may encounter.

While some things are simply out of your control and others are truly unforeseen, many problems 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.


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