6 Mistakes New Campers Make (and how to avoid them)

Today we’re diving into some of the mistakes new campers make, and most importantly, how to avoid them. When you’re just getting into camping, there can be a lot to learn. From gear to camping food, to planning a trip… it can feel like a lot.

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I’m here to ease some of that overwhelm, help you get organized, and feel confident when you head out for a camping trip! Sound good? Then let’s dive into the new camper mistakes to avoid!

mistakes new campers make

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Check out my YouTube video below for all the details:

Mistakes New Campers Make

#1 They don’t know how to use their gear

This is something I talk about a lot on this blog and my YouTube channel. It’s always important to know how to use your camping gear prior to a trip.

In other words, don’t buy a brand new tent, and try to set it up for the first time when you’re out at the campsite. Take some time at home to practice setting it up and figuring out how to care for and store it properly.

Not only will this make things so much easier at camp, but your gear will also last longer because you know how to properly take care of it.

beautiful campsite in southern utah

#2 They pick a bad campsite

Believe it or not, there are a lot of things I’m considering when I pick a campsite.

If you’re staying at a campground, there are usually designated spots, so you don’t need to choose one. But if you’re dispersed camping (camping on public lands) then you’ll have to pick your own spot.

Here are a few things that I consider:

  • is the spot previously used – I like to use a spot that’s been used before instead of making a new one
  • the ground is somewhat firm and not wet squishy marshland
  • if it rains, the campsite is not in a wash, drainage path, or any place that water might pool
  • wind exposure
  • sun exposure and shade
  • the surrounding trees and branches – are there any standing dead trees that could fall on my tent?
  • nearby people

All this really boils down to situational awareness and stopping to actually think and look around you before you pitch a tent.

taking a duffle bag of camping gear out of the truck

#3 They didn’t pack the right gear and clothing

Whenever I’m packing for a camping trip, I factor in not only the expected weather, but also the elevation, climate, and unexpected conditions.

If you’re going somewhere remote, the weather station that you’re getting your information from might not even be close to where you’re actually camping.

So you always want to bring plenty of options for clothing that allow you to adapt to changing weather conditions.

Layering is key.

Further Reading >> My guide to car camping clothes.

But as I mentioned above, it’s not just the weather to consider. You also want to consider the general climate and elevation. For example, are you going to a desert or a rainforest? The same temperature will feel very different in those climates.

The elevation will also affect the weather.

If you’re getting your weather in town and then driving up several thousand feet into the mountains to camp, it’s likely going to be a lot colder up there!

Thinking about these things before your trip and packing enough gear and clothing that allows you to adapt is important. Lastly, even if it’s not supposed to rain, I always pack my rain gear.

unpacking the car at the campsite

#4 Not Storing Food Properly

This is probably one of the most common new camper mistakes I see. How you need to store your food does depend on where you’re going.

When I go camping down in southern Utah, I’m not concerned about grizzly bears getting into my food, but I do need to protect my food from smaller critters like squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and birds.

When I go camping up in Montana where there are grizzly bears, I definitely need to make sure my food is stored in a bearproof place. Many campgrounds even have bear-proof lockers where you need to store your food.

You must do some research at home for the area where you’re camping and determine what the local food storage regulations are.

This also goes for your trash. Your trash will have a food scent and it can still attract animals, so it must be stored properly too.

get my free

Camp Cooking Starter Kit

Printable camping recipes, a gear checklist, and a camping meal planner so you can go camping with confidence (and good food!)

Popular Camping Areas:

In popular camping areas, the animals are used to getting food rewards, so they’re not shy.

I’ve had birds and chipmunks try to come for my food even when I’m sitting right next to it. Even if you’re at camp hanging out, it’s a good idea to keep your food organized and secure.

Further Reading >> How I organize my camping food into bins.

Also, smaller critters can and will get into a locked car. That’s why I like to store my camping food in bins that click shut, so even in the car, they cannot get the food.

Lastly, food should never ever be stored or eaten in your tent. Ever.

cooking over the campfire

#5 They bring nice clothes

When you go camping, your clothes are going to get dirty, ripped, sweaty, and probably ruined for any other activity in life.

If you’re hanging around the campfire, keep in mind that the sparks from the campfire can and will ruin your nice down jacket.

Make sure to pack clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty or ruined!

hanging out around the campfire

#6) They fail to plan and stay organized

I really believe that so much of the friction and discomfort that campers experience can be reduced or eliminated with planning and organization.

  • Do you know how to use your gear?
  • Did you pack the right gear for your specific trip and the area that you’re going to?
  • Do you have a plan for storing and organizing your gear?
  • Did you leave the who, what, when, and where details with people back at home?

Taking the time before your trip to think things through will make such a difference when you’re out there!

Further Reading >> How I plan a camping trip

relaxing at the campsite in a hammock

Plan Your Next Camping Trip

When you go camping, you want to relax, have fun with friends and family, and disconnect, right?

Hopefully, these camping tips will help you do just that!

Lastly, if you’ve made any of these mistakes, be kind to yourself! We’ve all made mistakes, especially in the beginning.

All you can do is learn from them and implement better systems and organization for next time.

If you have any questions, chat with me in the comments below!

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One Comment

  1. I remember the first time I went camping…it was a huge shock. I was so cold that night. I didn’t realise the temperature drops so much at night.

    I was so used to snuggling in my warm cosy bed…I didn’t realise I should have packed more layers to go sleep with. Now I take my duvet with me lol