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What Not-To-Do on a Camping Trip

How to make your neighbors miserable and have no fun while camping.

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There are a lot of ways to ruin a good camping trip. And it's even easier to ruin the great outdoors for others. Sure, leave your trash in the fire pit, let the bears get into your cooler and have your raging party go all-night-long.

My dog loves to run free and especially loves to eat snacks from your cooler. Why shouldn’t Fido howl at the moon -- the entire night.

Unfortunately beginner campers tend to make more mistakes and break more “rules” of camping, but most first-time campers don’t intend to have poor camping etiquette -- they simply just don’t know any better.

Then there are the campers, who simply need a polite reminder on how they can be a better camping neighbor and more environmentally friendly. And there are also the unexpected events that can throw off beginner or experienced campers.

Ten Cardinal Sins of Campers

Family putting tent up by the sea
Alistair Berg/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Imagine your tranquil camping getaway suddenly interrupted by a car speeding past your site and nearly running over Fido or baby Susie!

“How could they!” you exclaim to your camping partner.

“What’s that you say?” he responds. “I can’t hear you over the sound of that generator!”

Most of us head out on a camping getaway to experience the great outdoors, relax in a natural environment and spend time with friends or family. A little consideration for our camping neighbors, wildlife and nature can go a long way to preserve the environments in which we love to recreate.

Don’t trash your campsite, don’t ignore quiet times and please, don’t walk through others campsites! These are just a few of the cardinal sins of campers; you wouldn’t want to make these mistakes, would you?

What They Don’t Tell You About Camping

© Monica Prelle

Sure, you’re prepared for a camping trip. All the gear is packed, you checked your shopping list twice, made the campground reservation and are on the road. You even have a map and directions. All systems are ready to go.

The family is singing along to Simon and Garfunkel on the radio right about the same time the car overheats. No big deal, this is not your first road-trip. Once you’re driving again, you find the way to that windy mountainous road, which is going to take you to your dream campsite on the lakeshore, but inevitably someone gets sick.

Still, all is good. Everyone is happy and excited to setup the camping tents.

Now, there aren’t any level camping sites, the mosquitos are feasting on your neck, and your co-pilot didn’t buy enough ice. And what happened to that sandwich you left on the picnic table?

There are a lot of nuisances that can make a camping trip go wrong, but if someone (hint, hint) had just told you everything no one ever told you about camping, then everything would be all right.

Common Mistakes of New Campers

© Monica Prelle

Here we go again, picking on the beginners. Yep, beginners make a lot of mistakes, but it’s not just camping beginners that mess things up. First-time travelers are sure to ask for directions and still get lost, and beginner runners are likely to get hurt training for their first marathon. No doubt beginners of anything make mistakes, but that’s why we are here to help.

If it is your first time camping, how are you supposed to know that the tent poles are actually really important to pack, and that it’s better to buy a six-person tent for a family of four.

You blast Led Zeppelin every night before going to bed at home, why wouldn’t it be okay at the campground?

Maybe this list of beginner mistakes will make the learning process a little easier and teach seasoned campers a few new tricks. Or maybe you want to ignore the mistakes of others and prefer to punish yourself. Sure, go ahead and plan a camping trip when the weather forecast is for category one hurricane conditions.

What Not to Do in the Wilderness

© Monica Prelle

One time I was hiking with my mom and a few of her girlfriends in Yosemite National Park. When we reached our final destination, we were missing one person from our hiking group. Lori had been in the front and we all assumed she was ahead of us on the trail, but she was hiking with her head down and missed the junction to our final destination.

No one had seen Lori for hours. We reported her missing and set back out on the trail to look for her. She eventually turned around and found her way, but it was almost dark when she arrived at the campground.

It wasn’t until we lost a person did we realize all the mistakes our group had made. We only had one map between five of us and we didn’t agree to meet at trail junctions. We only carried enough water for the hike; Lori was pretty thirsty by the time she was found. And if she had to spend the night outdoors, she didn’t have much for warm clothes.

Do you know what to do (or not to do) if you are faced with a wilderness emergency?

Leave No Trace: Camping Ethics

© Monica Prelle

Okay, okay, we know you get it -- leave no trace. But what does it really mean? Do you know how to leave no trace when camping?

Leave No Trace is a national program as well as a core set of principals that most outdoor enthusiasts would agree sets the standard for camping “rules” and ethics.

The Leave No Trace Foundation is best understood as an educational and ethical program that is designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they are enjoying the great outdoors.

Core Principals of the Leave No Trace Foundation:

  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors
  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
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