50 Mistakes: Campers Offer Their Best Advice

Everyone has an opinion on ‘best practices’ when it comes to camping. See 50 opinions, ideas, and warnings below, culled and inspired from a mega-thread on Reddit asking about ‘mistakes’ commonly made when pitching a tent to sleep outdoors.

bear in tent 2
Photo; Woodland Park Zoo
1) Don’t attract bears!

Clean up food and cooking stuff after your meal. Otherwise it attracts pests of all types and sizes.

2) Not bringing enough beer.

Self explanatory.

3) Stake down tent for wind.

Setting up late one night, my buddy forgot to stake down his tent. We returned after a long day away to find it soaking wet. It had blown into a stream, and some passer’s by had thankfully rescued it.

4) Don’t forget a headlamp. 

And spare headlamp. Because you don’t want to be the only guy who can see what he’s doing, you’ll end up doing everything, or loaning out your light. Use said headlamp to delegate tasks.

5) Don’t forget your rain fly.

Camping in Colorado one very rainy night, one of my friends wound up spending the night in his (short) Jeep because he left his rainfly at our last campsite — 100 miles away. Hilariously, it was returned to him, after he’d bought another tent.

6) iPhone flashlight oops.

I’ve been camping in Namibia for 3 weeks and I forgot the charger for my flashlight at our first stop and lost my backup flashlight somewhere in the desert. I had to use my phone as a flashlight for the rest of the trip.

7) Too much tarp.

I often see people just throw a tarp on the ground and then pitch the tent on top of it. Once the tent is up there is often like a few inches to a foot of tarp sticking out from some sides of the tent. This is a terrible arrangement if it rains. The tarp edges will catch water and direct it right under your tent. Better to fold the tarp such that none of it sticks out from under the tent.

8) No sleeping pad, so sad.

Putting something between your sleeping bag and the cold ground will help LOADS with staying warm. If you don’t have something like a ThermaRest, just go to Walmart and buy one of those $10 blue foam pads that roll up. They aren’t very comfy but they are very effective at helping you retain heat. Even a yoga mat or something is better than nothing.


9) Campfires dead out.

Just because your campfire embers aren’t visibly glowing anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t still super hot and able to catch things on fire. Embers can stay hot for days, and a strong windstorm the day after you break down camp can easily blow some of those still-very-hot embers into the woods and start a fire. When putting out campfires, overkill is the key word. Water, snow, dirt, whatever it takes, use tons of it to make sure that fire is out and the embers wont blow away later and catch shit on fire.

10) Collection firewood, remember 1-2-3.

When getting firewood, collect three times as much as you think you need. Don’t start a fire until you have one armload of tinder, two armloads of kindling, and three armloads of fuel.

11) Wet wood won’t burn.

Make sure that any wood for fire is stashed in a dry place when weather is approaching. Also when buying wood from roadside stands, only buy them from COVERED stands, to ensure your wood is dry and ready for burning.

12) Use tinder and kindling.

I don’t know how common this mistake is, but holding a lighter to a log isn’t how you start a fire.

13) Don’t pitch tent in a depression.

Make sure your tent is not at the lowest spot on the site. Water pools here and you will not be a happy camper.

14) Level-land makes for good sleep.

When camping in mountainous terrain, make sure you find a REALLY level spot to pitch your tent. Twice I have been like, “eh, this spot looks level enough”. Trust me, even the slightest pitch, and you will gradually roll to the bottom during the night, and it sucks. If you must sleep in a slope, put your feet downhill.

15) Extra sleeping pads.

If you see them on sale, buy an extra ThermaRest — especially if you often find yourself taking people camping who aren’t regular campers. I keep two extras, and they’ve gotten plenty of use. Almost everyone can supply their own sleeping bag, but people who don’t camp on their own never own mats.

16) Insulate from the bottom.

As a hammock camper, I have to pay special attention to what is insulating me from underneath. I made myself a down blanket with walls inside it to keep the down in place. I tie this up underneath my hammock and use my sleeping bag (unzipped) like a blanket. It is gloriously warm down to ~20F and then it starts to be noticeably cooler than I’d like it to be.

17) Not bringing enough coffee.


18) Not learning knots.

If you don’t know them, bring a knot tying guide and learn. A bowline, figure eight, fisherman’s knot, water knot and half hitch will get you far, but there are many great knots to learn.


19) Shade for the day.

Set up a sun/rain shelter aside from your tent. (Usually over the picnic table if it’s a campsite.) Tying a tarp between two vehicles can offer shade during the heat of the day.

20) Not bringing wet wipes. 

Or at least a hanky, cloth napkins or paper towels really come in handy.

21) Team building!

Not coordinating the stuff you bring, it’s easy to end up with 4 coolers and no ice among a group of buddies.

22) Cooking essentials.

Don’t forget the basic kitchen stuff everyone has around the house. (Foil, paper towels, salt & pepper, spatulas, stuff like that.)

23) Sticky pans.

My main problem is I ALWAYS forget butter or some sort of cooking spray. Ever try cooking pancakes without any sort of no stick? It can quickly get bad.

24) Dirty, dirty dishes.

Forgetting dish soap. Every. Damn. Time.

25) Even dirtier dishes.

Forgetting towels and dish cloths

26) Brrr, it’s cold.

Not packing adequately for rain and cold. It’s much better to have a fleece and not use it, than it is to need one and not have it.