We were all beginners once…and I think everyone has made a mistake or two on their camping adventures. There are lots of lists out there on camping mistakes – these are the pitfalls that I think the family campers should avoid (and based on our experiences).
1. Not researching where you are going
Camping is meant to be relaxed and fun but it will not be that way if you are not prepared for where you are going.
You (and your children) could feel that the 6 hour car trip to your campsite could have been avoided if you had heard that the roads had been washed away (simple call to the Park Ranger office would have given that information).
Read up on where you are going, conditions, weather and facilities (water, toilets, campsites). Spontaneity is all well and good when camping, but a lot of effort can go into getting you from A to B, so take the time to ensure that you give yourselves the best chance of having a good time.
2. Not trying your equipment out before you leave home
Put your tent up at least once in your backyard. Try that new light. Work out how the stove operates. Nothing worse than getting to a campsite, and finding out that whilst it looked to be a basic piece of equipment, you actually need to be a Rhodes Scholar to operate it. Or worse, it doesn’t work at all, and that piece of equipment was crucial to your cooking!!
3. Relying on a campfire
Campfires can take a while to build up sufficiently for cooking. To put a Camp Oven in the coals, those coals need to be very hot and that takes time. Great when you can do it, but if you are pressed for time and don’t have the commitment to getting that fire set well in advance of dinner, consider having a back up plan.
4. Buying cheap goods instead of quality
When we started camping, we chose cheaper items because that is what we could afford at the time. But we have since had to upgrade much of that equipment because it wasn’t really suitable for camping more than once a year. Or, just when we really needed this piece of equipment, it fell apart or didn’t do what it was meant too.
If you can, try and buy a quality name brand with good guarantees and after sales service. That extra money at time of purchase could save you a lot more down the track. See next point.
5. Buying up big on camping equipment when you are new
Hopefully you will heed Point 4 above, and choose quality items. But in saying that, don’t go crazy and spend a lot of money on all sorts of equipment in the beginning. Firstly, you have to find out if everyone loves camping and want to continue to go (otherwise you have a garage full of expensive unused items).
Secondly, it takes a few trips to work out what you do need and don’t. Take your time and purchase quality necessities not luxuries. Our Porta Pottie was a luxury item, but in my view, also a necessity!
6. Shivering in your tents.
See “equipment we didn’t like” at our website (details below) or our experiences with wrong bedding at wrong time of year. Suffice to say, that get your bedding wrong, you may not have a comfortable night ahead.
7. Arriving late at campsite
Turning up late at a campground, looking for an unoccupied space and then when and if you do find a place, having to set up and feed everyone. It is stressful for all. The children may be hungry or they just run off into the dark unknown, thrilled to be released from the confines of the car. Or you have no idea where the toilets are (if they even have any – once more, hope you have done your research as listed in Point 1).
I don’t recommend late arrival at campgrounds as a harmonious start to the trip.
8. Underestimating the importance of lighting
We started out camping adventures with headlamps and hand held torches, because, we were going to have the moon and the campfire to shed light!! That illusion was shattered fairly early on, when it was time to prepare a meal and we had weak headlamps and as for torches, how do you use one of them plus do all the meal prep? We looked around at other campers, with their sites lit up like the sun and had experienced for the first time……..lighting envy. That was it – next trip we had our Coleman lantern (more of that in “Equipment we didn’t like” section of our website ), and have progressed from there to quality LED Lenser headlamps, LED lighting (doesn’t shed a wide light but a powerful directed light) and fluoro lighting (charged via our battery). It sure beats stumbling around in the dark, tripping over hazards, and the children all have their own headlamps too. Don’t underestimate its importance!!
9. Leaving food and garbage out
Come nightfall, and a quiet campsite, and you will get nocturnal visitors that you had not thought about in your camping adventures (and didn’t read about in the brochures). Foxes and possums and kangaroos are all ones we have encountered attacking garbage. We have woken to find the contents of the day’s garbage, strewn across the site. We quickly learned from that, and now lock up the garbage and sometimes put it on our roof rack. Hanging it high from a tree did not deter a fox at Deep Creek Conservation Park (South Australia), from jumping up and pulling it down.
If they don’t get to the garbage, they will try for your other food, so put it ALL away, and in lock up plastic tubs. In the USA we knew that bears would come looking for food, but we forgot about our own Australian animals and their love of food!
10. Forgetting that its meant to be enjoyable
Final point and the most important point about camping – it’s meant to be fun for all.
Know that it won’t be like home (that is the reason you are doing it surely?), and that some creature comforts may not be available, the kids are going to get dirty in the first 10 minutes of arrival, and sleeping in close quarters with family members may be challenging(!!). But apart from those trivialities, remember that you are there to enjoy the yourself, spend time with your family and experience life away from suburbia. So laugh at the mistakes (and learn from them), and don’t get disillusioned if your early camping experience is not perfection in the early days. The main thing is that you are out enjoying the great outdoors.
Happy and Safe camping