The 30 Worst Decisions You Can Make at a Campground


You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a good camping trip, there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste. Campground camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks to cabin resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds. Whatever your camping preferences, here are the thirty worst moves you can make at a campground. 

Camping can be relaxing…just be sure to follow these rules.  (Photo: Thinkstock)

Fail to give someone your camping itinerary

Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know the particulars. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

Forget to bring insect repellant

It does not matter where your camping trip takes you. There will be insects and you should arm yourself appropriately.

Assume that there will be toilet paper

Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping.

Assume that there will be running water

Depending on the season and the type of facility you choose, it is possible that you need to bring your own water, perhaps even your own potty.

Take more stuff than you need

Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential to your destination.

Forget your first aid kit

Always be prepared. (Photo: iStock)

Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping.  

Think that your GPS is always correct

It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you start, preferably from more than one source.

Related: Let’s Go Camping — in a Teeny-Weeny Trailer

Set up camp in the dark

Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

Invade other people’s space

Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

Take up more than your allotted space

Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a posh RV park or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It’s hard on the park and rude to other campers.

Picnic in an empty campsite

Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. (Photo: corrine_t/Twenty20)

This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Campsites are for campers, not picnickers. Do you want to be the guy who misses a primo campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?  

Leave open food containers outside

Never. Leave. Open. Food. Outside. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors.

Leave garbage near your camp

See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.  

Leave things in public spaces

There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.  

Underestimate the weather

You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect.

Ignore fire bans

As awesome as smores are, adhere to campground rules regarding fires. (Photo: iStock)

If the authorities in charge of the campground say no fires, they mean no fires. You are probably much smarter than they are, but is having a fire actually worth a trip to the nearest jail?

Gather wood without checking

Even when fires are allowed, gathering of wood may not be. Ask first, and then gather only down and dead wood in designated areas.

Start a fire with gasoline

Assuming that there is no burn ban, you should be prepared to start your fire with appropriate fuel. If not, then we hope you remembered the first aid kit.

Burn wood that does not fit in the fire pit

So you found an awesome log that will burn for hours, only it doesn’t fit in the designated fire ring. And you forgot your hatchet. Your plan is to just lay it across the fire or stick in one end. It will only burn the part in the fire, right?  

Miss the stars

How you could you ignore this amazing view?! (Photo: Paul Bogowicz/Stocksy)

It’s easy when you live in the city to forget that stars even exist. Look up at night when you camp. It’s life-changing. 

Related: This Ain’t Camping: Over-the-Top RV Resorts to Enjoy Minus the RV

Feed the wildlife

As much as your social media page would be enhanced by photos of chipmunks eating potato chips, nothing about it is good for the animal. And then there are the campers that occupy your site next who will not be able to enjoy a sandwich without being harassed by begging critters.

Play loud music

Camping is about enjoying the natural world. Try listening to the wind in the trees, the gurgling of the stream, or the chattering of the birds. Besides, your music is annoying to the neighbors.  

Don’t give your kids camp chores to do

Camping is filled with life lessons for children. From setup to cleanup, there are confidence-building tasks that your kids should be doing.

Stay glued to your devices

And don’t let your kids do it either. Camping is the perfect time for a digital detox.

Watch TV

Stars > Netflix anyhow. (Photo: Jonas Guettler/epa/Corbis)

Every moment of a camping trip that you spend watching TV is a moment when you could have been enjoying your companions, your surroundings, and the simple serenity of doing nothing.

Overestimate your vehicle

Don’t take a two-wheel drive SUV off-roading. Don’t take chances with bald tires or faulty gas gauges. Know what your vehicle can and cannot do and camp somewhere within that range of ability.

Overestimate your outdoor skills

Rock climbing on a cruise ship does not qualify you to climb the face of a mountain. Nor does watching two seasons of Naked and Afraid make you a survival expert. Be honest with yourself about your skills and plan accordingly.  

Underestimate the wildlife

That ain’t no teddy! (Photo: Michael DeYoung/Design Pics/Corbis)

Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife can make your camping trip miserable if you underestimate their survival skills. They can unzip, unlock, and chew through things with astonishing efficiency.  Learn how to critter proof your trip before you ever leave home.  

Leave anything behind

“Leave no trace” is the campers’ creed, and it applies even in organized campgrounds. It means that when you pull out of your campsite, there should not be any sign that you and your group were ever there.

Disrespect the campground

Respecting the facility goes beyond simply cleaning up after yourself; it means not carving initials into picnic tables, parking only on designated hard surfaces, and finding a way to leave it better for the next guy, not worse.

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