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Take command of your adventure
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By:    On: 2011-10-21

We have been camping as a family for a few years now; my husband and I both camped as kids too.  I think that qualifies us as being a little more than a camping “newbie”.  Despite our experience we make mistakes on just about every camping trip we take. 

Now, I always tell my kids “you can’t learn if you don’t make a mistake”, and I absolutely believe that.  Sometimes we’re able to laugh right away at our mistakes and sometimes it’s a few days/weeks/months…even years (no dear, I haven’t forgotten that camping trip in January when I was pregnant…) before we can.  But we do always learn from them; I’m hoping this post will help you learn from our mistakes and maybe keep you from making the same ones.


Common Mistakes


*Arriving Late and/or Tired*


Late is a bad time to pull into any campsite.  Not only will setting up camp be difficult (especially if it’s after dark), it’s inconsiderate toward your camping neighbors.  Fatigue leads to mistakes, believe me.  It’s no fun to have a tent collapse on you while you’re sleeping!  If you live near the camp site, leave home earlier in the day.  If you’re traveling a distance of more than 5 hours to your camp site, plan ahead to get a hotel half way through your road trip.  A good rule of thumb is to plan to arrive at your final destination with enough time to set up camp, cook dinner and finish eating it before sundown.  This way you’ll have plenty of time to spare, you won’t irritate your neighbors and you can indulge in relaxing by a campfire after dark.


*Forgetting Essentials*


Unless you really enjoy sleeping on the hard – and sometimes damp – ground, make sure to pack whatever you’re going to sleep on!  I once discovered bruises on my back from pebbles and roots on the ground under our tent (ok, the tent was pitched in the dark.  See above.).  Not fun!  Check, recheck and triple check to make sure you have packed these!


On the topic of things to not forget, let’s talk about flashlights.  It’s best to pack a flashlight in the personal bag of every party member, along with a set of spare batteries.  We carry lanterns with the main gear we have but each person has a designated personal light.


Make sure each person’s bag has a personal bug repellant sprayer and put a large container of it in the first aid kit.  Put another container in the vehicle and yet another in the tote that holds the kitchen gear.  One can never have too much bug repellant.


*XX-Person Tents*


Did you just buy your tent?  Are you getting ready to buy a new tent?  Here’s a tip:  4-person tents DO NOT comfortable sleep 4 adults.  My three children (the oldest is 10) share a 4-person tent and just barely.  Their sleeping bags fit side-by-side in the tent, but only if all their other gear stays either in the main tent or in the vehicle.  When you’re shopping for a tent, look for one that sleeps 1 to 2 people more than you will put inside it.  Your gear (clothing, toiletries, etc.) counts as another person.  I don’t know what size people tent manufacturers use as their models but I have yet to see 4 adults sleep in any kind of comfort in a tent for 4. 


*Packing Your Gear*


When you start packing your things for the trip, try to include multi-purpose items.  This will help cut down on the amount of stuff you bring.  Let’s face it, you want to have everything you’ll need but who wants a campsite cluttered up with a bunch of junk that will never get used?  Not to mention how much of a pain in the butt it can be to find a place for all that junk in your vehicle!  Planning to bring 3 or sweatshirts?  Why not bring light-weight, long sleeved t-shirts and 1 jacket instead?  The same concept applies to most clothing – do you really a new pair of jeans for every day you’ll be there?  Consider bringing one pair for every two days you’ll be camping.  You can always take your clothes to a public laundry place.  Doing this cuts down on the need for space and on the amount of dirty laundry you will bring home.


I do recommend packing an extra blanket for each member of your party.  They can cuddle up with it in the vehicle, wrap it around themselves at the fire ring and add it to their sleeping bag.  Blankets are always a good thing to have extras of.


*Outdoor Kitchen*


I’m going to combine a few tips into this one heading.  First of all – and I know most of you will view this as a “common sense” thing – never, EVER build a fire or bring your stove into your tent. Never.  Not under any circumstance.  I cannot stress to you enough how dangerous this is.  No, I’ve never made this mistake, but I was once at a campsite where someone did.  The tent went up like a roman candle; it wasn’t pretty.  I’ll probably never get it out of my head.


Also, pick up your trash!  And I don’t just mean pick it off the ground; don’t toss it into your camp fire either.  Bag it up and take 45 seconds to carry it to the waste receptacles provided by the grounds.  Don’t leave the bag at your site overnight; it attracts bugs and critters of all shapes and sizes.  And once the critters are done at your site, they’ll wander over to mine.  I don’t want critters!


Along the same lines, please don’t leave food out overnight or when you’re not at your site.  Again, if I wanted critters I would go to the pet store…. 


Speaking of pets, I love them.  I have a dog and two cats.  The dog comes on just about every trip we take.  We once let our very well-trained, mild mannered Husky off his leash.  HUGE mistake!  That animal took off and made a bee line for the hot dogs at a neighbor’s site.  We got lucky; he could have run for the woods or onto the nearby highway.  Protect your animal; keep him on a leash at all times, unless he is inside a campsite-appointed, fully fenced dog run.


I have probably left out a lot of things but I hope what I’ve remembered will help you some when you get ready for your next camping trip.  What mistakes have you made?  Please share them – our readers are bound to benefit from your experience.

Happy camping!


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