10 reasons your last camping trip sucked

a lot of tents camping

The list below contains my top 10 reasons your last camping trip might have sucked! If you want to make sure you have a good time the next time you head out, or if you want to make sure your guests enjoy themselves, be sure to take these into consideration.

1. No sleeping pad

I will admit, I’m not man enough to go without a sleeping pad when they are so readily available. What can a sleeping pad do for your camping experience? Sleeping pads can: 

  • Add a level of comfort by mitigating rocks, roots, etc.
  • Provide insulation from the cold ground
  • Create a barrier against moisture
  • Can be used as a seat around camp in a pinch

The one time I tried to sleep in cold weather without a sleeping pad was a horrible experience. Sleep is the last thing I would call it. I had given my pad to my “now” wife who had not brought one camping. Let’s just say, I’m now a very vocal advocate of sleeping pads. Currently, my favorite sleeping pad is the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite. It is packable, lightweight, and really comfortable.

2. No headlamp

Having a headlamp while camping is one of those things that just makes sense. It frees up both hands for tasks requiring both. Because of this, chores at night are quite a bit easier. Most headlamps have multiple modes which add a lot of versatility and their lightweight nature and compact size make it hard to say no. The Petzl Tikka is a solid option at a really good price point.

3. Poor quality food

Cooking good food camping

There is absolutely no need to eat crap food while camping. There are a lot of options that will allow you to eat well with minimal planning and a little preparation. Matter of fact, good food is one of the things we look forward to when heading out for a few days. See our make-ahead pancakes recipe for an example. Save the cold-soaked oatmeal for your next thru-hike. There’s no need to skimp when you’re car camping.

4. No camp chair

camp chairs

There is nothing worse than staying busy all day hiking, exploring, fishing, etc., just to come back to camp wore out with no place to properly sit. It always feels good to sit down in a comfortable camp chair to let my muscles relax. A good camp chair also pairs really well with those late-night conversations around the campfire….don’t forget the s’mores.

5. Bad weather

Do yourself a favor and check the weather before you head out. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a tent for 24 hours waiting out a major rain event. Excessive heat is just as bad, especially at night…trust me, I’ve been there. 

While on a climbing trip in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, we found ourselves with high temperatures around 108 degrees. That translated into an unbearable temperature at night and a late-night trip to Walmart to buy a battery-powered fan. It ended up being very expensive after the ridiculous amount of D-cell batteries, but it was worth every penny.

6. No way to fight the bugs

Bugs, mosquitos in particular (especially where we live), can make an otherwise enjoyable trip absolutely miserable. Make sure to take an ample supply of your preferred bug deterrent just in case there’s an invasion by those little bloodsuckers.

Speaking of bugs, my wife was not aware of chiggers being a thing here in Texas. If you’ve never heard of them you need to check them out. After a long day hike with sections containing plenty of tall grass, we headed back to camp. After a nice dinner, we were off to bed. My wife woke up in the middle of the night with discomfort around her stomach area and low and behold, she had dozens of chigger bites. Needless to say, there were several days of discomfort before the pain subsided. In other words, do your homework and do your best to prevent things like this from happening in advance of heading outdoors.

7. Bad coffee

camp coffee

Personally, this is a big one for me. Coffee needs to be plentiful and of good quality for me to enjoy. I may go a little overboard in this department, but the day before departing I like to fresh grind all my coffee and divide it up into ziplock bags. Each bag is perfectly measured to make a full pot in my GSI Outdoors Java Press.

8. Noisy neighbors

This is another big one for some folks. A lot of people are hypersensitive to noise when they are camping and noisy neighbors who are raising a ruckus all night compounds the problem. When scouting your campsite, whether in person or online, try to find one with some privacy and a good amount of distance from your neighbors.

9. Wet or no firewood

firewood at camp

Not being able to have a campfire can suck the life out of a camping trip. Not having firewood is bad enough, but having wet firewood can be even worse. It stinks trying to get wet wood going all night just to give up in a smokey bout of frustration. Be sure your wood is seasoned and hasn’t been sitting in the rain for the last three days. 

10. No pillow

Nemo Fillo
Nemo Fillo Travel/Backpacking Pillow

Let’s face it, the majority of us are used to using a pillow every night when we sleep. Our bodies are accustomed to having that support and we have conditioned our selves to expect that. Your body is no different when you are camping and that little added luxury can make all the difference in the world.

I’ve tried everything over the years from stuff sacks filled with clothing to home-made pillows. I’ve finally settled on the Nemo Fillo and it’s been a game-changer. Sure, you can take a full-size pillow if you are car camping and it will work great, but for me, the Fillo is the perfect balance of comfort and compact portability.

Check out the full review here: Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel/Backpacking Pillow Review

Unfortunately, most of the “reasons” above have stories attached to them, which means I’ve had to learn the hard way. While this list is light-hearted (for the most part), it is grounded in truth. Honestly, there are a ton of other reasons that can ruin a trip, but these are the ones near and dear to me. Do yourself a favor and don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made over the years. It will help you maintain the enjoyment of camping for yourself and those traveling with you.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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