13 Things That Can Go Wrong While Camping… and How to Deal with Them

So, you’re getting ready to go camping, and you’re thinking about everything that could go wrong. What an exhausting and scary thought. When you’re out in the wilderness, things can and very well might go wrong, but that’s all part of the fun of camping! Getting out of your comfort zone, testing your limits, and realizing how capable you are. So, while anything could happen, we’re going to look at the most common things that do go wrong, and how to deal with them!

What can go wrong:

1. You forget gear

Depending on what gear you forget; this can be a very different experience. If you forget a tent pole or stakes, you can use 550 cord to string it up or rocks to weigh down the edges. But if you forget your TENT, it may not be such an easy fix. However, there is always a solution. If you were to forget your tent and you were set on camping anyways, you could make a shelter with the essential tarp. Much of the supplies you bring can be multipurpose. Forget a plate but have a pan? Just eat right out of that. Forget the pan? Use aluminum foil to cook on. Forget a pillow? Use a towel or a bag filled with clothes to lay your head on. Get creative and innovative and use what works. Check out this list of easily forgotten items to add to your camping checklist!

22Packing Light 22

2. You don’t have enough food or water

When prepping for camping, you should always bring enough for the length of stay, and then some extra, just in case. But what happens if you miscalculate or get stuck? I keep a separate small bag of emergency snacks in my vehicle, especially in the winter. I also have a book of edible plants in the region. I was a Girl Scout as a child and the motto: Be Prepared! Has always stuck with me. I keep an extra gallon of clean water in my vehicle, but I also have a filter water bottle that I take camping and traveling depending on where I’m going in the world. A water filter is great to have on hand. Make sure you know how to use it and what type of filter it uses so you can have clean potable water. 

A campfire in a wooded area.

3. Bad Weather

One of the most common factors that can ruin a camping trip. Keep an eye on the skies and check the weather before heading out. Be cautious if starts to rain, snow, hail, or lightening. Depending on the situation and what you are prepared for, it may be better to seek shelter. However, if it’s just a little rain, the trip doesn’t have to ruined. Always check the weather forecast and chose an appropriate spot for setting up your campsite. Take a look at Camping in The Rain: A Definitive Guide for advice on how to enjoy camping in the rain!

A stormy sky over a river with mountains in the background.

4. Your car battery dies or you get stuck

It happens, an interior light gets left on, or you end up driving in soft sand or thick mud. There are several things you can do to be prepared for this situation. Having jumper cables is always a good idea. If you’re alone or only have one vehicle, a battery pack is easy to use to get your vehicle started. If you get stuck in sand, mud, or snow you can be prepared by having a tow strap for getting pulled out, a wench if possible, a shovel to dig yourself out, or a piece of wood to wedge under the back tires.

I grew up in an area where driving around in the woods was a favorite form of entertainment and getting stuck was par for the course. Knowing how to drive through the elements and how to get unstuck when it inevitably happens (or having a friend with a bigger truck to pull you out) is a must. 

Katie Schreffler

5. You can’t get a fire started

Whether it’s wet matches or wet wood, the lighter runs out, or the fire just won’t catch, this can be an incredible frustrating situation. Especially if it’s cold, getting dark, or you’re going to be cooking on the fire. When you get to a campsite, collect firewood and kindling as soon as possible. Try to bring multiple ignition sources so that if one doesn’t work, you’re not out of luck: matches, waterproof matches, lighters, flint, or learn the old fashion hand drill. Additionally, you can bring kindling or firewood with you.  

solo camping fire

6. You get lost

While nobody plans to get lost, it can happen to anybody from beginner to experienced. Familiarize yourself with the route. Download apps such as AllTrails or google maps. You can screen shot the map if you’re going to lose service. Learn how to use a compass for navigation. Try to get to and from your destinations before it gets dark. Make sure you tell somebody where you are going and your expected return time. 

7. A bear (or another animal) tries to eat your food

Nobody wants to wake up to footsteps outside their tent or come back from a hike to find that the food storage has been broken into by a tricky animal. Bring a bear cannister, use the bear box available at sites, keep your food in a storage container, or hang your food (and garbage) up in a tree at night. Research the area you are headed to and know what kind of animals to expect. Don’t feed wildlife. Remember you are in their home, and they are just doing what hungry animals do. Take precautions and follow all guidelines that are in place at your campsite.

8. You don’t know how to use your gear

Get your gear out and test it before heading out to a campsite. Make sure you know how to set up a tent. Practice using items that are complicated. You want to be confident in your abilities before you are out in the woods. If you end up at the campsite and don’t know what to do, there may be friendly neighbors or a park ranger who can lend a hand.

9. Bugs!

Nobody wants to have bugs buzzing or biting them. Try to cover exposed skin and don’t forget the insect repellant. If you do forget it, smoke from a fire can help deter bugs. Considering bringing a bug net or have an enclosed vestibule on your tent. Hot Tip: In the summer, sunscreen can help prevent gnats from buzzing around you incessantly.

10. Excessive Cold or Heat

Depending on where you are camping, the temperature can change drastically at night or even during the day.Have extra layers, blankets, gloves, socks, etc. to help combat the cold. Consider getting a sleeping bag rated for colder weather if you’re camping at elevation, during cool seasons, or in environments where the temperature drops significantly. In contrast, be prepared for heat as well. Make sure you have shade such as overhanging trees or a pop-up tent to block the sun. Make sure you have plenty of water and stay hydrated.

A tent is set up in a wooded area.

11. Noisy Neighbors

Whether its late at night or early in the morning, having loud neighbors can change the mood of a peaceful camping trip. Always practice good camp etiquette. Be patient, and if necessary, politely speak to rowdy neighbors. If you can resolve the issue or just want some tranquility, you may need to relocate camp. 

12. Sickness or Injury

You never expect it to happen, but it’s wise to be prepared for if it does. Have a well-stocked first aid kit that covers the basic ailments such as headache, fever, diarrhea, pain, and basic wound care. It’s great to know basic first aid, or advanced skills, especially if you are far from any hospitals. Knowing how to stabilize a broken bone, stop bleeding, or how to correctly perform CPR is life-saving information.

I’ve been an ER nurse for years and I urge everyone to learn first aid and CPR skills. When a situation happens where the information is needed it is invaluable. The American Red Cross offers classes and certifications for everybody, look them up in your area. 

Katie Schreffler

13. Safety Issues

Always trust your instincts! If something feels off, listen to your gut. Make sure you tell people where you are going and when you plan to return. Talk to a Park Ranger or call authorities if necessary. Be able to defend yourself and know how to use a weapon. Keep bear spray on hand and be aware of local wildlife. Store food appropriately and leave unused items in your car. If need be, you can always pack up and leave if you feel unsafe. You can also read our safety tips for solo camping women!

Remember to stay calm and make constructive choices. Expect the best but prepare for the worst. While you can’t always anticipate what you can wrong, you can control how you respond to it. Embrace the unpredictability of the wilderness and always respect nature. With these tips, you can prepare for situations and successfully navigate finding a solution to issues that arise and have a great time despite obstacles that you may face. 

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