Top 10 Worst Camping Mistakes

Getting ready to roast S’mores and sing around the campfire? Be sure to check out these tips for avoiding common camping blunders first.

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Ah, family camping trips: the chance to commune with nature, bond with your loved ones and create lasting memories. What could go wrong? Lots, actually. Lack of planning and preparation could turn your dream vacation into a real nightmare. We spoke to Ed Jager, director of visitor experience for Parks Canada, to help identify 10 annoying camping mistakes - and how to avoid them.

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Not Testing Out New Equipment

Picture this: In anticipation of the big family camp out, you invested in a deluxe portable gas grill. You're excited to fire it up at the campsite to feed the hungry kids when you realize, all too late, that the thing doesn't work. Uh oh.

Failing to test out new equipment is one of the biggest mistakes that campers can make, says Jager. "With anything that you take out camping, you want to make sure you know how to use it before hand, he advises. Set up a new tent in your backyard, learn how to use that grill and climb inside a new sleeping bag to make sure it's big enough before you set out on your trip.

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Storing Toiletries In Your Tent

Most campers know that keeping food in your tent is an open invite for a fury friend slumber party. But other products may also entice critters. "People often forget that things like toothpaste, insect repellant and soap can attract animals," Jager says. Keep all personal-care products safely locked away in your car or in the same dry bag that you use to store your food.

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Arriving In the Dark

It can be frustrating to set up camp in the dark, especially if you're staying on an unfamiliar site. Try to arrive during daylight hours to give everyone a chance to find the outhouse and get the lay of the land. Of course, arriving after dark is sometimes unavoidable (hello, long-weekend traffic). In those cases, Jager suggests using head lamps to light the way so your hands are free to set up equipment.

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Underestimating the Weather

Funny thing about the weather - it rarely seems to listen to the daily forecast. "You could look at the weather report, see that it's beautiful and leave the raincoat at home. Then it starts to rain on day two and you're stuck," Jager warns.

Always pack raingear for every member of the family and plan some rainy-day activities to keep everyone in good spirits until the storm passes. And don't forget extra socks.

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Not Packing a Repair Kit

Nothing puts a damper on a camping trip faster than a leaky tent (pun absolutely intended). Luckily, you packed your handy dandy repair kit, right?

Here's what you need:

- extra rope

- metal pole sleeves to reinforce bent tent poles

- sewing kit to patch up rips and tears

- role of duct tape

- extra pair of shoelaces (in case your first pair breaks)

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Skimping on Food

Taking just enough food for the duration of your trip could leave you in a tight spot if something goes wrong. For example, "let's say you're going on a hiking trip and someone twists their ankle. You could have to stay an extra day," Jager cautions. You should also have a plan B in case someone accidentally burns the pancakes or drops the wieners in the fire.

Pack one extra day's worth of meals and a stash of snacks and energy bars, just in case.

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Forgetting a First-Aid Kid

A well-stocked first-aid kit could save your trip from ending miserably at the nearest emergency room. Check the contents of your kit to replace expired medications and to ensure you have everything you need. Use this list from the Canadian Red Cross as a guide.

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Keeping a Messy Campsite

It's wonderful to spot animals in their natural habitat, but not so much fun to find them feasting on the contents of your cooler. Leaving food and trash strewn about your campsite can attract unwanted visitors and ruin the experience for everyone. Says Jager, "if animals eat your food, it's not healthy for them." It could also be a problem for future campers because animals can become habituated to getting food at the campsite.

Avoid this problem by keeping meal supplies and garbage locked away in your car, or strung up in a dry bag on a designated pole or tree.

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Showing Up Without a Campsite Reservation

You probably wouldn't show up to a hotel without a reservation and expect to get the room of your choice. The same goes for campsites - particularly in the busy summer months. "If you don't make a reservation, you risk not getting the campsite you want," Jager says. Avoid disappointment by reserving your campsite well in advance. Parks Canada  and many other campgrounds let you make reservations online.

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Focusing on the Challenges

No doubt about it, a properly planned camping trip requires some work. But getting too caught up in the chores could mean you're missing out on all the fun. "Take in what's around you," Jager says. "We live in a world where our daily lives are filled with stress. [Camping] is our opportunity to step out of that." Taking pleasure in tasks such as heating up water to wash dishes and prepping the fire to cook a meal will make your family camping trip that much more enjoyable.