7 Things That Can Go Wrong on a Camping Trip (and How to Account for Them)

Mar 18, 2020

Man standing next to a tent in the desert

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You need to unplug, and you’re heading out to your favorite spot to do it. Good for you! The fresh air and activity will benefit your health, and a day without the din of computer and cellphone bings can be the best medicine. However, you do need to take precautionary measures before heading into the wild. The farther off the beaten path you intend to trek, the more you need to use common sense when you pack. There are many things that can go wrong on a camping trip.

Follow these tips to avoid calamity — and cope if it does occur. 

1. You Could Get Hurt 

You scramble up a rocky scree slope, but you slide back down — and you strike your knee. You’re not sure if you broke anything, but it hurts like the devil and walking now poses a challenge. What do you do? 

Always pack a well-stocked first aid kit in your vehicle and carry it with you on the trail. You should include bandages in various sizes as well as a sling for broken bones. Include any medications that you take, as well as eye drops and a spare pair of contacts, if you wear them. You don’t want to find yourself with no way to safely drive home if you lose a lens in the stream. 

2. Your Gear Could Fail 

You arrive to set up camp, and your tent bag is missing a vital pole. Worse, you experience a rockslide, and a boulder crushes your compass when you’re miles off the beaten path. Guess what? Now you’re lost — but not if you prepare correctly. 

It’s a wise idea to test all of your equipment before heading out into the wilderness. Plus, if you plan to wander off the beaten path, carry a backup compass with you. Certain wristwatches can double as this critical tool.

Besides, the rule that moss grows on the north side of trees only holds in one hemisphere, and if you’re in an arid climate, you’re not likely to find the stuff at all. That trick might work in the woods surrounding either Portland, ME or Portland, OR, but it won’t cut the mustard, er, saguaros, near Phoenix. 

3. Your Furry Friend Could Stir Up Trouble

Are you taking Fido with you? He could dart off into the trees after what you think is a squirrel — and return with Mama Bear chasing him down. Alternatively, he could interrupt a hunter’s shot and raise ire.

This possibility doesn’t mean you should leave your furry friend at home, but carry an extended lead with you. You can’t supervise your pooch every minute, and this will prevent them from raising hell when you turn your back. 

4. You Could Encounter Unwanted Wild Things 

Bears aren’t the only furry critter that can cause harm out in the forest. You could unwittingly forget a piece of jerky or some nuts in your pocket when you turn in for the night. While you may not encounter a bruin, mice or other rodents can chew holes through your tent and sleeping bag. Torn gear hardly keeps the breeze from giving you a chill. 

Always keep food outside of your tent, and do the same with personal care items. Some scented lotions or even toothpaste can smell tempting to woodland critters in search of a snack. 

5. You Could Run Out of Food or Firewood

I speak from personal experience when I say that running out of food in the wild is the worst — and getting low on firewood isn’t fun, either. Even if you’re camping solo, pack as if you’re preparing for two.

This advice goes double if you plan on heading out miles from the nearest Wawa. 

6. Or Worse, Water 

You know that you need to stay hydrated, but H20 creates significant weight, causing many campers to skimp. If you don’t want to lug hefty amounts of the wet stuff with you, invest in purification drops so that you can use what nature provides without getting dysentery.

If worse comes to worst, you can boil water to purify it, but then you need to wait for it to cool — and if your match stash is also exhausted, you’re out of luck. 

7. The Weather Could Turn Nasty 

Finally, even the best weather apps only work as well as the forecasters programming them, and anyone who has ever watched the news knows meteorology isn’t an exact science. Sudden storms can arise out of seemingly nowhere, particularly along mountain passes. In the east, torrential downpours can drench you, and in the west, flash floods pose considerable hazards in box canyons. 

Always check the forecast multiple times before departing. Additionally, educate yourself to potential hazards if you’re a tourist in unfamiliar terrain. 

Prepare Yourself for These Things That Can Go Wrong on a Camping Trip

You don’t want your peaceful time in the woods to turn into a catastrophe. Now that you’ve learned about these things that can go wrong on a camping trip, you will feel more prepared should the unexpected strike. 

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.