It’s not exactly a secret that camping, hiking, and road tripping have highs and lows. The feeling when you reach the top of the mountain is great, but first you had to climb it. And by climb it, I mean probably go a few days without a shower, scrape yourself up quite a bit, make a lot of mistakes, get in arguments with your group members, and probably get pretty lost too.
Good camping trips have bad moments, and even “bad trips” have good moments too.
So what can lead to a bad trip, and how can you avoid it?
Not being involved in planning
One of the things that I have seen negatively affect several people’s trips is not doing any planning and “just tagging along”. If you don’t know what the plan is or where you’re going, you might miss out on things you wanted to do, or end up doing more than you wanted. And if you didn’t help make the plan, or at least know the plan, you aren’t going to be as invested in said plan.
An easy fix to this is to, at the very least, know a rough itinerary. Better yet, actually get involved and collaborate with the people who are making the plan. I have found that sitting down, face to face, and telling people the things that you want to do or don’t want to do works best.
Being too involved in planning
This is a trap that I usually fall into—I am known for making an elaborate plan, down to the hour, running it briefly by other group members, and then getting frustrated when parts of that plan fall through. Realistically, you can’t plan for everything, and you have to be adaptable to have a good time.
Besides, as much as I love planning down to the hour, some of the best adventures I have had have been unplanned and spontaneous.
Expecting things to go smoothly
If you expect your entire trip to go off without a hitch, you’re a whole lot more likely to be upset when things go wrong. You can plan ahead for things that might happen—print out maps for when you lose cell service, bring extra food and socks, have a first aid kit—and all of that is a good idea, but that’s not really what I am getting at.
Having a backup plan doesn’t grantee that you won’t be in a situation you didn’t plan for. And that’s fine—just know that you are probably going to reach a point where you have to deal with something you didn’t expect. As long as you are okay with things going wrong here and there, and know that it is going to happen, those road bumps won’t seem so big.
Expecting things to go poorly
Recently, I went on a camping trip that I thought for sure I was going to hate. And for a while I was right—it was 90 degrees, I was trying to keep track and take care of people, lift heavy boxes, and take photos all at the same time. For the first day, I didn’t have any fun.
I realized halfway through that the reason things were going poorly was because I expected them too. Even before I showed up, I had already told people what a drag I thought this was going to be. Of course I was having a bad time—I had already decided too.
Once I realized that I was having a bad time because of my own attitude, things got a lot better—time passed quicker, I was more engaged and less tired, and I ended up having a pretty good time!
So the moral of the story? Attitude makes a huge difference .
Not doing any research
Spontaneous trips are fun, but not knowing the area you are traveling to can be more stressful than anything else. It’s good to know what campgrounds are in the area, what gas stations are around and open, what the terrain of the trails is, and what wildlife you need to be aware of.
Not taking time for you
Even when traveling with a group of people it is important to take time for yourself. Take the time to be alone for a second, take the time to make your coffee in the morning, and take the time to see the things you want to see.
Having a second to catch your breath can change your outlook on an entire trip.
Don’t listen to the concerns of your group members
It’s important to think about what you want, yes, but it is just as important to listen to the people you are traveling with. A lot of the arguments and bickering I have seen traveling were caused by miscommunications.
Make sure you are all on the same page about timing, what sort of hikes/adventures you want to have, and how long you are willing to spend places.
Go with people who have similar interests
Miscommunication aside, it can be hard to travel with just “anyone”. I am a fast-paced, early morning kind of person, and have traveled with people who are slower, and want to sleep in. It was hard for me to spend the morning hours waiting for them to be ready to travel.
Overall, a good camping trip is a matter of perspective. All trips have high points and low points, they just do. You can’t always change the situation, the people you’re with, the trail or even the weather, but you can change the way you react. Take a second to breathe, because you’re going to have a great time.
2 thoughts on “How to Have a Bad Camping Trip”
People have such different paces and timings! I walk very long days, ideally with a dawn start, but I walk pretty slowly with frequent rests (and snacks!) I’ve found again and again that if I try to push my pace on a multi-day hike I just get injured. This maddens people who like to stomp on, get somewhere as quickly as possible, then do something else. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing 😉
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I’ve actually heard that slow and long is one of the most successful ways to thru-hike, so it sounds like you might be on to something!
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