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How to Plan a Camping Trip that Actually Goes to Plan

April 04, 2016
How to Plan a Camping Trip that Actually Goes to Plan

Planning a camping trip isn’t hard. I’m not here to tell you in minute detail to go online and research your campsite before you leave, or tell you to make lists, or to plan your meals because any half-capable human being can do those things. Making lists, choosing a site, planning meals are all kind of implied in the words ‘Camping Trip Plan’. If you choose not to do those things, then you probably don’t need to be told that you should do them because you probably knew you should, but you were just lazy.

The truth is, you can plan a camping trip right down to the vacuum packaging with the sticky labels and still have things go terribly wrong.

I’m going to look at some pretty common mistakes that people make when planning a camping trip; mistakes that usually happen because they’re really not that obvious until you make them... Hopefully this will help you avoid them in the future. But I honestly can’t guarantee that something else won’t come up…

An alternative title to this article might be ‘things that still go wrong on camping trips (even though you planned so much your friends found it annoying) and how to avoid them’.

sleeping bag funny meme

Borrowing and loaning gear

Not everyone owns the whole shebang of camping equipment needed for a great camping trip and few of us keep it organised, ready to go at the drop of a tent peg (and if that’s you, you can probably just skip the rest and pat yourself on the back…).

Sometimes we have no choice but to resort to borrowing gear. Unfortunately everyone (we’ve done the research) who has borrowed a tent from a mate has experienced their worst night ever in said mate’s tent…

You might have even asked them if it works. You might have specifically asked, “It doesn’t have any holes does it?” But there is every possibility that your friend is forgetting that they loaned their tent to your other mate Greg. And while people loan gear to Greg because he’s really such a great guy, Greg has a knack for accidentally destroying stuff.

The solution to this problem? You’ve got to let Greg go…

No seriously, you just need to make sure everything you plan to take on your trip is tested before you leave, whether it’s borrowed, or you are using gear that you’ve recently loaned to a friend.

Or perhaps it's time to get your own gear...

Being a camp chef

You’ve planned your meals, great! But have you considered that planning to cook slow-braised beef cheeks with pappardelle in a billy might be a bit ambitious?

When it comes to being a camp chef, the clever cook takes the cake. Think of recipes that only require two or three non-perishable ingredients, and if you want to get fancy, prep ingredients at home before you leave. Otherwise by the time you’ve finished cooking, everyone will have filled up on trail-mix and become sick and tired of you grumbling under your breath about the beef cheeks that won’t “melt in your mouth.”

campstove billy cooking camp chef

If in doubt, just copy these camping recipes…

Creating lists and still forgetting important stuff

We’re all human. Sometimes your brain just doesn’t quite do exactly what you wanted it to — even after you’ve created an excel checklist, laminated it, hole punched the corner, and tied it to your backpack.

Picture this…

You’ve made your list, you’ve packed your gear, and checked everything off. You know that your camera is ready to go: it’s charging in your bedroom and the rest of your gear is stacked neatly out of the way in the dining room. You rise early to pack the car, you’re half way to your campsite and you think, ‘I hope we see some cool wildlife so I can take…’ and then bam! You realise you forgot the camera.


Overconfidence in checklists.

Just because it’s ticked off the list, just because you were organised, doesn’t mean it’s in the car.

But these things just happen right? Yes, unfortunately that is life, and they do. Sometimes things get left behind, and most of the time they are not so important that you have to turn around and go home. But next time you’re making your camping checklist, just remember to lift your eyeballs from the page and visually confirm the item is in the car.

Or you could create another laminated checklist and attach it to the inside of the boot of your car with tape and tick items off as you neatly stack them into the...ugh, you can see where this is going.

planning a camping trip

Planning so much it becomes annoying

This point directly relates to the suggestion I started to write in the previous paragraph but couldn’t bring myself to finish. You might totally disagree, and that’s fine: some people prefer to schedule their adventures like they were ordered by the POTUS. Others might feel the same way as us: that camping is supposed to be about getting away from all the stress of everyday life; about getting back to basics; about leaving the routine in the city. Because once you’ve gone over everything six times on your laminated spreadsheet with your friends, it’s possible they might not want to be included on the next camping trip Facebook invite.

So really, who cares if you forgot your camera, or if one meal doesn’t work out, or you get a bit wet one night because Greg used the tent pole as a toy sword.

They say that 90% of life (or something) is how you react to the things that happen to you, so why not plan as best you can, and when things don’t quite work out (because they won’t) put them behind you along with the laminated checklists and have the best camping trip ever anyway.

Please note: this article is not intended to offend or discourage passionate checklist writers from doing their thing. We do believe that being organised is integral to becoming adept at any outdoor pursuit.

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