Okay, so I don’t really hate camping. I do run this blog that’s entirely about camping, after all.
Although I’ll never be able to say that I hate camping, I certainly can’t speak for some of my very good friends and family members.
Camping isn’t for everyone—plain and simple. People have different interests, and you should spend as much time as you possible doing what you actually love.
As a camping enthusiast, I’m not here to try to make you like camping. After all, I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone tried to force me to like playing hockey, or horseback riding.
I am, however, here to help. If you every find yourself in a situation where you have to go camping—say, for a social event like a family reunion or a bachelor/bachelorette party—then you probably already know that you have to suck it up and find a way to not be so miserable.
We all need to do things we don’t really want to do for the people we care about. Going on a camping trip might just be one of those things.
But you know what? It doesn’t have to be as bad as you expect it to be. You may even be able to tolerate it!
So, without further ado, here are all the most common reasons why people hate camping—with some helpful tips on what to do/what not to do to survive a trip.
1. It’s for “outdoorsy” people
For people who just don’t care much for the outdoors and would rather spend most of their time inside surrounding by the luxuries of modern life, camping can seem like a nightmare.
“I can’t stand being in the woods,” one of my friends tells me. “I mean, I’m not a caveman! It’s just so unnecessary to subject yourself to being that uncomfortable when I could take a real vacation at a nice hotel.”
Just having to spend time outside in nature can be a drag for some people. Call it what you will—a high-maintenance personality or spoiled life of luxury—some people just don’t function well when they’re not in their element.
- Suggest going “glamping” instead of traditional camping
- Make it clear to your camping buddies which activities you absolutely will not participate in
- Ask about the itinerary so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises
- Bring things that will help lift your spirits—a good book, a fun playlist to listen to, a favourite cocktail mix, etc.
- Try to keep an open mind as much as possible
- Complain about everything—no one wants to hear it
- Be a party pooper—push yourself to get involved with camp activities
- Plan to be on your phone the whole time—you may not get cell service or have a way to charge it
- Get sucked into negative thinking—it will only make your experience worse
2. It’s dirty and unsanitary
If you’re used to living in a clean, well-kept environment, the idea of sleeping in a tent on the ground and using an outhouse can be pretty unappealing.
“I’ve never gone in an outhouse and I never plan to,” one of my other friends tells me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that when Ross and I go backcountry camping, if there’s no privy, we have to literally dig a hole in the ground to do our business.
When I first got into backcountry camping, I was genuinely surprised at how dirty it was. I’m talking dirt under my fingernails, leaves in my hair, and smells from my armpits that would make a skunk proud.
- Pack travel-sized hand sanitizer, wipes, and necessary personal hygiene supplies
- Bring at least one extra change of clothes
- Bring a bathing suit so you can rinse off in the lake
- Accept the fact that you will get a little dirty
- Overdo it by bringing every single personal hygiene product you can think of
- Freak about your body odour—everyone is going to stink!
- Worry about your sleeping bag getting dirty—you can air it out and wash it at home
3. You can’t stand being too hot or too cold
If you’re not used to hanging out outside all day and sleeping in a tent, then you might be in for a bit of a shock when it comes to temperature control.
If you’re camping in the summer—especially in high heat—expect to sweat a lot. But even in the summer, temperatures can drop significantly (sometimes even near the freezing mark) and make you feel cold.
People who constantly adjust their thermostat at home to find the perfect temperature might have a hard time dealing with extreme changes in temperature while camping.
- Check the weather (especially the nighttime lows) and plan accordingly
- Dress in layers so you can adjust as needed
- Pack extra blankets and/or a sleeping bag liner for cold nights
- Use a small fan or portable air conditioner to help cool down your tent on hot days
- Consider bringing along a portable gas-powered heater if you’re camping in colder weather
- Prioritize fashion over comfort—do what you need to do to stay warm or cool off
- Assume you won’t need long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or sweater because it’s summer
- Forget to check the temperature rating for your sleeping bag and make sure it’s suitable for the weather
4. The bugs can get really bad
Okay, so this is one that even the biggest camping enthusiasts can get behind you on. We don’t like the bugs either—we just do what we can to manage them.
For people who absolutely loathe insects, the idea of being swarmed by mosquitoes or waking up to find a spider in their sleeping bag can be enough to turn them off to the entire experience. That’s understandable.
You’re not being unreasonable for absolutely refusing to go on a camping trip during bug season. Many people don’t because it isn’t worth it.
- Suggest going camping when it isn’t bug season (a.k.a. spring or fall)
- Use a tent with a bug-proof mesh layer and inspect it for holes or tears
- Come prepared with the proper bug protection
- Only pack short-sleeved clothes or tight-fitting clothes (such as yoga pants)
- Assume that you’re not going to get bitten just because you don’t see any bugs around
5. It might rain (a lot
Here’s another thing us camping enthusiasts are with you on. Sure, the rain can be tolerable—even nice and peaceful—when you’ve already got a shelter set up and have nowhere to go. But when you’re on the move or trying to get your campsite set up, it can be royal pain in the butt.
Besides worrying about keeping yourself dry, you also have to scramble to keep all your gear dry. There’s nothing worse than trying to get in your tent in a downpour!
Rain also makes everything muddy and slippery, which could be dangerous if you’re not careful. So, if you’re not used to being outdoors in less-than-ideal conditions, it can be tough to adjust.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared to change your plans if necessary
- Pack a tarp or two to put over your tent and as an extra shelter
- Bring a waterproof sack (like a dry bag), rain gear, and at least one extra change of clothes
- Assume it won’t rain just because the forecast calls for clear conditions—things could change
- Stay in wet clothes for too long—get out of the rain ASAP, dry off, and change into new clothes to prevent hypothermia
- Put wet clothing or gear in your tent—dry everything out first
6. It’s too much work
Unless you’ve got friends or family who are willing to do everything for you—including set up your tent, build the fire, cook for you, and so on—you’re going to have to prepare yourself to work.
Camping = manual labour, and if you’re not used to that, your “I hate camping” mentality could be taken to new levels. It’s hard, it’s dirty, it’s time-consuming, and sometimes you mess up.
This is something that all campers go through. It isn’t fun, but it’s a necessary part of the process.
- Divide up camp chore responsibilities evenly and fairly between all attendees so everyone knows what to expect
- Practice setting up and/or using your gear at home beforehand
- Ask for help if you can’t figure out something
- Expect others to do everything for you just because you hate camping and are inexperienced
- View it as a chore—instead, try to see each task as a learning experience or an opportunity to bond with your fellow campers
- Get frustrated and try to press on with a particularly difficult task—you could hurt yourself
7. Cooking over a campfire is a total pain
I wouldn’t say that I hate camping at all, but cooking? Man… sometimes I’d rather just eat a PB&J or some cold beans out of a can.
If you’re not used to cooking your meals from scratch, it can be really tough to get the hang of it. Especially if you’re trying to do it over an open fire!
There are a lot of things that can go wrong—your food could get burnt, your food might spoil sooner than you expected, or you might not be able to get the fire started in the first place.
- Keep your meals simple—Kraft Dinner is perfectly fine if you like it!
- Bring tons of snacks so you don’t starve between meals (or if a meal goes wrong)
- Get help building a fire if you’re inexperienced
- Rush the fire building and cooking process—this is how you get hurt or burn your food
- Bother with a fire if you just need to boil water—use an alcohol-fuelled camp stove and a pot cozy instead
8. Going to the bathroom is extremely unpleasant
There’s no sugar-coating this one—doing your business in the wild will make you miss the convenience of a modern bathroom.
In a developed campground, you’ll have to share bathroom facilities or outhouses with other campers—and they’re not always very clean. In the backcountry, you get to use a privy (a wooden box with a a hole in it), a portable camp toilet, or a hole in the ground you dig yourself.
It can be stinky, messy, and buggy—all at once.
- Ask your fellow campers what kind of bathroom facilities you can expect and plan accordingly
- Pack toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and possibly a small trowel if you’re backcountry camping
- Make sure you know how to properly dispose of human waste (if you need to)
- Assume there will be toilet paper—there might not be!
- Leave your trash behind in the bathroom—take everything with you when you go
- Use leaves or rocks instead of toilet paper
9. You don’t have the right gear
If you hate camping, you probably don’t have the best gear—or any gear at all for that matter.
And that’s perfectly understandable! It’s not exactly cheap to invest in a good tent, sleeping bag, and other camping essentials.
But if you’re going to try camping anyway, you should at least make sure you have the basics covered. Otherwise, you’ll just be miserable the whole time.
- Borrow gear from friends or family if you can—it’ll be cheaper than buying your own
- Rent gear from an outdoor store if borrowing isn’t an option
- Opt for quality over quantity—a few good pieces of gear are better than a bunch of cheap, flimsy ones
- Try to camp without a tent—you’ll be miserable if the weather takes a turn for the worse
- Use a sleeping bag that’s not rated for the temperature—you could lose sleep and potentially put yourself at risk of hypothermia
- Wear cotton clothing—it doesn’t dry quickly and will make you cold at night
10. Sleeping in a tent/on the ground is uncomfortable
Sleeping on the ground in a tent doesn’t always equal a restful sleep. This may be especially true if your gear is cheap or not well suited for the conditions.
Besides having to deal with a stiff or lumpy mattress and a sleeping bag that doesn’t keep you warm enough, you may also have to deal with slip-sliding all around your tent at night, loud noises (wind, rain, snoring from fellow campers) that keep you awake, and mosquitos that made their way inside your tent with you.
- Pack earplugs and an eye mask to help you block out noise and light
- Invest in (or borrow or rent) a good sleeping pad—it’ll make a world of difference in comfort
- Make sure your sleeping bag is warm enough for the temperature you’ll be camping in
Cons of Using Pads
- Forgo a sleeping pad—you’ll be sorry when you’re trying to sleep on the ground
- Wear nothing but your underwear (or birthday suit) to bed—you may end up cold at night even with a warm sleeping bag
11. It’s just plain boring
If you’re used to spending your free time indulging in a lot of exciting hobbies and activities, camping may seem like a snooze fest. This may be especially the case if you’re camping in an area without cell service or WiFi if you’re used to being connected to the digital world at all times.
What are you supposed to do all day when you’re out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but nature around you? Besides all the manual labour?
A rainy day can make things extra boring. Imagine being stuck in your tent or under a tarp shelter for hours with nothing to do.
- Pack a book or magazine to read in your down time
- Bring along some cards or other games to play with your fellow campers
- Pre-download movies/shows to your device that you can watch offline
- Compulsively snack or drink alcohol out of boredom—you’ll end up feeling sluggish or sick
- Use your phone constantly—you’ll drain the battery quickly and may not have a way to recharge it
Nap the day away—you won’t be able to sleep at night
12. It can be dangerous
Many people consider camping to be an easy, carefree way to have some fun. But the truth is that it’s more dangerous than most people realize.
You can injure yourself with your gear, while processing wood, when you’re around the fire, or while walking around in uneven terrain (especially with the wrong footwear). You can also mistakenly eat spoiled food, come into contact with poisonous plants, or find yourself staring at a bear only a few feet away from your campsite.
Camping injuries tend to happen when you least expect it—and your risk is higher if you’re fatigued, frustrated, or not paying attention.
- Bring a first aid kit with a variety of bandages, gauze, disinfectant wipes, ointments, medications, etc.
- Know your limits when it comes to your experience level and physical capabilities
- Focus on one task at a time and be patient with yourself
- Push yourself too hard—take breaks when you need to, even if it means your camp setup takes a bit longer
- Take unnecessary risks—think through each task before you do it and consider the potential consequences
- Let your ego get in the way—admitting that you can’t figure something out or physically push through is not a sign of weakness
From “I hate camping” to “I can handle this”
If there’s one final tip I could offer, it would be this: Remind yourself that this is only temporary.
I tell this to myself all the time on my trips even though I don’t hate camping. To be honest, there are times when it seems like do hate it.
Things can be tough even for the most experienced campers. But that doesn’t have to ruin the whole trip—and it certainly doesn’t mean that trying to get through it isn’t worth it.
Even if you still hate camping by the end of it all, you’ll at least be able to say that you challenged yourself to get out of your comfort zone and survived it. And that’s something to be proud of.
You may not do it ever again, but at least you’ll be able to acknowledge that you’re a lot stronger than you might think—and you can handle a lot more than you ever gave yourself credit for.
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).