7 Mistakes Tent Campers Can Avoid

Today, we’re going to talk about seven mistakes that people make when they take a tent out into the backcountry (and how to avoid them). We get it, no one is perfect, and often times we learn the best way from the mistakes we make. However, in this case, we would like to save you a couple of headaches (seven to be exact) and share with you the 7 most common tent camping mistakes and how you can avoid them.

7 Mistakes Tent Campers Make

Here’s the deal, even the best of outdoorsy types need a little reminder here and there. If you’re new to camping or a seasoned vet, check out these 7 Mistakes Tent Campers Make and tips on how to avoid them.

Pitch Your Tent At Home

No, I don’t expect you to camp at home but it’s a good rule of thumb to get some experience setting it up in a familiar place. If you have got a new tent that you’re super excited about and you do not set it up before you head out into the backcountry, you have made the mistake. The reason for that is, is every tent kind of has its unique quirks and needs to be able to get the correct pitch, angles, and positions of the components. Particularly non-freestanding tents that use trekking poles and don’t have a free-standing type of system.

If you don’t have that dialed in before you go out on a trip, they can prolong the ability for you to get your campsites set up in a timely manner. Particularly if you have poor weather that is moving in, I would hate to have to set up a brand new tent in heavy rain or hefty winds. No Bueno, friends.

Getting comfortable with the size, shape and entry/exit points of your tent before you go camping will save you the hassle and stress if trying to sort all this out for the first time when your deep in the woods.

Check Your Surroundings

All too often when we select a campsite, we look straight ahead and/or down at the ground. While that’s a good start, we need to be looking up as well. Ever hear of the term “Widowmaker”? To be honest, I don’t know where the term originated from but it’s got a pretty straightforward name for a reason. If a large branch or large tree in bad condition gets a nice gust of wind or weather that strains the branches, you could be inviting an unwanted guest into your tent (and maybe into your head).

So, always look up, make sure that you’re not going to be putting yourself in danger with a Widowmaker, and pay attention to those kinds of things. On a side note, not all hazards come by way of treefall, you may just want to look up and ensure your tent isn’t underneath a birds nest to avoid droppings on your tent during your stay. More on backcountry safety can be found here.

Sweep The Floor

Nope, not the tent floor, the ground! It’s a good thing we have decided to look up and select a safe campsite. BUT, now I need you to look down. Oftentimes I see people just choosing a spot and setting up the tent, this creates an issue if you’re not careful. Tents do have a thicker tarp-style footprint, however, a tent can be easily damaged if the ground area selected has rocks, sticks, or other debris that can harm your tent (or your hips at 3am, you side sleeper).

Additionally, think about tent placement regarding the potential for wildlife and bugs. I recently went tent camping in Moab, UT and no sooner I stepped into the designated camping area, I noticed a large number of red ants at ALL of the campsites. Thanks to many years of tourists leaving food around and crumbs falling, the local ants have learned that food will always be around. Reason number #121928934 I like to camp in the dispersed backcountry and not established campgrounds, but that’s just me. So, check that ground out and pick a clear area or clear it yourself, your tent and your back will thank you.

Stake With A Purpose

Not staking the tent out properly, unfortunately, it’s an issue. A lot of times I see a free-standing tent or a non-free-standing tent being staked out kind of weird, and it makes it so that the design of the tent isn’t set up correctly. This goes back to even the first mistake, you need to figure out the configuration of your tent the correct way at home BEFORE heading out. By staking the tent in the incorrect locations, you going to put unnecessary stress on your tent and the components. If you’re unsure about the ground type you will have and what type of stakes will be right for that environment, check this guide out to Staking Tents in All Conditions.

Tent Guidelines Matter

Yes, guidelines are an important part of a tent and its design however, they are not designed to be pulled super tight. In many cases, a guideline is simply designed to aid in helping a tent stay put in high winds. But if you are pulling really hard on a guideline, you are potentially compromising the performance that that tent is capable of producing in extreme weather, so, don’t pull a guideline super tight. It is designed to be there to be an aid in the design of the tent and help with the weather elements, not a winch anchor to pull your rig. The tent guidelines are just not meant to be pulled super tight.

Often, if a tent guideline is pulled too tight, it can damage the stitching point of where it connects to your tent and then your in a position where you need to repair your tent. If you dont know where to start with repairing a tent yourself, check out our guide here to DIY Tent Repair.

Ground Tarp Bikini Season

Number five is using the wrong size ground sheet. If you don’t have a ground sheet that is meant for your tent specifically, or that was made by the company that produces the tent, then you need to make sure that you’ve got the ground sheet cut a little bit smaller than the actual footprint of the tent itself.

This is a common misunderstanding too, I mean, we want it to stick out, right? Nope. If you are bringing that out beyond the size of the tent, then what you are doing is allowing rain to accumulate on top of the groundsheet ultimately running under the tent itself. So, you want to make sure that the groundsheet is a little bit smaller than the footprint of your tents, that you don’t have that kind of issue happening.

Keep It On The Porch

Your Boots, that is. I may call it a porch but it’s actually called a vestibule and its purpose is essentially that of a porch. It’s a means to keep your gear “out of the elements” (on the porch) all while not allowing you to drag dirty hiking boots and other dirty gear into your sleeping area. Personally, I keep the boots in the vestibule and my pack, only bringing in what I need and keeping the dirty stuff out.

If you’re concerned about the boots and gear not being in your tent with you, you can always bring a storage bin and place them in the storage bin and then bring the bin inside the tent with you. Some of you with big comfy camping setups will have a camp table, if you are in that crowd, you can always use the table as storage.


Well tent campers, thats it! nothing too fancy but these basics will safe you lots of headaches (see Looking Up). Hopefully you found this helpful and it makes you look a bit more “pro’ when you’re out at the campsite!

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