Camping fails and how to prevent them

Got a camping trip planned? Here's what not to do!

08 September 2021

At Girlguiding, we’re no stranger to outdoor adventures.

With lots of us going away on camping holidays this year, we asked our members to share some of their favourite camping fail stories, and they didn’t disappoint! We shared these stories with our friends at GO Outdoors, sponsors of the Camp Skills builder. They offered some advice on what to do if things go wrong, and what you can do to try and prevent disasters before they happen!

Lots of you had some interesting wildlife encounters:

‘Pitching a tent on an ants’ nest - we had no idea until the ants came crawling in… Not fun!’ Laura Vincent

‘My funniest experience is still waking up in the night as a mole was trying to come up underneath my pillow. My Dad didn’t believe me until we took the tent down to see the evidence of a mole hill!’ Jenny Sutherland

Finding the perfect pitch takes some practice. It’s always best to look out for clear, flat ground for a comfortable night’s sleep. A tip to help evade insects and pesky animals is to use a groundsheet. Groundsheets add another barrier between your tent and the floor, great for protecting your tent and keeping critters at bay!

Risk assessments are never fun, but these stories remind us why we do them!

‘One of my leaders was hammering into us the importance of entering our little campsite properly so that we didn’t trip over the guy lines and injure ourselves… She entered our campsite through the wrong bit and proceeded to trip over a guy line and broke her wrist. She went to A&E, got strapped up and came back to camp – we tied her to a camp chair so that she didn’t do it again!’ Hannah Stott

‘We were on a Guide camp in the 80s in a beautiful campsite with a stream and woods on the edge. We crossed the stream to gather wood for campfire. I held a dead branch while my patrol leader chopped it up with a little axe. Next minute the end of my little finger is dangling off! I faint and she screams for her mum who was our Guider. She comes running, falls crossing the stream and her glasses float away. Luckily she had a spare pair and after a trip to A&E for stitches and a giant bandage, we rang my mum from a phone box. She agreed that I could carry on with the camp. I still have a photo somewhere of my clinging onto a zip wire with one hand, waving my filthy giant bandage on the other – those were the days!’ Tracey Rebecca

We know camping is fun but camping safely is even better! Guy lines can be troublesome at the best of times, and even more of a nuisance when lots of tents are pitched in a small space. If you find yourself tripping over them, why not try glow in the dark tent pegs, or add a set of string lights around guy lines?

Accidents happen, and when they do it’s best to be prepared. It goes without saying that having a first aid kit to hand helps massively when injuries occur, so it’s best to keep multiple kits on camp. You may also find a lot of mishaps happen in the dark - a good torch or head torch helps to eliminate risk and illuminate any hazards.

If you camp in the UK, you have to be prepared for all weathers!

‘We were camping when Hurricane Charlie hit. Me and my pal were young leaders, and spent the night securing the girls’ Icelandics with the adult leaders. They were the only tents to survive. The ridge pole snapped on a similar style of tent, & the toilet tents were found three fields away.’ Susan Chilton

‘At one region camp when I was camping with another leader we heard a little voice one morning saying, “Are you two ok in there?”’ It turned out that the stream in the next door field had flooded and broken through the wall into our field. Our tent was literally floating in a massive puddle! But it was totally waterproof and we were warm and dry. When we got up it felt like we were walking on a water bed!’ Fiona Kemp

It can be tough to camp when bad weather strikes, but don’t let it put a dampener on things! After each camp it’s best to treat your tent with reproofing spray and a tent cleaner to keep them in tip-top condition. Whilst you’re on camp, sturdy groundhog and steel tent pegs are a good choice if you’re expecting turbulent weather. Should you face any disasters, tent repair kits can patch your equipment up until you get home.

And sometimes, everything goes wrong at once!

‘One division camp we got hit by a storm. At this campsite, we camp at the bottom of the hill. Some of the guides came running up to us saying “our tent is flooding”. We didn’t believe them as they were brand new tents but went to investigate and the whole of the bottom of the tent was under water. Cue us charging around emptying their things out and moving them into a little cabin we luckily had.

‘The girls from another tent were at the same time helping a leader cook chilli over an open fire which was becoming harder and harder to keep lit due to wind and rain even with our fire shelter. The leader cuts her finger and now I’m running around in the rain and wind getting the first aid kit whilst the girls are trying to keep the fire going when suddenly, we watch our craft shelter get ripped up from the ground and start blowing across the field. Cue a chase across the field. We manage to grab it and it’s like a parachute billowing up in the air and dragging guides and leader backwards as they pull it towards the cabin against the force of the wind.

‘We decide to abandon it and move into the hall at the top of the hill. Cue more charging around grabbing all the stuff from tents and fighting our way to the cabin to drop the things not urgently needed and then up a really steep hill to the lucky guide unit’s house who were having a lovely dry evening. Tents were brought down in the storm by the brave and everyone from the division slept in the hall together whilst their day clothes tumble-dried. Luckily the Guides found it hilarious and in true guiding spirit sang loudly whilst waiting for their hot chocolates. One we’ll never forget that’s for sure!’ Elizabeth Amy

Every leader knows that regardless of how much you plan, sometimes camping fails just can’t be avoided! There’s no better solution than putting on a smile and cracking on! The weather is only temporary, and camping fails are great stories to tell when you get home, so embrace them!

Need some new camping gear?

If your camping gear needs an upgrade, remember that all Girlguiding volunteers, parents and girls have access to an exclusive discount at GO Outdoors, Girlguiding’s recommended outdoor retailer. You can find more information on how to access the discount on our website.


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