4 Camping Horror Stories and Why I’m Almost Ready To Pack It in

I admire people who know how to camp and actually love it. I really do. They’re not unlike those whose VCRs and coffee pots never flash 12:00.

How do they do it? What is their secret?

Obviously, I’m a bit challenged in both these areas–especially camping. And it’s a shame because I truly love nature.

The handful of times I’ve tried it, it hasn’t gone well. In fact, I was ready to run to the nearest hotel (once, as you’ll see, I did.) And now, after trying several times over many years, I’m wondering–is it time to “pack it in” and give up? Or shall I try it one more time?

After reading my horror stories, let me know what you think. Is it me? Or is it camping itself? :)

1. The Pup Tent Icebox

Where: Somewhere near the Grand Canyon, Arizona

My brother and I were sure this would be great–although we were somewhat concerned that it was late April and might be cold. But my brother was a Boy Scout leader, and so, I thought that granted us some sort of immunity from harsh weather conditions and other hassles. I assumed that we’d be ‘just fine.’

PS: We had camping mats to cushion our bodies from the rough ground.

Small But Perfectly Formed

What Went Wrong

A few things. Well, almost everything. First of all, I didn’t realize how small a “pup tent” is. Yikes. A baby rabbit would feel claustrophobic in one, I think. Second of all, it was cold. Really cold. Like 20-something degrees. Fahrenheit. And despite the mini padding we had, I still felt the ground beneath me. Ouch.

We slept in one remote area that I’ll admit was lovely, especially in the morning. The coffee we drank and the oatmeal we ate were simply divine. The views: breathtaking. As for showers, etc, well–there weren’t any.

Another night, we slept in a KOA campsite had various conveniences, which I liked, but there were too many people. Is there no happy medium? Or is there–a cabin?

2. Rain Falling + Dog Barking = Tent from Hell

Where: Sussex County, NJ

My dad and sister and I attempted camping in Sussex County, NJ. We had all the right gear and were ready to go for it. We settled into our tents and attempted to sleep. Everything seemed OK until…

Barking at Mouille Point

What Went Wrong

…the rain began to fall and although we had a tarp of some sort, the sound of the rain hitting its surface was annoying. So was the dog’s barking. (Yes, we had a dog with us. Lame, I know.) Anyway, we ended up fleeing to a local motel. We were all happy–the dog included.

3. Skeleton in a Meat Locker

Where: Machu Picchu, Peru

Because there were porters carrying the gear (and setting it up), I thought this would be ideal. Also, I had some nice Alpaca gloves, a hat and a scarf. I was ready for cold weather, which was exactly what I got on the third (?) night of hiking the Inca Trail. The altitude was really high.


What went wrong

I felt the sticks and stones underneath my sleeping bag and mat. And it was cold. Really cold. My teeth were chattering and I felt like my bones were rattling. Like a skeleton trying to get warm in a meat locker. Not fun. Hard to sleep.

Another camping experience gone bad… :(

4. The Plastic Coffin Torture Chamber

Where: San Blas, Panama

This would seem like the place where it would be OK, right? A tropical climate, sand, turquoise water and the lovely sound of the surf. Also, someone else set up the tents AND there were air mattresses. Sounds like paradise, right?

Me, thinking, "Am I really camping on a tropical island?" (Notice the tent in the background.)

What went wrong

It was paradise–during the day. At night, though, it was a different world. Sure there was a lovely full moon, but there were thousands of skittling red crabs outside the tent and some unexpected rain that came inside. Once the tarp was up, it was OK. That was night 1, however.

The second night, I put up the tarp too soon (and safety-pinned it to the tent) and the sound of the wind coming through was the MOST ANNOYING SOUND EVER. Think–hundreds of garbage bags being slammed onto a plastic coffin-torture chamber. (To read the complete story, click here.) Eventually, I had to remove it and the put it back on when the rain came.

At least I was warm, right?

What Do You Think?

Am I just not meant to camp? Should I just stick to cabins? Have I been unlucky? Have I not chosen well–meaning, location, gear, etc.? Is it time for me to pack it in? Or shall I give it one more time under ideal weather and sleep conditions? Is there such a thing?

Are you a camper? What advice do you have for someone like myself? Where have I gone wrong? Should I just stick to cabins? Or will I miss out on something special?

Not a camper? Why not? Do you feel the stones underneath you? Do you long for a bed? Do you feel cold (or hot) or uncomfortable no matter what? Have you had experiences like mine? If so, please share! :)

24 Responses to 4 Camping Horror Stories and Why I’m Almost Ready To Pack It in
  1. Monica
    November 14, 2011 | 5:45 am

    Itnlooks like you gave camping a pretty good shot! When I don’t like something I give up pretty much straight away so good effort :) camping in machu pichu sounds amazin but I agree that camping on a beach is never quite as fun as you’d think! Sand EVERYHWHERE!
    Monica recently posted..Can Studying Journalism Help Travel Bloggers?My Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 14, 2011 | 7:53 am

      Hi, Monica. True re: that darn sand. It can really get in the way. I do think that the San Blas trip had potential. If only we’d had the right tarps. :( As for the others, I suppose each had its unique set of issues. Maybe I’ll try it one more time, then give up!

  2. Josh Aggars
    November 14, 2011 | 6:12 am

    Ah Chicky, sounds like you’ve not had the best of times just yet. Try some of these:

    1. Get a dome tent. Can be put up and taken down in 5 to 10 minutes tops.
    2. Get a blow up matress. The older I get the more I feel this is a necessity. If you’re camping near your car you can attach the pump to your cigaratte lighter or just take a footpump if out in the sticks. Either way a must have now I’m 30+ (I used to think it was cheating but it’s not – FACT).
    3. Get a really good thermal sleeping bag with hood (always gotta keep the head warm in cold climates).
    4. Take thermal socks and hat (gotta keep the extremes warm – the second you get cold to the bone you’re facing a losing battle).
    5. Take wax ear plugs. Mould them into your ear and no dog will keep you awake. If the barking is still getting through take your trusted bottle of scotch out and glug it back and you’ll be passed out (and warm) in seconds.
    Josh Aggars recently posted..London Fact of the Week Thursday True or False?My Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 14, 2011 | 7:55 am

      Hi, Josh. Yeah, the chicky has suffered a bit when camping. :(

      I do think that they air mattress is a necessity. That did make San Blas a bit easier. The problem is if you’re traveling low-budget and can’t carry things like that. Perhaps they can be rented, but they’re not always available.

      Yes to the earplugs and YES to the booze. Maybe that combo is the key? :)

  3. Kelsey
    November 14, 2011 | 11:47 am

    As a reenactor who thinks that misery is fun, I am a bit biased, but I tolerate discomfort much less when “modern” camping than when I’m reenacting. I do think that some people are just not going to be a fan of camping, much the way that some people are just not fans of beaches. It’s entirely possible that you’re such a person, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    However, there are some things you can do that will (probably) make your camping a bit more pleasant:

    1. Get a good, warm sleeping bag. This makes all the difference in the world.

    2. Get a dome tent that is easy to set up. If it can’t be set up in 5 minutes or less, you don’t want it.

    3. Get one of those sleeping pads that is actually a thin air mattress. They pack up small and provide quite a bit of comfort compared to the usual foam kind.

    • CB Driver
      November 14, 2011 | 10:19 pm

      Kelsey–Thanks for joining the chat. I think you’re right; not everyone is going to like camping. And I may be one of them! Or I just haven’t done it quite right and got a bit unlucky. The dome tent sounds ideal and I had no idea that there were thin air mattresses. Perhaps what I was wasn’t the best quality. Anyway, I will keep it in mind if I try it again.

      PS: Sleeping in the desert on the sand was much better/easier for me, strangely enough.

  4. Rachel
    November 14, 2011 | 11:58 am

    Hi Chickybus! I’m not a big fan of camping either. Last time I went, it was to join my cousins (country boys) in the mountains in Canada – proper wild camping. I needed the bathroom in the middle of the night and made one of my cousins come with me because I was afraid of bears! He wasn’t best pleased…
    Rachel recently posted..Who to have sex with on your career breakMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 16, 2011 | 10:22 am

      Hi, Rachel. Thanks for stopping by! Proper wild camping? I shudder at the thought. Bears? I would have been scared and would have asked someone to come with me, too! Twice over the past couple of years, I’ve come across bears while mountain biking in Northern NJ. Both times, I freaked a bit. Since I’d never seen them before, they were a tiny bit shocking. Anyway, as you can imagine, I got a great workout. I pedaled hard and fast!

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    November 14, 2011 | 12:31 pm

    I only like camping when someone else plans and prepares everything, and nothing goes wrong :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Buena Birra in Buenos AiresMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 14, 2011 | 10:19 pm

      So, Stephanie, it sounds like we’re on the same page–LOL. Have you ever camped and had nothing go wrong? Lucky you. Where was that? Perhaps I need to go there.

  6. Erik
    November 14, 2011 | 6:53 pm

    No doubt on two points-
    A lot can go wrong camping, and camping isn’t for everyone.

    I still enjoy it, just not for long periods of time. I usually do it in expensive places- like I just did in Yosemite. It was $20 a night and the cheapest lodging was well over $100 a night.

    I usually take earplugs hoping to drown out any ambient noise, especially roads nearby, and with so many campgrounds in the US near interstates, this is essential.
    Erik recently posted..Photo of the Day- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, FloridaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 14, 2011 | 10:22 pm

      Hi, Erik. Yes to those two points!

      Smart of you to camp when the other options were too expensive. Makes sense. As for the earplugs, definitely. Are campgrounds really sometimes near major highways? I had no idea. I think I’d have a hard time with that. Not just the noise but the vibration. That can also keep you up. Hmmm.

  7. Aley Martin
    November 15, 2011 | 3:50 am

    Hey Chicky!!!

    Camping can be divine, but not when you have to pee in the cold night! My worst nightmare was a trip with the scouts in which I had no bag, just an itchy army blanket held together with diaper pins. Circa 1965, age 10. In the night I had to pee but was shivering so bad, I did not want to get up to do so. By the time I did, I not only froze whilst doing so in the outdoor air, but ended up peeing on my clothes and had to sleep in them the rest of the night! I decided that tenting was not to be my best adventure and stick now to RV’s. Seems to be a better combo!


    • CB Driver
      November 15, 2011 | 4:36 am

      Hey, fellow chicky! :) What a story and one that I can relate to even though I didn’t live it. I can feel that blanket plus the urge to go and imagine it all. That sounds horrible and I get why you turned to the RV experience. I think I’m a cabin person myself (and perhaps I should try an RV sometime) and don’t know if camping will ever come together for me. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK.

      Thanks for sharing! xo

  8. Gray
    November 15, 2011 | 4:15 pm

    I think you have given camping plenty of opportunities to win you over with its charm, and it has just come up short. It’s not for everyone. I personally despise camping. I did it when I was growing up, and that was enough to last me a lifetime. I just don’t like “roughing it”.
    Gray recently posted..Cruising to Bermuda Solo: The Journey and the DestinationMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 15, 2011 | 8:38 pm

      Gray–So are you saying that camping hasn’t quite won me over? :) I think you’re right. I may give it one more shot, but…conditions will have to be ideal. I had no idea you were a camper at one time. If I ever come up to VT, can we camp? Just kidding!

  9. Shane
    November 15, 2011 | 11:54 pm

    My first trip abroad when I was ten involved camping. For me it was fine but my brother’s tent fell down. A lot. In the rain.

    He and his friend also seemed to be camped in the path of a huge frog migration so they spent the night battling hundreds of the things in the rain while I was nice and toasty in my sleeping bag.

    For this reason alone, whatever else camping throws my way, the activity will always enjoy some reserves of goodwill from me.

    • CB Driver
      November 16, 2011 | 7:07 am

      Shane–That is wild. I think I would lose my mind dealing with frogs in the rain. I would pack it in and check myself in–LOL! You did fine, though. Funny. I guess everyone’s experience is different and although most of it involves having the right gear and being in a climate that you can handle on suitable terrain, there is a little bit of luck mixed in there, too.

  10. Kerry
    November 16, 2011 | 12:28 pm

    Mmm, we knew we were up for a bad experience when it started raining and I went to the camp ground owner and said “Wow rain’s coming down hard”. Her response was “It’s not that, it’s that it’s relentless”.

    4 days later, after having dug trenches around our site, finding out 2 people had left in the middle of the night because they didn’t want to admit they couldn’t cut it, and finally giving into tears from sleeping in a wet tent for 4 days, I finally admitted that next time I am doing cabins!

    • CB Driver
      November 16, 2011 | 2:30 pm

      Hi, Kerry. That sounds awful–worse than my experiences. I give you credit for hanging in there, though. Cabins are wonderful, aren’t they? :)

      • Kerry
        November 16, 2011 | 2:38 pm

        Definitely, unless you’re going somewhere with guaranteed sunshine or killer camping supplies – then no problem :)

        I have seen people in Europe set themselves up with inflatable seats and full lounge/dining areas in king size tents! They are the ones to camp next to though (when disorganised) because they have EVERYTHING!

        • CB Driver
          November 16, 2011 | 3:10 pm

          Ha, ha–yeah, really. Can we throw in insect-free, too? Great tip re: the Euro campers! :)

          • Kerry
            November 16, 2011 | 4:46 pm

            Yeah, that insect comment reminded me of another horror story but I won’t go there!

          • CB Driver
            November 16, 2011 | 10:07 pm

            Insects? I’m curious now! :)

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