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Typical camping mistakes – and how to do it better

Every camper, no matter how old, had their first trip in a camper or caravan. And at the very beginning we all made mistakes that we shake our heads about today. Especially if we see them in others now. But don’t worry, even camping-experienced people like me still have a lot of mishaps. Here is my list of typical camping mistakes and how you can avoid them:

Take too much luggage

It’s not just a woman thing that too much luggage is taken with you. But this summer, too, I realized that I could have easily got by with half. Think minimalist when packing, because this saves space, weight and nerves. And also consider: Almost everywhere in the world – and especially in Europe – there are ways to wash clothes or buy forgotten equipment on the go!

My tips:

  • Choose your clothes so that you can combine them as well as possible. A few simple basics (T-shirts, sweatshirts, tops), jeans and hooded jackets definitely belong on board, functional clothing such as rain or wind jackets and hiking shoes and a set of underwear per day for vacations of up to 10 days (for longer journeys with about 10 sets that you simply wash in between).
    Just have a look at our camping packing list and decide which clothes and equipment you really need.
  • As a rule, basic equipment is sufficient for one or two different sized pots and pans, grill tongs and spatulas. In addition, one or two sets of cutlery and crockery as well as two cups and glasses belong to the luggage per person.
  • If you don’t want to travel through the remotest pampas for months, I advise you not to over-equip yourself with tools and accessories. Basic equipment is definitely important, but the grinder, hammer drill and a third 11 kg gas bottle are surely unnecessary for most of us when traveling.

Forget bedding

Despite all my plea to slim down on luggage: there is hardly a bigger “I’m an idiot moment” than when you suddenly arrive at the campsite and realize that you forgot your bedding at home. Especially if you go on tour in winter or have chosen a travel destination like Norway.

Then there is the first stress before the vacation really begins. I always have two sleeping bags on board for emergencies, but honestly, under your freshly made blanket and with the perfect pillow, it sleeps 1,000 times better.

My advice:

  • It is best to put blankets, sheets and Co. out at the very beginning – preferably somewhere where you cannot miss them – and then put them on top of the stack of things that you take home with you.

Distribute and secure the load correctly

The be-all and end-all before you set off is of course proper loading and securing.

It is actually quite logical: heavy things like awning, tools, food supplies, drinks or cleaning agents always come down and distributed as evenly as possible, ideally around the axis (s). You can put your laptop, camera, cooking equipment or books in drawers or cupboards. Light items such as clothes, camping dishes or bed linen can be stored in the upper storage compartments. Bulky but not too heavy parts can be transported on the roof or in a box.

Now it is time to secure the load: Make sure that heavy objects inside the vehicle as well as bicycles, surfboards or kayaks are securely attached to the rear carrier or on the roof.

My advice:

  • In addition to the safeguards that are on most carriers, you can (and should) lash your load with a strap – then nothing can go wrong!

Do not be prepared for public sanitary facilities

You probably know that: public showers and no flip flops. Ouch! Even if you rarely get something from it, the thought is almost as disgusting in some places as sitting on a dirty station toilet. In this case, I always have an extra pair of flip-flops in the camper that I never unpack.

What should also be included in the equipment is a toilet bag to hang up (also important for your own camping pool), also sufficient toilet paper (yes, this will not be available in all places in 2017!) And of course soap and a toothbrush including toothpaste.

My advice:

  • Put together a small “set” of flip-flops, toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and soap in a bag that you always have at hand. Then you don’t have to hurry across the square with a waving toilet paper flag if it’s urgent… 🙂

Flop from the ramps

Sometimes you quickly forget what needs to be done last. The children are buckled up, everything is locked, loads secured, awnings retracted. There was still something … PLUMPS!

This is the moment when you realize that you are still standing on ramps. In the worst case, they have now drilled into your wheel arch.

My advice:

  • Use a checklist or a small post-it in the cockpit.

Pack things in the wrong order

“Darling, I can’t find the camping chairs!” – “But they are there!” Of course they are, but probably at the bottom. Still under the snow chains and the thermal jacket, which you packed as a precaution for your summer vacation in Spain. Or at the end you will notice that you have unfortunately stowed the crank for the caravan supports at the back under the bed and can unpack the awning, grill and tools to finally be able to drive off.

Not only do we pack too much, we usually pack it in the wrong order. How many times have I had to clear out the complete – felt 1 million liter – garage in the motor home in order to get things that should actually be on the top.

My tips:

  • Before doing so, think carefully about which “work processes” are involved when packing and unpacking your vehicle and in what logical order. Take notes or use a checklist for them.
  • Try to keep the most frequently used things in a place so that they are at hand – either at the front in the rear garage or in your own storage compartment.

Do not lock compartments or doors properly

Before we start a trip with our motorhome, I always go through the “cabin” like a stewardess and close all “upper luggage compartments” properly with the click. Because nothing is more stupid than when your dishes suddenly fly towards you on a mogul slope. The same also applies to the refrigerator – more than once I had to gather food from the living area and my colleagues Nele and Jalil were once allowed to wipe milk and cream out of the cracks. Not a nice surprise if you arrive exhausted after a long drive at the parking space …

My advice:

  • Take a final look into the interior just before departure and make sure that not one of your children (or the husband) quickly popped a piece of sausage out of the fridge at the last second and in a hurry forgot to lock it.

Leave the cooker cover open

If the “stewardess” mentioned above has not done her job properly, it will really bang at the latest at the first corner or braking. The hotplate succumbs to gravity and, with a bit of bad luck, knocks over the kettle (which of course is never empty). Stupid situation while driving that can quickly lead to inattentiveness and stupid accidents. Not to mention the damage to the cover. Therefore please always close the sink and stove nicely.

My tips:

  • Make sure the stove is cold when you close the cover – otherwise the glass may crack.
  • Include the cooker in the last visual inspection above before departure.

Do not close roof hatches and windows

The classic! I see it again and again, especially with me 😉 Most of the windows that I can control in the rear-view mirrors are closed. But woe to the roof window or the alcove window were open. This can be quite uncomfortable, for example if you drive under or close to a tree. At a faster pace, e.g. In the worst case, a roof hatch on the highway can also be torn down and damage other cars.

My advice:

  • The hatches and windows not only have to be closed, they also have to be locked properly, otherwise they can easily become independent due to the wind!

Forget the step

Regardless of whether you enjoy the luxury of an electric step or use one of these small, portable “staircases”: Before you start, you must remember to retract or collect them! If only the plastic level remains on the campsite, it is certainly a pain to bear. On the other hand, it gets really expensive if you start with the extended electric version – because it likes to get stuck on curbs and other obstacles. In the worst case, you can even hurt someone.

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Drive off with the caravan handbrake on

As with any normal car, driving with the handbrake on is very difficult. In addition, there is an immensely high fuel consumption. I admit that with the caravan you like to forget it.

My advice:

  • Use our checklist “Before departure” or put a note in the cockpit – you are on the safe side!

Do not empty the water tank (attention: overload)

If you like to be free, that’s a thing with the water supply. People like to fill up their tanks at home to get quite far. But honestly, you are not doing yourself a favor. First, your vehicle is 80 to 100 kilograms heavier and may not be able to climb every mountain that easily. Secondly, you are often above the permissible total weight. And that can not only be really expensive (especially in our neighboring countries), but also dangerous – and if you get “caught”, you can only continue after you have reduced the weight.

My tips:

  • Only fill the tank with as much water as you need for the basic supply upon arrival (5 to 10 liters per person should be more than sufficient here).
  • Most pitches (and campsites anyway) have so-called “water tapping points” and you can also see them more and more frequently at rest areas or in cities. In the relevant camping guides and apps you will find information on where to find such supply and disposal options.
  • Caravan drivers can add an additional water reserve, e.g. in a handy 10 liter canister, pack into the towing vehicle.

Do not dispose of the toilet before departure

If you have the option of emptying your chemical toilet before continuing, do it! Nothing is more disgusting than the smell of faeces while driving. In some curves or on steep mountains, the soup sloshes back and forth and spreads truly unpleasant smells.

Should you then forget to lock the slider, it will be very special … well, let’s leave it at that. You can imagine what will happen in this case!

My advice:

  • It is sometimes a bit tricky to find a suitable disposal station, especially for larger motorhomes with a permanently installed holding tank. So take every opportunity to get rid of the wastewater!

Do not close or lock drains

Again on the subject of smell: Before you start your trip, you should put a plug on the drain. Because as soon as the vehicle is in motion, the water sloshes out of the siphons, so that the stink penetrates from the waste water tank into the interior. Not very pleasant.

In addition, please make sure that you also close the latches of the gray and especially the black water tank after disposal. Otherwise the next fellow campers will be happy about delicious “puddles” on your parking space.

Come late and let the engine run

I admit I haven’t seen it often, but once was enough. Here is a brief history: On a parking space in France, it was just 11 p.m. and we were still playing cards in front of the camper. Suddenly another camper came and stood on the pitch next to us. His wife had had him correct an eternity over and over and we sat in the exhaust pipe. So far so good. Now he got out and the engine was still running.

He then calmly searched for the power box and his power cable and muddled around for a while. The engine kept running. Other parking lot residents were already approaching to see what was going on. I then went to him and asked when he would finally turn off his engine. He was completely confused why something like that should bother. When he finally did, the whole place applauded. By the way, the same game in the morning.

I don’t think there are many such ruthless campers, but sometimes something like that may just happen out of thoughtlessness. So if you drive to a parking space late, be as calm as possible. Your neighbors will thank you.

Bounce the colliery

Not a “mistake” in the classic sense, but a behavior that you unfortunately often see on motorhome parking spaces: brawling. The strategy of these nice campers: arrive very late and leave very early so that you can save yourself the 8 or 10 euro parking space fee. The best thing to do, however, is to quickly dispose of and dispose of so that the full package can be picked up.

I have observed this myself (too) often. Basically it’s none of my business, I just don’t think it’s fair to the course operators – and you don’t exactly collect karma points with such behavior.

My advice:

  • Always take your ticket immediately upon arrival, then you cannot forget it – and there is no suspicion that you belong to the group of phantom campers 🙂

Parking wrong way

Almost every parking space has at least one that is outside the norm. There is basically nothing to be said against this. But often the space is very cramped, so that it is already difficult to get a small terrace with the awning. If someone comes up who turns around and has his awning on the side of your awning, the already pathetic rest of the privacy is gone.

My advice:

  • Before parking, take a quick look in which direction the other campers are facing – and, for once, don’t dance out of line! 🙂 This contributes significantly to neighborly harmony …

Greetings from other campers

Campers are friendly people and they like to show it off the pitch. In other European countries it is not so common to greet oncoming motorhome drivers, in Germany, however, many still stick to this nice tradition.

It is not a real beginner’s mistake – even experienced campers often no longer greet back, because of course there are now a different number of motorhomes on the road than ten years ago. But it really puts you in a good mood when a friendly smiling motorhome waves back at you. Try it! And if nothing comes back, not bad. Maybe next time.


Do not retract the awning in time

This mistake actually only happens to you once in your life: In the evening you sit comfortably by candlelight under your awning, then you go to bed and at night you are woken rudely because the awning was carried away by the storm, collapsed due to heavy rain or just fluttering violently. Sometimes the weather turns so fast that you can’t predict it.

My tips:

  • Always align the awning at a slight angle (even if it may look a little “strange”) – this allows the rainwater to drain and does not press the full weight of the tarpaulin.
  • If you want to go on a longer trip or spend a quiet night, it is always better to retract the awning beforehand.
  • Alternatively, you can buy storm straps for tensioning, they can also withstand somewhat stronger gusts of wind. However, you should not rely on it when there is a storm warning!

Use fresh water hose for the toilet

There are usually (hopefully!) Always two taps or hoses on the camping site or pitch: one that you can use to fill up your water tank, another for the chemical toilet. Please NEVER use the fresh water hose for your toilet or vice versa!

If used incorrectly, the hoses will immediately become contaminated with germs and you or your fellow campers can become seriously ill.

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