Mom Goes Camping

Things You Should Never Bring Camping or Backpacking

There are lots of lists of what to bring when you go camping or backpacking, but what about the things you should not bring with you?  After encountering a lot of campers with some ridiculous items, I thought it was time to write this list.


If you want to bring your phone camping in case of an emergency, then fine.  But leave it TURNED OFF.  And definitely do NOT bring your laptop, tablet, Gameboy (or whatever kids play these days), TV (yes, I’ve heard of people bringing TVs camping!)…

The entire point of camping is to get away.  You can’t do that if you are plugged in.  Really, your TV shows can wait until you get back.  You don’t need to keep up on the news while away (is knowing the news really going to change anything?).  And you certainly don’t need to stress yourself by checking your email!

Even some “innocent” electronics – like a music player – is a bad idea.  How are you going to hear the music of the crickets, owls, and frogs when you’ve got the radio blasting?  Just enjoy the peace and quiet, or sing campfire songs if you feel like music.

solar powered camping fan

It’s cool, but do you really need a solar-powered fan when camping???


An Ax

When my daughter and I were backpacking in the mountains of Kosovo last year, some young boys hiked up and camped near us for a few days.  They had TONS of gear with them, including an ax.  For some reason, they thought that they needed an ax to get firewood.  Here’s the problem with that theory.

1) If you are using an ax to cut wood off of trees, then you are destroying nature.  Just go for a walk and pick up branches you find on the ground!  There is plenty and it requires no chopping.

2) Wood that you cut off of trees is still alive.  It sucks as firewood because it is still moist inside.

I do admit to having fun with their ax though. I borrowed it and taught Isabel how to use it by chopping up a big log on the ground.

my daughter chopping wood while camping


Lots of Toys

I let my daughter bring one or two small stuffed animals when we go backpacking, a notebook, and some markers.  On our last trip, we also brought a deck of cards (which was great for helping her learn her numbers).   Anything beyond this is probably too much toys.

Trust me, your kids WILL find something to play with in nature.  My daughter’s favorite thing to play with are sticks (making forts is fun), the Ace bandage from our first aid kit (she have fun pretending I hurt myself and wrapping up my ankle), and the rope (which she uses to make pretend fishing poles and other games she invents).

If you bring a bunch of toys camping, then your kids are going to be too distracted by the toys to actually enjoy nature!  Oh, and as an added benefit, your kids will play with their at-home toys more after having a break from them.

kids playing with sticks while camping

Trust me, the kids won’t get bored while camping!


Perfumes and Deodorants

You don’t like the idea of being all stinky while camping?  Then use some water to give yourself an “army shower.”  Don’t try to mask the stink by spraying on perfumes or deodorants.  First off, it is unnecessary because camping stink isn’t the same as everyday stink.  When you are in nature and outside all day, you don’t get the gross funky smell that comes from sitting around and exposing yourself to car exhaust.  And there is a practical reason not to bring scented items camping: bugs like the smell.  Do you really want mosquitoes and bees chasing you all around?


All Those Extra Toiletries

I bring a mini bottle of dish soap camping, and also a mini bottle of body wash/shampoo.  There is no reason that I need to bring 7 types of soap (hands, body, hair, face…), creams and conditioners.  Speaking of which, you should really make sure to bring biodegradable soap when camping so you don’t get chemicals into the water sources.


Glass or Ceramic Items

If you are backpacking, then it should be obvious why you don’t want heavy, breakable items in your pack.  But I’ve seen some campers who bring their favorite ceramic coffee mugs and glass bowls for eating.  They might not get broken, but I really don’t want to worry about whether my daughter knocks over the table and smashes everything to pieces, thus meaning we can’t walk barefoot around the campsite anymore out of fear of stepping on fragments of broken glass.



Give yourself a break from worrying about appearance.  Sure, you probably look funny with your hair sticking out in every direction, and you might have dirt streaked on your face.  Who cares!  You’ll get a laugh over it when you look at your photos from the trip later. 🙂


Anything that You Can’t – Or Don’t Want – to Carry Out

At official campsites, they have trashcans for your waste.  When backpacking or wild camping, this isn’t usually the case.  Anything that you carry in, you’ve got to carry out.  The only exception is toilet paper, which gets buried in hole you dig before doing your business.   Paper products can also be burned in your campfire.

Think that this when you are packing.  A can of soup might seem like a good thing to pack, until you realize you will have to carry pit a dirty soup can.  Paper packaging (which can be burned) is a much better option.

Do you bring any luxuries while camping?

Image credits:
Feliz dia del trabajador” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by  Miradortigre
Cool but unnecessary camp luxury” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  Beige Alert 

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About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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