It’s easy to talk about why camping is good for you, but what about why it’s bad?
Camping is bad for you because it’s dirty, stressful and can be uncomfortable. It’s easy to end up injured and you’re sure to sleep poorly. Let’s not even get started on the wild animals and potential for venomous bites!
There are plenty of reasons why you’re better off staying home or visiting a beautiful resort, or even an Airbnb or a hotel.
Why Is Camping Bad for You?
Let me start by saying, I love camping. I love being surrounded by nature, spending time in the sun or on the water, and I love campfires. Even though I’m about to list all of the bad things about camping, to me it’s worth to be able to experience being outside.
However, there are many people out there who aren’t like me.
We all have our reasons for why we might enjoy or despise certain kinds of activities, and there are certainly those who just can’t get into camping.
Whether you’re someone who dislikes camping and needs help explaining to others why or someone who wants to understand how anyone else might dislike camping, you’re in the right place.
Perhaps you’re trying to convince your parents why camping is a bad idea for a family vacation. Well, here’s an arsenal of reasons just for you.
Here are 18 reasons why camping can be an experience more likely to damage your health than help it.
1. It’s Dirty
There’s no escaping the dirt when you’re camping. It’s everywhere! Have you ever tried keeping dirt out of your tent or RV? It’s frankly impossible. If you can’t stand dealing with dirt, then camping may be uncomfortable.
If you have children or pets, then there’s really very little chance of keeping dirt at bay. That includes the immense task of keeping your children clean. If there’s sand involved, if you’re camping at a beach, then you will find sand in every cranny possible.
Those of us who love camping may not see this as a big deal, but it’s easy to see how some might prefer the comfort of a hotel room to time spent out in the wilderness.
I do a more full comparison of hotels vs. Airbnbs vs. camping including the cost perspective at my article here.
2. Camping Is Stressful
Space is limited. How do you make sure you have enough food to keep everyone happily fed for the entire trip? What can you do to make sure you pack enough in the way of bedding, clothes, and comfort to have as much comfort as possible without overloading your vehicle?
Between the planning and packing, there’s a lot of stress that can be generated by the prospect of a camping trip. Not to mention you have to take the time to get everything set up when you arrive. When you’re done, you have to take more time packing everything back into your vehicle and putting it back away when it comes home.
For those who don’t enjoy camping, it’s a whole lot of stress just to temporarily move somewhere they don’t enjoy.
If you are trying to overcome the stress, I’ve written an article with some key tips if you are wanting to get better at packing for camping to make it easier to get out the door.
3. Good Luck Sleeping Comfortably
No matter where you camp, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep. If you stay in a tent, you’re trapped on an uncomfortable air mattress that often stands a good chance of going flat by the time morning rolls around. To avoid that, you can try out a sleeping mat or cot but there’s a slim chance even those will compare to your bed at home.
Some can find more comfort staying in their own RV. At the very least, this offers you the ability to find a suitable bed before actually going on your trip. Otherwise, you can opt to stay in a cabin or yurt at campgrounds that allow them. Just keep in mind that dirt can still be a problem for both!
If you’re going to end up on a camping trip anyway, you can at least try to make it more comfortable. Take a look at our article on making car camping more comfortable to pick up some useful tips. We wrote another article about using a mattress topper to make your night better here.
4. The Weather Is Unreliable
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my camping experiences, it’s that you can plan a camping trip for the middle of summer in a desert and still experience a rainy, nasty thunderstorm.
Thunderstorms can not only be annoying, they can also be dangerous. Check out our article on staying safe in a thunderstorm to learn what you can do to keep yourself and your family safe if you end up camping in one.
For camping fans, unexpected storms can be a source of excitement. However, it can also be a bummer for those who just want to relax out in the sun without worry about rain or thunder.
You just never know when the weather might turn on you, causing you to have to call it a day early and be trapped in your tent until the weather clears. On top of that, it’s not always clear how the temperatures around you might fluctuate. You may just find that you packed for a hot desert getaway, only to find that you’re freezing throughout the night.
In fact, this just happened to me and my family a few days ago. We were camping in 90 degrees Fahrenheit weather, sleeping on top of our sleeping bags, when out of nowhere, at 4:30 AM, a cold front came in dropping the temperature into the 50s. We fortunately had some warm clothing–if we didn’t though, that would have been really miserable.
5. Two Words: Campfire Smoke
If you don’t enjoy the smell of a campfire, then the heat a fire may provide may be of little comfort when compared to the smoke that comes with it. Not only can it smell bad, but smoke can have a nasty habit of blowing in your face. It stinks, it stings, and you’ll have to keep moving around to avoid it.
Even when you’re not directly around the fire, you’re likely to find that the smell follows you everywhere. It gets into clothes, blankets, and towels. You may end up having to wash your things more than once just to get the scent out.
Many people bring objects from home to supplement their camping, such as pillows and blankets. A big bummer with a campfire is that if it’s close to your tent, all your bedding will smell like a campfire when you get home! I talk about some solutions to this here talking about pillows.
6. It Can Be Dangerous!
If you’re going camping, you can probably expect an injury to occur at some point. Naturally, the majority of these injuries are small things like cuts and scrapes, bruises, small sunburns, and other issues that don’t usually require the need of a doctor to heal.
However, worse injuries absolutely happen! If we take a look at statistics from 2004 and 2005, we can see that around 212,708 people had to be treated each year for injuries related to outdoor recreation. This information comes to us from the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.
On top of that, a great deal of these injuries can often occur while hiking. It’s all too easy to end up with a sprain out there!
To learn about the top ways in which camping is dangerous, take a look at our article on the subject here.
7. There Are So Many Bugs
Crawling bugs, flying bugs, jumping bugs, bugs that sting, and bugs that bite. If you’re going to be spending time out in nature, you’ve got to expect them to show up at some point. If you’re lucky, it may just be a few flies interested in the smell of your food.
On the other hand, the unlucky may end up with bites or stings that itch, hurt or worse. Bees, biting flies, fire ants and more are happy to roam freely anywhere they please. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re outside or in your tent, you can’t escape them!
Those who enjoy camping often see these insects as just part of the experience, but it’s understandable why they may keep others from wanting to spend too much time in the outdoors.
It’s just a fact that if you’re going to be outside, you’re going to face bugs. Part of camping is just accepting this, or doing your best to repel them. Slathering yourself with DEET isn’t desirable to everyone since it smells so strongly. However, there are some natural ways to repel them. I found over 30 natural ways to repel bugs that are less stinky (except the garlic) and I put them in an article here.
8. The Bathroom Situation Is Less Than Desirable
At best, you’re likely to have a public restroom setup while you’re camping. At worst, you may need to dig a hole in the ground.
There’s not a lot of privacy, nor a great deal of space to spend doing your hair or enjoying other self-care activities. Not to mention, you’re likely to find some bugs around the lights and on the counters as well. Wherever there are lights or food, the bugs will follow.
I’ve camped at many a campground where they had bathroom facilities, and while it is better than digging a hole, it’s really unnerving to have bugs flying around you, brushing against your leg hairs, as you use the facilities.
Unlucky situations mean trying to find a private enough location in the woods to do your business. You’ll have to pack along hand sanitizer for the most basic of hand-cleaning after the fact. Humankind has come a long way since bathroom habits were conducted like this out of necessity, and it makes complete sense that you might not want to go back!
9. Burns Are Abundant
There are so many ways to end up with an uncomfortable burn while camping. Often, it comes in the form of a sunburn. Sunburns can make it harder to move, sleep or enjoy any part of the camping experience. On top of that, they increase the risk of skin cancer.
Even if the sun isn’t a problem where you’re camping, burns can also come from the campfire or cooking tools. Grills and camping stoves are prime places for unexpected levels of heat to take place. Even if you’re extremely careful, you can easily end up with burnt hands or fingers by accident.
10. You Either Get No Shower Or A Poor One
Showers can be even more difficult to deal with than bathrooms. They’re also something we can often take for granted. When you can take a shower on a daily basis, you may not think about just how nice it is to get a good clean.
However, you’re sure to feel it if you end up in a campground with limited access to showers. While many campgrounds may have shower facilities, they are typically not the most private. In some cases, there may just be a curtain between you and other campers, and you’re lucky if you get that!
If you aren’t staying in a campground, then you may not have access to a shower at all. Dry shampoo can only do so much, and it’s often difficult to get a complete clean without that relaxing stream of hot water.
Because of the difficulties of showering, we put together a very useful guide to finding a shower while camping here. There are lots of options, but they will require a bit more creativity and tolerance.
11. Campground Neighbors
Those of us who have been camping a few times are more than familiar with those campground neighbors. The ones who decide that every night is a drunken party, who choose to ignore the campground quiet hours, or who decide that midnight is the perfect time to share their campfire singing with everyone nearby.
Just imagine being kept awake all night by that one particular kind of neighbor, then experiencing a different kind of camping neighbor in the early morning hours. From time to time, those who decide to watch the sunset or head out for some time on the water may not be the quietest while doing it.
These neighbors may not be as loud as the late-night party fans, but they can really become a frustration when you’re already sleeping poorly.
We’ve had a couple frustrating experiences ourselves. One in which our camping neighbor insisted on blaring music all the way till 10 PM, when I walked over and asked them to turn it off. To their credit, they did, but it definitely detracted from the peace of the nature for me. That same night, a horde of scouts rolled in after 10 PM and set up their tents in the dark right next to our campsite.
The only thing you can do in some of these situations is to bring earplugs. Earplugs = happiness
12. Camping With Children Is A Disaster
Not only can children be more prone to injuries, they can also be more difficult to keep entertained while camping. Most of the time, you can’t just put on Sesame Street and trust them to relax happily. You have to find things for them to do all of the hours they aren’t sleeping.
On top of that, you have to make sure they are eating and sleeping well. If you think you are having a difficult time with minimal, uncomfortable sleep then just imagine having a small child who hasn’t been sleeping well either.
Dirt, snot, and crying are likely to become a common theme while camping.
Another perspective would say that the discomfort of camping is invaluable to building character. To that, as Calvin would say from Calvin and Hobbes: “Yeah, and last year you said diarrhea builds character.” It all depends on perspective I suppose.
13. Let’s Talk About Wild Animals
The wilderness is home to a whole host of animals that may be dangerous, or just annoying. Bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and more are sure to be wandering about the area.
Although many of the more dangerous animals aren’t likely to be a huge problem in campgrounds, you are likely to find that the smaller ones can become troublesome. Raccoons are intelligent and brave and may become rather intimidating if they find out you have an easy source of food.
You will need to be aware of the more dangerous animals if you’re camping outside of a campground. It’s also worthwhile to keep in mind that bears and cougars can spend time around hiking trails.
If that’s not enough to keep you out of the woods, I don’t know what is!
If you want some tips to keep animals away from your tent, check out our article here.
If you want to see how likely it is to be attacked by a wild animal, check out our other article here.
14. Cooking Is A Hassle
Have you ever tried cooking a meal at a campsite? It typically means setting up a grill or portable skillet. If that’s not something you want to do, then you’ll have to learn how to cook on the campfire, which can be an imperfect way to get a meal.
Once you’ve managed to cook the food, you’ll then have to figure out how to wash dishes. That can mean scrubbing them in a bucket of water, in the sink of an RV (if there is a water hookup available), or just letting them stack up until you can get them to your dishwasher at home.
The problem with dishes can be avoided with simple meals, paper plates, and utensils that can be tossed after their use. However, there’s no denying this creates extra waste. Overall, dealing with food while camping is a complicated balance between the overly-simple and boring food options or putting in a whole lot of extra effort.
15. Unfriendly Companions In Your Tent (Or Sleeping Bag)
Aside from the animals that might maul, bite or scratch, there are also those that might leave you filled with venom.
What makes these critters even worse is that they often tend to be masters of stealth and hiding. Depending on where you’re camping, there could be venomous spiders, insects, scorpions or snakes that could make their way into your tent or even your sleeping bag.
Even if they don’t make it into your tent, is it possible that a venomous snake could bite you through your tent? After all, the fabric of a tent is often quite thin. Learn more about this subject in our article here.
If one of these creatures should manage to bite you, it can be extremely painful at the least. The bites of rattlesnakes, black widow spiders and more can end up in a truly dire situation.
16. You’re Unlikely To Be Able To Contact Anyone
Camping is about getting away from everyday life. It’s about shutting out the rest of the world and just enjoying nature. As a result, most campgrounds don’t offer Wi-Fi to connect to. In many areas, you’ll be lucky if you can get even a slight cell phone signal.
That means no posting to social media, no catching up with friends, and definitely no Netflix. On top of that annoyance, it really makes emergency situations more frightening. Should an injury occur, there’s a good chance you’ll have to travel a long way just to be able to call in help.
Additionally, it makes things a lot harder for people who may need to contact you for an emergency. For example, if someone is pet-sitting for you while you’re camping and your pet runs away, it could be days before you know about what happened!
If getting Wi-Fi is important to you, I wrote a guide with tons of options just for you for getting Wi-Fi while camping. Check it out, here.
17. Odds Are, You’re Far From A Hospital
If the possibility of being bitten by some kind of venomous creature isn’t frightening enough, this fact definitely will be. Many campgrounds are located a decent distance from cities and major towns, ensuring that those who are camping can really get a nature-based experience.
The distance can be an annoyance in normal circumstances, but it can become a serious problem if a venomous bite is involved. Park rangers may have the basics to help with a bite until an ambulance or helicopter is able to arrive, but there’s only so much they can manage.
Because of this, you’ll have to keep in mind that camping can not only be stressful and dirty, it can also be downright dangerous!
18. You’re Paying For All Of It
If all of these aspects of camping weren’t bad enough for your physical and mental health, remember that camping also affects your financial health.
Most campgrounds come with a nightly fee that you have to pay just for the opportunity to sleep uncomfortably and possibly get bitten by something. Even if you aren’t staying in a campground, there’s a good chance you’re taking time off for the adventure. That’s money you aren’t making and paid time off that could have been spent at a fancy resort.
Most people think that camping is inexpensive, and it can be if you already have the gear. Even with all the gear, camping costs more than you think. check out our article that goes into much greater detail on the costs of camping here.
But What If I Want to Go Camping?
So, those are reasons to not go camping. As I said at the beginning, in spite of all of that, some of my favorite memories are of camping! Why? Even though it can be uncomfortable, being outside and experiencing some of these challenges can be genuinely fun.
I find it’s a great bonding time between me and my wife. We are busy at home with various projects, this website, and work, and sometimes it’s fun to work together on the complete basics: food and shelter.
In fact, I wrote an article all about the mental and physical health benefits of camping here. there have been many studies related to this.
If it’s your significant other that feels this way, there is some hope. We wrote an article specifically for husbands wanting to make camping a possibility with their families.
Camping is probably not for everyone. If any of these are a deal-breaker, than there’s only so much you can do. That’s totally fine! there’s no requirement for everyone to go camping. Just know that there are a few things to make things more comfortable and bearable. Also know that it can take some practice and some adjustment of expectations. But once you get to that point, there’s a lot of happiness to find.