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Epic Camping Fails – Uncommon Path – An REI Co-op Publication


We’ve all made mistakes in the outdoors. It’s just part of the journey. Maybe you packed two left climbing shoes, booked the wrong campsite or forgot the cooking fuel. Whatever it is, we’re big fans of looking back and laughing at our goofier trials and tribulations. That’s why we’ve collected the best blunders from REI members, staffers and others. These are some of our favorite outdoor fails.

1. “On a recent camping trip, I made campfire sweet potato tacos … I cooked my potatoes in my cast iron pan over the fire, sizzled and charred them perfectly, transferred them to a bowl, sat down to eat, and then dumped the bowl all over the ground. So, I rinsed them off, reheated them, reseasoned them, and ate them anyway. They were delicious. I have no regrets.”—Lisa Hetz, member since 2019.

Campfire sweet potato tacos. Credit: Lisa Hetz.

2. “Always nice to go camping … even when you arrive at the campground an hour after kiddo bedtime and realize you forgot to pack the tent, so you leave your spouse and two overtired kids at the campsite and maniacally haul it back into town 10 minutes before the local hardware store closes to buy the last of the remaining two tents because someone else is also there doing the same.”—Cat Roth, member since 2009.

Photo credit: Cat Roth

3. “First backpacking trip: ‘Hey, I brought a 3 lb. bag of slow cook rice for our dinners.’” —Jeff Magnuson, REI sales specialist for camp and climb

4. “After a long day of hiking, I was so relieved to get to the campsite and quickly began setting up camp. After I’d secured the four corners of the fly to the tent, I started climbing in the tent – completely forgetting I needed to peg down the tent until a huge gust of wind came through and lifted the tent completely off the ground while I was still underneath it!”—Mikaela Ferguson, member since 2021.

5. “Flying a Tensor power kite when it’s a bit too windy…” —Tom Blount, REI camp sales lead

Photo Credit: Tom Blount

6. “When you forget your tent poles but just picked up chairs off of Craigslist.” —Anders Nordblom, REI senior business strategist and member since 2011.

7. “On my trip up Mount Whitney, I brought a small vial of superglue to use on hot spots/blisters. I opened and used some right before my 2am final hike up to the summit. In my still-half-asleep thinking, I decided to re-cap [the superglue] and throw it in my hip belt pocket in case I needed it later on. What I forgot: With another 2,500-foot gain in elevation, things expand. Superglue included. It ended up leaking and now I’m still trying to figure out how to free a few things from the confines of the pocket.” —Kristen Evans, REI bike service technician and member since 2012.

8. “After a fine day of paddling on the scenic Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, my buddy and I beached our canoe at a campsite on the Pennsylvania side of the river. A blissful night of sleep was abruptly ended the next morning when I heard my friend saying, “Ah, where’s the canoe?” After overcoming our initial panic, we put on our Tevas and headed downstream, finding the boat on the river’s edge about 1/2 mile away, captured by low-hanging branches. Little did we know that a dam release upriver set the river level significantly higher. Lesson learned: Although clearly not our fault, we made a point on future trips to always pull the canoe to higher ground and flip it over.”—Dan DeLong, member.

9. “‘Hiking in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Fell stepping over a log.” —Instagram’s @Jordancfield

Photo Credit: Instagram’s @Jordancfield

10. “Near the beginning of three months of living out of our [car] in between a major move, we went backpacking in southern Utah with the pups for a few days. After that, we drove straight to Rifle. Since Rifle can be a bit crowded, we decided to be respectful of our neighbors and let the dogs sleep in [our car] … Unbeknownst to us, our border collie had drunk some stagnant canyon water despite the fact that we even filtered the dogs’ water while we were backpacking. We woke up to our Australian shepherd crammed up into the dashboard of the Honda Element. Upon opening the car, it was very evident why. The inside of the car was covered in everything that had been coming out of both ends of our border collie. Needless to say, they spent the rest of the three months sleeping outside of the car in a pup tent.” —Jessie Thompson Kyle, REI retail sales manager

Photo Credit: Jessie Thompson Kyle

11. “After hiking 9 miles on the first day of my first solo backpacking trip on Mount Hood, I was so stoked to eat my dehydrated veggie curry meal. In fact, I even brought two fuel canisters to make sure I had enough. Come to find out that both canisters were completely empty. Obviously, I was still going to eat it. So I poured cold water into the packet and left it overnight. I awoke to a watery, chunky, weakly curry-flavored breakfast. Definitely not as good as overnight oats.”—Lily Poppen, Co-op Media intern and member since 2021.

Sad Lily after realizing she forgot to pack fuel. Photo Credit: Lily Poppen.

12. “A couple of summers ago, I decided to camp far away from water because we were having flash flooding. I was hurriedly setting up the tent before the rain started and let my dog go explore. Apparently, some human … had taken a huge dump and did not bury it, so she thought it would be a good idea to roll in it. She pranced back over so proud of herself. She had SO much … all over her. And of course, I was not close to water. I had to drag my 12-year-old dog down a steep hill a ways down to bathe her in ice-cold water. How did I know it was human? Because she tried to roll in it again, but fortunately, I caught her before it was too late!” —Sarah Sattin, REI outdoor school instructor

13. “Me after what I thought was going to be a simple, quick trip up to Camp Muir [in Washington]. It was the first 80-degree day of 2018, the snow was slush, I forgot my Nalgene full of water and NUUN in the car and I cramped at Camp Muir. I. Was. A. Mess. It took 9 hours to go 8 miles. Shall I continue?” —James Campbell, REI clothing sales lead and retail operations communications specialist

Photo Credit: James Campbell

14. “[Friend] tried to take a cool pic on rappel and [I] ended up slipping and falling on my butt in poop-smelling mud.” —Instagram’s @basecamplasvegas

Photo Credit: Instagram’s @basecamplasvegas

15. “When you take your kids hiking to Havasupai in the Arizona desert during a heatwave of 118 degrees.” —Instagram’s @flyingstar_2002 

Photo Credit: Instagram’s @flyingstar_2002

16. “Learning to snowshoe in 3 feet of fresh snow. I love winter but it doesn’t seem to love me back.” —Instagram’s @carolinemaeh

Photo Credit: Instagram’s @carolinemaeh

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018. It was updated on Aug. 16, 2022.

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