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"Calvin, tell your dad that any judge would take this trip as grounds for divorce."
"Maybe if I die, I won't have to go."

Simply put, several members of the cast go on a camping trip, and disaster ensues. This plot is sometimes used even in situations where the characters do not live anywhere near the wilderness, nor seem the type who would even go on camping trips or have any experience doing so. In fact, you can guarantee that out of a whole group only one person will even think the trip is a good idea: Dad (if it's a family Sitcom) or the guy who remembers doing it as a kid it with rose-colored glasses.

Typical disasters include being snowed in, freezing in a cabin, never-ending rain, running out of food, or getting attacked by incredibly fake-looking bears (or Bigfoot. Or every animal.). It would seem much safer to go to a lodge to avoid such things, but that's not usually in the budget. It's much cheaper to use an old wood cabin set, or dark set obscured by bushes where the camera never moves away from a campfire. An even cheaper device is characters going ice fishing, sometimes in said cabin.

Occasionally the excuse given is the trip is part of a "company retreat", in which case it's the Pointy-Haired Boss who's the only one who thinks it's a good idea.

See also Macho Disaster Expedition and Summer Campy. Don't Go in The Woods is the darker and deadlier Horror equivalent of this.


Camping:

Anime and Manga

Film

  • Deliverance, like the James Dickey novel on which it's based, plays this trope completely straight and to its logical, tragic extreme.
  • The premise of Cheaper By the Dozen 2 has the Patriach of the Baker family taking his family to a camping lodge. Of course, things do go awry but what really dampens the trip is the father competing with his arch-rival and his family.
  • The Great Outdoors. Possibly a Defining Moment.
  • Cannibal Holocaust portrays this in the most scary, bloody, gory and violent way imaginable.

Literature

  • In one of the Bruno and Boots books, the students go on the annual "wilderness survival" camping trip, which is nicknamed "Die in the Woods". (The canoe they bring along is christened the SS Drown In The Woods.) It really does become a matter of wilderness survival when all their supplies end up in the lake.
  • One of the Berenstain Bears books details a horrible camping trip that's tainted not only with everything imaginable from floods to swarms of insects, but Hype Backlash. (Papa bear spends the first third of the book hyping the trip up to be the experience of a lifetime)
  • Outdoor humorist Patrick McManus, who has written for such magazines as Field & Stream and Outdoor Life and whose pieces have appeared in numerous books, more or less specializes in chronicling bad camping/fishing/hunting trips.
  • Three Men in a Boat has elements of this.
  • Charlie goes on one with his dad and friends in Stephen King's (writing as Richard Bachman) Rage. He overhears his father discussing the Cherokee Nose Job with his friends (slitting the nose of an adulterous wife) and how he would do it to his own wife if she cheated on him.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: Enterprise, "Strange New World"
  • Happy Days, "Ugh, Wilderness"
  • Mr. Belvedere: Wesley's trip to a summer camp takes a frightening turn when a camp counselor "rubs his shoulders" in an attempt to molest him. Fortunately, Wesley speaks up, and the counselor (who resigns) is forced to admit he has a problem and needs help.
  • The trope image comes from Bottom, s Out, where Eddie remembers to bring the can opener but Richie forgets the canned food; they attempt to go blowpipe hunting with a tentpole and darts, and Richie is repeatedly injured; Eddie almost burns his own face off while trying to light the gas stove (he forgot to put the valve in); and since Wimbledon Common is technically just a giant public park, they're harassed in the middle of the night by a flasher. Also, they appear to have set up camp in an area labelled 'dog toilet', meaning there's dogshit all over the place.
  • Taken to the most extreme levels of parody in Stella, as Michael, Michael and David descend into desperate savagery within minutes of entering the woods.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "The Jem'Hadar" where Sisko, his son Jake, Jake's best friend Nog and Nog's uncle go on a trip to a planet in the Gamma Quadrant, only to wind up encountering the Jem'Hadar forces of the Dominion (for the first time).
  • The Adventures of Lano and Woodley subverts the trope- the camping trip in question is horrible, yes, but it takes place in the main characters' apartment.
  • The Torchwood episode Countrycide...with the twist that the camping trip is a stakeout in response to suspected alien activity. The 'alien' turns out be in fact a cannibalistic human family who nearly end up killing and eating most of the cast.
  • Top Gear. Most of their long-distance "challenges" invariably feature something along this line.
  • Taxi: the episode "Call of the Mild".
  • Skins did this a couple of times.
    • "Michelle" from Series 2: Chris loses all the tents and most of the gear because he didn't tie it to the roof of the car; the only remaining tent then gets soaked when the tide comes in; and the car they came in also gets flooded by the tide. Oh, and drama ensues.
    • "Effy" from Series 3 is a rather Egregious example: there's a large amount of awkward tension between several of the characters before the poachers, and the shrooms, and the univited guest shows up. Oh, and the Manipulative Bitch gets hit over the head with a rock by the main character, who finally loses it.
  • In Hyperdrive Vines is tricked into purchasing a barren planet that is almost, but not quite, completely inhospitable to human life. He kidnaps Jeffers and drags them down onto the surface of the planet, it wasn't a pleasant time.
  • In one episode of Monk, Randy Disher and Adrian Monk go camping with a group of kids. They have to deal with a bear and two criminals.
  • Eureka has this trope n spades, starting with the tent acting up, and ending with an angry TINY trying to attack them all.
  • In an episode of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, 'Alpha Male', Gene's family went off camping in an RV for Sophie's birthday. They dealt with a snake, a bear, and a park ranger with a fire extinguisher.
  • The Inbetweeners did this for their Season 3 finale. It involved sinking a car in a lake, eating raw sausages and then throwing them back up in the tent.
  • Father Ted episode "Hell"
  • Parks and Recreation, "Camping". Leslie sends the parks department on a camping retreat to come up with new projects. Ironically, everyone in the parks department save for Ron and Leslie hate camping. Tom brings so many electronic gadgets he drains the van's battery, stranding everyone, while Andy goes to the wrong camping site and has to trek through rough terrain to get there. In the end they all go to a nearby bed and breakfast run by a Crazy Cat Lady.
    • A later episode showed Ron and Leslie taking their respective children's clubs (she started a girls club after the other one said it was boys only) out camping. Leslie has a comfortable cabin and a variety of activities, while Ron has them sit silently in the open, eating cold beans with their activity being "survive". It doesn't take too long for one of the boys to decide he'd rather be a Pawnee Goddess. Ron eventually hands over his club to Leslie, but she places an advertisement for boys and girls who are interested in survivalist camping.
  • Married... with Children: The Bundys/Rhodes spend a week in a cabin. No food, wild animals keep them inside...and the women are all "cycling".
    • Bud rents Al to some neighborhood kids for an overnight campout. No food, can't build a real fire, and Steve gets massive poison ivy.
  • In one episode of Two and A Half Men, Alan feels bad about not doing enough father-son activities with his son Jake, so he drags him out into the middle of the woods for a camping trip. Cue Alan desperately trying to entertain the bored Jake in a tiny tent, including making an attempt at a truly horrible Ghost Story and getting him to sing songs.
  • In The Middle, the Hecks go on a camping trip during summer vacation, since Frankie wants them to have a family bonding experience and they can't afford anything else. Axl gets fed up with Sue constantly pestering him about what high school will be like, Brick spends as much time as he can reading instead of actually experiencing the great outdoors, and Mike and Frankie reflect on how their honeymoon was also a Horrible Camping Trip. To top it off, Sue gets her first period during the night, which attracts a nearby bear and forces everyone to seek shelter in the car. They can't even escape from the bear by driving away, since Brick had inadvertently drained the car's battery by keeping the dome light on for hours so he could read by it.
  • Downplayed on the first season of The Brady Bunch, when the newly blended family goes camping for the first time. Mike and the boys are fairly experienced, but Carol and the girls have never been. The girls are fussy about the idea of sleeping outdoors, while the boys are fussy because they think having girls along will ruin the fun. The girls are hopeless at fishing, and the boys protest eating the food the girls brought along "just in case." Later, the girls scream and panic at every little noise, making the boys see them as wet weaklings...until the girls get their revenge by making them think a teddy bear's shadow is a real bear. That said, nobody gets sick or hurt, and the trip ends up becoming more fun after a while. The next time the family goes camping, the girls are more used to it and thoroughly enjoy it.
  • Step by Step has an episode similar to the above, where the prim and proper Fosters are fussier about camping than the laid back Lamberts. Unlike the above, the family does face a huge crisis when Frank's truck falls into the lake and they have to wait for the ranger to help them out.
  • An early Home Improvement episode has Tim roped into testing Binford's new camping gear for a series of videos the same weekend he and Jill planned a romantic vacation. Tim loses the car, his electric socks catch fire, and his usual stubborn attitude causes friction between him and Jill. They manage to salvage it with hot chocolate made of a melted candy bar and toothpaste, and Jill and Tim get cozy while the boys are off playing.
  • Happens in a later episode of Family Matters, thanks to Steve's usual antics.

Music

  • Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter From Camp) by Alan Sherman is the classic example. However, at the end of the song, it stops raining. Gee, dat's bettah!
  • The Yes song "South Side of the Sky" sounds like it's obliquely describing something like this.

Newspaper Comics

  • Bill Watterson did this a few times in Calvin and Hobbes, when Calvin's dad drags the family along on a camping trip. One time, Calvin dropped a bag of supplies in the lake and accidentally broke his dad's glasses; another time, it rained the whole trip and didn't stop until Dad, having decided to pack it in and go home, had finished loading the car. Cue Face Palm (and then shouting words that Calvin didn't understand).
    • It's mentioned Dad takes them on these trips every summer, in spite of Mom and Calvin openly hating them. Dad on the other hand, seems to enjoy the great outdoors no matter how many bad things happen on every trip. One comic however had him explain he takes them on those trips every summer instead of a cruise or more enjoyable vacation so the rest of their year will feel better by comparsion, but given his habit of sarcasm it's hard to say if he's being serious about that.
  • Any of Roger's family camping trips in FoxTrot. In fact, they were usually so bad, that the kids notably cheered louder when they learned that after Roger got his job back, they won't go on the camping trip, and usually have to find some sort of excuse to get out of it (such as trying to cram the car with luggage, with some of them being filled with nothing but packaging peanuts, just so there wouldn't be enough room in the car to accomodate them, and taking Roger's attempts at encouraging via exact words and exploit them to delay the camping trip.
    • Just to give you an idea about how bad they usually are, one in particular, Skeeter Falls, had them going to a camping waterfall which, as the name implied, was a breeding ground for Mosquitos, and Roger picked the absolute wrong time to go camping there, as it turned out that they picked it at a time where mosquitos breeding was at its peak. They had their own personal ranger only because they were the only campers there. As a result, they had to contend to swatting mosquitoes while swimming, fishing, and other times. They also would have to wake up around 1:38 AM to take a two hour hike to witness a geyser erupting. Just when things couldn't possibly get worse, it did: A Bear managed to sneak into the camp site while they were swimming, and thanks to Roger's insistance that they simply observe the bear, the bear managed to completely wreck the family's food cooler and presumably eat all of the food except for half a bag of gummi-worms and three mini pretzels, to which Jason, a natural computer game fanatic, even began to miss his computer games specifically because "doom" keeps flashing in his mind. Roger, instead of taking the logical choice of leaving camp early, decided they'd fish with a passion, to which the family members managed to get their hooks and lines tangled up, and having to eat fish essentially 24/7. After the camping trip and while preparing to leave, Andy sorely hints that she plans on leaving Roger at Sketter Falls after he showed her a bumper sticker that said "I left my [blood] at Skeeter Falls."
      • Even worse, it's implied that the Foxes didn't pack any insect repellent.
    • Roger also took the family camping in the desert called Cactus Flats. In the middle of August. For two weeks. Even worse, a news report that featured said desert mentions that it's the hottest it's ever been -- it's so bad that Peter Arnett (a Real Life reporter famous for his coverage of both Gulf Wars) was sent to the scene and he quit his job just so he could leave the desert as soon as possible. When the family finally gets to the desert, the only source of entertainment they can find is watching Jason play Tetris on his Gameboy. When the family gets ready to leave, Andy nearly strangles Roger after he offhandedly says "see you soon" to Cactus Flats, livid that he might take them there again.
  • The Family Circus did this twice - once in the 70s, and modified and rerun again in 2009.
  • Garfield has been forced to go an a few of these.
  • Dilbert has also gone on one - to Clyde Canyon, which turned out to be a three foot hole in the ground. After spending the weekend sitting in the hole, Dilbert and Dogbert learn that the real Clyde Canyon was just over the next ridge.

Radio

  • One episode of King Street Junior involved a school camping trip. By the end of it, each of the four teachers present had suffered an accident.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television, there's gotta be a fair few Troper Tales to back this up.
    • Anytime people who don't know what they're doing and/or don't realize that they don't actually like roughing it, this happens.
    • There is also a popular misconception that camping or caravanning holidays are cheap. This is not true; a tent or caravan of reasonable quality is a fairly substantial one-off investment, and a pitch at a campsite is only slightly cheaper than a modest hotel room. This seldom prevents a certain type of dad -and it's nearly always the father- who's pathologically opposed to spending money trying to do it with the cheapest gear he can find and then wondering why everyone has a thoroughly miserable time.

Stand Up Comedy

Video Games

  • In Mega Man Battle Network 2, Lan decides to go on a camping trip with his friends out of boredom. First, they run into a swarm of bees. After dealing with that, they soon run into a malfunctioning electronic bear in which Lan sends Megaman.EXE to go delete the virus that is causing it to malfunction. Finally, they find themselves in the middle of an internet terrorist plot to blow up the nearby Okuden dam.
    • Rehashed in Magnetman/Knightman's chapter in Battle Network 5, with a fishing trip, a cave, and a giant mining drill.

Web Comics

  • The aftermath of a Horrible Camping Trip interferes with the game in this Full Frontal Nerdity strip.
  • One is planned in Gunnerkrigg Court, when the teachers take the students out into the woods in the rain. Then pretend there's an emergency and retreat to their luxurious home while something lurks in the woods. The kids quickly figured out it's "the kind of thing adults would do to make a trip more interesting" and devised a counter plan... Among them were at least two fledgling mad scientists and three magic users known to us. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Ben and his family from Loserz once go on such a trip. Maybe not as bad as other examples on this page, although bees are still involved.
  • Lampshaded in this Apple Geeks-Lite strip.

Western Animation

  • Rocko's Modern Life, "Hut Sut Raw"
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Camp Keep a Good Mac Down", where in the time it takes to walk from the camp to the campsite, Bloo eats all of the food, then finds blueberries. On the way back to the campsite he eats them all to test that they're safe, then drinks all of their water trying to wash the taste out. Herriman's no help either, keeping the others from putting up a tent by repeatedly criticizing every inconsequential detail and then having them tear it down.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, "Camping Caper"
  • Kim Possible, "Camp Wannaweep", after their bus breaks down. Ron saves the Cheersquad from a mutant human/fish-monster.
    • A monster which turns out to be a former camper who fell in the toxic lake...
      • Then again, that camp was traumatizing in general.
  • The Simpsons, "Call Of The Simpsons", where Homer's new RV falls off a cliff, and after a string of disasters, he eventually ends up covered in mud and mistaken for Bigfoot. Meanwhile, Marge and Lisa fare well on their own despite a lack of experience, while Maggie ends up taken back to a bear cave where a family of bears robs various families to get her things like food and toys.
    • Another chapter from The Simpsons showed Bart going to Kamp Krusty, a summer camp that turns out to be a badly run-down place guarded by the school bullies. After the campers are forced into working in a sweat shop, enduring natural hazards of all kinds and miserable living conditions, and being subject to Barney Gumble dressed as Krusty, Bart gets fed up and leads a rebellion against the suit running the camp.
    • In yet another episode of The Simpsons, a river rafting trip results in Bart, Homer, Ned Flanders, and Rodd Flanders stranded at sea after Homer loses the map of the river. Thankfully, their lives are saved when they run into an offshore oil rig that just happens to have a Krusty Burger franchise aboard.
  • Futurama, "Spanish Fry", where Fry ends up losing his nose to alien poachers on a camping trip, and spends the rest of the episode trying to get it back before it's used as an aphrodisiac.
  • Daria: The family go on a camping trip, get lost, then Jake, Helen and Quinn eat psychotropic berries and go crazy. Daria saves the day when she finds the cell phone hidden in her mother's bag and has the family airlifted to safety.
    • There was also the class mountain retreat which included a snowstorm. Daria and Jane get lost in the woods, while Quinn's admirers left the supplies behind to carry Quinn's suitcases, leading to everyone to turn against her.
  • One episode of Danny Phantom renders a mandatory camping trip for Danny and Maddie when they are stranded in the forest. Maddie does fine, but Danny is a complete dunce at it. This hatred is taken with the actual camping trip episode where the only one visibly excited is Sam. Unfortunately the trip is a typical disaster when nearly all the students and faculties are kidnapped by ghosts. By end though, Danny realizes camping has its merits and enjoys it.
  • King of the Hill, "Phish and Wildlife", where Hank takes Bobby with him and the guys on a camping trip. All is well until an army of hippies show up for "The Gathering".
  • In at least three episodes of Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In The Camping Episode, where Squidward is continually attacked by a sea bear.
    • In the survival episode where Spongebob and Patrick fall out of the back of Sandy's truck and must fend for themselves.
    • In the episode with the conch shell where Spongebob and Patrick do fine, but because Squidward doesn't believe in the powers of the conch shell, he's not allowed to eat anything.
  • In the Ka Blam! episode "The KaBlair! With Project", Henry, June, Mr. Stockdale, Mr. Foot, Henry's mom and Jimmy McGee go on a company camping trip, but they hear the loud roar of a bear and Mr. Foot freaks out and escapes in the camper, leaving everyone else stranded. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Hey Arnold! has two horrible camping trips:
    • In "Roughin' It," Arnold and Gerald are taught by Grandpa Phil camping the old-fashioned way, much to their chagrin. Meanwhile at a adjacent camping spot, Helga and Phoebe live high on the hog as Big Bob Pataki tests out the high-tech (but cheap) camping gear that he plans to sell. When the gear fails the kids and Big Bob during a hike in the woods, Arnold saves the day by applying the survival skills Phil taught him earlier to get back to camp. Helga and Phoebe end up joining Phil and the boys for another night of good old-fashioned camping, while Bob ends up miserable and covered in poison ivy.
    • In "Fishing Trip," Gerald, Sid, Harold, and Eugene (and their dads), Arnold and Grandpa Phil head to the woods for a fishing trip. After failing to catch any fish and losing their provisions to a bear (except for cans of beans), the boys (and their fathers/grandfather) are all miserable, but refuse to tell the others for fear of disappointing them. After much suffering, they finally admit this to each other and decide to to to the nearby resort for a not-so-back-to-nature trip. (Oh, and Davy Jones has a cameo at the end of the episode.)
  • Jimmy Neutron, his friends, and his dad went camping in the episode "Augh! Wilderness". Unfortunately, his dad won't let Jimmy bring his gadgets and want to rough it. After an explosion, it gets worse.
  • In the Flintstones/Bewitched crossover this was played straight for Fred and Barney. Not so much for Wilma, Betty and Sam, who got a little help from Sam's magic.
  • Moral Orel has Orel going on the worst camping trip ever with his father resulting in what was the darkest episode of the show. And then it just got darker...
    • Let's put it like this: The culminating moment was when his father, in a drunken rage, shot Orel in the leg. Then drank the rubbing alcohol that could have kept Orel's leg from getting worse. Then passed out for two days while Orel suffered. Then denied shooting Orel, saying that since he didn't remember it, it wasn't his fault. And was only concerned that Orel killed a bear rather than his son's well-being. And, months later, admitting (in front of the town no less) that he was glad he shot Orel. Yeah, it's that kind of show.
  • The Barney Bear short "Bah, Wilderness" had Barney suffering such indignities as a malfunctioning phonograph, noisy nighttime animals, and a flash flood while trying to sleep during a camping trip.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends has them going on a camping trip, against Garfield's will. They end up chased by a bear and have to keep dancing and singing to keep the bear entertained. They end up doing this late into the night Garfield notes that sadly of all the times he's been camping with Jon, this is the best time he's ever had.
  • Kick Buttowski gets "Those Who Camp, Do" in which Kick, currently obsessed with a Survival-style tv-show, decides to camp on his own out in the forest rather than the family's camping site. Kick, being who he is, takes on every challenge the wilderness has to offer him like a boss... however, his older brother Brad goes through his worst nightmare while tagging along.
  • Regular Show: "Camping Can Be Cool". Nobody thought to bring matches, Rigby intentionally forgot the tent and accidentally forgot the tarps, Mordecai locked the keys in the car and the park rangers showed up to yell at them for camping in a restricted area. Then it started to rain. And then Freddy Kreuger showed up...
  • Spoofed on the South Park episode "I Should Not Have Gone Ziplining", which is presented as a I Shouldn't Be Alive-type show with shots of the boys screaming in horror. The horrible part of the trip, however, is how horribly boring the boys found it. So much that Kenny dies of boredom.
    • The first season has a Horrible Hunting Trip when a volcano erupts on the same mountain Jimbo and Ned take the boys, and the supposedly evil Scuzzlebutt approaches. Scuzzlebutt ends up saving the day, however.

Ice Fishing Examples (the car keys will be dropped in the hole):

Live Action TV

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