Camping is a great getaway for you and your friend group. Out in nature, you have the opportunity to do things you might not normally have access to, like hiking or kayaking. With the group pitching in on most expenses (food, equipment, the campsite, etc.) the total cost is relatively cheap. Camping can be a fun and relaxing trip to take, but it takes more work than your average trip to the beach or city. There’s more to consider, more to plan, and more to be prepared for. Check out these 15 tips for planning a camping trip before you and your friends head out on your summer adventure.
1. Decide what kind of camping you want to do
There’s lots of levels of roughing it when it comes to camping these days. Some people go straight to glamping, with fully stocked cabins or resorts settled just inside or nearby national parks. You can still be close to nature, without having to deal with all of its added difficulties. Or you can go full nature, sleeping in a hammock under the stars. I prefer something in between: nice tents, sleeping bags, and a typical campsite. Decide what level of camping you want to do, so you know what steps need to be taken and what you’re getting yourself into.
2. Investigate camp sites
Once you’re set on what kind of camping you’re in for, you can start to check out campsites. Most popular camping areas will have several options to choose from. You can compare prices and what amenities each offers: close bathrooms with showers, a grill and fire pit at each site, a small store for anything you might forget. Different places have different set ups, so look around and investigate to find a campground that fits your needs.
3. Look over rules and guidelines
This is one of the most important tips for planning a camping trip. Separate campgrounds also have their own rules and guidelines it’s important to look over, depending on what you want to do. Make sure they allow pets if you want to bring your dog. See how old you have to be in order to rent a site. Check whether or not they allow alcohol on the premises. You definitely want to look over rules like these before you sign up and pack your bags, so no unexpected hiccups will ruin the fun.
4. Check out nearby activities
Do some research to see what activities you’ll have at your disposal nearby the campsite. You don’t want to be driving an hour every day for whatever excursions you’re planning on doing. Campgrounds often have hiking trails on site or just down the road. There may be options for kayaking or white water rafting if you pick a location close to lots of water. What you want to do can really affect your decision when planning on where to camp, so look at your options and make a plan before you book anywhere.
5. Make a list of equipment (including toilet paper!)
This is definitely the most important thing to do before you go camping: make sure you have thought of and packed everything you might need. Tents, sleeping bags, firewood, charcoal, air mattresses, something to blow up the air mattresses, etc. The list has to cover everything you might need for the time you’re there, so try to think through your day at the campsite and any problems you might run into. Get up, make breakfast. Well what will you need for breakfast? Does it need to be cooked? What do you need to cook it? Will you want coffee? What will you need to make coffee? Running yourself through the process of each part of your day will help cover all your bases. One of my personal best tips for planning a camping trip is reminding people about the TP. You do NOT want to forget it.
6. Plan out meals
Speaking of breakfast, food is one of the very important tips for planning a camping trip to consider on that very important list. Depending on what stores are available nearby, you’ll need to be stocked. Have the group plan out what you want to do for every meal and what you’ll need in order to make that happen. Maybe you want to grill out or roast hot dogs over the fire for dinner and just do easy sandwiches for lunch. Maybe you just want to have sandwiches the whole time to keep it simple. Planning it all out (including snacks!) will keep you from going hungry in the wilderness just cause you didn’t think about how much food you would really need.
7. Be able to make a fire
If you want to have a fire, and especially if you need to cook some of your food over said fire, you need to make sure someone in your group confidently knows how to make one. I’m lucky in that I always camp with one or two guys who can easily make a fire, so I always just rely on them. If we went camping without them, we’d probably be screwed. So survey your friends and make sure someone actually knows how, and that doesn’t mean just saying, “Oh, we can probably figure it out.”
8. Know you might not have cell service
A lot of campgrounds just don’t. You’re pretty far away from the local town and depending on where you are, your phone might have trouble getting a signal. In preparation of this happening, take the necessary precautions. Print out any information you may need from online. Bring games. Let your friends and family know you may be out of touch, but you’ll send them a text when you can.
9. Print out maps
An important piece of information you’ll want to have printed out before you head into the mountains is how to get to your camping destination. The last time I went camping with some friends, we were ten minutes from the campground when we lost cell service, meaning we lost our GPS telling us how to get there. We eventually figured things out, but having a paper map on hand would’ve been very helpful.
10. Be ready for the cold and dark
It’s gonna get dark, and, depending on where you live, it might get cold. Make sure you include working lanterns and flashlights on your equipment list, so you’re not stumbling around in the dark, completely lost every night. And that way your group activities don’t have to just end when it gets too late at night to see each other anymore. In case of the cold, pack lots of appropriate clothes and blankets for sleeping. You don’t want to be freezing every night when you’re trying to sleep.
11. Check the weather
This is one of the most important and easily forgotten tips for planning a camping trip! If your weekend of camping is scheduled for rain, that changes everything, especially what you need to pack. Look beforehand to see what weather is expected for your schedule. If there’s even a chance of rain, or even if there isn’t, you’ll want to pack tarps and rain jackets, make sure your tents come with rain coverings, and reassess your cooking plans. If it’s just forecasted to be particularly sunny, have access to sunscreen and lots of water.
12. Know how to set up a tent
Just like the tips for planning a camping trip about fire and knowing what to bring, make sure someone knows how to set up a tent! Tents are a little easier than making a fire. A lot of times they come with instructions and you can actually just figure it out, but it’s a lot better if someone knows how to do the deed quickly. If you know it’s gonna take you awhile, at least make sure to get started well before darkness sets in!
13. Check store availability
See what nearby stores you’ll have access to, in order to know how much of your food or supplies you’ll need to buy and pack beforehand. If there’s a grocery store you’ll pass on the way, you can stop there beforehand for all your food stuffs. If not, you’ll need to have everything gathered together before you leave civilization, and you’ll have less of a cushion to lean on if anything important winds up forgotten.
14. Read up about local animals
One of the tips for planning a camping trip people don’t often think about is about what happens outside of your tent. You’re gonna be in the wilderness, so yes there will be animals nearby, and there won’t be much separation between you and them, so do the research needed in order to account for this. Maybe if you live in some particularly wild places, you need to know about bear activity and how to respond if you see one, but I mostly mean read up about how to protect your food, avoid attracting raccoons, and properly dispose of trash.
15. Start small
If this is your first time camping, don’t just dive into things. Give yourself a chance to test the waters with an easier and shorter experience. Grab a tent, some friends, and just head out to somewhere nearby civilization for a weekend, where you can still go to the store if you forget something or if the fire just won’t light and you’re starving. Ease into things and know your limits. You want the first experience to be a good one.
Just because there’s a lot to think about and remember, doesn’t mean camping is too much of a hassle to try out. Even if there’s some extra work, the trip is always super rewarding. You’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful nature and getting the kind of extra quality one-on-one time with friends you don’t always get when everyone is distracted on their phones or with their busy lives. And if the trip is completely miserable, it’ll only bond you all closer with the many ridiculous stories you’ll be able to tell afterward. This summer is a great time to give camping a try.