When planning an epic camping trip, regardless if you define "epic" as a month in alpine backcountry or a short weekend at the local KOA or anything in-between, there are six fundamental questions to always consider.
- Why are you going camping?
- Where will you go camping?
- What type of camping will you be doing?
- When and for how long will you be camping?
- Who will you go camping with?
- What will you do while camping?
Why are you going camping?
This is the first question to ask yourself before you even start planning. Why are you going camping? Is it to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for several days? Are you hoping to have a bonding weekend with some old college pals? Will you be camping as part of a long-distance thru-hike?
Are you adventurous or conservative? Do you like spending a lot of time in nature, or would you prefer to spend most of your time inside an RV with only short stints outside?
Will you be doing anything strenuous, like hiking or running, or do you prefer to kick back at the shore of a beautiful lake with some brews and a fishing pole?
Having a clear understanding of your purpose for the trip will help guide the answers you provide for the remaining trip-planning questions.
Where will you go camping?
Now that you know why you are going camping, it's time to select a destination. Again, knowing the purpose can help guide your decision here.
If you are planning to go on a weekend camping trip with your spouse and kids, and you prefer to interact with other families, then selecting a family-friendly campground that's not too far from home would be an ideal choice.
If it's just you and a few friends looking to get together for a fun, relaxing weekend, and you want to be away from the crowds, you might consider boondocking on National Forest or BLM land, if such areas are accessible to you.
Wherever the destination, it is always best to do some research on the area to ensure it is open and available. Popular campgrounds are great options but can book up months in advance. Mountain destinations are beautiful, but access can be restricted if an unexpected weather event or fire occurs that prevents access. Always do your research and know before you go.
What type of camping will you be doing?
This question addresses the method by which you will camp. There is a multitude of options, depending on what you have access to and what suits the needs and desires of you and your camping crew.
Recreational Vehicle (RV) Camping
Broadly defined, an RV is any kind of vehicle in which you can live while traveling and otherwise spending time outdoors.
Traditional tent camping means staying in a structure made of nylon, polyester, or canvas, and includes poles for support. This approach is the most common way people go camping and is often the most affordable and accessible method.
Usually done on multi-day hiking trips, backpacking entails carrying a lightweight tent in a backpack or bag to be used at various stops along the hike.
Overlanding requires the use of an off-road vehicle that allows travel to remote areas. This is considered an adventurous approach to camping, with more of a focus on self-reliant travel and less focus on the destination. Overnight stays can be done in the vehicle or a tent, though most often people utilize the vehicle as a living space.
Similar to Overlanding, bicycle or motorcycle camping is done as part of a long-distance trip. Typically people on bicycle or motorcycle trips will pack a lightweight tent as their sleeping space, similar to tents backpackers would use.
For those less faint of heart, never fear! Glamping is a more recent variation of camping that features more upscale accommodations. Glamping amenities may include but are not limited to, beds, electricity, running water, climate control, and internet access.
When and for how long will you be camping?
Now that you know why you are going camping, where you will be camping, and how you will be doing it, it's time to decide when to go and for how long. Again, this can be highly variable depending on the purpose of the camping trip.
Of course, you're availability and the availability of your fellow campers is a critical consideration. Most people who work 9-5 jobs will camp on a Saturday and Sunday when they are off work, with a possible extension to Friday and/or Monday if feasible. You will want to consider this fact if you plan on visiting a place that may have high traffic. This is particularly true during the more pleasant times of the year, such as the spring and summer when the milder weather attracts more people to the outdoors.
Who will you go camping with?
A camping experience is always best when shared! If you don't already have a family to join you on a camping trip, consider inviting friends. This can be particularly fun when you have activities planned around the trip, such as fishing, running, hiking, or cycling.
What will you do while camping?
If you want to just sit around and do nothing, you can always do that at home. When exploring the great outdoors, the experience is enhanced by including fun activities.
Thinking back to your purpose for the trip, consider congruent activities. Is this a fun trip with a bunch of pals? Having games like cornhole or horseshoes is a great way to pass the time outdoors. Having a guitar for campfire songs can also be fun.
If the purpose of the trip is to do an epic hike, then having all of the appropriate hiking equipment will be critical.
Whatever your reason for camping, make sure to select activities that mesh with that purpose.
We hope this article helps you plan a memorable camping trip that you will remember for years to come. Remember, every camping trip is a learning experience. With each outing, you will better understand what to do, where to go, and who should join you, depending on the purpose of your epic camping trip.