How to Plan an Epic Camping Trip
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?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
Some of the more common options include:
Recreational Vehicle (RV) Camping
RV camping, also known as recreational vehicle camping, involves using a motorhome, camper trailer, or some other similar rig as a mobile accommodation. RVs are essentially portable homes on wheels that provide both transportation and living space, allowing people to travel and camp in comfort and convenience.
RVs come in various sizes and types, ranging from compact camper vans to larger motorhomes. They typically include amenities such as sleeping areas, a kitchenette or full kitchen, bathroom facilities, and dining/living areas. Some larger RVs may even feature additional amenities like air conditioning, heating, entertainment systems, and slide-out sections that expand the interior space when parked.
RV camping provides a self-contained camping experience. Campers drive their RVs to campsites or RV parks, where they can hook up to utilities such as electricity, water, and sewage. These campgrounds often offer amenities and facilities like restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, dump stations, picnic areas, and sometimes even recreational activities such as swimming pools or playgrounds. RV camping can also take place in more remote locations, known as boondocking or dry camping, where no hookups or amenities are available.
One of the advantages of RV camping is the convenience and comfort it provides. It allows campers to have a mobile home with them, complete with sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and bathroom facilities. This eliminates the need for setting up tents and provides more space and amenities than traditional tent camping. RVs also offer protection from the elements, such as rain or extreme temperatures, and can be more suitable for families or individuals who prefer a higher level of comfort while camping.
RV camping offers flexibility in travel and accommodation. Campers can explore various destinations and easily move from one place to another without the need for additional lodging arrangements. It allows people to bring along their own belongings, cook their own meals, and have access to familiar comforts while enjoying the outdoors.
However, it's important to note that RV camping requires planning and consideration. Campers need to consider factors such as the size and weight restrictions of their RV, campground availability and suitability, fuel costs, and maintenance of the vehicle. Additionally, RV camping may have different regulations and etiquette compared to traditional tent camping, so it's essential to be aware of and respect the rules and guidelines of the campgrounds being visited.
Tent camping typically involves finding a suitable campsite, pitching a tent, and spending one or more nights in the tent. Campsites can vary, ranging from designated camping areas in national parks or campgrounds to more remote locations in the wilderness. Some campsites offer amenities such as restrooms, fire pits, picnic tables, and access to potable water, while others may have minimal facilities or none at all.
Tents used for camping come in various sizes, shapes, and designs, ranging from small, lightweight backpacking tents to larger family-sized tents. They are typically made of durable materials, such as nylon or polyester, with waterproof coatings to protect against rain and moisture. Tents usually have a floor and a rainfly (a waterproof cover) to provide shelter from the elements and insects. They also have mesh panels for ventilation and to keep bugs out.
Tent camping allows individuals to have a personal and private space to sleep, store gear, and take shelter from the weather. It offers a sense of closeness to nature while still providing some comfort and protection compared to sleeping directly under the stars. It can be a solo activity for individuals seeking solitude or a social activity for families and friends to bond and enjoy outdoor experiences together.
While tent camping can be relatively simple and affordable, it does require some planning and preparation. This includes selecting a suitable tent, considering the number of occupants and weather conditions, bringing appropriate sleeping gear, packing essential camping supplies and equipment, and ensuring adherence to campground rules and safety guidelines.
Tent camping offers the opportunity to disconnect from the modern world, immerse oneself in nature, and enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, campfires, stargazing, and more. It is a versatile and accessible way to experience the great outdoors and create lasting memories.
Backpacking camping, often referred to simply as backpacking, is when hikers carry their camping gear in a backpack and hike to their camping destination. It combines the activities of backpacking (hiking with a backpack) and camping (sleeping outdoors in a tent or shelter).
The primary characteristic of backpacking camping is the self-sufficiency and mobility it offers. Backpackers carry all the necessary gear, such as a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, food, water, and clothing, on their backs as they hike through trails or wilderness areas. This allows them to access remote and scenic locations that are not accessible by vehicles or require long hikes to reach.
Backpacking camping typically involves spending one or more nights in the wilderness or backcountry. Campsites are often primitive, without facilities such as running water, electricity, or designated fire pits. Backpackers must rely on their skills and equipment to set up their tents, cook meals, and purify water for drinking.
The appeal of backpacking camping lies in its opportunities for exploration, solitude, and immersion in nature. It allows people to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and experience the beauty of the outdoors firsthand. It can also provide a sense of adventure, self-reliance, and personal challenge as backpackers navigate varied terrain, encounter wildlife, and adapt to changing weather conditions.
Backpacking camping requires careful planning and preparation to ensure safety and enjoyment. This includes selecting appropriate gear, understanding the terrain and weather conditions, packing lightweight and compact items, carrying essential supplies, and adhering to leave-no-trace principles to minimize environmental impact.
Overlanding is a type of self-reliant, long-distance travel that typically involves driving over land in a specially equipped vehicle, such as an off-road vehicle, truck, or SUV. The primary objective of overlanding is to explore and experience remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations, often in rugged and challenging terrains.
Unlike traditional road trips, overlanding is characterized by its focus on the journey itself rather than the destination. Overlanders embrace the adventure and the process of traveling through diverse landscapes, encountering different cultures, and immersing themselves in nature.
Key features and aspects of overlanding include:
1. Vehicle Preparation
Overlanding requires a well-equipped and capable vehicle that can handle off-road conditions. Modifications and additions are often made to enhance the vehicle's capabilities, such as adding roof racks, auxiliary fuel tanks, suspension upgrades, off-road tires, and communication equipment.
Overlanders aim to be self-sufficient during their journeys, carrying essential supplies, equipment, and provisions needed for extended periods on the road. This can include camping gear, cooking equipment, food, water, fuel, tools, spare parts, and navigation aids.
3. Remote and Unexplored Destinations
Overlanding focuses on reaching remote and less-traveled destinations, such as national parks, wilderness areas, deserts, mountains, and other challenging terrains. These journeys often involve navigating through unpaved roads, dirt tracks, and even off-road trails.
4. Camping and Outdoor Living
Overlanders typically camp along their routes, setting up camp in designated campgrounds, wild camping spots, or other suitable areas. They embrace the outdoors and connect with nature, enjoying activities like hiking, fishing, photography, and stargazing.
5. Slow Travel and Flexibility
Overlanding emphasizes a slower pace of travel, allowing for flexibility and the ability to deviate from planned routes based on changing circumstances or newfound discoveries. It's about taking the time to appreciate the journey and adapt to unforeseen situations.
Overlanding can range from short expeditions lasting a few days to epic transcontinental journeys spanning several months or even years. The spirit of overlanding lies in the spirit of adventure, exploration, self-reliance, and a desire to escape the confines of traditional travel to seek out unique and remote experiences.
It's important to note that overlanding should be conducted with a focus on responsible and sustainable travel, respecting local communities, and minimizing the impact on the environment.
Bicycle camping and motorcycle camping are when people use bicycles or motorcycles as their primary means of transportation and carry their camping gear to explore and camp in various locations.
Cyclists load their camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, and other essentials, onto their bicycles or trailers specifically designed for bike touring. They then ride their bicycles to designated campgrounds, remote campsites, or even wild camping spots. Bicycle camping allows for a slower-paced journey, close connection with nature, and the opportunity to cover longer distances compared to hiking.
Motorcyclists load their camping equipment, including a lightweight tent, sleeping gear, cooking utensils, and other necessary items, onto their motorcycles. They embark on journeys, often on paved and sometimes unpaved roads, to reach camping destinations. Motorcycle camping offers the freedom to explore more extended distances, access remote areas, and cover diverse terrains while enjoying the convenience and speed of motorized travel.
Both bicycle camping and motorcycle camping offer unique advantages and experiences:
1. Freedom and Mobility
Both modes of transportation allow campers to travel freely and cover greater distances compared to hiking or walking. They provide the flexibility to explore various routes, access remote locations, and discover hidden gems.
2. Outdoor Experience
Bicycle and motorcycle camping provide an immersive outdoor experience. Campers can enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of nature as they ride through scenic landscapes, camp under the stars, and engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, or wildlife observation.
3. Minimalist Approach
Due to the limited carrying capacity of bicycles or motorcycles, campers must pack light and prioritize essential gear. This minimalist approach fosters a sense of simplicity, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance while minimizing the burden of excess weight.
4. Sense of Adventure
Bicycle and motorcycle camping can be inherently adventurous, offering a blend of freedom, exploration, and a connection with the open road. Campers can navigate winding roads, tackle challenging terrains, and enjoy the thrill of the journey itself.
Glamping, short for "glamorous camping," combines the comforts and amenities of traditional indoor lodging with the immersive experience of camping. It offers individuals the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature while enjoying luxurious amenities and conveniences.
In glamping, accommodations are typically designed to be more upscale, stylish, and comfortable compared to traditional camping. Instead of traditional tents, glamping sites often feature various types of structures such as safari tents, yurts, treehouses, cabins, domes, or even luxurious RVs or trailers. These structures are equipped with comfortable beds, cozy furnishings, heating or air conditioning, electricity, and private bathrooms with hot showers and flushing toilets.
The concept of glamping revolves around creating a unique and high-end outdoor experience. Some glamping sites offer additional amenities such as private decks, fire pits, outdoor seating areas, fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes, Wi-Fi access, and even on-site dining options. The goal is to provide guests with a comfortable and pampered stay while immersing them in nature.
Glamping sites are often located in scenic and natural surroundings, such as national parks, forests, coastal areas, or other picturesque landscapes. They allow guests to appreciate the beauty of nature, engage in outdoor activities like hiking, wildlife spotting, or stargazing, and enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors without sacrificing comfort.
Glamping appeals to a wide range of people, including those who desire a unique and luxurious camping experience, those who prefer not to invest in camping gear, and those who want to enjoy the outdoors without compromising on comfort or amenities. It is popular among couples, families, and individuals seeking a more glamorous and memorable way to connect with nature.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
How to plan an epic camping trip
Plan Your Meals
Decide on your meals in advance, considering the duration of your trip and the availability of cooking facilities. Prepare a menu and create a shopping list for all the ingredients you'll need. Consider simple and easy-to-cook meals that are suitable for camping, and don't forget snacks and drinks.
Organize your camping gear, clothing, food, and personal items efficiently. Pack items in sturdy containers or waterproof bags to protect them from moisture. Prioritize essential items and ensure you have appropriate clothing for various weather conditions.
Check Local Regulations
Familiarize yourself with the camping rules and regulations of the chosen location. Be aware of any fire restrictions, waste disposal guidelines, wildlife precautions, BLM or other federal land regulations, and other important information to ensure you abide by the rules and leave no trace.
Prioritize safety during your camping trip. Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member and ensure you have reliable communication devices such as a mobile phone or a two-way radio. Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures, including the location of the nearest medical facilities.
Leave No Trace
Respect the environment and leave your campsite as pristine as you found it. Follow the principles of "Leave No Trace" by properly disposing of waste, minimizing your impact on the surroundings, and being mindful of wildlife habitats.
Enjoy the Experience
Once you're at your campsite, relax, unwind, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Disconnect from technology, connect with your fellow campers, and savor the tranquility and adventure that camping provides.
Remember, flexibility and adaptability are key when camping. Embrace the unexpected and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly to make the most of your experience.
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.