Tag Archives: campsite

Tips for Planning a Successful Group Camping Trip

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Group Camping with several tents in the woods

Image: Katie Levy

With prime camping season around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about trip planning if you haven’t already. And when it comes to spending a night (or several) outdoors, sharing that experience with a group of people can be incredibly rewarding.

After going on multiple camping trips with friends and local outdoor clubs, I’ve learned that a handful of key things planned, or not planned, in advance can make or break a group camping trip. If you’re hoping to get a group camping trip in this spring or summer, keep these things in mind.

Make campground reservations far in advance.

One of my favorite things about camping during the off-season is not having to worry about finding a campsite. Most people aren’t interested in camping in the snow, making it easy to drive to a campground and find a last-minute spot. But with some of the most popular camping months around the corner, campgrounds are going to get crowded.

If you’re planning on staying in a campground with a group, look for group sites that accommodate large numbers of people and snag them ahead of time. Some campgrounds don’t have group sites, and if they do, there are typically only a few. You can also look for campgrounds that allow you to reserve sites next to or across from each other if group camping isn’t available. My friends and I did that on a trip to Acadia National Park and it worked perfectly, but only because we planned ahead.

Decide whether to do group meals, and plan accordingly.

Planning meals for a group camping trip

Image: Katie Levy

Letting everyone fend for themselves on your group trip is certainly an option, but group meals can make things more efficient and cheaper. Instead of numerous individual coolers and items bought separately, you can buy in bulk and have the experience of preparing meals together. But if you do decide to do group meals, preparation is essential.

Start by figuring out the number of meals you’ll have, and write down options for each meal. Give your tripmates time to discuss them, and once the meal plan is set, determine who’s doing the shopping and how the items are going to be stored. Finally, pack plastic bags to make divvying up things like trail mix and sandwiches easier.

Understand everyone’s experience level.

Gear check for a group camping trip

Image: Katie Levy

Whether you have a group of seasoned camping veterans, absolute beginners, or a mix of both, knowing your tripmates’ experience levels is important. If you have beginners in the group, they might have more questions about gear and food than a veteran camper would, and they may need to pick up more gear in advance of your trip. They may not understand basic principles of overnight food storage, campground etiquette, or even what sleeping in a tent is going to feel like.

Ultimately, the goal is to make the trip enjoyable for everyone. Understanding both experience level and expectations from your tripmates makes having fun a whole lot easier.

Make a gear list and divvy up group gear.

If you’re going camping, odds are you’re bringing things like a tent, a stove or other cooking device, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, and other items multiple people in your group may have. But it’s not (normally) necessary for everyone to have their own tent, stove, or bottle of dish soap, and it’s possible some people in your group might not have essential items others in the group can share with them.

Make a gear list in advance that includes things like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and other personal items everyone needs. Then make a separate list of group gear items like stoves, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, and tents so the gear can be divvied up in advance of the trip. I’ve found making a spreadsheet in Google Docs with multiple tabs for group food, group gear, and individual gear requirements is the easiest way to keep track of everything. A list, or multiple lists, also helps you avoid forgetting anything.

Make and share a plan for finances in advance.

Even when you’re planning a group trip with friends and/or family, finances can be tricky. If you’re ponying up for a campground reservation and group members drop out at the last minute, it’ll cost you. But asking for money upfront can cause its own set of challenges.

Think about whether you want to ask for a down payment in advance, especially for things like reservations. It can prevent folks from backing out at the last minute and helps ensure the known costs are covered before the trip. You can also estimate costs associated with food and ask for all or part of that ahead of time.

I’ve found that on group trips with friends, covering the reservations in advance and dividing up additional costs like food after the trip works best, but that’ll vary depending on who you’re going with. Get everyone in the group on the same page about estimated costs and what’s being collected and when; it’ll make things a lot easier in the end.

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image: Katie Levy

What other tips do you have for a successful group trip? Have you been on a trip that went extremely well or extremely poorly? If so, why do you think the trip went the way it did? We’d love to hear from you!

Figuring Out Your Camping Style

The first step in ensuring a positive camping experience is making sure you’re comfortable and happy at your site. After all, a night spent in the great outdoors should be a night well spent. Whether you want to be as close to the bare ground as possible or you’d rather sleep under the stars in style, determining your preference before you head out will make the difference between striking up a continued interest in camping or permanently putting out that flickering campfire in your heart. Here are five types of camping that can help you figure out what works best for you.

Glamping (Glamorous Camping)

A full living room inside of a tent.

Camp…er…GLAMP in style! [Image: http://eluxemagazine.com/travel/glamp-of-approval-great-glamping-sites-for-any-season/]

Glamping is perfect for those that want to enjoy the great outdoors, but don’t want to get their hands dirty while doing so. A relaxing weekend away from the stresses of every day life with all the conveniences of home at your fingertips makes for a great opportunity to clear your mind. Glamping can be done in villas, huts, yurts, cabins, lodges, or at park hotels and motels.

RV Camping

A family sitting near a campfire next to an RV in front of a the lake as the sun sets.

Gather the whole family for some cozy RV camping. [Image: http://blog.elmonterv.com/wordpress/photo-gallery/index.php/page/13/]

Similar to glamping, packing up an RV and driving to a campground offers a close-up view of nature’s beauty from the safety and comfort of a camper. An RV can be stocked with all the conveniences that you’re used to and is essentially just a home on wheels (mobile home—get it?). With the open road laid out ahead of you and a cool drink at your side, there’s not many vacations that can compare!

Car Camping

A car packed with camping gear parked in front of a mountain with a tent in the background.

Pack the car and head for the hills! [Image: http://blog.tahoemountainsports.com/2011/05/23/car-camping-list-checklist/]

A bit more rustic yet still comfortable, camping from the convenience of your car gives you easy access to a lot more supplies than just one or two backpacks can hold. It’s a way to get into nature and enjoy yourself while also making sure you didn’t forget your favorite jacket or lucky socks. Just make sure you pack the car in a well-organized and easily accessible way!

Tent Camping

A tent next to campfire in front of a lake as the sun sets.

A peaceful camping trip is just what the doctor ordered. [Image: http://media.onsugar.com/files/2010/10/42/1/912/9123837/8e33a8f26a0179cc_tent_camping.jpg]

When people typically think of camping, they imagine pitching a tent in the woods and cooking over a raging campfire. This style of camping is best for those outdoors enthusiasts that want to respect and honor the nature that they’re partaking in. Head for the hills with your tents in tow, and don’t forget to camp with the best interests of curious animal friends in mind during your stay.

Backpacking

A backpacker standing on a cliff as the sun rises.

Load up your backpack and go explore. [Image: http://www.travellinguide.com/photo-3162-1-the-15-best-backpacking-destinations-in-2015.html]

For those adventurers looking for a challenge and deeper connection to nature, backpacking is the best type of camping to take advantage of. A pair of reliable hiking boots, a backpack stuffed with lightweight camping gear, and good company are all you need before you set off on a backpacking adventure. Part hiking, part camping, it’s perfect for those who like to make a plan and stick to it—set your hiking course, figure out where you want to set up camp come nightfall, and you’re ready to go!

Whether you’re looking to get down and dirty in the woods or want to have a taste of nature with the comforts of your home, this list should help give you an idea of what type of camping you’re most suited for. Browse our Gear Store to get any last minute camping necessities, and don’t forget to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps before you head out to find an accommodating campsite near you!

Leave No Trace

How do you keep the wilderness wild when millions of outdoor enthusiasts visit state and national parks each year? The Center for Outdoor Ethics created a solution to this problem with their national educational program, Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace program promotes and inspires good ethical practice when in the backcountry. By following these guidelines, you ensure a gratifying and lasting outdoor experience for all.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Like any trip, planning before you arrive at your destination is key.

  • Acquaint yourself with park regulations. You can easily access this information through any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather and emergencies. Pack a first aid kit and a survival kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, multi-tool pocket knife, maps, lighter, fire starters, and iodine tablets.
  • Respect the physical limits of your hiking group by planning a trip that’s compatible with the group’s skill level.
Backpacker in sunlit field [Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com]

Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com

  • Careful meal planning and packaging is so important when out in the backcountry. Pack only the food you need to minimize waste while you’re out on the trail.
  • Try to visit the outdoors in small groups. This is especially applicable to backpacking trips. If you are a larger group heading into the wilderness, break off into smaller groups to reduce impact on the environment. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use on the trail.
  • Refrain from marking your trail with paint, cairns or flagging, and instead use a map, compass or your Pocket Ranger® app. In addition to a compass feature, the Pocket Ranger® apps offer users advanced GPS features that can even be used offline!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Trampling down an area’s vegetation can result in some undesirable results, such as barren areas and soil erosion. Help preserve the environment by following these tips:

  • In wilderness areas of high use, stick to established trails and campsites. Established campsites can come in a few different forms, such as raised wooden platforms, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow. Walk single-file on trails and try to stick to the center of these trails. This prevents the trail from further eroding the surrounding landscape.
Hikers on a trail in the woods [Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles]

Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles

  • However, when camping and hiking through pristine or fragile environments, the opposite is true. Avoid making established trails or campsites by dispersing your impact on the environment. Do not camp or travel in places where impacts are just beginning to show.
  • Whether in high use or low use areas, always make sure to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This protects the waterbody and riparian areas (the land near a waterbody) from damage and contamination.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This principle could be the golden rule of the backcountry: Whatever you pack in, you must pack out! This includes all trash, leftover food, toilet paper (both used and unused), and hygiene products.

  • Before leaving a campsite or rest area, check around for any trash or spilled food you may have missed.
  • Solid human waste should be deposited in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep. These catholes must be at least 200 feet from water, campsite and trails. After use, cover and disguise catholes.
Always clean up after yourself when outdoors. [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

Always clean up after yourself! [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

  • Got dishes? Need a shower? To clean either yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lake, and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap. When finished cleaning or bathing, do not dump this dirty water back into the stream or lake! Doing so would contaminate the natural water source. Instead, strain and then scatter the water at least 200 feet (or 80 to 100 strides) from its source.

4. Leave What You Find

Look, but don’t touch! Preserve the past by leaving natural and historic structures and artifacts as they are. This ensures that other visitors to the area will have the same sense of discovery.

  • Leave rocks, plants, feathers and other natural objects just as you find them.
  • Don’t transport non-native species with you! Non-native species frequently become invasive. These invasive species can critically damage the ecosystem.
  • A good campsite is found, not made. Do not dig trenches or build structures, such as lean-tos, tables or chairs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While many believe that a roaring campfire is essential to a great camping trip, fire is not always permitted in backcountry area. Before lighting a fire, always check with park regulations.

  • If fires are allowed, use only established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Keep your campfire small and manageable.
  • Hold off on the huge logs! The Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends using sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Can you spot the two campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

Can you spot the campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

  • Burn all the wood and coals in your campfire to ash and put out the fire completely. Then scatter the cool ashes.
  • As for cooking outdoors, use a lightweight camp stove. A lightweight camp stove (rather than a bulky camp stove) will also be a blessing for your back!

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s certainly exhilarating to come across wildlife when outdoors. For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, follow these guidelines for wildlife sightings:

  • Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never approach or follow wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife! Feeding wildlife can make wild animals dependent on humans, creating opportunities for potentially dangerous encounters.
Black bear takes over picnic at campsite [Image: http://forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

Don’t let your favorite breakfast cereal become theirs. [Image: forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food rations and securely.
  • If you bring pets with you, make sure you have control of them at all times. In many places, leashes are required.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

While you may head into the backcountry to be alone in the great outdoors, chances are you may come across a few other outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Respect other visitors to the area. Be courteous and yield to other hikers on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from the trails and other visitors. Avoid making loud noises or speaking in loud voices when in the backcountry. Keeping your voice low not only helps others enjoy their time in the wilderness, but also increases your chances of seeing wildlife.
  • If you encounter pack stock in the backcountry, step to the downhill side of the trail.

Any adventure in the outdoors is going to require some quality gear. By taking the Pocket Ranger® State Park Visitor Survey you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

Winter Got You Cold? Have an Outdoor Party Indoors!

For most of the country, winter can get pretty cold. And while our love for the outdoors stays strong all year long (we’re all about winter camping and winter state park activities and winter picnics!), we know that there are times when some people just don’t want to go outside. So for all the outdoor enthusiasts that tend to hibernate during these colder months, we’ve figured out a way for you to stay in touch with your outdoor life. Meaning, we’re presenting you with a guide to throwing the ultimate outdoor party indoors!

Let’s get this party started.

We’re dividing this post into a few categories: décor, food, and activities. Just thought you should know.

Décor

We’re about to transform your living room (or kitchen, or dining room, or bathroom—you get the point) into a scene right out of nature.

First off, consider your floor. If it’s some kind of fabric not found in nature, perhaps you’d like to cover the ground with some sort of turf rug.

artificial grass rug outdoor party indoors

Image: www.amazon.com

Now that you have your grassy ground, it’s time to set up camp. And what’s a campsite without a tent? (Really, what is it? We want to know.) You can go a little crazy, and pick up one of these unique tents, or you can play it safe and pick one out here, by clicking “Hike & Camp,” then “Tents,” and scrolling through all of the lovely options.

Once the tent is pitched, you’ll have to make sure you have some scenery to look at. You may not need to do anything at all; since you’re such a nature enthusiast, your home may be decorated with beautiful photos like this one.

scenic landscape outdoor party indoors

Image: www.adore-theworld.tumblr.com

If not, you can do a number of things: buy a couple posters, simply print out and maybe blow up some of your favorite Instagram shots (or your favorite photos from Tumblr, like this one), or, if you want to be really fancy, you can take a panoramic picture of your favorite outdoor spot and print it at your local print shop and just hang on your walls.

pretty forest outdoor party indoors

Image: www.adore-theworld.tumblr.com

Your campsite is almost set up, but it’s still missing a key component: a campfire. Here are some instructions on how to create your own fake campfire for the indoors!

indoor campfire outdoor party indoors

Image: www.ehow.com/how_8692860_make-fake-campfire-indoors.html

Food

Now that the décor is set, it’s time to start talking food. Feel free to serve anything you would make over a fire while camping, but we also have a few suggestions of our own.

Obviously, you’re going to need some s’mores. You can do the whole classic thing, or check out our favorite twists on the campfire treat. Whatever you do, make sure you roast those ‘mallows over a flame!

Other ideas? Native American Frybread, grilled hot dogs, chili, pasta packets (thrown on the fire in foil), or anything else your heart desires. Just be sure to serve it on this awesome stump plate.

tree plate indoor outdoor party

Image: www.hgtvgardens.com/tools-and-products/holiday-guide-garden-gifts?s=11

 

Activities

What’s an outdoor excursion without some fitness-fueled fun? Not an outdoor excursion, for one thing. That’s why we’re suggesting rock climbing, and showing you how to build your very own indoor rock climbing wall!

rock climbing wall outdoor party indoors

Image: www. instructables.com/id/Garage-Climbing-Wall/?ALLSTEPS

Be sure to play some rockin’ music that reminds you of the outdoors (may we suggest our Ultimate Hiking Trail Mix?) or perhaps some nature or animal recordings. Whatever you do, just make sure you keep the outdoor spirit going throughout your whole indoor party!

Ever thrown an outdoor party indoors? Have any other suggestions? Let us know!