Planning a Problem-free Group Camping Trip

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The 11 Step Guide to Planning a Problem-free Group Camping Trip

By Alex Gulsby

If you have ever attempted to coordinate a trip with friends or family, you know how difficult the process can be. Logistics get hairy, people cancel or maybe one of you gets dragged off your United flight on the way there. The destructive possibilities are endless.

If you’re planning a trip to go hiking or camping, it can be even worse. Varying skill levels, experience in the outdoors and the amount of gear required may mean that you’ve already lost before you started.

But fear not and know that it can be done! It just takes a few extra steps of planning. I’ve put together the 11 step checklist to making sure the trip really does happen and that it’s a trip everyone will enjoy.

Designate a Trip Coordinator

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If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’re probably the trip leader. The cats you’re herding need some sort of guidance. As you continue this guide, remember that you are allowed to delegate tasks and tell others what to do.

Opt for the road trip

For your first camping trip, it doesn’t hurt to stay as close to home as possible. If you’re all getting on a plane and flying to a location, the cost can skyrocket and complicate how you do all your grocery shopping and planning. Accessibility is key. Carpooling or convoying gives you the opportunity to pack a lot more glamping and camping gear. Besides, you’ll be able to get as messy as you want without worrying about a rental vehicle.

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Make All your Reservations

Depending on where you stay, chances are you’ll be in a national park, forest or state park. Some campgrounds are “walk-up” only which means you can’t make a reservation. For large groups, this is risky. Try to find “reservation only” camping and read the specifications for group size.

Research the Campground

Large camping groups want to party, because duh…wilderness. Some campgrounds have quiet hours and depending on what your plans are, you may not want to shut the party down at 10am. When choosing a site at a campground, pay attention to the park map.  Look through every photo they provide. How close are the camp bathrooms? How close are your nearest neighbors? Do they offer potable water? Electrical hookups? Are there any cool features like rivers or rock climbing nearby?

When you get there, it’s not a bad idea to befriend the camp host too and tell them your plans. If the night gets rowdy, you’ll thank yourself that you have a friend.

Research the Area

As much as I love day drinking by a tent all day, it’s a good idea to actually plan some activities for the weekend. You are not guaranteed phone reception at a campground so do it beforehand! Float the river, hike the trails, climb a mountain, explore a cave or chase some waterfalls. Learn what the region has to offer!

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Figure out the money early

You’ll be paying for gas, groceries, beer, camp reservations, (maybe) hiking permits, gear, and firewood to mention a few. It adds up and since you are the trip coordinator, you’re at risk for paying for a lot more than you should. Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to put stuff in writing.

Start a Google Doc for the Gear List

The honey-do list will inevitably grow and get out from under you. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve realized that. Unlike your typical travel trip, you’re probably not just packing clothes and toiletries. Set up a sharable google doc with everyone’s name listed. Make a gear list of everything the individual will need (backpack, hiking socks, sleeping bags, puffy jacket, pool float, whatever). Likewise, make a “group gear” list of things like the camp stove, tents, ice chests and music speakers. Note who has extra of something and who has none.

It may seem excessive but it will allow you to make sure that everything is squared away. And when the group camping trip is over, everyone will still remember who borrowed what.

Plan your recipes ahead of time

If one of your friends is a culinary genius, awesome! Can I borrow them? You can designate them as a camp cook….or not. Either way, decide what you are going to cook, how many you are going to cook for and when you’re going to cook it beforehand. It makes the grocery trip a lot easier when you have an objective.

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Decide on a moderate trail that everyone can complete (if you’re hiking)

Remember and respect the varying skill level of those within your group camping trip and leave your pride at the trailhead. There is nothing more dangerous or unpleasant than putting someone in a position of uncertainty out in the wilderness. I promise you that literally nobody will be having fun.

Bring more water than you’ve brought booze

Nothing spurs stoke quite like an epic group camping trip. However, you are out in the wilderness. Just bring an absurd amount of water to support your hiking hangover. You’ll thank me later.

And as always, before you set out:

Buy a map, touch base with rangers, and check the weather!!!

 

Did you enjoy this 11 step group camping article?

You can follow more of Alex’s adventures at www.wanderwritings.com

 

Guest Author at

In June of 2016, Alex quit her job to pursue a life of freelance writing in the outdoor industry.

She’s now located out of Durango, Colorado, where she writes short stories, gear reviews, essays, and more for magazines like Backpacker, Matador Network, Earth Island Journal, and Sonderers.

Alex also serves as the lead backpacking gear reviewer for 99boulders.com, as well as the blogger for the local Durango Office of Tourism.

18 thoughts on “Planning a Problem-free Group Camping Trip

  • June 14, 2017 at 5:16 pm
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    You posted this right on time! We’re planning our first group camping trip to a national park and I definitely book marked this to share with the girls.

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  • June 1, 2017 at 10:02 pm
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    I really like your recommendation to research the campground before reserving it. It makes sense that this could be helpful to make sure it will work for your needs and not have any surprises when it comes time to stay there. This will be very helpful advice for when I go camping with my family because I want to make sure we have some nice amenities to make it easier on the kids.

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  • May 28, 2017 at 5:35 am
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    These are some really great tips, I love group camping and I used to do it in my college days but now I can’t imagine that after having a 17month old lil one lol. But Am gonna share this in my friend circle 🙂

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  • May 27, 2017 at 10:02 am
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    Thanks for these tips. I have not gone group camping in a long long time. I guess I feel I am too old for that now. Anyway, I will share this post with my sons. They are the ones who really love the great outdoors and are always organizing trips with their friends.

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  • May 27, 2017 at 7:15 am
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    I have never ever been group camping but I plan to before the end of this year! I am going bookmark this post for future reference. Thanks for the lovely tips 🙂

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  • May 26, 2017 at 9:33 pm
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    These are great tips, and a lot of them could be used for organising any kind of group trip. I’ve never been camping in a group but have been on group holidays, the logistics of it all are always a nightmare!

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  • May 26, 2017 at 6:35 pm
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    These are all great tips but I especially like the one about planning the recipes. This is not something I would have thought of but I can see how useful it is to do it!

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  • May 26, 2017 at 10:07 am
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    These are really helpful tips. I need to plan another trip soon with friends I think. This has inspired me 🙂

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  • May 26, 2017 at 9:48 am
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    Ahah it’s always tricky to organize a trip with lot of friends 😉 but it’s also much fun with heaps of company! But you’re right one needs to organize all things in advance so then everyone is ready to just enjoy the trip! 🙂

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  • May 26, 2017 at 8:52 am
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    Certainly, these are great tips! Few of them are known to me, but other trips are really important for me to remember. Once I’ve been for camping in group but never thought of such things.

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  • May 26, 2017 at 3:15 am
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    I honestly did not think about how much planning there is to group camping and hiking. I seriously hadn’t thought about it but now I have read this post, it makes total sense to get prepared if we want everything to go well.

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  • May 26, 2017 at 12:44 am
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    These are great tips! I will definitely be turning to these this summer as I’ve made it my goal to do a bit of group camping this year. (After all, Canada’s national parks are free for my country’s 150th birthday! Best. Present. Ever.) I can say from past trips that having a designated coordinator, a cook, and befriending the camp host are absolute musts, so I’m so glad that you reminded me! Saving this post for future group camping adventures. Thanks so much for putting all this knowledge in one place!

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  • May 26, 2017 at 12:44 am
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    This post is very nice! I’ve been group camping once, but not so organized, so the next time i will use your advice!
    xoxo
    Kate

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  • May 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm
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    I have had more than one group camping trip fall apart because of lack of organisation. I like the idea of assigning a leader (preferably one with experience). I also really like the Google doc idea for sharing gear – why carry more than you have to!

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  • May 25, 2017 at 8:58 pm
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    I’d say picking a trip coordinator is essential for any group trip. Always best to have someone in charge and someone who has researched and come up with a game plan. And I’m so glad you noted to take all hiking levels into consideration to make sure everyone has a good time. It’s always stressful to find out that the activities are too strenuous to complete and people end up grouchy.

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  • May 25, 2017 at 8:29 pm
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    This is a great post and I think that most of these tips are practical for any type of group travel. I think the most important step is to designate a “leader.” Having someone to coordinate who does what and who will make whatever reservation is key. I’ve been on trips before where multiple people try to do one thing/make one res without really communicating to everyone and it turns into a disaster! Thanks for sharing!!

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  • May 25, 2017 at 8:24 pm
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    These are a lot of great tips. I can sympathize with campgrounds that allow partiers from both sides. I have been among those making to much noise and bothering people and also the one wishing some other site would just shut up. Making sure to get the right campground for what you want to do is essential.

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  • May 25, 2017 at 8:11 pm
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    There certainly is a lot more to take into account when you are talking about groups, rather than just what you usually do for a camping trip. I think this is a great guide for helping us through that process.

    Reply

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