Camping can psychologically and spiritually reinvigorate you in a way that few other activities are capable of. Many people find that the crackle of a fire, the hoot of an owl and the smell of fresh air are the magical elixir that allows them to make it through the trials of daily life.
Perhaps best of all, camping doesn’t require a week-long retreat into the wilderness. Many people get their nature on in small doses whenever they can spare a weekend. It’s surprisingly easy to plan a weekend camping getaway. In fact, with the six steps we’ll discuss below, just about anyone can do it.
1. Pick a Camping Spot
Before you pack up the car (or load up your motorcycle camping gear), you’ll need to select a place to camp. The easiest way to do this is usually by finding a state park, national park or private campground. When evaluating a campground, take note of features such as:
- The campground’s rules on pets, alcoholic beverages and other lifestyle factors
- Activities available near the campground (swimming, boating, hiking, fishing, archery, etc.)
- Amenities available at the campground (fire pits, running water, bathrooms, etc.)
- The average daytime and nighttime temperatures at the campground
- Specific local hazards to watch out for, such as bear activity
2. Check the Weather Forecast and Then Book Your Campground
You’ll probably need to book your campground at least a week in advance, but before you do, check the weekend’s weather forecast. You might not get a perfect picture of what the weather will be like, but modern weather forecasts are usually accurate enough to give a general idea from at least a week out.
Once you’re confident that the weather will be decent, book your campground. You’ll probably need to provide a credit card to secure your spot. Note that for very popular camping spots, such as national parks, you may need to book significantly farther in advance.
3. Pack the Right Gear
No matter where you’re headed to camp, start by making sure you have the ten essentials. These must-have supplies (including shelters, firestarters and lights) will give you the basics you need to get your camp up and running.
A few thoughts on assembling the right kit for your camping trip:
- Pack some water even if your campsite says clean water is available. Clean doesn’t always mean tasty, and it’s always possible that the campsite’s water won’t be operational when you get there.
- Make sure that you and your camping companions bring any necessary prescription medications. And while a first aid kit is covered in the Ten Essentials, it bears repeating that you really need to have one.
- It’s better to pack light even if you’re taking a car or otherwise have room for extra stuff. Less stuff means a more manageable campsite, a less cramped vehicle and less chance for important things to get lost.
- Make sure to bring trash bags or another way to pack out all of your paper and plastic waste. Remember, leave no trace!
- Consider the predicted weather conditions when you’re packing clothes. Bring some layers in case of a nighttime temperature drop, and pack at least a little bit of rain gear whether rain is expected or not—it’s better, as they say, to have and not need.
4. Plan an Easy and Flexible Food Solution
Food deserves its own section because it can have such a large effect on the quality of your camping trip. Most campsites have fire pits for cooking your own food, but you should make sure to check how the campsite is equipped and bring a camping stove if fire pits aren’t present.
Classic camping foods like trail mix, beef jerky and hot dogs will serve you well as snacks. However, it’s also a good idea to bring something a little more nutritious, particularly if your days will consist of strenuous activities like backcountry hiking. Hummus, canned tuna, crackers and hard cheese are popular, and you can even bring some hearty fresh veggies like carrots and bell peppers to give your body food it will love.
5. Set Things up to Run Smoothly When the Day Arrives
It’s important to lay the groundwork for a successful camping trip in advance. Here are some steps you should consider taking to make it easier to set up your campsite when the time comes:
- Get to your campsite while there’s still daylight if at all possible. Looking for a campsite in the dark is no fun at all, and setup will be more difficult if you have to do the whole thing by headlamp.
- If it’s your first time setting up your tent, do a practice run before you have to execute it at the campsite. It might be more challenging than you expect!
- Learn and practice key camping skills, like how to tie a bear bag to a tree.
- If you might be pressed for time when setting up the campsite, make sure that you have some quick meals available to eat. Setting up on an empty stomach is another thing you want to avoid!
6. Don’t Forget Your Entertainment
Maybe you’re headed out for some serious hiking, or maybe you’re just going camping for a relaxing time. Either way, there will likely be some moments of downtime, so bring a little something to entertain you during these lulls.
A compact board game can be tons of fun for a group, and reading a book while out in nature can be a tremendously enriching and enjoyable experience. Riding a motorcycle? Make sure to pack your motorcycle helmet speakers, plus a selection of your favorite music and/or podcasts.
A camping trip could be just what you need to reinvigorate your body and mind. So, if you’ve been dreaming of one for a while, now is the time to start planning!