This post comes from Derek Edwards, an outdoor enthusiast, adventure seeker, and up-and-coming blogger at Outdoor with Derek. Living in Southern California, he’s fortunate to have access to some breathtaking parks and forests, and has met some incredible people out on the trails (and also online) that have enabled him to spread his love for the outdoors with others.
While campers can think of nothing better than spending the night under the stars in the wild, there are many reasons why non-campers prefer to stay inside with their A/C, fridge, and other creature comforts. If you’re dying to bring some non-camping friends along for a camping trip, you’ll probably have to do a little convincing.
Here are some tips to convince your non-camping friends that camping is fun, so that they’ll want to come along on all your future adventures.
1. Start out with car camping.
There’s nothing like backcountry camping to really hone in your wilderness skills and get to know nature, but convincing your friends to tag along means you might want to consider “glamping.” That’s a four-letter word to many campers, but keeping the trip as stress-free as possible can ease your friends into the world of camping.
With car camping, you can pack what you want, make a quick escape if something goes wrong, and have the luxury of not worrying about fitting all your needs into a single backpack. First-time campers will appreciate the fun of being outside, but also keeping their belongings close. Car camping is also great for friends with dogs that may not have much experience on long, outdoor adventures.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of being close to a bathroom.
Car camping sites usually have amenities like running water, showers, and bathrooms. This is a huge perk for those who aren’t quite sure that they’ll enjoy “going” in the woods or not having access to showers after a day of hiking. And it will also ensure that they have enough clean water to drink, wash, and cook with. When you start out with car camping, you’re still outside and so can give them the basic rundown on setting up tents, going on hikes, and cooking over a fire, yet still provide some creature comforts (like a toilet!).
3. Take care of all of the organization.
Packing for any kind of trip is overwhelming — and even more so for camping. It’s critical to have all of the items that you’ll need for a couple nights in the wilderness. If you have the time, consider organizing the trip by yourself.
4. Make a packing list.
Since you can’t do all of your friends’ packing, then make a list for them. Let them know what they should bring, including:
- Types of clothing, plus extras
- Any kinds of medications
- Items like sunscreen, bug spray, and hand sanitizer
- Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets
5. Don’t forget about first aid.
Don’t let someone’s blister ruin the whole trip. First aid kits are easy enough to put together; they are also available to buy online. Consider including these items:
- Bandages and gauze
- Neosporin or another antibiotic ointment
- Safety pins, tweezers, and clothespins
- Alcohol pads or rubbing alcohol
- Hand sanitizer
- Allergy medicine (both non-drowsy and something like Benadryl)
6. Decide where to go camping.
While you’ll most likely be reduced to choosing from among sites that will allow you to park and camp, you’ll still want to make sure to pick an enjoyable area. There are many campsites that offer activities like volleyball nets and other fun games, as well as grills. This may not seem like camping to a seasoned pro, but it’s a good way for new campers to dip their toes in the water.
7. Find a beachy spot.
Try to find a campsite that has water access. Camping can feel more like a vacation this way. You can hang out on the beach, play some games, go for a swim, etc. Bring some inner tubes and spend an afternoon lounging in the lake or river.
8. Put a focus on food.
Let’s face it: Food is the way to anyone’s heart — and eating dehydrated meals is no one’s idea of a good time (no matter how much of an outdoors person you are). This is where you can get really creative and tempt your friends to become more amenable to camping.
9. Camp stoves offer a world of food options.
Roasting weenies or marshmallows over a fire is quintessential camping, but camp stoves can really up the ante. These let you boil water for the perfect French press coffee while enjoying the quiet of the morning, cook up a bolognese, and make a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast like oatmeal. No more instant coffee here!
10. Don’t rely on trail mix and granola bars.
Even if you aren’t bringing a camp stove, don’t put a focus on trail mix and granola bars. They are easy to pack and carry, but unless you’re planning on some major hiking, they are pretty much just full of empty calories.
Plan out your meals to include sandwiches, snacks, good breakfasts, adult drinks (if allowed at the campsite), and any extras that you think your friends would enjoy. If you know your their favorite foods, try to see if you can adapt a recipe to cook over the fire or on the stove.
11. Plan fun activities and games.
Camping gives friends the opportunity for some bonding moments that you may not have back at home. You don’t need to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” around the fire — just bring some of your favorite card or board games. Most campsites will have a picnic table that you can sit around, but portable tables are easy enough to fit in most vehicles. It’s hard to beat a night hanging out with friends, drinking the beverages of your choice, and playing an adult game, like Cards Against Humanity.
12. Optimize the tent and sleeping situation.
This is where many people’s dreams of camping come to die. Once you reach a certain age, it’s not fun to sleep on the hard ground with rocks poking into your back. This is another reason why car camping is the way to go for new campers — you can bring all the blankets and pillows you want.
There’s no reason the tent needs to be anything other than a relaxing space to get a good night’s sleep, read a book, or just wind down from a long day. Everyone (or couples) can have their own tents, but if you’re a seasoned camper, you may have a family tent already in your arsenal. Some of these allow up eight adults to sleep. They usually also come stocked with many storage options and pockets, so that everyone has their own space.
13. Pick mild temperatures/seasons.
Finally, while summer is the most popular time of year to camp, consider going when the temperatures are more mild. This can help to alleviate the annoyance of bugs like mosquitos, while also keeping temperatures cool. The beginning of summer or beginning of fall are great times for novice campers to start out — it will be cool at night and not too hot during the day. Of course, this depends on where you’re located, so make the decision based on your local weather.
Just one successful trip can turn your friends into seasoned campers!
If you’re dying to get your friends to go with you on more outdoor excursions, you need to ease them into camping. Pick a campsite that has amenities, take care of all of the boring stuff (like organizing and packing), and making camp food fun.
Not everyone is going to love camping, and that’s okay. But if you prepare the right way, you’ll have some friends who are intrigued. Eventually, you may be able to work them up to backcountry camping. For now, though, let them have some creature comforts, and they’ll be surprised at what a good time they have! Happy camping!
Based out of Southern California, Derek Edwards is a thirtysomething outdoor enthusiast, adventure seeker, and the creator of Outdoor with Derek. When he’s not out exploring Joshua Tree or Big Bear, he can be found at one of many local taco shops.
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