Camping is a wonderful experience often overlooked or underestimated in our world. When you go camping over long weekends, it becomes one of the most beautiful things you can do for various reasons. It changes how you view holidays and long weekends and steers you away from the costly vacations you've been accustomed to.
But we understand that for some of you, camping might feel like a huge change you're not used to. It's quite different from hopping on a plane and staying in luxurious hotels you adore. Adjusting can be challenging because you won't be resting on a cozy mattress all the time; you'll need to get up and walk to the restrooms and showers.
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Benefits of Choosing a Long Weekend for Your Outdoor Adventure
- Returning to nature is the primary charm of camping, in our opinion. Unlike a vacation package where you're probably surrounded by buildings and a lot of tourists you don't enjoy being around, camping doesn't come with those things. Yes, during the peak of summer when the weather is splendid, you might be among many other cheerful campers, but you'll often notice that the campsite becomes quite lively with activity.
- Camping offers certain health advantages that are unique to it, and you certainly won't experience them after spending two weeks dining at an all-inclusive resort. The first health benefit we believe you'll discover is related to your mental well-being. Like all vacations, life slows down a bit, and even though you don't have to leave the country, it genuinely feels like you're enjoying a vacation to the fullest.
- There's nothing quite like the convenience of packing up your car and driving to any destination in the country for a camping trip. It's that simple. As long as your car has enough fuel, you've ensured it's safe for a long journey, and you have all your camping essentials, that's how straightforward it is to embark on a camping adventure.
How to Select the Perfect Camping Destination
Selecting the right campsite can greatly affect your enjoyment of a long weekend camping trip. Problems like tents getting flooded, trees falling, or noisy neighbors can ruin your trip. However, you can avoid these issues with some preparation and planning. Whether you're camping in an RV, setting up a tent, or sleeping out under the stars like a cowboy, here are some things to think about when picking the perfect campsite.
Look for a Flat Surface
While this might not matter if you're in a hammock, everyone else will want to find a mostly flat area for their shelter. If you can't find a completely flat spot, consider how you'd like to sleep on a slope. Some people, after a long day of hiking, prefer to have their feet elevated to reduce swelling. Others, especially if they have allergies, might find it helpful to have their head elevated to relieve nighttime stuffiness.
Check the Drainage
If you're camping in a vehicle or a hammock, drainage might not be a big concern. However, if you're in a tent or sleeping out in the open, pay attention to how water flows around your campsite. Is the ground sloping toward your campsite? If there's rain in the middle of the night, the last thing you'll want is to leave your cozy sleeping bag and move your tent because of flooding.
This can be tricky if you're on a designated tent pad. If rain is in the forecast, consider digging a trench or channel to divert water away from your tent.
Consider Door Placement
Regardless of your shelter type, if you're camping near other people, think about the direction your doors face. When we go tent camping with our kids, we usually position our tent door facing the kids' tent door so we can easily check on them.
When we're in our campervan in a dispersed campsite with other campers around, we try to have our campervan door facing away from their site or use a tree for privacy. This way, the kids can go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without feeling self-conscious.
Use Sun and Shade Wisely
During the shoulder seasons, pay attention to where the sun will rise and try to orient your tent to catch the early morning sunlight and warm you up. In the peak of summer, look for sites with more trees or rocky outcroppings that can provide shade and relief from the scorching sun.
Mind Your Location
Especially in established campgrounds, be aware of high-traffic areas like restrooms and water sources. The last thing you want is to be kept awake all night by the constant opening and closing of bathroom doors.
If you're in a dispersed camping area (not an established campground), make sure to follow the 200-foot rules. Set up your campsite more than 200 feet away from the water's edge (lakes, ponds, rivers, etc.) to avoid harming the environment.
Also, keep your tent at least 200 feet away from any trails to prevent hikers from accidentally wandering into your campsite at night. It's also a good idea to place your tent at least 200 feet from where you cook, use the toilet, and store your food.
Fun Activities for Kids
Choose a campsite that offers easy access to fun features like rocks, trees, and creeks. Many established campsites have photos or reviews online that can help you find the perfect spot. Alternatively, check the campsite maps for nearby water sources that can add to your camping experience.
Check for Unhealthy Trees
Pay close attention to the condition of the trees around your campsite. We learned this lesson during a backpacking trip to Yellowstone. As we were setting up our tents in a grove of trees during a severe windstorm, three of the trees came crashing down while we were securing our stakes. We quickly relocated our camp away from the dead trees. For hammock enthusiasts, make sure you have healthy trees or another sturdy support to hang your hammock from.
Watch Out for Sharp Objects
Before setting up your tent, clear away any sharp debris like rocks and pinecones from under your tent footprint. This will reduce the chances of discomfort or puncturing your sleep pads.
Remember to minimize your impact and leave no trace to protect the outdoors. Whenever possible, choose an existing campsite, and if not, camp on a durable surface rather than fragile areas.
Always clean up your trash, avoid cutting vegetation, and leave nature as you found it. If you're not familiar with the Leave No Trace Seven Principles, take a look at them before your next camping trip.
Essential Camping Gear and Equipment
At Long Weekend, we understand that every camper is unique. That's why we have an amazing selection of gear for different types of campers, whether you prefer a simple camping experience or the luxury of glamping. We've got you covered, especially if you're planning a beach or coastal staycation as your long weekend camping trip.
- Shelter (Tent)
- Comfortable Pillows
- Cooking Equipment (Camping Stove)
- Tent Accessories (Tent Pegs)
- Cozy Sleeping Gear (Sleeping Bags)
- Restful Sleeping Surface (Sleeping Mat, Air Bed, or Camp Bed)
- Cooking Tools (Cooking Pans & Utensils)
- Eating Utensils (Cutlery)
- Water Container (Water Carrier or Jerry Can)
- Camp Seating (Camping Chairs)
- Illumination (Torches and Lanterns)
- Clean-Up Gear (Bin Bags)
- Camp Dining (Camping Table)
- Electrical Connection (Electric Hook-Up)
- Extra Tent Protection (Tent Footprint)
- Covered Tent Entry (Tent Porch)
- Cozy Tent Flooring (Tent Carpet)
- Portable Toilet (Camping Toilet)
- Storage Solutions (Cupboards and Storage)
- Wind Protection (A Windbreak)
Useful Tools and Repair Supplies
- Cleaning Supplies (Brush)
- Handy Pocket Knife (Penknife)
- Sturdy Hammer (Mallet)
- Versatile Fixer (Duct Tape)
- Tent Emergency Kit (Tent Repair Kit)
- Extra Ropes (Extra guyline or string)
Camp Kitchen Essentials
- Fuel for Cooking (Gas for stove or charcoal barbecue)
- Beverage Opener (Bottle Opener)
- Fire Starter (Matches / Lighter)
- Cleaning Materials (Wet Wipes or cloths)
- Kitchen Cleanup Gear (Cleaning Equipment)
- Water Boiling (Kettle)
- Dining Utensils (Tableware - Plates, bowls, etc.)
- Can Opener (Tin Opener)
Health and Safety Necessities
- Sun Protection (Sun Cream)
- Hand Hygiene (Anti-Bacterial Handwash)
- Bug Defense (Insect Repellent)
- Bathroom Basics (Toilet Roll)
- Personal Medications
- Minor Injury First Aid (A travel First Aid Kit for minor injuries)
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Meal Planning and Campfire Cooking
Here, we're going to show you five simple steps to complete all your meal planning and packing lists. It may take about an hour to set up initially, but it saves a lot of time, and you can do these tasks quickly.
Step 1: Choose Your Recipes
As mentioned before, it's best to pick uncomplicated camping recipes. Complicated ones will steal time from your relaxation, so choose wisely. Also, plan an easy meal for your arrival day to avoid meal-related stress. We usually save a special meal for later during our trip, not on the first night.
Step 2: Create Your Menu
If camping is a one-time thing for you, all you need is a piece of scrap paper to jot down your menu. However, if you camp frequently and want to follow my method, you'll need a spreadsheet tool like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Create columns for each day and rows for Breakfast, Morning Snack, Lunch, After Snack, Dinner, and Dessert.
Make sure you have a main dish and two side dishes. Sides can be as simple as a veggie tray, fruit tray, and/or chips and dips so that people can snack freely.
Step 3: Compile Your Ingredients List
After several years of regular camping, we've established our favorite meals. However, I used to keep ingredients in my head and often forgot some, resulting in last-minute grocery runs. We've even had to buy condiments or drinks we forgot to bring.
Step 4: Create Your Grocery and Food Packing Lists
I hope your head isn't spinning! You can download the workbook at the bottom of the page to see the instructions. This step is where you save a lot of time. For the grocery list, go back to your menu and copy all the ingredients for each dish onto a blank worksheet page.
Step 5: Review Your Food Packing List
You're almost there, so don't mess up now! On the day you travel, double-check your list, especially for items that need refrigeration.
Hiking and Exploring the Great Outdoors while camping
Let's be real—sometimes, even the closest pals can get on each other's nerves during a camping trip. Hiking can be a fantastic addition to those extended weekend getaways, but the main goal of hanging out with your camping buddies is to have a blast, right? Here are our top five tips for organizing the ultimate hiking adventure while on a camping trip to keep the good times rolling.
Choose a Leader
Decide in advance who will be the leader of the gang. It could be the person who first came up with the idea for the trip or perhaps the super-organized Type A personality. Regardless, the person who steps up should be responsible for the group's logistics, planning, and decision-making.
While group input is valuable and encouraged, the leader will have the final say. We're not suggesting a dictator, but having one designated decision-maker can be helpful when the group is stuck in decision-making mode.
Here are some things the leader should handle:
- Sorting out the logistics. Consider planning the group trip during quieter times, like spring or fall, or on weekdays if everyone can take time off from work.
- Narrowing down the options and selecting a location. Look for group campsites for larger groups and make sure your group fits within the place's size limits to minimize environmental impact.
- Making reservations and obtaining permits. Some places fill up six months or a year in advance, so it's a good idea to check well ahead of time.
Preplan Your Meals
Arguably, the most stressful part of any group outing is ensuring everyone has enough to eat. Hanger is a real thing and can test even the strongest friendships. Meal planning for the group should happen well before the trip, and ideally, one or two people can take charge of the food.
For the brave soul taking on this role, keep it simple. Plan meals that don't require extensive preparation, and prep as much of the food as possible before the trip.
Easy breakfast options include eggs, bagels, or oatmeal, while lunch can consist of basic PB&Js or deli-style sandwiches. Keep dinner straightforward with meals like burritos, pasta, or stir-fry.
If you're a culinary enthusiast, you're welcome to prepare more gourmet dishes, but remember not to keep your group waiting after a long day of adventure while you cook a five-star meal. (Pro tip: Chips, salsa, and hummus are excellent snacks to keep a hungry group content.)
Embrace Relaxation Time
Depending on your group's personalities, it's a good idea to plan for some downtime, especially in the evening. Not every moment of the trip needs to be filled with high-energy activities or ambitious goals. Moments of relaxation offer great opportunities to build connections and revel in the unique atmosphere that comes from lounging around the campsite. Make sure to bring items like decks of cards, plenty of your favorite beverages, travel-sized guitars or ukuleles, and any other camp-friendly entertainment you can think of.
Be Truthful About Your Skills
If there are different levels of abilities among your group, think about dividing into smaller teams. This way, everyone can have a good time and go at their own speed.
When your group embarks on a hike, climb, or bike ride, kindly request that everyone in the group be honest and open about their skill levels. One effective approach is to acknowledge these differences and form separate groups each day based on skills or individual goals. In the end, this adds more excitement around the campfire, as each group shares their daily adventures.
Follow Leave No Trace Principles
Always ensure that your campfire is completely extinguished before leaving.
Larger groups inherently have a more significant impact on the environment, including increased damage to vegetation around the camp or on trails, larger fire scars, and social impacts on other visitors. Here are a few Leave No Trace recommendations to help preserve your favorite places, ensuring your group can continue this tradition year after year.
- Store your food in reusable containers. This reduces the amount of waste you bring on your trip and need to carry out.
- Minimize harm to the vegetation at your campsite by selecting sites that can accommodate your group's size. Set up your tents and cooking areas in locations with no live plants.
- Carry out all garbage and food leftovers. It's not advisable to burn them, as it can attract wildlife and introduce harmful chemicals into the environment.
- Campfires are wonderful, but ensure they are fully extinguished before going to sleep or leaving the campsite. Last year, 84% of wildfires were caused by human activities, which means it's our responsibility to prevent them. Pour water on the fire until the ashes are cool to the touch. If it's still smoldering, continue to drench it with water.
Capturing Moments: Tips for Taking Photos While Camping
When you're out exploring nature, it's a smart move to pack lightly. If you really enjoy taking pictures, it's a good idea to plan and pack some essential outdoor photography gear. We assure you that you'll actually need them! But don't worry – even if you don't have fancy professional equipment, you can still capture fantastic camping memories.
Keep this in mind, bring along what we suggest, and have fun preserving your experiences with these:
Portable and Lightweight Tripod:
If you plan to take those dreamy long exposure night shots, it's a great idea to bring along your reliable tripod.
Remote Control for Shutter:
This comes in handy, especially if you're traveling solo and want to capture the best camping selfies.
Camera or Smartphone Lenses for Travel Photography:
To ensure that the stunning landscapes fit into your frame, make sure to pack a wide-angle or telephoto lens. All-in-one lenses are like the Swiss Army knife of photography gear.
Power Bank or Extra Batteries:
Can you imagine anything more frustrating than your battery dying just when you find the perfect shot? Avoid that frustration by bringing an extra power source.
Spare Memory Card:
Nature has a way of surprising you, and you never know what you might come across. Spot an amazing tree? Make sure you have enough space to capture it.
Eco-Friendly Camping Practices
From promoting taking care of nature to cutting down on harmful gases, there are plenty of good reasons to use eco-friendly camping methods. By following the suggestions below, you can reduce your impact on the environment when camping during a long weekend.
Say No to Plastic Products
It might seem easy to grab a pack of bottled water for your camping trip, but consider the harm it does to the environment. According to a study by the Pacific Institute, it takes three times more water to make one plastic water bottle than it holds.
What's even worse is that the chemicals used in making these bottles are so harmful that the water inside becomes undrinkable and is wasted. This study also found that it takes a whopping 17 million barrels of oil to produce all the water bottles used in the United States each year.
So, how many bottles is that? A staggering 50 billion every year, which translates to 1,500 water bottles consumed every second in the United States alone. These facts should make us reconsider our use of plastic water bottles. And you should do the same.
Swap out those plastic water bottles for reusable ones when you go camping or anywhere else you need water.
Choose Natural Body Products
When you go camping, you'll bring sunscreen, bug spray, lotions, and maybe even makeup. You've probably thought about how these products affect your skin, but have you considered their impact on the environment? Water-soluble products like sunscreen can contaminate lakes, rivers, and any other bodies of water you come across on your adventures.
To keep it simple, avoid products that dissolve in water, as they can harm aquatic life. Find alternatives that protect you from the sun and bugs without harming the environment. Also, opt for biodegradable toothpaste and soap.
It's these little things that, over time and with many people, can harm nature. Non-biodegradable toothpaste and soap take a long time to break down, so use eco-friendly alternatives. And remember, when using soap or toothpaste, stay at least 200 feet away from any water source to keep it clean.
The idea of tossing your paper plates after dinner instead of washing dishes might seem appealing, especially when you're on vacation. However, the extra effort of cleaning reusable dishes instead of discarding disposable ones goes a long way for the environment. Plus, using the same dishes on multiple camping trips saves you money.
Pack Out What You Bring In
One of the best ways to protect the environment and keep your camping areas clean is by taking your trash with you. Sort your waste into trash and recycling, and if you want to be eco-friendly, bring a bag for compost.
Whatever you do, don't leave anything behind at your campsite, not even toilet paper or hygiene products. When disposing of human waste, make sure to dig holes 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from water sources. The rule "carry in, carry out" is essential for all campers to follow.
Unfortunately, some people break this rule and show disrespect for the beauty of nature. Don't be one of them—treat the environment with care and take your trash when you leave.
Rent or Buy Used Equipment
Do you really need to purchase a brand-new tent, or can you make do with a used one or repair your current one? While there's a significant camping gear industry, it's not always eco-friendly.
The most environmentally friendly choice for camping is not getting the newest gear but using what's already available. You can find gear in second-hand stores, on Craigslist, or from friends. You'll appreciate not only how eco-friendly this approach is but also how much money it saves.
We understand that camping gear can be expensive, and the money you save can be better spent on more trips to enjoy the great outdoors.
Camp in Designated Areas
While off-road camping may sound adventurous, it often harms the environment. Designated camping spots are chosen for their durability, safety for you, and minimal impact on the land. Look for areas where your presence will have the least impact on the environment.
Long Weekend Camping Activities with Family and Kids
Let's explore some awesome outdoor activities you can enjoy during your camping trip with your middle school buddies.
Embark on a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are perfect for sharp-eyed kids like you. They're also a fun way to explore your campsite or the nearby woods.
Create a list of things to find, or get ideas from our nature scavenger hunt blog. Don't forget to snap a photo of each item as proof!
- Beautiful wildflowers
- A busy bumblebee
- A crawling caterpillar
- Colorful ladybugs
- A unique feather
- A lucky four-leaf clover
- Fluffy dandelions
You can either team up and complete the hunt together, or if you're up for some family competition, split into teams and race to find all the items first.
Become Tree Detectives
Challenge yourselves to identify different trees growing around your campsite, park, or woodland. Pay attention to leaf shapes, bark patterns, flowers, and fruits – they all hold clues.
Forage for Wild Food
Summertime offers a bounty of tasty forest fruits. Pick ripe blackberries for crumbles and pies or gather crunchy crab apples for jellies and jams. While exploring the woods, keep an eye out for fruits to use in home-cooked treats. Remember to follow our foraging rules for safe and responsible collecting, leaving plenty for the wildlife.
Engage in Outdoor Games
Ever tried a game of hide and seek in the woods? It's a blast! Trees and shrubs make excellent hiding spots. Just establish some ground rules, like staying within a designated area and being gentle with the flora. The seeker counts to 50 while the others hide, and then the search begins! The last one found becomes the new seeker.
For a woodland twist on 'sardines,' where one person hides, and the others search, find a hiding spot and squeeze in like hibernating ladybirds, waiting for the last player to find you.
If you're camping with another family, "Capture the Flag" is an exciting team game. One player guards the flag (or a sweater if you don't have a flag), while the rest split into two teams and sneak towards the flag, using trees and bushes for cover.
Looking for a special way to remember your camping adventures? Try making a journey stick. Challenge your friends to find an intriguing stick and wrap some string around it.
As you explore your campsite or the nearby woods, collect memorable items and tuck them into the strings. It could be a leaf from a tree you climbed, an empty snail shell from a minibeast hunt, or a petal from a scenic picnic spot. Back at the tent, use these natural items as prompts to tell the story of your adventure from start to finish.
Sharing bedtime stories in the wild is also fantastic. Get cozy, read your favorite books by torchlight, or create your own tales about the fascinating wildlife around you.
Keep Track of Necessary Documents
When you're planning a long weekend camping adventure, it's really important to bring along the right paperwork. The requirements might change depending on where you're going and the rules of the campground, but it's a good idea to have these things with you:
- Personal ID: Make sure to carry a valid ID card, your driver's license, or a Canada Visa stamp in your passport. This is so they can check who you are, and if needed, show it to the people in charge of the campground.
- Proof of Reservation: If you booked your spot in advance, it's smart to bring a printed copy of your reservation or an electronic version like an email confirmation. This will make the check-in process faster and guarantee you have a spot to camp.
- Permission for Kids: If you're taking along kids who aren't your own or under your care, it's crucial to have written permission from their parents or legal guardians. This keeps the kids safe and prevents any legal problems.
- Health Insurance Info: While it's not a must, it's a good idea to have your health insurance card or relevant details in case something unexpected happens or you need medical help during your trip.
- Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contact info, like phone numbers of close family or friends. This can come in handy if there's an emergency or you need to get in touch with someone quickly.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What's the best time of year for long weekend camping?
When you're thinking about camping during a long weekend, you need to pick the right time. The perfect season for your camping adventure depends on where you are and what you like. Let's go over some important things to consider:
Spring is a great time for camping in many places. The weather is usually nice, and the natural world wakes up with flowers and trees starting to bloom. Just keep in mind that it can rain in spring, so be ready for wet conditions.
Summer is the most popular time for camping. It's warm, and the days are longer, which is perfect for outdoor fun. But remember, campgrounds can get really crowded, so make reservations early.
If you prefer cooler temperatures and the beauty of leaves changing colors, fall camping might be your thing. There are fewer crowds, making it a peaceful time to enjoy nature. But nights can get cold, so make sure to pack warmly.
For those who like adventure, winter camping can be magical. Camping in the snow is unique and offers beautiful scenery with fewer people around. But, you'll need the right gear and be well-prepared for the cold.
Are there any safety tips for camping in bear country?
Camping in places where bears live means taking extra care to keep yourself and the bears safe. Here are some important safety tips:
- Always store your food and things that smell in bear-resistant containers or use special bear bags. Don't keep food in your tent.
- Carry bear spray and know how to use it. It's not harmful but can scare away a bear if it gets too close.
- When you're hiking or moving around your campsite, make noise to let bears know you're there. Most bears will stay away from humans if they hear them.
- Stay on the trails and avoid surprising bears, especially if they have cubs. Keep a safe distance and never get close to take a picture.
- If you come face-to-face with a bear, stay calm. Back away slowly, don't stare at it, and speak in a calm, strong voice. Don't run.
How can I keep my camping gear in good condition?
Taking good care of your camping gear is important if you want it to last. Here are some tips:
- After each camping trip, clean your gear thoroughly and let it dry completely before storing it. Dirt and moisture can cause damage.
- Regularly check your equipment for any signs of wear and tear. Fix or replace damaged items so you won't have problems on your next adventure.
- Keep your camping gear in a cool, dry place. Use gear bags or containers to stay organized and protect everything from pests.
- Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer for cleaning and maintaining your gear, like tents and sleeping bags.
What do I do if I encounter bad weather during my trip?
Weather can be unpredictable, so it's crucial to be ready for bad weather while camping. Here's what to do:
Check the Weather:
Before your trip, check the weather forecast for your camping spot.
Pack Rain Gear:
Always bring waterproof jackets, pants, and covers for your backpack and tent to stay dry in wet conditions.
If severe weather comes, find shelter right away. It could be your tent, a designated camping shelter, or a nearby cabin if there is one.
Carry a portable weather radio or a fully charged mobile phone with weather alerts to know about any changes in the weather.
Can you recommend some eco-friendly camping products?
For those who love nature and want to protect it, here are some camping products that are good for the environment:
Get solar-powered chargers for your devices. They use the sun's power to keep your gadgets working.
Choose reusable plates, utensils, and cups made from eco-friendly materials like bamboo or stainless steel to reduce plastic waste.
Use biodegradable soap for washing dishes and yourself. It breaks down naturally, which is better for the environment.