Tips for planning a group camping trip

Pretty views from the campsite.

Summers in Michigan are most often fun, beautiful, busy months that seem to fly by. For me, summers mean biking, hiking, picnics, geocaching, exploring new and old places, camping, travel, barbecues and so much more. I’m excited for an upcoming camping weekend with several female friends. We’ll be heading to beautiful northern Michigan for a few days of camping, biking, girl talk, silly antics, wandering Lake Michigan and more.

As someone who likes to be organized (and admittedly does not always succeed), check lists are kind of the norm for me when it comes to travel planning. Although I admit that I lately feel like I start packing closer and closer to departure dates, versus a week or more in the past. Ah well, I guess I’m relaxing as I age, lol.

Checklists for camping trips are important. You don’t want to be without a sleeping bag or chair, as I’ve been to campgrounds that are miles from any town so totally inconvenient to go shopping. While there are some items that are individual responsibility and preference (clothing, toiletries, etc), sharing some of the packing essentials can be helpful and even more fun.

Split the inventory list. Make a thorough list of needed items, such as tents, chairs, lanterns, sleeping bags, pads and more. Some people have multiple items or own an item someone else doesn’t so sharing the list with the entire group helps with better planning and less overlap. For instance, when I went on a backpacking trip with a small group, I brought my water filter while my friend brought her camp stove (backpacking usually means you carry everything in your pack so you definitely don’t want to duplicate carrying items or bring unnecessary items).

Share tent space. Most campgrounds only allow two tents on each site so sharing tents may be the best option for a group, or get multiple sites. When my family went camping, we reserved two sites next to each other for our large group and fit a small camper and three tents on the sites. I had my two-person REI Half Dome so my little niece shared with me (and about six of her stuffed animals!), while the rest of the family dispersed into larger tents. She and I had a blast in our cozy space.

Meal plan. I’ve been on trips where one person coordinates all the meals and everyone else simply pays them money toward the meals, and other trips where we divvy up the list of items. And a few trips, everyone was responsible for their own meals. All these options work, just depends on the group preference and size. Everyone typically brings any special snacks or food preferences too. And BYOB.

Go with the flow. I try to remember to be laid back and enjoy the trip, no matter what might be forgotten or how many hotdogs fall off the stick into the fire or a windstorm drags an empty tent into the lake. When you’re traveling with a group, you need to be flexible. We usually have a some ideas for activities and fun, but often see how the day progresses and what the group consensus is for activity. For instance, we’re planning to bike to a lunch spot during my upcoming camping trip and possibly take a hike, but otherwise we’ll just see what the day brings to us. I’m taking a book and my always with me notebook with a plan to spend some time sitting at the beach (in the shade or wearing gobs of sunscreen of course) or around the campfire. Simply relaxing.

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