As a beginner camper it can be hard to plan your first couple of trips. You have to get all your gear ready, find a location, and figure out all the fine details like food/water, etc. Everybody starts off as a beginner and I remember one of my biggest concerns. The question that stumped me was, How Long Should a camping trip be?
How Long is The Average Camping Trip? Most campers prefer short weekend trips that last 2-3 days. Getting into longer week long backpacking trips will require extra planning and lots of gear. I recommend getting to the campsite Friday after work and leaving before lunch Sunday Morning.
There are obviously a ton of different factors that you need to consider when deciding on a camping trips length. Who you’re with, the location, time of year, and surrounding activities will all factor into trip length. It’s all about planning a trip that’s long enough to be fun without getting bored.
How Long Do People Camp?
I’ve been going camping with my family since I was in diapers and I plan on going for the rest of my life. My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up and camping was a cheap vacation that everybody enjoyed.
Throughout the years I’ve gone on well over 100 camping trips. You quickly learn that camping is fun for 2-3 days, but you eventually get sore, dirty and want to get back home. It’s enough time to enjoy the outdoors with little planning and not getting overwhelmed.
Longer trips only work when you’re RV camping, backpacking, or going to an exciting locale. Sitting around a small campsite starts to get boring after a few days if there’s nothing to do in the surrounding area.
Plan a Weekend Camping Trip
If you’re new to camping plan a short weekend camping trip close to home. Going longer than 2-3 nights is a little much for most people. Planning a longer trip gets so much more involved. You need to bring extra gear and you’ll probably end up forgetting something.
Do you actually enjoy camping? Some people just don’t like the idea of sleeping in a tent/RV or sitting around a campfire. I think they’re crazy, but everybody’s different. Some of the best nights of my life were spent sitting around a campfire joking with friends and family.
If you’re new to camping book a site close to home. Get a taste of camping without being overly committed. You can always say screw it, and leave early if camping isn’t for you.
How Will You Be Camping?
How do you plan on going camping? The way I go camping and my parents camp are completely different. I go on week long backpacking trips deep into the wilderness while my parents camp in a $200k RV.
Both of those trips are technically camping, but sleeping in a tent will be much more challenging. I’m not knocking the travel trailer lifestyle. I bought a new 5th wheel after graduating from college and I’ve taken it all over the country.
You can get away with longer camping trips if you have comfortable accommodations. Consider renting a small cabin if you’re new to camping or have family members that aren’t thrilled with the idea.
RV campers can basically stay for as long as they have off work. Sleeping in an modern camper is basically a small apartment. They have full kitchens, small bathrooms and private bedrooms. You can be completely comfortable living in an RV full time.
Plan The Trip Around The People Involved
Don’t just book a backwoods camping trip because that’s what everybody else does. Plan the vacation around everybody involved. Some people just aren’t meant to go camping.
My girlfriend hated the idea of camping when we first started dating. So I booked a small cabin in the mountains to get her feet wet. After a few margaritas and a dip in the hot tub she started acting like a country girl.
After a few trips she got more adventurous and now she even plans her own trips. Now we go all over the place. We’ve actually started planning a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. That would mean saving up enough money to quit our jobs for 6 months so that will be a long time away.
Larger Groups Should Plan Shorter Trips
Planning a trip for a large group is especially challenging. There’s just so much gear and food involved that you’re guaranteed to forget something. I like plan shorter weekend trips unless everybody knows what they’re doing.
Plus you might have to deal with people that aren’t overly fond of camping. It gets hard to plan fun activities with larger groups. People start to get bored, grouchy (especially kids), uncomfortable, and eventually want to go home.
Small Kids Can Last 1 or Possibly 2 Nights Tops
Camping with little kids can be a fun challenge. There’s a fine line between a fun camping trip and making them miserable. Keeping boredom at bay is crucial when bringing along young children.
With younger kids I recommend keeping trips short. Plan on going for 1-2 nights and play it by ear. It’s better to leave a day early while everybody is happy than stay too long and ruin camping for good.
The key is letting the kids be involved in decision making and setting everything up. That keeps them occupied while you do most of the boring tasks. As kids get older they can slowly take on more responsibilities.
Plan lots of fun activities and bring along comforts from home. If you have older children bring along foods that can be cooked over the campfire. Even younger kids can cook smores over the fire with a little help.
Other Factors to Consider
The question of how long your camping trip should be mostly depends on you but there are a few other factors you need to consider.
- Weather Forecast: I’ve been known to get covered in mud, but I don’t know a single person that likes to go camping in the rain. Plan around the weather and get ready to shorten your trip in windy, rainy, miserable weather.
- Season: I love camping in the winter, but I’m usually done after 1-2 days. There’s just not enough to do when you’re cold and stuck in a tent all day.
- Budget: Camping is one of the cheapest vacations you can plan, but costs will eventually add up. You have to add up the cost of bundles of firewood, campsite fees, food, gear, etc. A cheap camping trip will quickly add up to a few 100 dollars. Plus you sometimes have other activities like tours and kayak rentals.
Short vs Long Camping Trips
I would guess 95 percent of people would prefer a short weekend camping trip. Long camping trips just aren’t all that common. It’s hard to get off work and you need a modest amount of experience to get the planning right.
Shorter trips will be much cheaper, easy to plan and you won’t need much gear. You might not get the full backwoods experience, but it’s so much easier to get on the road.
I can get text my girlfriend at lunch to see if she wants to go camping and be ready for a weekend trip in an hour. I have a tub with all our gear ready to go and there’s always a Walmart close by if we forget something.
A longer week long backpacking trip can take close to a month to plan. They’re really rewarding, but there’s just so much equipment and planning that needs to happen.