Camping With Friends: Do’s, Don’ts, and Must-Know Tips

A camping trip with a group of friends is a lot of fun, but it takes a little extra planning and requires a different approach than camping alone. In this guide, we offer our top tips for group camping to help ensure your trip goes off without a hitch!

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Brian Conghalie
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Camping is a great way to experience nature and spend time with the people who mean the most to you. Plus, it’s one of the least expensive ways to get away!

With some basics like food, water, a tent, and supplies like sleeping bags and cooking items – plus an adventurous spirit – you’ll be all set for an enjoyable camping trip.

In this post, we will cover everything you need to know to go group camping so that your experience can be filled with laughter, memories, and amazing experiences!

“Happiness is Only Real When Shared.”

Bus from Into the Wild, Chris McCandlessChristopher McCandless

1. Group Size: How Many Is Too Many?

Anyone with any experience trying to plan a group dinner or night out knows only too well the chaos, confusion, and calamity that will ensue. If you’re planning a camping trip or backpacking trip, this can multiply tenfold if there are too many campers in your crew.

This, of course, also depends on the friends in question. Flaky, lazy, disorganized, and bailer types are sure to make life more complicated. Responsible, mellow, well-prepared types are usually the ones you can have a great time with.

In our experience, it’s a good idea to start out with smaller groups of 4 to 6 people. If this goes well and you aren’t tearing your hair out and want to hightail it home mid-trip, then consider inviting a few more.

Four friends put up a tent
It’s always best to start small!

2. Expectations: Assess Compatibility and Be Ready to Compromise

No matter your group size, it’s likely that not everyone will be on the same page from the get-go. There’s usually at least one friend with aspirations of an Into the Wild-style extravaganza in the middle of nowhere, and one or two who will be wondering where the jacuzzi, spa, and bar are when you arrive at your bare-bones campsite.

The take-home? Get a group chat going or meet up to discuss your plans. This way, those who aren’t keen on the established plan or destination can take a rain check.

Backpackers with large backpacks on hiking in snowy mountains
The back end of nowhere? It’s not going to be for everyone!

3. Decide on Your Destination

How do you choose the perfect camping spot for multiple people, each of whom has their own ideas about what constitutes fun?

There are a few ways to go about it. First, you can plan several trips, thus allowing each member of your group to select a destination. Secondly, you can take a vote. Thirdly, you can make a list of options, then do some wheeling and dealing until you find one that suits everyone.

If you have a large group, make sure you book multiple campsites if you are heading to an established campground (rather than dispersed sites).

To help minimize your carbon footprint, we suggest traveling in one car instead of multiple if possible.

Campground beside lake with amenities
Secluded primitive camping? Campground with toilets and showers? Somewhere in between?

4. Divvy Up the Gear

One of the main benefits of group camping is that you don’t have to pack (and carry) quite as much gear as you do when camping alone or as a couple. Sure, you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and other personal items. However, the burden of carrying things like stoves, fuel, tents, food, a first aid kit, and water to camp can be shared between the group.

Camping with your friends is also great if you’re new to the outdoors as it helps take the stress out of packing and, in some cases, will save you from having to splash out on pricey gear or clothes. Just make a note of anything you’re short of and ask if any of your crew have spares.

To make sure nothing important gets left behind, we recommend you make a detailed camping packing list. Each person can claim (and bring) any item they own from the list and together you can help to kit out others who don’t have all the gear. This will also help ensure you don’t end up with two items when one would do the job.

Three backpackers with large backpacks on hiking in mountains
More friends, more backs to carry the gear!

5. Alternate Dinner Duty

Outdoor cooking isn’t really much different to the indoor kind. That is, it’s a pain in the ass and a necessary evil. Sure, there are peeps out there who enjoy spending time over the stove, but this is sure to get old quickly if cooking for a crew of hungry campers multiple nights in a row.

To get around this, make a menu, ask everyone in your group to choose which meal they’d like to cook, let them cook it, and hey presto, problem solved!

Just make sure your menu takes into account any food allergies and dietary restrictions of your group members and is approved by all of them before it’s set in stone and the ingredients are bought. 

While planning, make sure you’ll have enough food to last the duration of your trip. And to make sure none of it spoils, consider investing in a camping cooler.

Need some meal inspiration? Check out these awesome camping food ideas!

And if you’d like to skip the cooking business altogether, check out our favorite make-ahead camping meals

Camping friends cooking dinner on a camp stove
A gourmet meal or eggs and toast? Get your fellow campers to each cook a group meal.

6. Share the Chores

Just like cooking, chores are a buzzkill that most would like to avoid. In every camping crew, however, there are bound to be a few conscientious, fussy, or diligent campers who insist on keeping things clean and tidy

While it would be lovely to just let them do their thing, we all know that doing so is sure to rankle and leave them feeling a little used. 

To avoid this, it’s a good idea to scribble down a list of chores that will need to be taken care of on your trip and assign them to different members of your group. This way, nobody has to shoulder all the burden, nobody slacks off, and your campsite will remain hygienic and habitable for the duration of your trip. 

Some of the chores you might want to include are:

Friends tidying up campsite after eating together
Make sure no one is picking up others’ slack by allocating chores.

7. Me Time Vs. Group Time

Even if you’re camping with your besties, the chances are you won’t want to be with them every hour of the day. When in a group, there’s also a very real risk of cabin fever, especially if the weather doesn’t play ball and you’re all cooped up inside your tent.

It’s important to take a little time to yourself each day. You can do this by doing a little solo hiking, bringing a fishing rod to spend an hour or two by the lake or river, or just removing yourself to a quiet place to get some space and do your own thing. 

For nighttime, this might mean bringing a separate tent (or tents) – always a good/great idea in case any member of your crew turns out to be a snorer or frequent pee-er.

We recommend talking about this with your friends before you leave – this will help to defuse tension and prevent hurting anyone’s feelings. 

Man looking out over at a sunset view across mountains
Everyone needs a break on their own sometimes, even on camping trips!

8. Plan Your Activities

Once you know where you’ll be heading, you can get down to the fun part: planning what you’ll do there

While it would be a little too much like work to make a detailed schedule, it’s always nice to plan ahead to up the stoke and psyche levels of everyone involved by researching all the things you can get up to. Whether that means hiking in the wilderness, cooking up gourmet meals together, or doing other fun activities around the campsite, planning is sure to add to the excitement.

Group of friends hiking on dirt path
Find out in advance if there is a local waterfall or unique geologic feature you can all hike to.

9. Don’t Push the Newbies

If there are camping virgins or newcomers in your crew, let them go at their own pace. Most of us would love all of our friends to join us on that epic hike, nude dip in the lake, or eating live insects à la Bear Grylls, but making others feel obligated to do reeks of peer pressure rather than friendship. 

Give the newcomers in your group encouragement. Invite them to join you in any activities they feel comfortable doing but don’t push them if they prefer to opt-out. 

Perspective is key. Remembering how you felt on your first camping trips, or doing all the associated activities, will help you empathize with your new camp companions.

10. Digital Detox

Cell phones can ruin any group experience, and camping is no exception. 

Instead of spending your time on those Instagram stories or checking the football scores, make a campfire, share stories, play campfire games, get some s’mores melting on sticks, enjoy each other’s company, and choose a good song to serenade the stars with as a team. Your followers will forgive you and your football team (sorry to break it to you) will win or lose regardless.

Campers toasting marshmallows over a campfire
Put the phones away and get those marshmallows out!

11. Be Flexible

Despite everything we’ve said above about planning your next camping trip, there’s no getting around the fact that camping trips very rarely go exactly as planned. Crappy weather, closed trails, injuries, bug infestations, and family emergencies are just a few of the things that could throw a proverbial spanner in the works.

When these things happen, you have a few options. You can:

  1. Insist you stick to the plan as though it were some kind of ten commandments written on your iPhone rather than in stone, p***ing everyone off in the process.
  2. Bemoan your bad luck and spend your days like a bear with a sore head.
  3. Give not one hoot and go with the flow, choosing spontaneity over scheduling.

We heartily recommend Option C. Your friends and future self will thank you for choosing it.

Hikers standing in the rain at the top of a mountain taking selfies
Is your camping trip giving you lemons? Choose lemonade!

Happy Camping with friends!

Going camping with friends is a great way to create long-lasting memories! Whether you are just looking for an escape from your everyday life or seeking the adventure of a lifetime, doing it with those who mean the most to you will make it all the more special. 

We hope this guide has been useful and helps you and your friends enjoy many a happy trip together in future!

If you enjoyed this article or have any questions, let us know in the comments box below. And if you’d like to share it with your friends, please do!

Last update on 2024-06-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Kieran Avatar

Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.

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