Camping is having a major moment. Lots of people discovered the joys of camping for the first time, or rediscovered them, a couple of years ago when the coronavirus pandemic found many of us masked, indoors, and yearning to get out.
Sales for RV rentals and camping gear surged in 2021 and remain high going into 2023. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind us of the beauty of fresh air … and the ability to socialize, cook, eat, sleep, and play in that fresh air.
For those new to the camping scene, recent years have been about learning the ropes and finding essential gear, practicing how to pack, and trying out different kinds of sites and different kinds of camping. For the “green” campers, the New Year is a great time to reflect on lessons learned this past year, and also take a moment to really define what you want your camping life to look like.
But even experienced campers can do with a refreshed mindset here and there, and again New Year’s offers us an opportunity to take stock and reexamine. Heading into the new year, why not ask yourself:
- What experiences or places did I enjoy the most last year?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What adventure can we finally cross off the list in 2023?
Most of us know you don’t just “find” excitement as a camper, you make it happen. So at some point between the Christmas glow and New Year’s fresh snow, go ahead and remember, daydream, and plan your 2023 camping trips to your heart’s content. Here are 9 New Year’s Resolutions for campers — both novice and advanced — to get you started:
1. Plan Ahead … but Leave Room for Surprises
It never hurts to plan ahead. This is how you lock in that amazing, waterfront campsite at your favorite state park.
Planning ahead also means thinking about what kind of gear you’ll need and feeling extra thankful for those wool underlayers on a chilly, September night. That extra bit of mental energy exerted weeks or months ahead of the actual trip, can save you stress, money, and disappointment (however minor) down the road.
Perhaps in 2023, you’ll resolve to be a bit more proactive with your booking, planning, and prep. Planning is a powerful tool.
That said, in all your master planning do leave room for spontaneity: swap out the meal plan from time to time in favor of cooking with local foods, or drive off the beaten path to enjoy a rustic road. Magic happens when travel has a healthy dose of both well-laid plans and spontaneity.
2. Go New Places and Try New Things
It’s easy to fall into a routine. And if that’s what you love, don’t change a thing. But consider this: trying something new can make even the most seasoned outdoorsmen and women fall in love with camping all over again.
Do you have “a spot” where you always go — no exceptions, no deviations? Camp somewhere you’ve never been before (even for just one trip).
Are you typically a cross-country skier in the winter or a summer-only camper? Bundle up and strap on some snowshoes.
“Try new things” can pertain to the big stuff (where to go), down to the details (what to eat). While you may have a tried-and-true meal plan or favorite campsite recipes in your rotation (most campers do), step out of your comfort zone for one trip or even one meal to try cooking with new ingredients or methods. Or, depending on where you are, see if there are any food tours in the area. Food is a great way to spice things up on a campout and experience a new region.
3. Find Your Perfect Camping Group
To maximize your camping experience, seek out a group of like-minded individuals; not just to camp with, but to chat about camping with you and the activities you love to do while camping.
While most people camp to escape social media, Facebook in particular is actually a great place to find like-minded, even local, adventure seekers. Groups like KOA Fans & Friends, Women Who Explore, 1000 Hours Outside, RV Lifestyle Group, state park groups, etc. are plentiful, often have local chapters, and are chock-full of experience, tips, and useful information. They are a great resource to find ideas, supplies, locations, hacks, and inspiration.
For example, If you are someone who loves to disc golf while camping, an online disc golf group can connect you with fellow enthusiasts of the sport who will point you to great courses that also have on-site camping.
Some social media camping and outdoor groups focus on food tips and planning, while others are kid-focused and full of parents sharing their lived experiences of camping with their kids. Sometimes these communities are local and sometimes they are global, sharing perspectives, pictures, and wildlife info from places you didn’t even know you wanted to explore! When you think about a group of global nature lovers, campers, and adventure seekers it really makes you think, ‘Yes, this is what social media should be.’
4. Make it a Family Affair
If you have kids (or if you know kids), let the kids help. It’s great when everyone feels like a part of the adventure. Get your sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews involved in camping so they can learn how to set up the campsite, build a fire, and appreciate outdoor life.
Yes, it will take more time to set up the tent. Yes, they may complain the first seven times they help you set up the tent. But eventually, something magical happens and those (sometimes tedious) teaching moments become memories, and then they might even become skills passed down.
That time together, that knowledge shared with the next generation is something neither of you will ever forget. And on that note, don’t get so caught up in the ‘to-do’s’ of camping that you forget to stop to play, learn, and explore with your smallest campers. Learn together, make some mistakes, and make lots of memories.
And if you don’t have kids, share the load of prepping and hauling with your fellow campers to inspire a truly communal experience. We, humans, are wired to live cooperatively and enjoy the work, and the fruits of our work, together.
5. Take Inventory
It all starts with the camping checklist. As we turn the calendar page on 2022 and before we embark on any 2023 outings, take the time to do an inventory of what you have, what you need, what needs repairs, and what can be tossed.
Though winter can seem to stretch on forever, spring will be here before you know it, and then summer. How nice to know with certainty that the multitool blades are sharpened, the spare lantern batteries are packed, you’re still looking for a dry bag, and dad could use a new rain jacket.
A good inventory check gives you time to search for deals on quality gear — rain jackets, tents, cookware, sleeping bags — rather than picking up “good enough” goods just before a trip and not loving it after that.
Once you have the basics down, go ahead and revise your checklist for summer camping, fall camping, and winter camping if you get out in all seasons. A general inventory and knowing what you have and what you need makes the ‘get up and go’ so much easier in the busy spring and summer months.
6. Camp with Friends
Now that you’re thinking about booking those campsites early in the year, and have your thoughts on inventory and memory-making, don’t forget to invite family and friends to join you in your adventures! Give them plenty of time to figure out if certain dates work for them, and then decide on a trip that everyone will love.
Will you be camping in tents, campers, or cabins? Will the location be kid-friendly or an adult glamping experience? Consider using a spreadsheet or shared Google Docs where everyone can access the plans. Share your packing lists and split the groceries.
Not only does a large group add some fun new dynamics, but it’s great to share the work and the fun of a wonderful group site, a campfire on the beach, or a lazy fishing trip. Sometimes what kids cherish most about camping is running “wild” with a pack of cousins or friends from sunrise until sunset.
A mix of family (or solo) trips, and then other trips with family and friends, ensures you get the perfect mix of relaxing, recharging, romance, friends, and fun all throughout the year.
7. Start a New Tradition
It takes some time to learn helpful camping tips and best practices. It won’t always be comfortable. But it takes just one trip to fall in love with camping, and after each trip, it’s funny how we begin to tweak and tailor the experience.
Camping traditions are personal. Maybe it’s a competition to see who can catch the biggest fish, or nightly songs by the fire. Maybe the gummy worm fairy pays a visit between breakfast and lunch to see whether the site has been tidied (and drops candies accordingly).
You never know if something you decide to do for the first time will become a tradition — so be on the lookout. Lots of traditions are established when we look for new inspiration, try new things, and get out of our comfort zones: a yearly ziplining tour or a birding excursion.
However you like to camp — in cabins, tents, RVs, or yurts; seeking total relaxation mode or amped-up adventure — resolve to make it your own. Camping is definitely not a one-size-fits-all experience. What will your new camping tradition be?
8. Take it Slow
If you’ve had some bad trips, forgive yourself now. If you’ve found the prep and execution of camping to be stressful in the past, resolve to find ways of making things easier on yourself — even if that means taking a temporary break from camping and doing hikes or kayaking until you’re ready to go again.
Remember that camping can look really different depending on where you go, when you go, who you go with, and the ages of your kids, if you have them. Continually ask other campers about tips and tricks that serve them well outdoors, and explore some on your own. The internet is full of great ideas, things like preparing food ahead of time, treating yourself to a convenience item or two, and packing devices that pull double-duty, like sporks, ponchos, and bandanas. It can be fun and also kind of addicting to see how many space-saving/time-saving/sanity-saving camping hacks you can try.
Maybe one relaxed and well-executed camping trip a season is more manageable and more enjoyable for you than six summer trips where you feel you’re rushing from one place to the next and have a hard time keeping track of gear. In that case, go ahead and keep it simple. Repeat after me, “This is supposed to be fun.”
9. Enjoy the Ride
That awful camping trip where it rained 90 percent of the time and everyone was a hot, sweaty mess the other 10 percent of the time? The one where the air mattress sprung a leak the first night? Believe it or not, these experiences will make for a great story to tell once the bitterness wears off. You might even find it in yourself to laugh after you’ve had a chance to sleep in your bed again.
Because camping is all about the memories, consider keeping a camping log book or journal to document your travels. Include information like where you camped, who attended the trip, and their ages. Jot down the good, the bad, the unexpected, and random fun things that happened.
Don’t forget to print out some of those amazing pictures you took near a babbling waterfall or on a stop along the snowmobile trail. One day your ‘crazy camping trips’ will be but a distant memory, and then you’ll be amazed at how paging through the journals and flipping through old pictures will bring it all back, and with it so much secondhand joy.
Leslie is a freelance travel and health/wellness writer who gets butterflies from telling stories and sharing information with readers across the globe. Her voice comes from a place filled with passion and dreams.
With over 10 years of experience in crafting words and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie loves the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.
To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing and design world, visit her website here.