There are plenty of campers who balk at the idea of camping any other way but throwing a loaded backpack into the hatch of their Subaru, driving into the woods, and disappearing for a few days.
Most of us aren’t that type of camper.
For the rest of us, there are plenty of reasons to plan a camping trip well in advance. Here are just a few.
Planning for the Weather
The jokes about meteorologists always getting the weather wrong are tired, so I won’t indulge in any here. (Trust me, meteorologists: I know you have one of the most thankless jobs in America.)
The fact is, there’s still something to be said for planning a camping trip during a certain time of year. You can predict the weather to some extent, and as you get closer to your date, plan precisely what to pack.
For example: planning a trip in late fall in the northern states? You can bet that the temperatures will dip low in the evening. Planning in advance lets you make sure you’ve got a sleeping bag rated for low temperatures, mattress pad to keep you off the ground, and plenty of warm layers.
How about a trip in the spring? You’ll want a tent with a rainfly, plus an extra tarp or two to really keep you dry. Camping when you’re wet is no fun. Otherwise, you’ll be ready with your waterproof hiking boots and a rain slicker or poncho.
Reserving a Campsite
In popular camping areas—especially around holidays—reserving a campsite is getting tougher and tougher. It’s a great sign that people are enjoying the outdoors. But it also means that we’re all responsible for planning our trips out ahead. If you’re an RVer, you probably already know that some sites can book up over a year in advance.
Many parks have online registration systems. Like it or not, unless you’re planning to camp in the backwoods somewhere, you’re going to need to book your site with advance notice. Not into it? Look on the bright side: it’s that much less stress you have to deal with once you’re actually at the site. Instead, you can focus on setting up and having fun.
Planning Camp Meals
Camp cooking is my favorite part of camping. The cast iron, the roaring fire, the glowing embers. I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing that can be cooked in a kitchen that can’t be improved my cooking outside over a fire you built yourself.
Planning in advance not only gives you an opportunity to meal plan, but it also gives you an opportunity to prep your food in advance. Doing all the chopping, slicing, dicing, and other basic prep work out in nature—with bugs and dust and dirt—is much more challenging than in a nice, clean kitchen.
It also lets you plan your meals around camp activities (see below). After a long day of hiking, you may want to refuel with some easy campfire lasagna in a Dutch oven. If things are looking like rain, a quick and easy meal (that doesn’t necessarily require standing around in the weather over a fire you’re struggling to keep burning) sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Planning in advance allows you to meal plan, then buy what you need, and then pack your cooler according to the meals (the last meal’s ingredients in first, for example).
Planning Camp Activities
Different areas offer different amenities. Some of these, like campsites themselves, may require reservations ahead of time. That means that instead of freewheeling it down to the nearby stables whichever day you feel like, you’ll have to reserve your horses and time slot before you get on site.
Depending on the weather and temperature, activities like hiking, sports, canoeing or kayaking, or even a little birdwatching and—why not?—laying in a hammock and reading. You’re camping, and you planned this way in advance. You’ve earned a little relaxation, don’t you think?
Feeling like it’s time for a camping trip? Check out Gander Outdoors’ full selection of camping gear.