How To Have Your Best Camping Trip Yet, From the Food to the Drinks to the Gear
We’re all looking to pack our bags and get out of town these days, but maybe not exactly ready to jet off internationally. Setting up camp in a nearby state or national park is one of the best ways to combat that wanderlust. For those who are new to camping (or just haven’t been since they were kids), allow us to give you a refresher. Camping as a grown-up is way more fun, especially because you can bring adult beverages along. So pack a tent, mix up your favorite Ocean Spray® cocktail in a thermos, and check out our guide on how to pull off a successful trip.
Check the local rules
With mask regulations, trail and business openings, and travel restrictions in a patchwork state across the country, you’ll have to do some initial research when setting up your itinerary. Certain public campgrounds, especially trail shelters, may still be closed to visitors. Your local trail or park website should have information, with major trail systems like the Appalachian Trail posting regular updates on both COVID and other safety precautions. After that, you’ll still want to confirm with a local who knows the area you plan on camping in: it may come down to etiquette more than anything else. Nobody wants to get the stink-eye for not wearing a mask on a packed trail.
Lean in on glamping
Glamping means that instead of hiking into the wilderness with everything you need on your back, you can post up at a pre-set yurt, trailer, or other newbie-friendly site. While dedicated hikers and backpackers may turn their nose up at it, it’s perfect for people to learn the ropes. Instead of buying a whole new set of ultra-lightweight gear and trekking for three days, load up the car and bring your inflatable mattress. Remember: the point of camping is to have fun. If that means bringing along an extra batch of cocktails, so be it.
Find the perfect spot
Choosing the right location is the most important part of creating up a good campsite vibe, so pick carefully. The National Park Service can help you find a site, since they map out all their camp-friendly parks (each of which will have its own map). Of course, there’s also no shortage of guides, whether you’re looking to go glamping or want a location-specific list (like in NYC or Denver, for example). Other key considerations for where to pitch your tent once you have a site in mind: Avoid hills — the top will be windy, the base will be wet, and the slope will have you rolling in your sleeping bag. Minimize your sun and wind exposure by having some tree coverage overhead, and make sure you’re far enough from cooking areas. The last thing you want is a curious critter searching for food or a stray ember near your tent.
Simplify fire starting
If you can start a fire using flint and tinder — respect. For the rest of us, throw a lighter in your pack. There’s no need to make this harder on yourself. Even better than that, bring along a tea light candle to help get the fire started, or dryer lint to use as tinder. After that, it’s all about starting small. Begin with extremely dry bark, leaves, or stems in a loose ball, then thin twigs (again, the dryer the better), then sticks, then build your way up to logs. Remember to position your logs in a cone shape to maximize their exposure to the flames, and ensure you have good airflow. You’ll have a roaring fire before you know it.
Store your supplies properly
Bears in your honey is a worst-case scenario. Or, more likely, chipmunks. For the right food storage, check the local campsite rules (they’ll depend on the wildlife in your area.) National and private parks will often have “bear safes” at campsites, so be sure to use those unless you want to wake up to holes in your backpack where squirrels dug in. In the backcountry, look into bear canisters or other animal-resistant bags. The old system of hanging a bag from a tree is outdated, since they’re usually ineffective against a determined cub. For liquids, make sure all your containers are sealed shut. And be sure to bring enough smaller containers, or else you’ll be lugging 2-liter bottles up a mountain. That means carrying small versions of your favorites, like Ocean Spray® Cran-Mango™, a perfect refreshment at the summit.
Go big on the food
Speaking of food, camp food is a rare chance to cook over an open flame, so make the most of it. A simple rule of thumb is about 2 pounds of food per person, per day, with more if you’re doing a strenuous activity like backpacking. Make sure that stash includes a variety of veggies, protein, and fruits, plus snacks. Bring along hot dogs if you want, but it’s more fun to prepare a big meal over the fire, like this cranberry-pineapple chicken, which can marinade in the cooler before you make camp. That goes for cocktails, as well. Bring along a pre-mixed jug of a shareable option like an Ocean Spray® Summer Spritzer — it packs well and is perfect for cooling off after a long day of setting up camp.
Make space for items that’ll improve your comfort
Certain things go a long, long way on a camping trip. Sunscreen and bug spray are some of the most cost-effective ways to prevent your vacation from being ruined. Another item that goes a long way: lighting. A good headlamp makes your life considerably easier once the sun goes down, but also consider other options like hanging bulbs or an inflatable solar lantern. One more nice-to-have item: flexible cutting boards. They give you a much bigger space to work with so your food doesn’t end up in the dirt.
Embrace new friends
Camping follows the timeless rule that experiencing adversity together builds strong friendships. Hiking mountains, starting a finicky fire, and cooking in the dark will help you get acquainted. It’s also the best possible time to tell scary stories, being miles away from civilization and all. Campfire games like Mafia, charades, or Never Have I Ever can sound cliche, but they bring people closer. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to sing campfire songs that everyone knows. It may take some coaxing, but once the cocktails are flowing and the fire is roaring, even your shyest friends will join in the fun.