How to Get Your Friends Hooked on Camping

Here are some tips to help get your friends to join your next adventure and join #CampLife!

Let’s face it, I love the outdoors. If you’re reading this, you probably love the outdoors, too, and we want to share that love with our friends. Camping by yourself can be a great experience and I enjoy doing it from time to time, but I also tend to have a more enjoyable time when I have friends joining me around the campfire. After all, you can only talk to yourself for so long. So how do you get new faces to join you? Camping trips are an awesome way to build new friendships and build on your current ones, so why not share what you love with whom you love?

We all have our usual go-to’s in terms of your adventure squad, but sometimes your schedules don’t line up. However, you’ve undoubtedly had some friends comment about the cool places you’ve been or the pictures you’ve taken. Even my mom has said, “I’d consider camping if I could see that place” or something of that nature when I return from trips. Her idea of camping doesn't actually involve a tent, but that’s okay, she’s not the person I’m talking about. 

Let's say you have a friend who has expressed an interest in camping or tagging along for one of your trips. How do you get them started? How do you make sure they actually enjoy themselves and ensure they want to come back? 

Here are some tips to get your friends out there with you: 

1. Start small. 

A thru-hike or cross-country adventure probably isn’t the best place for someone to experience their first camping trip, unless that’s what they are asking you to take them on. Try starting with a day hike or if they feel up for it, car camping. What I mean by car camping is load your stuff up into your car and pull up to a designated camping spot or something that isn’t a far walk. Make it as easy as you can for your friends; you want them to come back. You can always work up to something that requires a multi-day pack and a few days of hiking, but don’t start with that unless you’re sure that’s what they want to do. 

It’s easiest to start with something that offers more comforts from home for their first time camping. For example, a state park with campsites that have some benches and a grill could be a great place to start. It’s easy to pop up your tent, get some burgers or brats going, and pull some drinks from the cooler you brought (save your Mountain House meal for their first backpacking trip). 

2. Make them comfortable. 

If your friends are going on their first camping trip, odds are they don't have any gear or very little to start with. Don’t make them go buy stuff! Tents, sleeping bags, and really anything else that you take with you can become quite expensive. I have a pretty solid kit now, but I’ve built it up over time. If you tell your friends to buy all these new things from the start, then you’ll probably keep them from starting, strictly from the financial investment. Worst case is they could spend a bunch of money on gear that isn’t reliable or won’t last, which could make for a miserable time. Offer up your extra gear. Get your other friends together that have plenty of gear and let your new campers borrow your stuff. If they enjoy it, they will probably go buy their own, quality gear. 

You want to make sure that they are comfortable with the things they have, so it is okay to rent some stuff if you need too. Our local university has plenty of gear to rent out, if you're a student. I’d recommend an inflatable sleeping pad or even a blow up mattress, if that’s what you're into, for their first time out. You’re car camping, so you should have room for some extras that aren’t quite necessary. This is important because if your friend gets a miserable night's sleep or is really cold the entire night, you’re probably not going to get them back out there with you. Bring your big, puffy sleeping bag, your air mattress, and a pillow. Who cares? Just make sure your friend is comfortable. 

3. Have fun!

This sounds super cliché, but it’s so true! They’re your friends, so you should have an idea about what they might like. If they are into photography, go find some cool places to shoot. If they are into hammocking, go find a spot to hang out and relax. Show them your favorite local trails or what you like in the area if that’s what they want. Make sure you take into account what your friends like to do; this is about getting them back out there with you, so suck it up and do what they want for the night or weekend. 

If you start small, make sure they are comfortable at camp, and take into account what they want to do, I’m pretty sure you’ll have them coming back for the next trip. This has been my experience, both for myself and from my friends. I just got back from a cross-country road trip with one of my friends who had never camped until the first time I took him, less than a year ago. We started small with pulling up to a campsite in my car, letting him borrow gear, and making sure he had a good time. After that, he started building his kit and the next thing you know we were all going to Havasupai for a 3,000-mile long road trip.

This same scenario happened to me. I started with an easy overnight trip and by the time I got back home, I was planning the next trip. Every time the trips seem to get longer or more intense and I just keep building from the previous trip. Once you catch the bug, it’s hard to shake it. Go help your friends catch that bug; you won’t regret it!

If you have a friend that has expressed an interest to you, make it a point to get them to your next camping trip. There is something about a campfire that makes your friendships grow stronger, so get out there. 

Published: April 29, 2018

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Tyler McKay

Fayetteville

Living for adventure. Full time Law Student, part-time explorer. Always planning the next adventure. Currently in Fayetteville, AR.