Categories: CampingGuides & hacks

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Group Camping Trip

Check out these tips for planning your group’s best camping trip yet

Group camping trips can go as smooth as butter or flop epically enough to become a good story. Sure, even fails can be spun into an unforgettable tale, after the fact. But these trips are way more fun for everybody if all goes well—which easily can happen with good planning!

Pick ideal trip dates

Choosing the ideal date for your group camping trip isn’t only based on the availability of everyone attending. While gathering to celebrate the holidays is popular, as is summertime, those are the busiest times of the year when campgrounds are quickly reserved and traffic is chaotic. 

Shoulder seasons are a great alternative. But there are few things to keep in mind if you go this route: avoid visiting an area during its rainy season, or during a muddy spring if there’s a late snow; be aware of weather-related road, trail, and activity closures; check that campgrounds are open early/late in the season; and consider that everyone in your group has proper camping gear for the expected conditions.

Tip: Hipcamp now offers a Weather Guarantee on eligible trips that you can purchase along with your booking. If it rains, you’ll automatically get reimbursed for your trip cost.

Photo by Adam Bennett

Choose the best location

Location selection is more than just making sure your group will fit in the site. Obviously, that’s the first step and Hipcamp makes it easy to find large group campsites: You can simply filter campsites by entering your group size in Hipcamp’s “number of guests” search field. Another option is the Great for Groups collection which lists camping sites for big groups across the country. 

If you know your group is loud or you’re just looking for more privacy, Hipcamp also has a Property Buyouts collection where you can reserve an entire property. This a great option if you’re celebrating a special event like a family reunion or birthday.

The key to choosing the perfect location is matching amenities with your group’s needs. These can be as basic as access to pit toilets or more extensive like full RV hookups. Perhaps you need a campground that has handicap accessibility, RV sites because not everyone wants to tent camp, or allows pets off-leash

Don’t inadvertently have your friends rough it if it’s their first time tent camping or RV friends to dry camp if their rig isn’t set up for it. A great location should also include being close to activities (like hiking trails) or near a variety of options like rock climbing or fishing. Hipcamp makes all this easy to find with its extensive filter options.

Share camping responsibilities

It’s important to have one or two key people oversee the overall trip logistics, but the responsibilities shouldn’t all just land on them. Delegate duties to specific campers based on their skills and interests. 

There’s a lot to do before a trip like food shopping and getting permits, and it continues after everyone arrives. Create multiple crews for tasks like camp setup, fire, cooking, clean up, and outdoor activities. Break up the jobs so everyone is involved and responsibilities are clear.

Photo by Brandon Sampson Photography

Embrace the spreadsheet

Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s no place for spreadsheets on vacation! A shared spreadsheet, like Google Doc, doubles as a checklist and is invaluable for keeping track of who brings which supplies, dietary restrictions, and meal breakdowns. There’s nothing worse than having 100 hot dog buns and no hot dogs. It also helps your group stay within a budget and calculate reimbursements if needed. 

A packing checklist or gear suggestion list will remind forgetful or less-experienced campers to bring easily overlooked items like bug spray, camp chairs, and long johns for those chilly 7,000 ft.-elevation summer nights.

Gear sharing is part of the group camping experience. Peek at the spreadsheet to see who gets that extra sleeping bag and who you promised your RV pull-out couch to. Don’t forget to bring a couple of large outdoor shelters in case the weather turns along with some extra essential gear in case someone forgets something, or a tent breaks during the trip.

Tip: For budgeting purposes, $40 to $50 per person for a long weekend camping trip should be sufficient for food, booze, and campsite. You can scale that however you like, and it will fluctuate depending on your campsite costs and group size. View, and make a copy of this spreadsheet for your own use!

Plan meals for a group

Planning camping meals for a crowd can be daunting. Decide if you and your group want to share all three meals, just dinners, or a mix. Choose dishes that are easy to make in large quantities and buy bulk ingredients to save on costs. 

Everyone appreciates waking up to a warm breakfast of egg and sausage sandwiches or homemade pancakes. Grilled shrimp foil packets, loaded fire-baked potatoes, and vegetable kebabs make delicious dinners. Potlucks are also convenient, especially with an RV group—just use that spreadsheet to pre-plan so you don’t end up with five pasta salads. 

Be sure you have cooking equipment that can handle large batches. If you’re feeling fancy, maybe bring a few portable pizza ovens. Make meal prepping a social activity to have it go faster and spread out the work, you can even keep kids out of trouble by putting them to work making sandwiches for the group. Cooking on the campfire isn’t just part of the authentic experience; it spreads out the work of cooking. 

Photo by Brandon Sampson Photography

Organize group activities

In large groups, people’s interests and skill levels will vary, be inclusive in your outdoor adventures and have a few alternatives in mind. A 3-mile hike can be just as rewarding as a 10 miler if the destination is breathtaking. 

Tip: Use Hipcamp’s data coverage map overlay to check if your campsite has signal. If not, plan ahead like downloading trail maps and making reservations for a rafting trip.

While you’ll want to do a lot as a whole group, it’s not a bad idea to break activities into smaller ones so everyone gets to do what they want. Leave downtime for chilling in a river or lounging in a hammock. Remember to carve out kid-friendly spaces, with shade, at camp if you have families with little ones. Camp group games like glow-in-the-dark bocce or charades are great post-dinner activities for both adults and kids. 

Photo by Dominic Cacciatore

By doing your prep work, you’ll end the trip with lasting memories and stories to share for years to come—and your buddy who always forgets their hydration pack will thank you for that checklist (if they actually read it)!

Ching Fu is a nomadic freelance writer and photographer whose work is focused on outdoor adventure, travel, and our natural world. Since 2015, she’s been a full-time RVer living exclusively off solar power without burning a drop of propane with her partner and two dogs. Always on the lookout for alpine lakes and new mountain bike trails, she still loves constantly waking up in new places.

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