When you don’t have much experience camping, planning your own trip can seem a bit overwhelming. There is so much to consider from the destination, gear, food, drink, and activities that you’re not sure where to start. Rest assured, with a little forethought, you can plan the perfect excursion.
The length of your trip will boil down to the amount of time you have off work, or the length of your holiday/vacation. Three popular camping periods include weekend, holiday, and vacation camping. While weekend campers average one to two nights, vacation campers might average seven to ten.
The length of your stay largely depends on the type of adventure you plan. Determining how long your trip shouldn’t be a hassle. Whether it’s the distance or the activities you want to do these will all impact a camping trip’s length. Read on as we look at what to consider while planning your trip.
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How Long Is The Average Camping Trip?
For the majority of campers, an average camping trip is usually two to four nights, depending on how you schedule it out. This is especially true if you’re a traditional 8:00 to 5:00 employee that works Monday through Friday. Weekends are the perfect length if you’re low on holiday time.
The most popular type length of a camping trip is usually over a weekend, staying the Friday and Saturday nights, but camping during holidays or longer vacations are popular too. Below are examples of these three scenarios and how to long they usually take:
Traditional Weekend Camping Trip
You’ve planned a camping excursion with your friends for the upcoming weekend. You dart home from work, load up all your gear, and hit the road. Most people arrive at their camping destination late afternoon to early evening. There’s a good chance you’re camping during summer months so you have plenty of daylight hours left to pitch your tent and set up camp.
Once you’ve done the hard part, then it’s time to start the grill and grab some hamburgers or hot dogs before you’re ready to settle down for your first night of camping. If time allows, some campers choose to eat out before arriving at their campsite so they don’t have to worry about cooking the first night. Depending on the time they reach their camp, some even forego the campfire.
Since weekend campers are limited in their number of days, it’s usually Friday night and Saturday night under the tent. Sunday morning usually consists of breakfast, tearing down camp, and loading up to head home. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get in half a day or so for any last-minute fishing, hiking, biking, or kayaking before loading up and heading out.
The great thing about weekend camping is that for most people it naturally fits into their work schedule without really disrupting the normal routine. This is the main reason it’s so popular. The downside is that because it’s such a short duration, it really limits the distance that you can travel to your preferred camping destination.
Holiday Camping Trip
If you’ve got a long holiday, then you can extend the weekend scenario above by at least one day for the extra day you get off of work. You’d have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at your campsite, and you’d still get the half-day on Monday to have breakfast, tear down camp, and enjoy any last-minute adventures before heading home.
Many campers will take Friday off of work giving them the opportunity to head to their camping destination on Thursday, thereby giving them Thursday through Sunday nights to enjoy their campsite. This extends the trip providing four days under the tent, and heading home on the fifth.
Holiday camping gives you a little more time in the outdoors allowing you a better opportunity to experience the simple life. However, more time outdoors gradually becomes more uncomfortable. The natural elements have a tendency to wear people down.
In addition, some people just don’t know what to do with themselves and grow bored. This is especially true if you’re camping with young kids or older teens. On the bright side, having the extra days extends the distance you’re able to reasonably travel and still makes the trip worthwhile.
Vacation Camping Trips
If you’re retired, on summer break, or just taking time off work for some well-deserved vacation, then your camping trip could be substantially longer. For example, one of my favorite times of year to go camping is the week of Thanksgiving.
In the traditional workforce, because Thursday and Friday are considered paid holidays, I only have to take three days off work instead of five. It gives me the most bang for my buck because I get a total of nine days off work, but I only have to use three vacation days.
After I get off work the Friday before Thanksgiving, I drive five hours to get to my favorite camping spot by the lake, and for a total of five nights. Driving the five hours back home gets me there just in time for Thanksgiving weekend with the family.
Another example of vacation camping might include traveling to a different state for your camping adventure. Because of the amount of driving time required to drive from one state to another, you’re going to need a sufficient number of days to enjoy the efforts of your travels. If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, there’s so much to see and do that you need plenty of time to take it all in.
Is One Night Of Camping Enough?
There are few occasions when one night of camping is sufficient. If you enjoy backpacking or hiking, and your only intention was to hike the trail, one night of camping would be required to get you from Point A to Point B. Though at least two nights are recommended, if only for the effort.
During the winter months, one night of cold is sometimes all a person can bear. For camping junkies, they just need to get a quick fix to get them through until summer rolls around again. Also, in poor weather, anything beyond one night just becomes miserable, and sometimes even dangerous.
When the weather turns unexpectedly bad, it can put a big damper on your plans, and you might just call it quits because it’s not fun anymore. Sometimes Mother Nature just demands that one night of camping is enough.
Many say it’s well worth it just for the opportunity to sleep under the stars. If you’re new to camping, it might be a good way to get your feet wet. There’s not too much that could go wrong in just one night. Once you’ve developed a love for camping, though, one night seems like nothing more than a tease.
Is It Worth It?
For the most part, I personally don’t feel one night of camping is enough, especially if you’re car camping. By the time you get everything loaded up and drive to your site, set up your camp, and get the grill and fire going, it really wouldn’t be long before bed.
You’d essentially just sleep in a tent for a few hours and then get up and get ready to go home because you’d start tearing everything down as soon as you got up the next morning. From start to finish, your camping trip would barely be 24 hours. To me, it seems like such a waste.
For those that truly enjoy camping, two nights is the bare minimum to enjoy the experience. Anything less would just be more trouble than what it’s worth and leave you feeling disappointed and disheartened at your departure.
Long vs Short Camping Trips
There are advantages and disadvantages to both long and short trips. Obviously, the longer your trip the more supplies you’re going to have to take. It can take a lot of time to sort and pack gear and plan meals and do all the other additional prep work that’s needed to fully enjoy your trip, especially if you’re taking toys along with you.
Sometimes short trips are the easiest simply because you’re only going to be gone a couple of days. Your pack list is much lighter and you won’t need to take as much. You could pretty much get by with your shelter, a change or two of clothes, and plenty of food and water. If you forget something, you can generally live without it for a day or two.
If you’re backpacking, a couple of days’ worth of gear is much lighter than a longer trip would be. Even if you’re car camping or overlanding, you still won’t need quite as much. When your trip is short, you have a tendency to pack a lot less. The less you pack, the less work is involved in your expedition. The less work, the more time you get to spend having fun.
Short trips are good for weekend getaways, family reunions, fishing or hunting, and holiday weekends at the lake. Bear in mind, however, that if your shortened trip revolves around weekends at developed campsites that wherever you go will likely be crowded.
If you prefer the solitude, then seek primitive campsites or try camping in the middle of the week when developed campgrounds are less populated. Of course, you’d likely have to take days off work, so you’ll have to weigh your options to determine what works best for you.
Long trips not only require more supplies and gear, but they also require a bit more planning too. You need to think about how to deal with things like dirty laundry, ice, firewood, and plenty of water and fuel. Because you’re going out for a longer period of time, you need more gear and more supplies.
Your planning and packing will require much more thought and a bit more time. Longer trips usually mean scheduling how you will spend your time each day, and what activities you will partake to ensure that you have the necessary supplies that you need. If you’re backpacking, what you haul in you haul out. You’ll have to fine-tune your organizational skills when hiking for many days on end.
The good news is longer trips offer you more time where you want to be, the great outdoors. More time to explore, hike, bike, fish, kayak, or canoe. For some, we’d live there if we could. Longer trips offer you more time to relax, more time to unplug, and more quality time with the people you love spending time with.
Living a simple life for a few days goes a long way to help you reconnect with nature and the way the world was designed to be. Just simple, move at your own pace living. It helps you destress and relax, which does a great deal for your health and longevity. Sometimes with short camping trips the time goes so fast it doesn’t seem like you’ve had much time to relax.
How Long Should A Family Camping Trip Be?
Family camping trips are ideal when you get three to four nights under a tent. It’s long enough to substantially enjoy the outdoors and create lasting memories. It’s the opportunity to spend good quality time with your children, which can seem hard to accomplish during the daily grind of life.
Planning a family camping trip can be quite diverse. It really depends on a great many factors like how many people are in the family, what age groups are involved, and what activities are available for enjoyment.
When we think of family, it’s usually assumed that children are involved, and of course, the interest will vary depending on their ages. With younger children, you may only be able to go camping for a couple of nights as younger children can be more challenging depending on their levels of self-care.
The same could be said for older teens, who aren’t accustomed to enjoying the outdoors. Being unplugged for more than a day or two, sadly, maybe more than they can handle, and having a disgruntled teen on your hands is no fun at all. The sweet spot is when you have kids that are old enough to care for themselves, but not so old that they grow bored without technology.
Keep In Mind
Human nature is that when you’re in tight quarters for too long, your patience wears thin and everybody is ready to go back to their own space. So three to four nights is short enough that you’re not getting on each other’s nerves too terribly bad.
If you’re in vacation mode, however, you could probably extend that a bit longer especially if there’s traveling in between your camping sessions. For example, in my family, we travel halfway across the United States and back during the summer months to visit grandparents.
We like to find places to camp for a couple of days at a time making a vacation out of it. All in all, we usually spend anywhere from ten to fifteen days round trip with about four to five short camping sessions in between.
How To Decide How Long To Go Camping For
Planning a camping trip will depend on what your goals are and what you’re hoping to accomplish. Camping is often used in conjunction with a variety of other hobbies like fishing, hiking, or kayaking. So first you have to figure out what your goal is. Newbies should keep it short while they learn.
Newer campers will probably want to limit their trips to shorter excursions until they become familiar with the ins and outs of camping. Avid campers, on the other hand, will spend as much time in a tent as they possibly can.
As already mentioned, there are three basic camping scenarios: weekends, holidays, and vacations, and the length of time you go camping typically corresponds to the number of days you can get off work.
The best camping trips, in my opinion, usually last in the neighborhood of three to five days. Even as much as I enjoy camping, usually around Day 5, I’m ready to head home and get a decent shower and sleep in my own bed.
When deciding how long to plan your camping trip, consider how much time you have away and where you want to go. Usually, two to four days will be more than enough, especially if you have any young children. From there, you have all the tools you need to plan the length of your trip accordingly.