Exploring the Great Outdoors as a camper is always an adventure. And sometimes sharing that experience with a group of friends is even more rewarding. If you are considering getting away from it all with a large group, here are several things to take into account when planning that camp outing:
Look for a location that offers a variety of activities
Depending on the season, your group may enjoy canoeing or kayaking on a local lake. Or maybe the group you’re traveling with are hard core rock climbers, bicyclists or fishing buddies. If night photography is your group’s specialty, find a campsite far away from city light pollution. In other words, pick a location that will provide the perfect setting for the activities you plan to offer.
Decide on a private, public or dispersed campground
Is your group made up of experienced boondockers? Or will you have all tent campers? Does your group have a tendency to be loud? Will everyone make their own reservations or will you need a group campsite? Are bathrooms and water on-site essential elements of your camp outing? You need to know your campers. Are they boisterous past quiet hours? If you have several members who have never camped before, they may need help setting up camp. Will your campers need to charge their phones, or will this be a “leave technology at home” outing?
Also, will you be using existing grills and group shelters that are sometimes available at campgrounds, or will campers bring grills and set up a fire ring on BLM land? (Note: check fire warnings for the area.)
Once you have decided on the type of campsite(s) that will be required:
Make reservations early for big group camping
If a group campsite is necessary for a private or public campground, make reservations six months in advance, if possible. However, if your members will be making their own reservations set an end-date as far ahead of time as you can.
Remember that many campsites must be paid for in advance or a deposit must be put down. Be prepared to provide cash when the reservations are made.
Set up teams
Depending on the size of the group, you may need to assign participants different team responsibilities. For instance:
- Set-Up Crew
- Food Transportation Crew
- Breakfast Cooks
- Dinner Cooks
- Clean-Up Crew
- Activity Crew
- Fire Crew
If your group is small, many times people will volunteer to cook breakfast, or bring the canoes, or collect trash, etc. But in groups of 20 or more, your event will run much smoother if everyone knows what they are responsible for providing.
In that case, it may be helpful to have a spreadsheet or form of some kind that will help you keep track of participants’ teams, payments, necessary food needs, and what they will be bringing that will be shared with the others (i.e., sports equipment, coolers, grills, group tent).
Put together a menu for the entire camp trip
Once you know the number of campers you’ll have, you can plan a menu for each group meal that will be provided. Outdoorsy’s Never Idle Blog has several ideas and recipes that might be helpful for planning.
It’s important here to think of meals that can be prepared in bulk. For instance, spaghetti for 25 can be prepared in 2 big pots, if necessary. Easy prep is also a consideration. Tacos and burritos can be assembled as a buffet, as can bacon and eggs. Grilled vegetables for a large group can be cooked on an open fire, and bratwurst and burgers are easily prepared on a grill (or 2 or 3!) Be sure to add items to meet the needs of special food allergies or diets so everyone can find something to enjoy.
Dinners are usually a time when everyone in the group will eat together. Breakfast and lunch, on the other hand, are meals that can be easily put together by the participants when they are ready to eat on different schedules. Big salads, sandwich meats, bagels, and cereal can all be set out for late risers or lunch nibblers. Try not to include foods that spoil easily, like those with mayonnaise.
Your budget for food should also take into account drinks (and chocolate, always include chocolate). Include milk, coffee, water, soft drinks, and beer. Evenings around the campfire usually require more beer to wash down those s’mores!
Come up with a per-person price
You’ve got the menus figured and know how much the campsites will cost. Establish a per person price for your camping extravaganza. As far as food is concerned, your price could fall in the $40 to $50 per person range for a weekend getaway, but if your participants are expecting T-bones and champagne, you may have to up that amount!
Plan for safety
Put together a first aid kit in advance of the camping trip. Include the usual band-aids, antibiotic ointments, cold packs, Benadryl (if there’s no Epi-Pen available), aspirin, tweezers, and sterile bandages. Add to that an emergency phone number for a hospital close to the campsite and a first aid app on your phone.
Touch base before the event
As the big weekend nears, contact each camper, reminding them of the location, time frame, their responsibilities, and what they will be bringing. Confirm the number of people and payment, so that last-minute backing out doesn’t leave you stuck with extra food and missing equipment or an empty spot on your cooking crew.
Shop in bulk
Costco and Sams Club will be your best buddy when purchasing food and drink items for the big group camping trip. So bring a few friends and load up those carts. Remember that some of the items will need to be refrigerated until the trip gets underway, so work out fridge space with some of the other participants, and make sure those who will be on the “Food Transportation Crew” are aware of the space needed in their coolers for the camping trip.
Set up camp and pantry
The big day has arrived and so have all of your campers. Now’s the time to let your “Set Up Crew” help out, getting campers situated, and helping those with less experience avoid creek beds or rocky tent sites. They also will offer immeasurable help in putting food together in an enclosed space where animals (and humans 😊) can’t steal bites before it’s prepared.
Get the grills ready for their first workout, put your “Fire Crew” to work setting up a fire pit and collecting firewood (if allowed), and let everyone know about the activities that have been planned and the time they’ll have to enjoy on their own.
Then it’s time to sit back and let all of your planning culminate in a smooth and festive weekend spent with friends in the Great Outdoors!
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