Green Your Vacation – Go Camping!

Kids interacting with an adult next to a campfire
An active campfire should always have
an adult in attendance.

We have always enjoyed camping,  long before being green was so important to us, we went on an annual camping trip with friends.  In fact, some of my oldest friends date back to high school when I belonged to an Explorer Post that went camping and rock climbing for fun.  We did it because we loved it, not because it was good for the environment.  Now that my family is trying deliberately to live a more eco-conscious life, we realize that camping is a very green way to vacation.

Why Camp?
We love camping because you get to spend more time out of doors getting a different perspective on nature.  There is something inherently relaxing and natural about not being surrounded by four walls and crowded in by stuff.   Taking a blanket and lying in a field is one of the most relaxing things you can do.  Similarly, spending a few days constantly outside, with just tents and chairs can be very calming and relaxing.  Granted,  it gets a little more hectic if you toss in a whole bunch of children and mosquitoes, but with some advanced planning, even camping with children can be relaxing.

kids on a rock while camping

Camping is a low-impact and low-cost way to vacation with your friends and family.   When you’re camping you use dramatically less electricity and water than staying at a hotel or bed and breakfast.  You’re not using lights unnecessarily, there’s no TV, no air conditioning, very few things that waste electricity.  And it’s a great way to teach your children about nature and to get them unplugged for some time.

Additionally, we find that camping is a great way to spend several days of quality time with our friends on a budget. When we camp for a long weekend we find that there is plenty of time for both the parents and children to get to spend some quality, relaxed time together.  Everyone has their own space,  but it’s easy to interact and spend time together.  It’s closer and more social than being in a hotel, but each family has more personal space than when sharing a house together.  Once you have some equipment, camping is also less expensive than a hotel or rental house.

Suggestions for Camping With a Group

Toddler leaning on a tent
Never to young to camp!

Each family should get it’s own tent site.   We always reserve early enough in the season so that we can get them all grouped together.  We pay attention to when the reservations open up for our area; in New England it is typically late January or early February for summer camping.  We typically have a lead coordinator or two (usually the families that are most gung-ho to go) and they make the final decision on where we are going and send out a list of the optimum tent sites for our group, usually in a descending order of priority.  This allows our friends to know what sites to reserve so that we are grouped together.

We use Reserve America to make our reservations because in recent years that is the online system required by the campgrounds we use.  It doesn’t allow for one person to make everyone’s reservation, and this way each family takes care of paying for their own site.

Picking a Good Location For a Group

At one campground we go to, we like to have all the sites on the interior of a road loop so the children can play between sites safely.  We like the loop that is closest to the beach, but not directly on the water.  It allows a few adults to take a large group of children to the water while the remaining adults do other things.

At a different campground we enjoyed being on a dead end, with sites on both sides of the road.  Because the road was only used by our group, our young children were able to use scooters and small bicycles without a hovering adult.

Food For A Group
We have tried many options for dealing with meals over the past ten years that have ranged from everyone doing their own to everyone eating all meals at one site.  In the end we have found that a combination tends to work best.   We have created a spreadsheet with a row for each meal.   Then each family checks off which meals they will participate in the group food for and lists what food they will contribute.  We find that each family ends up bringing some part of a meal for 1 or 2 meals (including snacks) a day).  This way no one family has to cook a whole meal, and there are some meals for which you don’t have to do anything at all.  We’ve found that posting exactly what each person is bringing and not just “I’ll make dinner Saturday” helps set everyone’s expectations and helps families with picky eaters plan backups as necessary.

There are lots of things you can do to make your meals greener too, and planning ahead and working with others helps with this as well.  If one family can bring a big bag marshmallows and another brings a big thing of graham crackers, you don’t end up with as many smaller packages.   Other tips on greening meals when camping will fill up another whole post – so keep your eye out for it!

If you’ve never tried camping before, consider asking around your friends, I suspect that you’ll find some that are old hands who would be happy to go with you and help you get started.   Also, check out Greening Your Camping – Getting Started for some first-time campers tips.

Happy Greening!

Other articles in our Greening Your Camping Series:

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  1. I am looking forward to the camping season. I camp like the old ways with no disposable plastic. It is my way of communing with nature.

  2. I agree. Camping is such a very wonderful experience for everybody. This is a one of a kind adventure that everyone will surely reminisce. Anyway, safety measures are needed to be considered when going on camping. Tools and equipment such as cold steel knife, compass, and tents must be ready at all times.

  3. Camping is an awesome adventure that would test your resourcefulness and smartness. It would also develop a lot of skills in you. You just have to be ready when you go out for your trip. kershaw pocket knife

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