In challenging times, more people turn to camping for vacations than ever. There are a few ingredients that are key to making these trips successful. The first ingredient of successful camping is a good plan. Consider the time, destination, activities, food, personal equipment and organization of group tasks. This article is designed to give you basic information and helpful ideas on all those things you need to do before pitching camp. Use it to help make your preliminary trip decisions.


All the other preplanning for a trip, of course, depends on the amount of time you have. Will the trip be just for the morning or afternoon? Will it be for overnight, for a weekend or longer? Backpacking trips and long camping trips will take more careful planning than an evening cookout. You may even need to plan far enough in advance to obtain a permit or make a reservation


Your destination will determine how carefully you plan the trip. As much pertinent information as possible should be gathered about the selected destination so that accurate planning and preparation can be made. Considerations of climate and length of trip dictate the amount and type of clothing to take. You should make careful purchases for locations where shopping is impossible. Drinking water may have to be transported to areas where no water is available.


It is important that you organize each day’s activities, then plan the equipment, clothing and meals around them. A long afternoon hike, for example, will allow just enough time for a one pot meal to simmer on the coals. For an all-day hike, on the other hand, plan a hearty breakfast, a simple sack lunch carried in a day pack or sack around the belt, and a snack for energy; if you intend to return to camp late, plan a meal that is quick to prepare or was left to cook while you were away.

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Group Organization Plan

A detailed plan to involve all the camping participants will make your experience more satisfying for everyone. This plan will vary depending on the numbers and ages of those in the group and the activities already planned. For example, if your first meal at camp has already been cooked, this will give campers more time to unpack and get settled. If campers are involved beforehand in organizing the trip, if they know exactly what needs to be done, and if each of them has chosen a particular assignment for which he or she will be responsible, everything should run smoothly. Children as well as adults will gain more from the camping experience if they share responsibilities.

The following ideas may help in making work assignments.

Trip Responsibilities for Group Camping

Everyone should help in some area of the total camping operation. If the campout involves more than a few close friends or family members, consider these possible designated roles:

  1. Group leader: Choose a group leader who will coordinate all activities and responsibilities.
  2. First-aid assistant: The camp “doctor” or “nurse” arranges first-aid supplies and cares for minor first-aid problems.
  3. Equipment specialist: This person packs the camping equipment, sees that it is properly cared for at camp, and returns each piece to its proper place.
  4. Shopping specialist: Although everyone should help plan and shop for meals, one person should compile the shopping list and organize the shopping.
  5. Photographer: A person especially talented in taking pictures should keep a photographic record of activities.
  6. Journalist: A camp record will be a valuable keepsake for everyone.
  7. Conservation specialist: One person should take the responsibility of seeing that the group sets up conservation standards and keeps them.
  8. Fire specialist: Someone should make sure that all fires are built according to proper safety standards and that they are tended and properly extinguished.
  9. Games specialist: One person should be in charge of planning, organizing and gathering equipment for games.
  10. Song leader: Sometimes one person should act as song leader, although everyone will join in singing and choosing songs.
  11. Campsite assistant: This person should help the group leader to direct the camp setup and cleanup.
  12. Crafts director: A person who enjoys creating craft projects and organizing supplies and materials should be selected for this position.
  13. Hike director: This person acquires maps of the area, checks people in and out of the camping area and organizes hikes.
  14. Kitchen specialist: Acting as chef, this person should direct the various campers as each group participates in meal preparation and cleanup.

Meal Responsibility

As well as participating in general camp responsibilities, each camper should join in some aspect of meal preparation and cleanup. The following system works very well with a group of six or more who plan to cook at least three meals. Divide the campers into three small groups. Each group will have one of the following duties: (1) fire building, (2) cooking and (3) cleaning up. The groups will switch duties at each meal until everyone has had the opportunity to be a fire builder, a cook and a cleanup person.

Fire Builders

  1. Gather and cut plenty of wood for the fire. Some parks and national forests restrict wood gathering, so first check to see if it is permitted. If firewood is not available, take plenty from home.
  2. Know the most effective ways of building a fire before you go.
  3. Have a shovel and bucket of water on hand in case the fire gets out of control.
  4. Consult the cooks and build the type of fire they request early enough to allow for ample coals if they are required.
  5. Keep the fire burning and assign someone to care for it as long as it burns.
  6. Extinguish the fire.


  1. Tell the fire builders which type of fire is needed and when to start it.
  2. Plan carefully how much time will be required to cook each item and when its preparation should begin.
  3. Organize and set up the kitchen.
  4. Soap the outsides of all kettles to be used in the open fire.
  5. Prepare and cook all food. Need help deciding what to cook? Check out Dian’s outdoor cooking recipes!


  1. Prepare a centerpiece and set the table.
  2. Make sure garbage areas are established.
  3. Check to see that all food is properly stored.
  4. When there is room on the fire—hopefully this will be at least twenty minutes or more before it is time to wash the dishes—put the dishwater on to heat.
  5. Prepare the area for dishwashing.
  6. Put leftover food away.
  7. Wash all dishes and cooking utensils.
  8. Make sure that everything in the camp is put away and the camp area is cleaned.