How To Plan A Camping Trip With Friends

You can enjoy an unforgettable adventure with your closest companions when you know how to plan a camping trip with friends. We’re sharing secrets on how to craft the ultimate outdoor experience.

How to plan a camping trip with friends by CampingForFoodies features a group of people sitting in a circle around a campfire at dusk. A tree-lined lake is in the background under a partially cloudy sky with the sun setting in the distance.

Adaptations For Group Camping

Even though you may be a seasoned camper who knows how to plan a successful camping trip for yourself, when you’re camping with a group of friends, it becomes a collaborative undertaking.

The key differences in trip planning have to do with individual preferences (especially related to activities and food), shared responsibilities, assigning tasks and the complexity of coordination and communication.

When we camp with friends, we designate a person who will lead the communication effort, but all group members participate in the planning and decision-making process. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the fundamental steps for planning the perfect trip.

10 Essential Planning Considerations

Let’s dive into the best practices that’ll ensure your group is happy, the trip is fun and you create positive memories with your buddies. Here are the 10 most important factors when planning a camp trip with friends.

  1. Group Members
  2. Dates
  3. Destination
  4. Gear
  5. Meals
  6. Activities
  7. Safety
  8. Weather
  9. Logistics
  10. Expenses

Group Members

It is critical to identify the guest list before planning your trip.

  • The larger the group, the more difficult it is to coordinate schedules, preferences and expectations.
  • The size of your group may impact where you can camp and which camping sites are available. Many group sites have limitations on the number of people and vehicles allowed at each site. Limited parking is a common challenge for camping groups, so, car-pooling may be required.
  • Do any group members have physical limitations that need attention? Many campgrounds have group campsites that accommodate people with disabilities but sites book quickly so advanced planning and reservations are required.


It’s hard enough to get three friends together at the same time for a lunch date. Trying to get those same friends together for a 3-day weekend camping trip can be next to impossible.

  • The longer the trip’s duration, the more difficult it will be to organize.
  • The more popular the campsite, the tougher it is to reserve.
  • The worst scenario is a large group in a popular campground during the busiest season of the year. You may need to reserve a site a year in advance to get the dates you desire.


If your group is looking to experience a specific destination, your planning will be much different than if they just want to hang out in the nearest forest.

  • Identify what services your group will need.
  • Will people be in fully self-contained RVs or will they be in tents and require showers, restrooms, water, garbage, picnic tables etc.?

Types of campgrounds

  • Private campgrounds and RV parks can be the easiest to reserve but the sites tend to be smaller and much more expensive than publicly-owned campgrounds. Many of these locations have rental cabins for people who typically don’t camp but want to join their friends and family members on an occasional trip.
  • Dispersed camping in national forests can be a great option for group camping if you don’t need a lot of services. The campsites are often spacious and the close-to-nature experiences are amazing.
  • For a little more structure and services, consider camping in one of the national parks. You’ll experience spectacular natural beauty and campsites that have easy access to amenities.
  • State parks are a great option when national parks are fully booked. Typically, they are not as pretty as the national parks but usually have lots of fun activities like hiking, fishing, bicycling and water sports. A popular state park can be as difficult to book as national parks during the high season.


It’s a good idea to start with a comprehensive camp trip planning checklist. Make sure everyone is responsible to bring their own gear. But, there is no need for every person to bring items that can be shared during the trip.

  • Identify “group gear” that includes items on the packing list that can be shared. Determine how many first aid kits, camp stoves, coffee pots etc. you need for the entire group. Then, assign those items to specific people, be clear about who is bringing what.
    • For example, if you only need one camp stove, why bring four of them?
  • Depending on the kind of trip you are planning, you may need to bring extra items that you wouldn’t have to bring if you were staying in an upscale campground with top-notch service.
    • For example, if you’re camped in a remote area the most important item on your list might be toilet paper. If you’re planning that type of trip, you really want your experienced camping friends to take the lead making these assignments.


Two of the most difficult things about group meals are personal preferences and dietary restrictions. Camping menu planning can be handled a few different ways:

  • Each camper is responsible for their own food.
  • Each camper is assigned to be responsible for a meal for the entire group.
  • Meals are potluck-style and every person is assigned with a “category” for each meal.
  • One person is responsible for everything including planning, shopping, transporting, cooking and serving the food. The grocery costs are split equally between all of the group members.

You want to keep everyone healthy and avoid food poisoning from improper food handling. Get camping food safety tips that will help you properly handle, store and cook your food.

When planning meals, in addition to the mains, sides and drinks, don’t forget about the:

  • Condiments for each meal.
  • Bring enough cooking supplies and serving utensils for each meal.
  • Plan for trash and clean-up after the meal is over.

For very large groups

If the group is really large, I recommend creating a “meal team” that is responsible with all-things food. A team leader should be designated and assignments should be distributed. Cold food storage space is one of the biggest challenges when feeding large groups of people.


Have a calendar of events and let each person decide what activities they want to participate in and which they want to avoid.

  • It is extremely important to know what activities require advanced reservations, paying fees and equipment rental.
    • For example, many of the iconic hiking trails in national parks require a permit because the crowds are getting so large, the trails can’t handle all of the people who want to hike them. The permits are usually given out through a lottery system. A small fee is often charged for campers to be entered for the lottery.
  • Plan group activities at the campsite. Check out these campfire games for large groups for some ideas. Also, it’s a good idea to have activities planned that will entertain the group during bad weather, board and card games are always a hit.
  • Groups can get loud without realizing it. Ask your group members to be aware of their noise levels and respect your neighbors. Share with them the campground rules as well as the quiet hours.


Task one person with overseeing the trip’s safety and making sure there is at least one comprehensive first aid kit available throughout the trip. Identify the nearest medical facilities in case of an emergency. Have a list of any medical conditions, medications and emergency protocols for the group.

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The group should be kept informed of weather forecasts and the status of the campground.

  • Your group should be aware of the conditions at the destination as well as the route of travel.
  • Create backup plans and have a way to communicate information to the group.
    • The best way to broadcast an emergency message is by sending a group text. So, collect everyone’s cell phone number at the beginning of the planning process and send a test message about your upcoming trip. Then, you’ll be ready to send a time-sensitive message if it becomes necessary.
    • For example, we were camping near Mammoth Lakes, California after a spring of heavy rain and snow melt. Many campgrounds and roads were closed due to flooding and washed-out roads. In that situation we enjoyed a great adventure in spite of the less-than-optimal weather conditions because we remained flexible, kept an eye on the changing conditions and maintained communication with each other.


Have clearly identified plans for transportation, departure times and meeting points, especially if people will be ride-sharing. Agree on cost-sharing expectations before the trip.


Collecting money can be uncomfortable. It’s critical that the group decides how expenses will be shared and how money will be collected. I don’t recommend post-trip payments, especially with large groups. Worse yet, you don’t want a single individual to bear the entire cost just to avoid the prickly situation of collecting money after the trip.

Planning Communications

The larger the group size, the more difficult it is to communicate. Gathering in person is a great way to start the planning process but virtual meetings work just as well. Tools like Zoom and Google Meet are great for hosting a group chat when group members are in different locations and can’t physically meet together.

Ask someone to volunteer as the official note-taker during meetings. I recommend having a central online planning hub where information/documents can easily be shared and stored. Use whatever tool works for you, Google Docs in a shared Google Drive is my favorite.

Have A Clean-Up Crew

Be friendly to your fellow campers, the camp host, campground management and the environment by leaving the camp site cleaner than you found it. Let a few people volunteer to be the clean-up crew for the excursion. They should encourage each camper to “pack it in and pack it out” and to be responsible for their own trash.

Ideally, the clean up crew won’t be doing any cleaning at all, each camper will do their own part. But, the crew should be the last to leave the site and do a final walk-through, removing all trash before leaving the great outdoors and depart for home.

Expert Tip

Before you even begin to plan your group camp trip, make sure your friends have a similar definition of “camping” because a backcountry camping backpacker probably won’t enjoy an experience in a crowded campground or RV park. Generate a conversation with potential group members and ask each of them how they characterize the perfect group camp trip. Come up with a shared vision before you start the planning process. It’s important to have a collective idea and shared expectations to keep everyone happy. You may need to plan several different types of camp trips with different members if the anticipations are too diverse.


How do I handle conflicts or disagreements within the group?

Before starting the planning process, establish a set of ground rules for the group. Post the rules and ask everyone in the group to adhere to the rules. Encourage open communication, seek compromise and address issues early. Focus on the positive and remind the members of the shared vision for the trip.

How do I plan meals for a diverse group with different dietary preferences?

Survey the group to understand individual dietary restrictions, allergies and preferences. Then, create a shared document with that information. Communicate meal plans in advance and allow people to communicate concerns and suggest alternatives early. Plan “ingredient bars” where each camper builds their own meal with ingredients approved for their diet, campfire meals in foil are great for this. At the campsite, clearly label any dishes for people with allergies or dietary restrictions and identify safe options.

Are there special considerations when planning a trip with people of wide age ranges?

1. With young children in the group your planning should prioritize: safety, shorter travel distances, kid-friendly activities and meals.
2. With teens in the group your planning should prioritize: outdoor activities and the encouragement to unplug from electronic devices, teen-friendly meals, stress the importance of responsibility and their assigned tasks.
3. With adults in the group your planning should prioritize: a mix of activities for different physical abilities, meals with interesting tastes and softer activities during quiet hours.
4. With seniors in the group your planning should prioritize: accessibility and health considerations, comfortable seating and less physically demanding activities like nature walks and birdwatching.

Helpful Resources

Here are a few resources that may help you:

  • Easy Camping Meals For Large Groups: I’ve got awesome recipes here as well as tips for doing prep-ahead, cook-ahead, storing and serving meals.
  • Gluten Free Camping Food: There are tons of options when you need to make recipes without gluten. I’ve got tips for camp cooks who don’t normally make gluten-free meals but need to do it on occasion.
  • Vegetarian Camping Recipes: Going meatless is easier than you may think. Most campers won’t even realize the meat is missing from these dishes.
  • Keto Camping Food: There is a lot of overlap when it comes to low-carb keto recipes and gluten-free recipes. If you’re cooking for people with those diet restrictions, start here.

Get My FREE Meal Planner

Don’t even attempt to create your camping meal plan without this FREE camping menu planner tool. No matter what type of food you enjoy on your camping experiences, it will be so easy to plan your menu, even if you are just eating a plain hot dog and a bag of chips!

FREE Printable Camping Trip Planner

Make your next trip stress-free with a little pre-planning. Get your copy of our FREE printable camping trip planner template!

Camping Trip Planner Template Free Printable by CampingForFoodies is a whimsical illustration of a cute old orange car towing a blue and white vintage camper trailer down a road in a landscape of green trees, light green grass and brown mountains with fluffy clouds in a blue sky; thumbnail images of multiple pages of a camping trip planner under the text that reads camping free trip planner.

Final Thoughts

With a little extra effort and careful planning, a group camping trip can be enormously fun. Don’t take on the planning process alone, group involvement builds excitement. People will develop a shared anticipation and strengthen bonds as they create an experience tailored to their shared interests.

What do you think?

Leave me a comment, question or suggestion below. I’d love to hear from you so let’s chat.

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