As the unofficial start of the summer season, Memorial Day weekend is one of the most popular camping holidays of the year. The weather is still cool enough that you won't melt into a puddle by midday, the bugs are playing nicely (in some places at least), and for those with young campers in tow, the kids are fresh out of school and ready to find their outdoor voices.
Of course, 22 million of your closest friends also have the same idea, so planning ahead is a smart way to ensure everyone's favorite long weekend goes off without a hitch. The following are some quick tips for making the most of your Memorial Day campout.
Beat the crowds (by staying off the beaten path).
Uh-oh. You mean to tell us you didn't make your Memorial Day camping reservation way back in the middle of winter? Welp, looks like it's the back yard or nothing. LOL jk. While many state and national parks will likely be packed to capacity during the holiday weekend, there are plenty of other places to get your outdoor fix. (Bonus: fewer crowds, better views.)
If you absolutely can't live without hookups (i.e., power, waste, water) or if you really prefer camping near hot showers and flush toilets, spend a little time researching smaller, less frequented parks that may not be part of the state or national park system. National forest campgrounds as well as remote campgrounds that lack cell service are also great options.
No need for amenities? Try boondocking! Camping outside designated campground areas is one of our favorite ways to experience the beauty and tranquility of nature. Some great places to start your search are the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Free Campsites.
Make a list (and check it twice).
Nobody's gonna be happy if you leave behind the s'mores fixings… or Fido's food… or that extra pair of socks you suddenly need after wading through a cold stream on your first hike of the weekend.
Do yourself a favor and make a list of everything you want to bring on your Memorial Day camping trip—and then check off every item once you've placed it securely in your backpack or vehicle. Not sure where to start? Here's Everything You Need for a Successful Camping Trip.
Just because you'll be sleeping under the stars for a few nights doesn't mean you're forced to subsist on beef jerky and protein bars. One of the biggest misconceptions about camping is that your food choices are either of the snack variety or the freeze-dried, mixed-with-hot-water, and eaten-straight-from-the-bag variety. We are here to set the record straight.
The good news is that with a little planning, you don't have to be a Top Chef contestant to create hot, delicious, and satisfying meals in the Great Outdoors. First, think about how long you will be camping, who you'll be camping with (and their favorite things to eat—especially if you're camping with kiddos), and how much time you will have each day for meal prep.
From there, all it takes is a quick trip to the grocery store, a bit of preparation at home, and some basic camp kitchen accessories. Need some inspiration? Check out these Breakfast Ideas for Your Next Camping Trip and the Best Camping Lunch Ideas!
Do a gear check.
If your upcoming Memorial Day weekend camping trip is your first outdoor excursion since the leaves were changing colors—hey, we get it, winter camping isn't for everyone—we recommend doing a full inspection of all your gear to ensure everything is in tip-top shape.
Start with your tent and set it up like you normally would, testing the zippers and checking for any tears or loose stitching in the fabric (the same goes for your footprint and rainfly). Next, do a quick count of all your tent poles and stakes to make sure you have the right number.
This is also a good time to air out your sleeping bag. Unroll it or remove it from its stuff sack, do a quick fabric and zipper check, and let it "breathe" for a bit before packing it up again for travel. Next, give your favorite backpack a thorough once-over before hitting the trail; the last thing you want is to lose sight of your snacks, water bottle, or other essentials because of a broken zipper or a torn pocket.
Finally, give your camp kitchen a little TLC by topping off those refillable fuel tanks and making sure all hoses and valves are in good shape. Oh, and make sure all headlamp and lantern batteries are fully charged so you're not fumbling around in the dark at night.Have fun.
Here's the thing about camping: Everything may not go exactly as you planned, but it's always an adventure. So, even if your campsite is a little more remote than you expected this Memorial Day weekend, or if you have to eat everything with spoons because somebody forgot the forks, just remember to relax and enjoy life outdoors—because that's really what it's all about!