How to Plan a Surprise Camping Trip

I just got back from a wonderful road trip cross-country for a friend’s wedding. To save on crazy hotel fees my beau and I decided to camp when we didn’t have contacts in certain destination states. We are both nurtured outdoorsmen and enjoy the simplicity of communing with nature. The trip was great, no doubt…but it didn’t quite hold up to the surprise camping trip he had given me as a birthday gift this past year. Now that, ladies, was thoughtfulness at its BEST. Here’s what he did to make this city-burdened gal relax into nature’s healing tranquility.

1) Make sure the person wants to go camping. A simple remark, “I was thinking about taking you camping for your [birthday]…what do you think?” It doesn’t negate the surprise factor, and will save from a potentially resentment-riddled outing.

2) Choose a campground. Does the person prefer the ocean cliffs and salty moist air? Or the dryer stillness of the mountains? Take into account wildlife and extra precautions (i.e. staying in bear country).

3) Check site availability. Depending on the season, campgrounds may be booked far in advance.  State campgrounds usually have a lottery system for a few walk-up sites each morning, but better not to leave your dear one’s happiness to chance. Consider booking ahead in advance, or keeping tabs on the number of free sites. Typically, weekends fill up quickly, and summer months are definitely busier (and more expensive).

4) Take a camp box. Pack hefty pans for cooking over the fire, biodegradable dishwashing soap, paper towels, utensils, a spatula, tea bags and instant coffee, cups, plates, mugs, a round cooking grill, wood, matches, newspaper, sunscreen, bug spray, a can opener, a bottle opener, tarp, flashlight, a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit, citronella candles, and a deck of cards in a plastic tub. This is your survival kit.

5) Prepare the food and drink. This is perhaps the most important part. Prepare as much of the food ahead of time as possible to cut down on dishes. If you’re cooking meat over the fire, don’t overcook! If you’re making a salad, pre-chop all the individual parts and assemble at the campsite. Use an ice chest with block ice to keep things colder longer, and consider buying things (or making ahead of time) that require an oven (i.e. cakes or brownies). Don’t forget appetizers (olives, hummus, crackers, fruit and cheese are all elegant luxuries definitely acceptable for camping). Keep white wines and beers chilled in the ice chest, or in the campground’s potential brook (depending on where you go—just be sure to sanitize the rim before sipping).

6) Serve your beau.  Keep the surprise ongoing by banning him from helping. Ask things like, “Are you hungry yet?” and proceed to whip out your delicious spread one by one, peeking out from the ice chest. When he asks, “What’s for dinner?” you answer with a sly grin “You’ll see.”

7) The morning breakfast. Rise earlier than your beau and start the fire (he can help with this one if absolutely necessary), serving him “breakfast in bed”…or rather, in his sleeping bag.

While you’re celebrating his life, don’t forget to give thanks for your own! Have fun!