As a reader here at Nomad Colorado, we strongly suspect that you enjoy exploring Colorado. One of the best, most frugal ways of doing so is by camping. If you have a family like me, this means bringing them along for the ride, including hopefully a willing and enthusiastic partner. The problem is, while we tend to pick our significant others based on love and other mushy stuff, oftentimes love for camping isn’t one of those make or break prerequisites. If you and your honey already share a mutual love for camping…I hate you. No just kidding, but you are luckier than most. Cherish that love deeply. For the rest of us, read onward and maybe one day, after much nurturing and attention, you will convince your partner to love camping (or at least tolerate camping) enough to spend nights in the woods with you.
How to Convince Your Partner to Love Camping
Before we get to the tips, first a little backstory. I grew up tent camping, backpacking, and enjoying all things outdoors. My family encouraged it, and I loved it. Our family used to drive throughout the U.S., tent camping along the way, for extended summer vacations. I went to and worked at summer camps. And if I could choose one vacation in the whole entire world, it would be camping somewhere in the American West with my family, preferably backpacking or floating down a river.
Now a bit about my wife. She grew up in Colorado, but before we met, her camping experience was limited to a few drunken car camping nights in college. When it comes to navigation, she jokes that she is best at reading the mall map, while I handle all other navigation. She hates bugs, birds (believe it or not), and being cold. And when we get into arguments, she threatens to book beach vacations to piss me off.
So you can see my dilemma.
Despite our differences, I have been mostly successful convincing my wife to go on camping trips, especially with our two young children. Successful enough to believe that I should share with you my top tips for doing the same for your family.
Start (Very) Slowly
I confess that I am guilty of not following my own advice on this one. My wife and I’s first camping trip involved a seven day spring break car camping trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. No toilets, showers, or other people for miles, and it snowed…twice. It is a miracle she still camps with me at all. Instead, learn from my mistakes. Judge your partner’s level of resistance and start appropriately. Begin with an overnight car camping trip, or even rent a rustic cabin in the woods for the weekend. I recommend against an RV at first unless you want to go this route permanently. Go out to eat dinner or breakfast at a nearby tourist trap or prep meals beforehand, instead of trying to cook a gourmet meal at the campsite.
Keep Everyone Comfortable
This is the most important tip to convince your partner to love camping. Keep everyone dry, warm, and fed. If you are hiking, bring extra snacks and candy for bribes and carry all the weight yourself; if it is cold, pack tons of layers and keep everyone warm; if it rains, stay dry by using the tent (or car) for shelter if necessary. Remember wool or synthetic fibers are best. In Colorado, go in July or August when the weather is nicest. Reserve a campsite well in advance in a National Park or National Forest that has a bathroom with running water. But don’t feel the need to buy a bunch of worthless gadgets that promise comfort, just stick with the basics.
Keep Everyone Entertained
Plan ahead a bit and think of a couple of sure-fire time wasters to do during the day and at night. Bring games and books, tell stories, and sing songs. If you keep busy, maybe your partner will forget they dislike camping. Booze helps.
One important rule though—no electronics. Camping should be a time to disconnect and unwind, not watch movies. The only exception in my book is if it rains all day, which is a rare occurrence during summer in Colorado. And if that happens, see the advice on ditching below.
Bring Along Good Friends
It is always better to share the joy and sometimes misery of camping with good friends, especially your partner’s good friends. If you have kids, invite their friends and their families. Hopefully the kids will run themselves ragged and go to bed early, leaving the parents to hang around the campfire.
The Boy Scout’s motto is a good one. See here for a list of essentials. Check the pinpoint weather forecast for the area (and elevation) you are camping at and plan accordingly. If you have young kids, bring a big first aid kit and learn how to use it.
Be Prepared…to Ditch
No good camper wants to ditch, and if it was just you and your buddies, the weather wouldn’t matter. You must be prepared to compromise though and run if the weather turns or something unexpected happens. Think of a plan B (nearby hotel) beforehand if the weather looks dicey. You’ll never convince your partner to love camping if you drag them through nasty weather.
Explain Your Ultimate Plan (Or Not)
I will leave this one up to you based on your individual circumstances. For some couples it may be best to go with full disclosure. “Hey – I really want you to like camping, so let’s go camping. Pleeeeassse?” For others, you may want to keep your master plan to yourself. A happy medium is probably best. With a reluctant camper, I find that it always best to approach the topic with a bit of good-natured humor.
Balance Camping Trips with Other Vacations
I am still working on this one, but it seems the best way to convince someone to do something is to compromise and do what they want to do too. For instance, trade a couple of days camping for, wait for it . . . a couple nights at Great Wolf Lodge. Or a week float trip for a week at the beach. Try to pretend you enjoy non-camping vacations for bonus points.
Always Advance to the Next Level
This is the goal right? Bigger, longer, more exciting outdoor adventures. Just keep tip number one above in mind.
Feel free to add your own suggestions and tips on how to convince your partner to love camping in the comments. Next up, tips for taking your kids camping.