March 30


Camping With Friends: Wild To Mild in 2023

By Michael Bryant

March 30, 2023

camping, stories

Go Camping with Your Friends! It's Real Quality Time

Backcountry camping with your buddies is quite honestly my favorite thing to do. Camping with friends is a broad topic because it can be done almost anywhere and with whomever you choose. Surrounding yourself with great people in a natural setting will bring out different sides of yourself and your pals. I hope this guide inspires you to chase that wild experience.

Why Do People Go Camping?

People go Camping because we are creatures of this earth and instinctually nature is our true home. I find this question a bit sad to be honest, we all like different things but we all did come from nature. This is why I believe taking time to explore is a part of being human. So what's all the hype or lack thereof all about? Let's take a look!

camping with friends

Discovering New Camping Locations Near You

Some of the locations that are now near and dear to me, I found by hopping in the back of a friend’s car and getting a free tour guide. They let you into their little secret spot and show you the best camp spots, river beaches, or climbing crags. There's no better way to get shown around than by a local. Respect their spot and listen to any tips they have about preserving the specific landscape you're in. 

Driving Dirt Roads to Camp is Fun

One of the greatest American past times, just driving. Make sure you have enough gas to get back but other than that it's about the easiest way to site see.

Plus, once you see a canyon or a trail, hop out and grab a backpack with some lunch and day gear, you never know what you might find.

I can't even count the number of times someone said, "let's see what's up that way." And low and behold our oasis, away from people, enjoying tiny sandwiches in a slot canyon. That is paradise to me.

Dirt Road Safety

Now I'm from Wyoming and it gets frigid in the winters, not to mention it's the least populated state. So there's not a lot of people for rescue should you get yourself in a pickle. Keep a little survival kit in the car with items such as these:

Car Camping Survival Kit 

  • Emergency Blankets: Super cheap and don't take up space
  • Extra Warm Clothes
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Full Spare Tire, Jack and Tire Iron: Seriously Important
  • Flashlights
  • Utility Knife
  • Jumper Cables
  • First Aid Kit

Better safe than stupid I say, even if it's just a cold night at a rest stop, you'll be happy you thought ahead. Yeah, I almost graduated Boy Scouts but I think a girl got in the way, can't remember. Whoops.

lost in a hammock

Getting Pretend Lost Camping

Now, this isn't exactly advice, you should always keep your bearings and know your way back to the car. But little off-shoots of trails can steer you clear of crowds and see a new part of a trail that might even be familiar to you.

This is also a great technique in the car, just remember the gas rule, don't burn more than half from the last gas station. I've tested this and those last weary miles praying for a gas station are not worth the nervous wreck you'll become.

Sharing Stories With Friends Camping

I have heard my fair share of stories around a campfire. Some shall never be spoken of again and others were probably only half true but who am I to blow against the wind.

There's something about not having any distractions while you're stuck in the woods with your buddies. You start to think of your own old stories and weaving them into tall tales of climbing mountains or running rivers. Maybe a good description of an entertaining, yet very unsavory co-worker. It doesn't matter what it is, because when the sun goes down it's just your group and wind listening. 

My favorite part is listening  to camp stories

Especially when I was in my teens and early twenties going on trips with the older Lifers who mentored me into climbing. For one, climbing has its own huge lexicon and that takes some time to figure out. So I would sit, listen and pretend like I knew what they were saying until I actually did.

They would speak of epics on desert towers in Utah or mountains in Chile and I couldn't believe that these crushers were letting me tag along. Eventually though, you can't just watch and learn. They will inevitably hand you the lead end of the rope and tell you, "you'll be fine, it's a cruiser." Usually it didn't feel that way, but they pushed me upwards.

Keep your ears open around that campfire, you can always learn something.

Wild Camping

Wild Camping could be described in two ways I suppose. The most know version is camping in non-designated camping areas. These are legal to camp on but likely won't have amenities such as:

  • Water
  • Bathroom
  • Firepit built-in
  • Tables

Generally, any BLM or National Forest (Not National Parks) can be camped on for free. Some areas may have a fee for things such as dumpster removal or pit toilet maintenance. So pay up your few bucks and do your part to help maintain these areas.

Also, obey the signs, if it says closed, avoid it, there's plenty of dirt to sleep on elsewhere. You don't want to be woken up by an angry ranger or landowner, speaking from experience here.

Why Go Wild Camping?

Wild camping is free for one thing, there are fewer people and you simply get a more natural camping experience. Which if you take the second version of wild camping, aka have rowdy friends. You won't bother anyone and they won't bother you. Bingo. Now go throw rocks at the sun and skinny dip your heart out. 

Extras To Bring Wild Car Camping

  • All of your water
  • Trowel and toilet paper
  • Bags to pack the trash out
  • More depending upon your area and weather
  • Ice Ice Baby

Camping at Established Campsites or "Mild Camping"

Camping at established campsites can have it's benefits. I only call it mild because it's less gear-intensive and includes some amenities that some people enjoy or require. There's nothing wrong with that and you still have all the sunlight to go explore surrounding areas or walk up and down river banks.

Established Campsites are great for people with children or for folks who may be restricted in mobility. Plus if you're friendly you can often meet some new and interesting neighbors to share a fire with.

Campsite Amenities you might find:

  • Bathrooms: Some even have showers!
  • BBQ and Fire Pits
  • Picnic Tables
  • Camp Hosts: Great for advice on the area
  • Firewood: Either left behind or for sale
  • New Friends
  • Better Roads for small cars

Learning New Outdoor Skills From Your Friends

If you are open to new experiences and have surrounded yourself with people who have technical skills and gear, take advantage. We all start somewhere and you might be lucky enough to stumble, fall, or swim your way into a new lifetime sport.

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  • Rock climbing was the big one for me but there are tons of different ways to play around outside. Borrow a friends gear or start by getting your own harness.
  • Paddleboarding is a great way to explore lakes and rivers, many places rent inflatables that can fit in any car. Hot summer days on the lake are way more fun when you can move around efficiently. Not to mention, it is much easier than most people think, give it a try.
  • Photography was built for camping or vise versa? Either way with the technology in cameras and phones. It makes it fairly easy for even a newbie to get great shots to take home. One of my favorite sayings in the backcountry is.
  • Camping Games can be anything from frisbee to card games and even silly word games. It can be an opportunity to hike while playing or enjoy a beverage around the fire laughing at the goofy shi* that comes out of your friends mouths.

"Take only pictures, leave only footprints"

Leave No Trace

If you are not familiar with this mantra then please get acquainted. Because the camping spot your friend just shared with you is now yours' to protect. Treat it like your home and we can preserve it to share with generations. Follow local guidelines, stay on trails when asked to, be a steward of the land. For more info on Leave, no Trace check out their site here.

Now doesn't camping with your friends sound fun. Simplicity or adventure, do it your way in your natural habitat. Get out and howl at the moon if you have to, you'll find whole new respect for this beautiful planet and all it has to offer.

Or..... You'll realize you can't stand hanging out with Karen that long.

If you like these types of posts or want to hear more on any of the topics. Leave a comment, email us, whatever you please. Adventure Lifers is a resource and community built for you.


Michael Bryant

About the author

After a lifetime spent in the outdoors and 10 years in the outdoor sports industry, I figured out what I'm best at. Finding great mentors to show me the ropes. Without the Lifers that taught me all I know, I wouldn't be where I'm at, which is... "pretty solid" at most adventures outside.

Mentors are the best way to access the backcountry. Learn with us.