This Labor Day weekend is the last hoorah before heading indoors to work and study all winter. Once over the heat hump of July and August, the cooler temperatures make it more bearable to be where the bears are: in the woods.
Labor Day is one of the biggest camping holidays, so if you haven’t already reserved a tent site at popular national parks, get off the beaten track and check out your state’s Department of Natural Resources for lesser known state or county parks. To really get into the woods, consider national forests, where campsites are often first-come, first-served.
Biologically, we all know how great it is to be outdoors. We inhale our life through green living things. Nature is calming and restorative. Our lungs and our brains need trees. Tell your BFF or mother-in-law that you’re ditching them on a holiday weekend to commune with the woods, though, and you may have other problems.
Here are three great social excuses to go camping this weekend:
1.) Camp at a two-day music festival
It’s a great teaser opportunity to test if you like camping. There’s little fear of a bear or wolf attack (the only wildlife that might keep you awake are fellow partiers), though some music festivals are distant enough from civilization to make you feel closer to the land.
2.) Throw a back-to-school bash in nature’s classroom
Celebrate the summer’s finale among best buds. In early September fall finals still seem so far away.
As a supervising parent or teacher, you’ll find that nature hands you lesson after lesson when camping–but the kids just see it as a fun get-away. Most conservation areas offer guided walks by an environmental educator or interpreter, so you can leave it up to the expert and relax on your vacation.
3.) Bond on a bus
If you want to make some new social connections but don’t know where to turn for fresh faces in your town, look to the open road. Camp with newfound friends on a group tour outfit like Adventure Bus, who take care of all the details like the mess kit and camping gear. Bonfires are really bondfires, a chance to unite. Fire brings out our human essence.
Not everyone’s camp equipment is decked out with the air beds and arm chairs included in the prize. Camping can be as primitive or luxurious as you want. For some, sleeping under the stars is just that, the view unencumbered by fluorescent swathes of rip-stop-nylon. Big groups might like the convenience of renting yurts equipped with sets of bunk beds. Others would trade in their executive suites only for RVs that are rolling equivalents.
No matter how cushy or back-to-basics, remember the three B rules we’ve learned this summer:
Bring your own biodegradable (disposable) or breakable (reusable) dishes.
Campfires are the original cookouts, and most of these grilling guidelines apply.
Pick picaridin over DEET for mosquitoes and tuck your pants (first time I thank the skinny jeans fad) into long socks for ticks.
Pack it in, pack it out, have a blast.
Carrie is an environmental educator, anthropologist, and translator. She took her passions for ecological, health, and women’s rights advocacy from the offices of Washington, D.C. to the streets of South America. Now in Colombia, she is slowly opening women’s eyes to the wonders of “la copita de luna” (Moon Cup) and Keepers.