Your first thoughts when it comes to camping may be more rain showers and mosquitos than rainbows and butterflies, but it doesn’t have to be. With just a little bit of effort, your next camping trip can be equal parts affordable and romantic. Yes, I used camping and romantic in the same sentence. No, I’m not (too) crazy.
How, you may ask, is this possible? The answer is actually quite simple.
If you take a moment to think of some quintessential romantic outings- watching the sunset over a body of water, an al fresco candlelit dinner, a wine & cheese picnic in the park, et cetera et cetera. As you can see, nature (followed by alcohol as a close second) tends to be the main accelerant of romance. And it’s really no wonder; beauty is abundant in the great outdoors.
But how can your next venture to the campground be a romantic one? It really is all in the planning.
Where To Go
In recent years, it has become easier to find information about state parks online. If you’re lucky, you may even find some reviews going into detail about the positive and negatives of different campgrounds. While I am a firm believer in researching any place you deem worth visiting, camping is best in its most simplest form. There’s really no need to make it complicated by traveling far. While Colin and I loved our trip to Grand Canyon National Park, it’s just not feasible to go every year. French Creek State Forest in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, hosts us several times per year. We load up our little Toyota to the brim with camping gear and hit the open suburban road. An hour and a half later and voila! We end up surrounded by nature. Simple.
Visit your local state park’s website and check out their amenities. Since this is going to be a couples trip, I highly recommend campgrounds with bathroom facilities. I love roughing it as much next girl, but let’s be honest, filth doesn’t bode well with romance and nothing gets you cleaner than some good old fashioned hot water.
If you’re not an experienced camper, I especially advise staying local. Also plan to be away from home for just a couple nights. Get your feet wet. Literally and figuratively, of course.
What to Do
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going, you’ve got to figure out what you’d like to do. Here’s what I recommend:
Most campground offices have trail maps available for a small fee or donation. In just about every campground Colin and I have stayed, there have been a variety of hikes ranging from easy to very difficult. Be honest about your skill level as there’s no shame in being a beginner! Plus, if you choose an easy hike, that means you can carry some extra weight for say, a picnic basket.
It doesn’t take too much forethought to plan this outing. Lay a blanket on the bank of a creek, serve some canapés, and split a small bottle of wine or cheap champagne and there you have it, a picnic!
I should mention that state parks prohibit alcohol and even if you want to be a rule breaker, it can be difficult to sneak a sip while sitting in your campsite. Sharing a small bottle of bubbly from your picnic basket or backpack while on a secluded trail is equal parts romantic and sly, or at least gives you the illusion of being sly.
Living on the east coast, we’re fortunate enough to get some stunning sunrises. Unfortunately, I am rarely awake to see them.
One of my favorite things about tent camping is how quickly your body and mind tune into nature’s clock. When it gets dark, you get tired. When it gets light, you wake up. This also makes it much easier to catch a sunrise.
Grab that blanket from your prior picnic and set out to find a good spot. It’s going to be difficult but leave your camera behind, try to experience nature uninterrupted. Besides, your eyes will do a much better job capturing the moment than would even your fanciest lens.
After the sun rises, head back to camp and put on a pot of boiling water for coffee. I recommend this practically invincible stainless steel French press for camping and if you’re a coffee junkie like me, you know French pressing is romantic experience in and of itself 🙂
Alternatively, if you’re on the west coast, it is perhaps even easier to catch the glowing sun because you’ll more than likely be awake. After you two watch the sunset, drink some hot cocoa and roast some marshmallows on an open fire. Is there anything better?
It’s really unsettling to me how infrequently I look up at the night sky. Only when I’m camping do I seem to find the time to do some stargazing.
If you or your significant other know a thing or two about astronomy, it can be a fascinating experience as you’ll see the sky in a whole new light. If neither of you know much about the stars, that’s okay. I know zero things about constellations and I’m pretty sure Colin calls every bright star Polaris but it doesn’t matter. Play connect the dots and name those clusters!
I have to preface this with a word of caution: lighting candles is generally prohibited in state and national parks, with good reason. Forest fires can start easily enough without the addition of candles. LED tea-lights are 100% safe. Plus, Smokey the bear will be thrilled to see you making a forest-friendly choice.
To create a romantic dinner in the comfort of your campsite, place a cloth tablecloth over your picnic table. Why cloth? I’m not a fan of plastic tablecloths for several reasons. They are so lightweight, clips are often needed to prevent them from blowing away. They’re also pain to clean and I found I would end up tossing them after each trip which is neither good for the planet or cost-effective. Instead, a cloth tablecloth will generally stay in place and you can simply wash it when you return home. Cloth is generally more aesthetically pleasing than plastic, and you want that on a romantic trip, don’t you?
Scatter those LED tea-lights and behold! A romantic tablescape.
But what will you eat?
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you need to rely on canned beans and hotdogs. My go to meal for such an occasion is actually bacon wrapped beef filets. Before you roll your eyes at me, I purchase these small filets at Aldi and although they are not filet mignon, they’re delicious, look beautiful plates, they only set me back $1.99-2.49 for two!
Foil wrap a couple potatoes and grill up some asparagus and you have yourself a hearty and dare I say, romantic, dinner. And the best part is, all of it can be cooked over the campfire.
I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you have any other suggestions you think I should include, let me know in the comments section below. I’ll be posting another entry soon on what camping essentials to pack!