Go Camping For A Month This Summer (Without Quitting Your Job)

Every year since 2008, I’ve set a goal of sleeping outside for a month of each year. I don’t do well with training goals, or trying to climb 5.12 (or even 5.11), or competing in races. But getting myself to places where I can lie down under the stars? That’s just a time- and location-management issue.

Climbing hard, setting a personal best time, riding the best trails possible in the all-too-brief time we have away from work, those are all noble things. But the end goal for me in all of that is getting outside more—and the easiest way to feel like I’ve been outside as much as possible is to keep track of my nights sleeping under the stars. It’s the one thing I can do to slow myself down in a life that feels like it’s all about speeding up. And if I do it often enough, maybe I feel like I can get a little close to the ever-elusive “balance” we always talk about—which I can’t even come close to on a daily basis, but over the span of a year I definitely can, if I spend 31 of my nights not looking at a glowing screen right up until the last minute I finally decide to go to bed.

A month of nights outside is 1/12th of the year, and sounds like a big number at first. But if you consider that between Memorial Day and Labor Day (the unofficial start and end of “camping season” for most folks), we have 16 weekends, including two 3-day weekends. That’s 34 days you don’t have to work, if you have a regular Monday-through-Friday 9-to-5 job. And if you have the average U.S. amount of paid vacation days—16 days per year—and you use a measly fourth of those days to camp, you’ve got quite a few chances to take your sleeping bag somewhere cool. And if you go camping for several weekends after Labor Day (which is quite reasonable in most of the United States), 31 nights can be within reach.

Of course, with a full-time job and all the other stuff we do, finding the time can be a challenge, so I count nights sleeping in my van at trailheads, and nights where I sneak away after work and do nothing more than just cook dinner on a backpacking stove and sleep somewhere away from the city before heading home in the morning. I have rallied friends into “School Night Bike Camping” more than once, where a half-dozen of us meet in a park in the center of the city on a Thursday night and ride bicycles loaded with firewood, beer, food, and tents to the nearest campground, 12 miles from downtown Denver. We all get up at 6 the next morning smelling like campfire and pedal an hour back into work, just over 12 hours after we started. It’s quick, but hey, you take what you can get. People are busy nowadays.

This summer, I’m partnering with Goal Zero to share this idea with everyone. The goal is for me, and you, and anyone else who wants to try, to aim for 31 nights outside between today, May 14th, and Labor Day (ending September 7th). There are no rules—you can count your nights outside when you’re on a 5-day backpacking trip, a 2-day climbing trip, in the back of your car, 15 miles from a road, in the middle of a KOA campground, or in your kids’ Barbie tent in your backyard.

If you want to play, here’s what you can do:

  • Go camping, anywhere. Backyard, backcountry, doesn’t matter.
  • Take a photo of your campsite.
  • Upload the photo to Instagram.
  • Hashtag the photo #31nightsout.
  • Potentially win a Goal Zero Venture 30: each week, we’ll pick someone’s photo from all the ones hashtagged #31nights out and send them a Venture 30.
  • Definitely experience the satisfaction of doing more of something you love.

If you don’t do Instagram or hashtags or any of that, you can’t win the Goal Zero stuff. But you can still try to go camping for 31 nights this summer, which will be awesome just the same.

-Brendan

Category: AdventurebackpackingcampingHow-toinspiration

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38 comments

  1. Microadventures! I think you and the Brit Alastair Humphries have a lot in common. If you ever decide to sleep in a park or on a riverbank together, be sure to invite me. I’ll bring Whiskey and chili.

  2. Love it. I did one year with 60+ nights in a tent. From backpacking to camping with my dogs. All four seasons. I didn’t care, I was getting out. It’s great to get away, see the stars, unplug and feel all the tension drain out of your system.

    1. Camping with dogs is great, until they throw up in the tent, push you off the sleeping pad, and snore in your face. But that’s kinda like camping with people too 🙂

  3. “If you don’t do Instagram or hashtags or any of that, you can’t win the Goal Zero stuff. But you can still try to go camping for 31 nights this summer, which will be awesome just the same.”

    That right there is why I follow Semi-Rad. Thanks for the great post.

  4. I’m inspired!

    I’m totally going for #31nights out. My first trip will be hiking into Yosemite over Fernandez Pass on Memorial Day weekend.

  5. Last year I spent 31 nights backpacking. I thought it was great and intend to do it again this year. Now I’m going to add another 31 nights camping with my hubby so we can both enjoy the bliss.

  6. I don’t instagram or any of that funny business but I did just camp in Moab and I already have a Goal Zero Nomad 7 so I suppose I’m off to a good start. And it was very awesome!

  7. I’ve always thought it’d be fun to camp for a week but still commute to work from the campsite.

  8. Since my partner works a lot of nights/weekends, this is not feasible right now. But every night under the stars is refreshing, so if it’s 31 nights, or if it’s only 3 nights, I’ll be grateful for each of those days. I’ll take as many as I can get 🙂

    Thanks for this great idea!

  9. Well, by my calculations we’ve already slept outside 8 nights this year. That counts towards my 31, right? Since the kiddo came along we’ve averaged about 20 nights of camping a year, but I think this could be our year to blow that out of the water. 🙂

  10. I found you through Alistair Humphreys as it appears a few other commenters have 🙂 I’m building up to more micro adventures and have just ditched the tent for a tarp (admittedly I’m spending a lot of enjoyable outside time faffing around with various ways to set the tarp up at the moment…) My concern with micro adventures and work nights out is the potential for lack of sleep coupled with a need to function the next day. I’m torn between a knowledge that I can sleep almost anywhere and my failing that if I can’t I’m mentally useless the next day (more mentally useless than usual!) I absolutely love your school night bike camping idea though. I’m gradually gearing up to add a bike to my plans and there is no way that a group of people, camping, fire and beer can be anything but fun!!! Maybe on a Friday night though eh 🙂

  11. Cool idea, I’m in! I’m going backpacking for the first time this weekend. I’ll use the hashtag on my IG posts @gwenthelagirl. Looking forward to seeing everyone’s photos!

  12. Depending on where you live, the camping “season” doesn’t have to be only May-Sep. Mar-Apr and even late Oct-early Nov can see beautiful camping weekends. I work with Scouts, and here in the South, it’s just too gross to sleep outside in Jul-Aug. They also tend to skip Jan-Feb, but they try to do cold-weather camping at least every other year.

    Of the remaining 8 months, we try to have them camp out at least one weekend each month. It’s a good start!

  13. Thanks for the awesome nudge. Just booked a couple of nights at Cherry Creek State Park- the closest campground to my office. Can bike to work for a few days from there. Great idea!

  14. So the next camping I have planned is during Ragbrai in July, even though it is camping in town, it is still outside so I think I could count that.

  15. Already have approximately 22 nights of camping under my belt this year. My goal is to dry camp all summer long. Hope to get some awesome pictures in.

  16. This is so interesting! My kids would love to go out camping for a long time and not worry about me working that much. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Love this idea. There’s value in shooting for the whole month, too. Even if you don’t achieve it, you will do more camping just by attempting the goal.

  18. I am definitely a weekend warrior and figured I’d get pretty close to a month out so I decided to keep a log. I was definitely stoked to have hit 33 nights out by the end of the summer! Very cool idea – thanks. It’s just now hitting the best time of the year to camp in my opinion, so I’ll definitely hit 40 by the end of the year.

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Article by: brendan