Sleeping under the stars doesn’t have to be a big or grand adventure. If a weeknight is all you’ve got, that’s okay. It takes a bit of strategizing, but weeknight camping can be as simple as packing up your car with your gear. If the work week grind has you down, take a mini-break and escape for a night under the stars. Here’s how to sneak away for a quick mid-week overnighter and still have your butt at your desk by 9am the next day.
Location, Location, Location
Unless you live somewhere close to the mountains (or you really enjoy driving and not sleeping), don’t expect something epic. We’re out here because we want to sleep in the dirt.
If you’re close to a national park, try your luck there. Spots and permits that are booked up every weekend see fewer visitations during the middle of the week. For example, the Coast Camp at Point Reyes National Seashore is booked out every single weekend. Mid-week, you have your pick of campsites.
Look to your national recreation areas, state or local parks to find empty locations to pitch your tent. These will be lesser traveled than bigger destinations like national parks, and can be just as beautiful.
Do you live in a place with lots of public land? Pull out a map and pick a dirt road, any dirt road to pitch your tent on. There may not be any amenities, but there’s plenty of free camping to be had on BLM and USFS land. Don’t forget to bring your own trowel and abide by the LNT principles!
Is your vacation or sick time use it or lose it? Call in sick for the day and head for the hills. This trick allows you to sneak in extra activities like lounging at camp or hiking.
If you’re in the position to do so, look for a job with more flexible work hours. In fact, look for a job that encourages mid-week fun. Hint: Outside Magazine publishes a list of the best places to work every single year, and good work life balance is a perk for most.
Do you live in an area with bad traffic? Sneak out of work a little early or come in a bit late. Schedule a meeting for yourself at the end of the day. It’s an important business meeting with your sanity. Better yet, see if you can work remotely for a day. You can step out a few hours early, or work from somewhere near your destination. You had an appointment with nature, doctor’s orders.
Prepare in Advance
To maximize the fun, pack your car the night before and leave straight from work. This guarantees that you won’t leave anything behind and you won’t be frantically tossing things into your car to maximize daylight.
Hold out for bad weather by scanning the weather religiously (yes — I’m encouraging camping in the rain). If you don’t mind a little rain, people abandon their camping plans left and right if inclement weather is involved. Don’t forget to pack your warm clothes, some rain gear, and a positive attitude. Plus, the sound of rain on your tent is the perfect way to fall asleep!
Lastly, set an alarm or three and don’t hit snooze. Fingers crossed you’re at your desk by 9am. Don’t forget to pack some baby wipes and deodorant to freshen up before work. The smell of campfire in your hair? That’s a new perfume, I swear.
The Inevitable Backup Plan
No public campsites available? No problem! Check Hipcamp for any privately owned land to set up your tent. Hipcamp even has filters set up for finding a campsite tonight or within two hours of your location. If you’re feeling glamorous, they have plenty of glamping options available, so you don’t even need to pack your car with more than the bare essentials. The less moving parts, the better.
Worst case scenario? Find a friend with a backyard and set up camp there. It ain’t glamorous but it’s a way to mix things up and relive childhood fun.