The great outdoors nurtures romance and connection—if you’re prepared.
My boyfriend and I love to travel. Over the last few months, we’ve made it a regular priority to take a weekend trip to the best parts of the Midwest, pitch a tent, and enjoy each other’s company free of the distractions of civilization. Each trip we’ve taken has taught something about ourselves and how we interact with one another. We’ve also learned a few things that keep us from wanting to kill each other by Sunday afternoon. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best camping hacks for couples who want to spend the weekend away.
- Pack light.
The first few times we camped together, we ending up packing way too much stuff, especially food. My boyfriend made hummus, various dips and salads, and brought a ton of deli meat. Meanwhile I brought even more food in my own cooler, worried he wouldn’t bring enough. We ended up tossing a lot of it. In the interest of both sustainability and sanity, pack the car together, and make sure you aren’t bringing any unnecessary items. It makes setting up and taking down camp so much easier, too.
- Be flexible.
Sometimes, plans change. On the last trip we took, my boyfriend and I had planned to take a small road trip to see Chimney Rock in western Nebraska. We set aside the better part of the morning to drive out to see it and come back. While on our way, we came across a historical marker on the side of the road and stopped on a whim. What we found at the historical marker ended up being far more amazing than Chimney Rock: we were directed up a hill and stood over the remnants of the Oregon Trail. The view from the top was spectacular. We returned to it multiple times over the course of the trip. More often than not, the best experiences you have are the ones you didn’t plan for.
- Double check your sleeping supplies.
On our first camping trip together, we quickly discovered that the mat we’d brought to line our tent was not as big as we thought. While the two-person tent worked fine for our sleeping needs, the one-person sleeping pad didn’t. In the course of our daily lives, we don’t usually have to think about padding, blankets, and number of pillows, because our bed is already set up. One of the best about camping is sleeping outdoors, so take a minute to make sure you’ve got the bedding you need. There’s nothing more frustrating than a bad night’s sleep.
- Communicate, especially when you’re with a group.
On a long trip with several friends to a lake in Western Nebraska, I convinced my boyfriend to set our tent in the same campsite as the rest of the group, thinking it would be fun to be at the center of the party. Not the greatest idea. We were situated near the fire pit, didn’t sleep much of week, and my boyfriend was not, as they say, a happy camper.
Going outside your comfort zone into the woods demands more decision-making than usual: which spot to take, where to pitch the tent, what to do with all that unstructured time. Have a conversation with your partner beforehand about the kind of trip you both want to have, and check in often during the trip so that you’re making decisions together. That way you’ll avoid frustration later on.
- Make it romantic, even if you haven’t showered in three days.
For us, camping is a way to get to know one another on a level that we aren’t necessarily able to access when going about our daily lives. There were times when we hadn’t had a proper shower in a couple of days, but we laid in the hammock together for hours on end. Cooking a meal outdoors, gazing at stars you can’t see from the city, listening to the wind moving through the trees are all natural aphrodisiacs. I’ve felt closer to my boyfriend, and learned more about him, out in the woods than anywhere else.
Melanie Buer is a freelance writer in Omaha, Nebraska. Weekend trips are her lifeline, and she loves writing poetry about her cat. Follow her on Twitter.