What to do if your spouse won’t camp

Let’s face it, spending a weekend in the woods with no showers or heat or big comfy bed is not everybody’s idea of a good time. Many parents today were not raised with a strong outdoor experience, themselves, which makes it difficult for them to appreciate the experience now. So what can you do if your spouse is not interested in camping?

Start with Cabins and Yurts

Yurts are a comfortable alternative to tent camping

If you can’t get your spouse excited about spending the night in a sleeping bag inside a tent, cabins and yurts are an excellent alternative. Cabins and yurts are available at many state parks and national forests across the country and are furnished with real beds, heat and sometimes a small kitchenette.

Making popcorn over the campfireStart with Overnight Trips

In many instances, when someone is turned-off about the idea of camping in the backcountry it’s due to a lack of experience and a fear that they won’t like it. It’s a valid concern and one that you can help alleviate by easing them into the camping experience with short overnight trips.  With experience comes confidence, and soon your spouse will be setting-up the tent like a pro.

Consider a pop-up tent trailer

Setting up a pop-up tent trailer

If tent camping is a bit too rustic for your spouse, a pop-up tent trailer is a great compromise that offers most of the comforts of RV camping, without giving up the total outdoor experience. There is a healthy secondary market in used pop-up tent trailers, which makes for a reasonable initial investment.

Invest in Quality Gear

If you are attempting to convince your spouse that camping is fun and can be comfortable, the last thing you want to do is to ruin the experience with cheap gear. It may sound counterintuitive to spend a lot of money on gear if you don’t know how often you will get to camp, but you can always rent good gear from the reputable outdoor stores.

The biggest “gotchas” in camping gear are uncomfortable sleeping bags (so try before you buy!), air mattresses that go “pop” in the middle of the night, and tents that are cramped and flimsy. Buy or rent quality gear so that your spouse will have a great initial impression.

I know a lot of you have spouses who either did not camp, or still don’t camp – so let’s hear it: What are your tips and ideas for overcoming spousal camping anxiety?

See also…

27 thoughts on “What to do if your spouse won’t camp

  1. My wife went camping with me early in our marriage but over the years no longer enjoys it. I make it a point to go on a camping trip every year and so I either go by myself or go with my son if he has the time. I enjoy the peace and solitude and it gets me out of my wife’s hair for a while.

  2. Hey Roy excellent idea for a post. I’m one of the lucky ones whose spouse loves to camp. I really like the last bit about having quality gear. She always commends me on picking a good mattress pad and tent for her to sleep in and I think it goes a long way in her feeling comfortable at night. By the way, love your blog, I recently started my own too, hope you have some time to check it out!

  3. I had never camped until I met my husband. After camping in a tiny dome tent together for three months while filming Andersonville, I was still not particularly thrilled about it. Now, three little boys later, I don’t have a choice but to camp, and I am slowly growing to enjoy it for my three boys. My hubby makes it really comfortable for me, with my own cot and a little potty, too!

    • That’s awesome, Carrie! We have lots of friends who only camp in campgrounds with restrooms and our kids prefer campgrounds, since there are always other kids there, to play with.

  4. Great article. The above article could have been written for my young son and how to introduce him to the great outdoors. Which I did last year.

  5. Yurts would be great, but here in MA it is almost impossible to reserve one at the state parks.

  6. I am lucky because my wife loves to camp and hike as much as I do. After all it was hiking that brought us together in the first place. Actually, I have trouble sometimes getting a word in edgewise once she sets her mind to making plans. Before I met her my plans were a lot simpler, but she plans everything to the n’th degree. Packs everything perfectly, labels things neatly, and tends to control everything like the camp Mom. If I didn’t love the outdoors I would have a devil of a time holding her back.

  7. Just wanted to say I really appreciate how you keep your site gender-neutral!

    I grew up car camping, my mom was a girl scout leader and we even took a road trip to camp in the smokies. Boyfriend however had a different childhood camping experience. Every year his dad would take him to Wyoming, drag him up a mountain with a pack on his back; they were ill-prepared, sometimes didn’t have enough food and his dad wasn’t really concerned with fun. Needless to say he wasn’t that interested in camping with me when we first got together. But now he’s the one trying to get us out in the woods! I think it was a combination of his love of knives and interest in survivalist gear and techniques. We’ve also learned we do better when we have a goal in mind while camping, like hiking to a geocache. We get into arguments when we haven’t planned something to do and when I get too controlling about camp set-up (I was a girl scout and I like when things are done a certain way!). Over time we are learning more about what makes a successful camping trip for us.

    • Thank you for noticing, Christine! I didn’t camp for several years, after getting out of the Army (speaking of being too controlling about camp set-up 🙂 ) but when I finally did go again, I remembered what I was missing. The kids are hooked now, so we couldn’t stop if we wanted to!

  8. I’ve been really fortunate. My wife had never camped before she met me, and now she loves to camp, backpack, and hike almost anywhere I can find. Glad she’s so open minded.

    I think one of the biggest keys to getting her into tent camping was going with friends who camped. Lowered the pressure and gave her another female to talk to.

    The second biggest thing was to ease her into camping with good weather and locations. Make sure to go in the spring when the weather will be dry, and make sure to start off camping somewhere with nearby running water and toilets.

    It may not be the “ideal” natural campsite, but gradually easing into will eventually allow for more backwoods experiences with the spouse.

    • Justin – you definitely have better odds of someone having a good time, if there are some friends involved. This goes for kids, too.

  9. I agree with Rob above. My first H. did like to camp, so we didn’t…now as a single I go by myself and enjoy the friends who occasionally want to come along for the experience but don’t have equipment. I have enough to share and love to include first time campers, or people who cant afford the equipment. I guess i AM the rental company! I appreciate all the suggestions and new ideas to include others who might hesitate.

    • Jenn has free gear!!! 🙂 I bet camping is a great activity for singles because, by and large, people who appreciate the outdoors are pretty decent folks.

  10. Guilt almost worked for me last year. Not my own, mind you, but that laid on by a four-and-a-half-year-old budding camper. My son was the one who convinced Mom that she should come camping with us. We ran out of time last summer, but she committed and it’s high on the list this year. I recognize that it’s up to me to do everything I can to make the trip successful, though, and the tips on this page (and many others I’ve read recently) will certainly come in handy.

  11. Suzi I’m with you. When I met my husband he said ” I don’t camp and I won’t house paint” So now we own a 21′ travel trailer and once a year he goes camping with me and my 5yr old daughter. I do about 5 trips a year and one is just Adrienne and I oh and the dog of course.

    Anyhow as you know Roy I write alot about this topic because as I have planned many group camping trips over the years I allways run into someone who is in post camping shock and swares they will never camp again. Most are woman I admit. And woman who have camped in the mid west and other bug heavy and rouged campsites.

    Personally weather I rough it or camp in style I love the outdoors. But I get it that some people love the outdoors but living in the outdoor elements are tough so I hope that those future campers can find there way into camping and find a style that works for them.

    Don’t you

  12. When Fred and I started dating I was a devoted tent camper and he wanted nothing to do with it. At that time, Fred announced, “I don’t tent camp or wash windows.” Look at us now!!! Okay, we don’t camp in a tent (we now use a 31-ft motorhome) and he still won’t wash window but he is ready to “head for the hills” at a moments notice. I think what turned him into an avid camper was many positive experiences, the delights of national forests across the country, all the super people we have met, and getting him off the ground. I call it “the Princess and the Pea” syndrome since he is more sensitive to the rv not being level than our old fridge.

    • That’s a great story, Suzi! It really is all about not understanding all of the great things about camping, like the people you meet and the awesome outdoor experiences.

  13. Great article. I had this very same problem and I’ve come to a great compromise in which my wife will stay in a cabin while I will stay in the tent in the campground allows it.

    In the end, we all win.


    • Eric – you were actually the inspiration for this article. I thought your combination cabin / tent camping was an awesome compromise!