My topic on this week’s podcast is forming a regional Girl Camping group and my guest is Sharon Cormican, co founder of the Rocky Mountain Glampers. Sharon is a member of several Girl Camping groups but was looking for more regional camp outs with women who lived in her area and had similar interests. When she didn’t find these people in the groups she already belonged to, she started her own group. They say you write the book you wanted to read, well Sharon formed the club she wanted to join.
Some of the issues she was experiencing have been stated by many members of larger groups.
- Events close up before you can sign up for them.
- They can be clique with older members reuniting with old friends they’ve camped with before and leaving newcomers feeling left out. Although you may meet new people there can be a feeling of being on the outside when groups are too big. Old members think someone else is making newcomers welcome and in reality no one is acting as hostess.
- Camp outs themselves can be too large and the intimacy can be lost.
- It’s not always easy to find people with your camping style in large groups. The large events tend to be more of a party than a camp out and finding the hikers, fisherwomen, kayakers or whatever form of camping activities you prefer can be harder.
- The events taking place in national groups are sometimes too far away to be able to participate in on a weekend.
- Many of the posted trips are big events planned months in advance that require non refundable deposits and big fees for things you may not want to do.
- Sometimes the “rules” within groups are just too daunting to those who just “want to camp.”
Although I keep my membership in bigger groups because I love the parties and celebratory gatherings once or twice a year my main goal is to camp more often in small groups with people who like to hike, kayak and fish. I understand the frustration of those who aren’t crowd people and are looking for a truer camping experience. The best of both worlds would be to keep the big groups if they make you happy and you enjoy the camaraderie which takes place at events as well as on line. It ‘s a great resource for tips, tricks, advice and recommendations but if it’s not feeding your inner Girl Camper, consider these ways to find local groups to camp with in the way you enjoy it.
Start looking for like minded locals using:
- Facebook. Pick a name, state your goals, and run a targeted ad finding those people and host a get together. It’s not much harder than that. Just start. I have used Facebook targeted ads to find women in all different cities when I do speaking engagements and they have been very successful. You don’t need hundreds of people to respond. My NJ tribe of Girl Campers is about 18 women who come and go as lifes demands allows. We can usually pull a few trips together with 4-5 of us with a few weeks notice.
- Meet-Up. Start a group on Meet-Up.com and find a tribe the same way. Write a good mission statement about what your goals are. Limit the rules to keep it simple. Plan an event to kick it off and let it evolve from there. I found my NJ tribe through Meet Up and have been camping with them for a few years now. We have a simple system for weekend camp outs. A hostess picks a date and location and everyone makes their own reservations. There are no fees with any camp outs. We meet and share appetizers or light snacks on Friday nights. Breakfast and lunch are on your own. On Saturdays we do BYOP – Bring Your Own Protein. Someone offers their site for for cooking and we eat leftovers from the night before as side dishes and cook up a protein on the community grill. Normally someone offers to bring a salad, side dish or dessert. We never go hungry.
- Community Outreach – Public libraries, local park systems and community centers are often places where you can search for people with similar interests. They usually offer a community bulletin board for posting ads and events. Most townships also have an online Facebook page for posting events and they are a good resource not only for finding people to camp with but for buying used camping equipment as well.
Things to consider when starting a group:
- What don’t you like about the existing groups? If they seem burdened with rules and fees consider how you would like to structure a group to eliminate those things. Rules and fees are generally necessary when groups become too large so be specific about what you want in a group. If it is a camping group whose sole purpose is to mountain bike during the day time then you will eliminate those who have no interest in biking even if they like camping. Keep it to what you want it to be.
- Who will run the group? Someone has to be a moderator or coordinator of events. How much work do you want it to be? What are your goals? If you are hoping to camp a half dozen times a year with friends who already know how to camp it shouldn’t be too hard. If you are going to be mentoring those who know nothing about camping and want to learn, you will be making a bigger commitment. Determine your level of commitment before you start.
- How local is local? Will you limit it to your state? Your county? In NJ it’s easy to be state wide. You can get from the northern part of the state to the southern in under four hours and usually meet somewhere in the middle that is convenient to all. If you live in Texas, it’s another story.
- Who can join? My rule is any girl with a ” willing spirit.” Our Meetup group ‘Camp Like a Girl’ is for anyone who wants to camp. I don’t care if they are inexperienced, returning to a childhood pleasure or perfectly adept at the outdoors. My request is that they be good sports and ‘go with the flow’ kind of people willing to help others learn in a gracious way. I don’t care about age, race, sexual orientation or physical ability. You just have to be a girl who wants to go camping.
How to grow your group:
- Target your “circle of influence”. Don’t be a secret agent. Let your hairdresser, dry cleaner, manicurist and friends in other groups know you are looking for women who may want to camp.
- Have business cards ready to share your group with if you meet people along the way who may be interested.
- Do a Facebook push and request that it be shared.
- Host an event at a local campground, outdoor retailer or community event to get the word out.
The benefits of forming your own group can outweigh the frustrations of trying to reconfigure your goals to conform to the available groups. With a little effort you can find a tribe and start camping in the style you prefer.