woman around a fire

Trip Planning

Happy Campers

One of the best parts of promoting Girl Camping is watching women go from thinking that it looks like a fun thing to do, to actually going on their first campout.

I have had the pleasure of mentoring many women in the beginning of their journey before passing them off to someone back in their geographical area for their first official campout.  It’s disappointing not to be there for the fun part but I recently got to experience the excitement of three first time Girl Campers at our annual Kickoff Campout at Turkey Swamp Campground in Jackson, NJ.

The excitement had actually been building for months within our online community. Facebook comments and shares about gear and menus and the potential for bad weather abounded. To manage the excitement of an upcoming camping trip it helps to talk a lot about it. We booked the first weekend the park was open knowing the weather could be unseasonably warm or annoyingly cold! We didn’t care. The winter was too long and part of the fun of camping is dealing with the elements.

One of the myths I try to dispel about the Girl Camping movement is that you have to already own a trailer to participate. I actually think it’s a good idea to not run out and buy a trailer before you know how you want to use it. There are so many trailers to choose from and you should take your time and get to know what’s out there. Our three newbies each experienced camping for the first time in different ways. There is really no wrong way to camp like a girl.

woman camping
Jackie is our unofficial product tester. She took a lot of ribbing all weekend over her gloves that we joked could be used to wash dishes and also inseminate a cow
food on a table
The fun part of making pizza at the campground is that everyone can bring their favorite toppings
women around a camp fire
Making camp with the girls is half the fun. Everyone lends a hand to make it happen. Jean created centerpieces from the downed pine branches from the previous nights windy storm.

One of my rules for a good girl campout is not to have rules. The most appealing thing about camping is the implied permission to do whatever you want. I love the way Girl Campers give each other the space to do that. I really believe it’s a woman thing. Women wear so many hats in their day to day lives that when they put themselves in a grown up “time out,” no other woman would dream of requiring them to do something and that’s how our weekend went down. There was talk of hiking and leaving the campground for exploring, but it didn’t happen. There might have been a walk around the campground, but there was mostly food and fires and getting to know each other and stories!  Stories of past campouts and glitches that we are still laughing about. Stories of the starting points the more seasoned campers reassuringly shared with the newbies.  Stories of how long they held the dream before finally doing it!

When I’m camping I find that food is a great way to bring people together. Two years ago, the New Jersey Girl Campers made it a mission to perfect campfire pizza and we were going to share our culinary accomplishment with our new friends. Our plan was to get there early enough on Friday to set up camp and have a good fire going to cook the pizzas on. A change of plans was required when the temps were registering at 44 degrees with drizzle and gusty winds. Plan B was grilled cheese fingers made in our friend Jean’s new Type C motorhome’s kitchen where we all spread out and were grateful for friends with big rigs.

group of women eating
We were lucky to have a clear night to eat under a full moon
women around a campfire
There was a lot of talk about hiking and exploring but the warm fire, new friends and promise of a good lunch pretty much eliminated that plan
women in front of a tent
Laureen and Charolette camped like girls in vans and tents while scouting out trailer options for the future.

The new girls made it through a chilly night and were still game in the morning. Jean made us breakfast in her Class C and eventually I had to leave the laughter and head over to my site to get the pizza going for lunch. While I prepped, the girls got the fire going and pitched in to set the table in a style befitting our menu. Paper drop cloths and old pie tins for plates. Simple and pretty. The sun came out and we started shedding the scarves and mittens and soaking up the sunshine. Everyone brought their own personal taste to the pizza making. Margherita, veggie, pesto and mushroom. We cooked them one at a time and sampled them all around the fire weighing in on the final product. It was a great afternoon in the sun with lots of laughter. Laureen, one of our first timers kept breaking in and saying, “I am so glad I did this!”

Each woman at our campout had a starting point and the weekend was a culmination of dreaming, information gathering and ultimately leaping into the unknown. It was a great feeling to watch Jackie pull up with her teardrop trailer, unhitch and set up camp. It is hard for me to believe that two years ago Jackie was the newbie on a trial campout in her inexpensive tent with a cooler full of precooked food. She has now become our product sifter, meticulously researching gear and the best place to buy it. When Jackie buys something it’s like the Good Camping Seal of Approval has been conferred on it and the rest of us feel confident buying it.

Once you get the method down for campground pizza the sky is the limit for flavor combinations
women in a camper
On a cold and windy morning it is a bonus to have a sister breaking in her new Class C. Jean literally picked up her new Four Wind from the dealer the day before our campout.
woman cooking
In our little tribe we can always count on Q to make us a great breakfast!

Jean is our go to gadget gal. She always has the right tool for whatever it is you are trying to do. She’s the only one in the group with a backup battery for her phone that will also jump a car. We can count on Q for breakfast. She’s our early riser, coffee maker, and always encouraging “mom” of the group. She’s got a hack or shortcut for every situation.

Everyone brings something to the table, literally and figuratively. The benefit of age is wisdom and I have learned so much from these incredibly wise women. Girl Camping is so much more than great grilled cheese sandwiches and the empowerment of towing your very own trailer. It’s about being in a stage of life where you can relax and let the chips fall where they may. It’s about seeing people for who they are and not what they are. It’s about being comfortable enough in your own skin to camp in the way that feeds your heart and soul and not be worried that others are doing it in a different way. I always say the most important thing you need to be a Girl Camper is a willing spirit. It was great to spend my weekend being reenergized by the willing and eager spirits of these incredible women I now call friends.

Janine Pettit

Girl Camper

Janine Pettit is a lifelong lover of camping who took a 25 year sabbatical when she married a “resort” type guy! She discovered that camping was still in the cards for her when she stumbled onto an article about a women’s outdoor adventure group that travels around the country in RVs, meeting new friends, checking off bucket list adventures and doing things she had only dreamed of. Janine has become an Ambassador for the Girl Camping movement and encourages women to go places and do things in her blog and podcast.