“How Can I Exercise While Camping?”

I know what you are thinking right now… really Doug? When I am camping – I am on vacation! When I am on vacation, I relax not exercise. I would totally agree with you if camping was defined as only a weekend occurrence. I know people who fit this description. They work all week and take off early on Friday afternoon to camp the weekend at a local state park or private campground. They’re back to work on Monday and their usual exercise regimen. For this type of camper, camping never involves long road trips and seasonal camping (all summer long) is out of the question. If this is the type of a camper you are then you can stop reading this post. Even most personal trainers will tell you that you should take time off. But if camping for you DOES involve trips that last more than an extended weekend, read on….

My wife and I took a wonderful 11 day camping trip to Michigan in celebration of our anniversary. Although I had been looking forward to this trip for a while, one concern was, “How am I going to exercise during this entire trip?” Naturally, when you are on vacation you are not going to eat as well as you should. So for me, there was no way I was going to skip lifting and cardio for 11 days. But how can you exercise when you are hundreds of miles from home or gym? Believe it or not, with a little creativity and pre-planning, you can keep fit while you do what you love the most; camping (duh!!) Sure, some of the ideas I am about to share are common sense and many are not my own. These are ideas I have read in various health magazines, talking with others, etc. These exercise tips will not be the same as your normal routine but will work. You will have to be flexible and adapt to the fact that you are not at home….

Cardio Exercise Tips for the Hardcore Camper:
#1- Run. All campgrounds have acres of roads that can be run. If you are camping in a smaller campground you may have to run all the roads several times to get the full effect but running is running.


#2. Hike the campgrounds trails. Many campgrounds have nature trails that surround it. Some may only be a 1/2 mile long but again, like with running you could go around several times to get the maximum cardio workout. If you are camping in a state park, there are usually miles upon miles of hiking trails. Research ahead of time. Depending on where you are camping, there are usually city or county parks that offer paved trails for walking, running, or biking.


#3. Bring your bike (or rent a bike). The one thing Amy and I see a lot at campgrounds is people riding their bikes. Biking is an excellent cardio workout that is easier on the knees and back than running. Many state parks now include mountain bike trails along with their hiking trails. If you don’t want to hassle with buying the right attachment for your tow vehicle (or camper), rent a bike. Some campgrounds offer bike rentals at a reasonable price.

#4. Stay at a campground that offers a fitness room. Yes, believe it or not, there are campgrounds that offer such a thing. We stayed at a KOA in Pigeon Forge and were happy to find out they had an exercise room. Now, this room was limited but it did the trick. The room had a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, bench, and set of weights ranging from 10lbs-45 lbs.

exercise room

#5. Swim. In most cases, Amy and I prefer state park campgrounds over private campgrounds. They are more wooded, spacious, and offer more hiking and “outdoor” experiences. However, the one thing most do not offer is a swimming pool. Most private campgrounds do have pools. So, if you can be patient and tolerate the children playing (and most likely screaming), jump in the pool and swim 25-30 laps. If the state park has a lake (or ocean), swim in them.

#6. Play basketball. I don’t think we have ever stayed at a campground that did not have a basketball hoop (if not a full court). I always bring a basketball and football with us when we camp. They fit nicely in the storage below our dining room table. Shoot hoops for a half hour. Better yet, make some new friends and challenge them to a one-on-one or two-on-two.

#7. Bring a jump rope. If you are like Amy and I (we have a pop-up), you are limited in space. A jump rope can be easily stowed away in your luggage. Did you know that an average guy weighing 180 lbs will burn 215 calories after a 15 minute jump rope session? If you don’t like to jump rope then do jumping jacks instead.

Strength Training for the Hardcore Camper

#1. Do push ups. Personal trainers will tell you that push ups are one of the best exercises for strength training because they not only work your chest, they also get your shoulders, abs, core, and torso, especially if you vary the type of push up. Best of all, push ups do not require you to bring along any equipment. However, there is a product that I highly recommend for push ups and it won’t add to much to your luggage space. It’s called the Perfect Pushup and really helps isolate various muscles depending on which form you use. Check out Perfect Pushups at https://www.perfectonline.com/product/pushupmobile

perfect pushup

#2. Use your luggage as weights. Your suitcase will more than likely weigh 30-40 pounds (full). Use it to do bicep curls, deltoid raises, bent-over rows, etc. Better yet, bring an empty backpack. When you are at the campsite, fill the backpack with as much as possible. The backpack’s upper handle/strap will probably work better than your suitcase for the exercises mentioned above. You can also use the backpack (filled) to take a “weighted” walk or hike. Be careful, however, if you have back problems.

#3. Use old milk containers as weights. Fill the gallon containers with water. Water weighs 8.34 lbs per gallon. For women, two milk jugs will be perfect for a toning up routine. For guys, you can use the milk jugs as well. Make “boxing” motions with a jug in each hand. When you are “punching” with an extra 8.34 pounds in each hand, you will definitely work your arms and shoulders. Plus, it will rev up your heart rate.

#4. Pack a set of resistance bands. These fit easily in your luggage and are great for people with back problems (that would be me). Instead of using weights, you are using natural resistance to workout any muscle groups. Google “resistance band workouts” and you will find a plethora of possibilities. Here is one link: http://greatist.com/fitness/resistance-band-exercises


#5. Find a mature tree with a strong branch that is about a foot taller than you. Use it to complete pull ups.

#6. Find a set of steps, the more the better. Running up and down steps is a great cardio workout, but it also a great leg workout. Here is a link to some ideas on how to use stairs in a workout: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/givstrength1.htm


We found a challenging set of stairs (very steep in parts and a lengthy uphill hike) at Holland State Park in Michigan and saw several people exercising daily.

#7. If you just need the feel of a gym, do some research before the trip and determine the nearest gym to your campground. Many gyms like LA Fitness offer day passes. They can cost between $10-15 per day. Some offer weekly passes. If you are camping out in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Smokey Mountain National Park), it will be a hell of a drive to go the gym but if it’s that important to you, go for it.

In no way are these two lists exhaustive. There are many articles on the Web about exercise while traveling. Look them up and get new ideas for your next camping trip. If fitness is important to you, plan ahead, be creative, and remain flexible. Try things you would not ordinarily do as part of an exercise routine and you may be surprised how effective they are. I used to think resistance bands were only for woman….until I tried it out myself. Now, they are a normal part of my weekly routine.

Good luck and Happy Camping!!!

One thought on ““How Can I Exercise While Camping?”

  1. Pingback: Preparing To Start Running For Fitness

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