This article is for educational purposes only. We always suggest going camping with the proper training and experience. Especially if you are a minor, that means camping with supervision or an experienced adult.
With the warning out of the way, did you know that camping is an excellent activity for all ages? If you haven’t gone camping before or plan on going without adult supervision, you may be curious to know can you go camping as a minor under 18 and if it’s legal to go camping under the age of eighteen.
So is it okay to go camping and can you go camping under 18? There are various answers to this question, but from personal experience, if you and your friends want to go camping in National Forests, there is no law prohibiting this. However, specific State and National Park’s will require an adult over eighteen to be granted a permit. Private campsites owned may allow under 18’s to camp as it is their discretion.
What the rulebook says regarding camping under 18
The overall sentiment among National Forest and State Parks, Recreation and State Government bodies require that under 18’s require parent or adult supervision.
However, hundreds of private camping sites listed on Campsites UK allow and even target under 18-year-old campers to provide safe and clean campsites with the “independence of a staycation without the grown-ups”.
“A parent or guardian must accompany youths under 18 years of age” California Department of Parks and Recreation.
“The Park Manager may approve the stay of a youth.” Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“These are the ideal campsites for under 18s, where you’ll have the space to chill in the grass with a bunch of mates” Campsites UK.
“A family group is defined as one or two adults and accompanying children under 18” Queensland State Government of Australia.
My experience with under 18 camping
I grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, it’s a coastal town, and luckily for me, the area I called home was surrounded by National Forest and Beaches.
Instead of weekends spent in front of a television or a computer screen, we often went on surfing, skateboarding or camping trips.
Parents were relaxed back then, and it was easy to get permission to go on a weekend trip without adult supervision from as early as age 14.
A group of anywhere between 6-10 boys would go camping for a few days. It was a time to learn how to put a camping tent up, drink alcohol we had snuck out of the house, play music as loud as we can and look for bridges to jump off into the water.
Here are two spots we frequently went camping as teenagers. The first is Waterfall Bay,Woy Woy in New South Wales, Australia.
Just miles from the cosy town of Woy Woy, to access Waterfall Bay, we would borrow a tiny motorboat and pitch our tent on the little beach and stay overnight. Unfortunately, in my first-time experience, it rained for 24 hours torrential.
Another dispersed camping site my friends and I would often visit over the weekend at 16 years of age was the Phil Houghton Bridge, Kariong, New South Wales, Australia. We would camp right next to this tiny rope bridge.
We would play Rage Against the Machine and Tupac while having rock fights and trek just down the trail and jump off the Old Mooney Mooney Bridge.
Fun times, no adults within shouting distance, and a few more experienced boys respected the land. We cleaned up and never made a mess.
What are the risks of camping under 18
The risks have been minimised today with the progression of technology, smartphones and the expansion of cellphone tower signals.
But camping without adult supervision does bear some risks. Many first-timer under 18 campers will not know basic survival skills. How to start a fire safely, treat an injury or a bite, what to do and not to drink and eat in the wilderness.
Some studies have shown that youths may approach high-stress situations less calmly than, say, an adult. Again, however, this is more of a personality trait.
National Park and private campgrounds will restrict the minimum age for camping due to fear of surrounding flora and fauna damage, accidental fires or litter from unwanted guests and parties.
How to go camping under 18
Most National Parks that allow dispersed camping will require the camper to seek a permit. To save time, you should call up your preferred local park or State Parks and Wildlife and question if a camping permit is required.
A camping permit is a way for State Parks to recognise the number of campers in the area. There may be a limit in place, for example, because of wildlife species being in season and to limit traffic on flora.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife details that it is their discretion to provide permits to under 18-year-olds. So it is worthwhile to reach out to the State Park and ask the question.
Campsites UK is a campsite listing website that lists close to 150 private dispersed camping grounds that allow those under 18’s. As you can see, most campsites are mostly open fields and more like picnic areas, which may pose little risk of brushfires.
Clubs and scouts
Camping can also be experienced as a minor through a good deal of backpacking, hiking and scout clubs. If dispersed camping is your thing and you don’t care who it is with, joining a club may be worthwhile.
You may learn the proper survival and camping methods you can take with you into your adult life. You may even become good friends with like-minded campers and share tips and tactics when it comes to camping.
How to ask permission from parents to get a yes for camping under 18
Warning. Always seek permission first. If you go camping without permission, there is a high chance that your parent or guardian will be calling the police and lodging a missing persons report, so always get permission first.
Okay, so to go hiking under 18, you’re going to need permission first. No consent, no camping.
Here are a few points you can bring up when asking a parent or guardian for permission to go dispersed camping as a minor.
- Camping gets you outdoors among nature
- You’re going with experienced friends in a group
- You have your mobile and can call them if anything goes wrong
- The weather forecasted will be fine
- You can give your parents a map of the camping ground
- You’re only going to be camping for X amount of days
- You and the group will travel and the state forest will be nearby the campsite
- The campsite will have other campers there
- Camping is cheaper than Disneyland
- You will learn survival skills and how to be independent and responsible
- You will organise regular checkups and face times with your parents
So if you are classed as a minor (18 and under), I hope this article has helped you understand the question Can You Go Camping Under 18.
Make sure to call your campsite, State Park or recreational area beforehand to ask if you require adult oversight. A few State Forest Parks will provide permits to minors and under 18’s at their discretion.
It’s also essential to get the proper permission from your parents and guardians and keep up good communication with them during your camping trip.
Be safe out there, and leave your campground reservations as you found it.