All You Need to Know About Wheelchair Camping


As you already know, being confined to a wheelchair in order to stay mobile makes normal everyday things a little more difficult. The good news is: A wheelchair won’t hold you back when it comes to camping! That means you can still spend a few nights in the woods sleeping under the stars and fishing right alongside your family and friends.

You need to ensure that you’re going to a wheelchair-accessible campground, choosing a weekend that’s not rainy, and bringing a comfortable cot! You also want to make sure that you’re ready for everything, including the sudden need to use the restroom. Pack your bags and get ready to go!

The first step of wheelchair camping is picking the right location at the right time of year. This can be the difference between an enjoyable camping experience and being stuck in the parking lot on arrival!

Choosing a Destination & Timeframe

Unfortunately, not all campsites and campgrounds are entirely wheelchair-accessible. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t give them a try, but it does somewhat limit where you can spend your time camping without trouble.

When it comes to deciding on the location, you need to choose a location that’s relatively flat, has limited mud and hills, and doesn’t experience too much rain. The perfect campsite won’t require anything other than showing up and setting up your tent and sleeping bag.

What to Look For in the Perfect Campground

It might not come as a shock to you, but not all campgrounds are considered wheelchair-accessible campgrounds. In fact, there aren’t even set guidelines used to determine whether a campground is wheelchair-accessible or not.

However, there are some things you should be looking for when it comes to the perfect campground for wheelchair camping. Here are a few.

  • Paved pathways: Ideally, you would be able to travel between your campsite to the restroom (or other camp locations) without having to traverse through the woods, high grass, or mud. The perfect location would have paved pathways between all major destinations at the campground!
  • Dry (no mud): You can’t physically control the weather around you, but you can do your best to avoid locations where mud typically accumulates. If a campground is known to look like a swamp or a marsh after a heavy rain, you might want to reconsider your destination!
  • Flatter land: Now, you won’t find an entirely flat campground anywhere in America. Yet, there are locations that are much more level than others. The less you have to push yourself up steep hills and across the unstable ground, the better.
  • Allows campers and RVs: Sometimes, wheelchair camping is much easier if you’re camping in an RV or a campervan. If that’s the case, make sure the campground allows you to bring these types of vehicles on their property!

Though the campground might not be labeled as “wheelchair-accessible,” that doesn’t mean that it won’t have the qualities you need for wheelchair camping. Make sure you’re looking for the above-listed characteristics!

Weather, Conditions & Your Wheelchair

You have complete control when it comes to which campground you go to, but you can’t do much in terms of the weather and the environmental conditions. What you can do is strategically plan your trip around certain times of the year for a better experience.

When scheduling your next wheelchair camping trip, make sure you’re considering the following.

  • Choose a warmer time of the year. It might seem warm during the day right now, but the temperature will always drop during the night. The best way to get around this is by choosing the hottest time of the year to prevent those frigid nights out in the woods!
  • Try to avoid rainy and snowy times of the year. You know what the weather tends to be like in your area. If it usually rains a lot during the spring or snows a lot in December, you know which times of year to avoid. Snow and rain can both impact your ability to use your wheelchair at the campground!
  • Don’t schedule your trip too far in advance. The best part about camping is that there’s usually an opening year-round. If the weather has been pretty inconsistent in recent months, you might want to schedule your camping trip a few days or a week in advance after you know what the probable weather will be!

You will never have complete control when it comes to scheduling a camping trip, especially when it comes to the weather. But, there are a few steps you can take to select the dates of your camping trip a bit more strategically.

Designing Your Sleeping Arrangements

Camping, in general, has plenty of options when it comes to different sleep setups. Though it might not be ideal to choose a sleeping bag for wheelchair camping, there are alternatives like cots and raised beds.

There’s no right or wrong way to set up your sleeping arrangements when it comes to wheelchair camping. You just need to consider what would be most comfortable for you and easy to get into at night and out of in the morning.

Different Sleeping Setups

You may be used to the “old school” sleeping bag setup, but there are a vast number of ways you can spend your nights while camping out in the wild. We’ll go over a few of the more popular sleeping setups and why they might be great for wheelchair camping.

  • Camping cots: These are the best option when it comes to limiting the transition between your wheelchair and your bed. Rather than lowering yourself down to the floor each night while camping, you can easily maneuver over to your raised cot and get a good night’s sleep. They’re also pretty comfortable!
  • Air mattresses: Air mattresses might be a bit more difficult to get into, but they’re really similar to sleeping in a regular bed. If you tend to get uncomfortable at night, the air mattress might be the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep.
  • RVs or campervans: The ideal sleeping conditions for wheelchair camping would be indoors due to possible weather changes and personal needs. If a storm suddenly breaks or the temperature outside drops 20 degrees overnight, you won’t be exposed directly to those conditions.

The camping cot is, by far, the best setup when it comes to convenience. However, you can choose air mattresses or bring an RV if you’re looking for something a little bit different.

Making Yourself More Comfortable

No matter which method you decide on for your next camping trip, there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable at night. After all, we do spend about one-third of our lives sleeping. Might as well make it enjoyable, right?

Here are some tips for ensuring comfort when sleeping.

  • Pick a comfortable sleeping bag (if you’re using one). If you’re choosing to stick to the old-school camping style of using a sleeping bag, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting a sleeping bag that’s pretty thick and comfortable. That way, you’ll be better able to sleep through the night.
  • Bring extra blankets. Blankets are great for keeping you comfortable at night, but they are also incredible to help you to maintain your body temperature while you’re camping. When the temperature drops to below-freezing temperatures on your camping trip, you want to make sure that you’re prepared for anything!
  • Bring your pillow from home. This won’t save you the same amount of space that a camping pillow might, but it’ll give you the most comfortable sleeping environment when you’re camping. Plus, it’ll feel like you’re sleeping in your own bed at home!

At the end of the day, you know what makes you most comfortable and what you need to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t skimp on the necessities just because you want to pack light!

Preparing for Anything

Everybody should be prepared for anything when it comes to camping, but even more so if you’re in a wheelchair. As you already know, you can’t predict everything and some things just happen suddenly and out of your control.

That’s why it’s important to prepare for different types of situations. That means setting up a makeshift toilet so you don’t have to trek through the woods to the closest restroom and having the tools and accessories you need to repair your wheelchair if something goes wrong.

Setting Up a Makeshift Toilet & Bath

During the day, you have practically unlimited access to the restrooms at the campground. But, when you might need a little extra space that the campground restrooms just don’t provide. Sometimes the need to go arises suddenly and you just can’t make it to the bathrooms!

By bringing a padded bucket or pop-up toilet purely for your restroom needs, you’ll always have access to the restroom (no matter where you are in the campground) and be able to use the restroom in peace without assistance.

If you’re spending more than a day or two on the camping trip in the woods, you’re going to need to be bathing as well. Since you don’t have access to your normal tub or shower, you need to get a little creative here.

Bring an additional bucket (NOT the same one that you’ll be using as a toilet). You can then use this bucket to give yourself a sponge bath every day or two on your trip.

Having Wheelchair Tools and Accessories

It always seems like things go wrong when you’re unprepared! That’s why we’re recommending that you bring any wheelchair tools or accessories that you have when you’re on your wheelchair camping trip.

If something happens to go wrong with your wheelchair while you’re camping, you’ll need an immediate fix in order to be able to stay mobile through the remainder of your trip. And, because you’re basically stranded in the woods when you’re camping, you won’t have any other alternative tools that you can use to fix your wheelchair.

Your best bet would be bringing a wheelchair repair kit that’ll supply you with all the tools you could possibly need to fix your wheelchair if something were to go wrong.

Weather Changes

You tried your best to schedule your trip around the bad weather, but sometimes you just get stuck in it! That’s why you need to be prepared for absolutely any weather that might occur while on your camping trip.

Bring clothing for all types of weather! That means waterproof or water-resistant clothing to keep you dry if the skies above you open up, warm socks and several pairs of shoes in case yours get wet in the rain, and several layers of clothing to keep you warm at all times!

It’s much better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when it comes to camping! Always consider the worst-case scenario when packing your bags before your big camping trip.

Packing For Your Trip (Wheelchair Camping Checklist)

Now that you have the entire trip planned out, you need to make every effort to prepare for all of the needs you might have while camping. Obviously, packing your bedding, food, and water are the first things you should be packing.

But, you need to remember that camping involves spending a ton of time out in nature without access to running water and electrical amenities. That’s why it’s so important that you pack all types of hygienic products and other needs you might have as a result of your disability.

Bedding/Clothing

By now, you should have already decided which type of bedding and clothing that you plan to bring with you for your next wheelchair camping trip. Make sure you’re bringing:

  • Your cot (or air mattress)
  • Comfortable pillows (maybe even the ones you use at home)
  • Extra blankets in case it gets really cold at night
  • Socks and extra clothing layers

Food & Water

These guidelines apply for any camping trip! You want to make sure that you’re stocking up on the right amount of food and water in order to prepare for everything. Make sure you pack:

  • Bottled water (or refillable reusable water bottles)
  • Non-perishable foods
  • A lighter or matches to start a fire to cook on
  • Cooking pots and pans
  • A knife for preparing food
  • Plates, bowls, and cups
  • Dish towels and sponges

Hygiene

Camping isn’t the most hygienic activity for anyone! You want to make sure that you’re packing all the necessary supplies to keep you clean and happy during your wheelchair camping trip. You should be bringing:

  • A padded bucket to be used as a restroom
  • A bucket and a sponge (for sponge baths)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap or hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper or baby wipes
  • Towels 
  • Combs or brushes
  • Prescription medications 
  • Any health supplies your condition requires (like a catheter)

Wheelchair Supplies

As we already mentioned, there’s a huge risk that comes with going wheelchair camping without the necessary tools to fix or repair your wheelchair. Think about bringing:

  • A wheelchair tool kit
  • Wrenches or bolt tighteners
  • Tire pressure tool
  • Tape or rope

Other Needs

There’s a lot more that goes into camping than just eating, sleeping, and using the restroom. You are there to have a little fun and do some activities as well, right?

Think about all the activities you might be doing when you’re camping. Here are some things you might want to bring in general and for specific activities.

Fishing Needs

  • A fishing pole
  • Some fishing bait
  • Extra fishing line
  • A net
  • Your fishing license

Personal Needs

  • Your credit cards or debit card
  • Your driver’s license
  • Smartphone
  • Phone charger
  • A laptop or tablet

Protection from the Environment

  • A bottle of sunscreen
  • Insect repellent or bug spray
  • Waterproof or water-resistant clothing

Swimming Needs

  • Goggles
  • A bathing suit or swimming trunks
  • A towel

There’s a ton that goes into packing for any camping trip! Make sure you’re taking note of the things you definitely need for your health condition before packing anything else. Otherwise, you might just have to cut your long-awaited wheelchair camping trip short.

Conclusion

Wheelchair camping might sound overwhelming at first, but it has the potential to be incredibly fun and relaxing. It’s the perfect way to spend valuable time with your friends and family without constantly worrying about getting around in your wheelchair. When you’re planning a wheelchair camping trip, make sure that you’re:

  • Selecting a flat, dry location (ideally one that’s advertised as being wheelchair accessible)
  • Choosing a sleep setup that’s comfortable for you and your physical needs
  • Preparing for the unexpected (like bringing a bucket to use as a toilet and any wheelchair repair tools you might need)
  • Packing the necessities, but also things that’ll make your camping trip more fun

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