As Black Friday camping champ Jarvis Johnson of Arizona has taught us, it’s the early, early, early bird who gets the best worms. While not all of us can feasibly configure the impressive setup Jarvis has—including a bed, TV, and electricity—there are a few things you can do to make sure your next Black Friday camping experience is not only bearable, but safe and at least relatively comfortable.
We’ve all seen the videos of mobs of zealous shoppers tromping over one another to get to coveted Black Friday items, and that battlefield mentality can extend beyond the shop doors. Whether or not fellow shoppers may try to snag your spot, you’ve also got to be aware of the more commonplace crimes that you could fall victim to when Black Friday camping, most notably mugging and theft. By camping outside a storefront, you’ve advertised to would-be thieves that you’ve got the cash to spend. Be extra cautious by keeping your wallet on your person and leaving all other valuables at home. Be aware of your surroundings, and use the buddy system. Always take shifts when it comes to bathroom breaks and naps/sleeping, and if you are left alone for any period of time, stay alert. Also be sure to have a charged cell phone (you can use a solar or battery-powered charger), so you can call for help in case of emergency. If you’re staying in an area you don’t often frequent (like visiting your in-laws out of town, etc.), make a note of where the nearest emergency facilities are. It’s very unlikely you’ll get more than a little chilly, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Dress in Layers
Warmth is one of the most important factors when it comes to surviving a Black Friday camping expedition. Even standing in line for a mere few hours before sundown can be a challenge when it comes to staving off the chill, especially if you live in one of the cooler northern or midwestern states. And staying overnight—or for multiple nights—is another ordeal entirely. One of the best ways to stay warm is to utilize layers. In some areas, temperatures are already dropping near the single digits by Thanksgiving, and if that applies to you, it’s best to think of yourself as a human seven-layer dip. Dress in as many layers as you can possibly pile on, pile on one more, then wrap yourself in a blanket. Although it may feel a bit cumbersome, wearing multiple layers is an effective method of conserving your body heat. If you get too warm, you can always remove a layer or two according to your needs and the weather.
You’ve diligently waited in the cold outdoors for hours just to ensure a spot among the first ranks. When you’re down to the last few minutes before opening, you don’t want to lose your spot by taking too long to pack up camp, and you likewise don’t want to end up being bogged down by a heavy load when you’re trying to make a run for your favorite items. Besides, with all the goodies you’re about to score, you’ll have enough to pack out as it is. Pack just a few essentials: clothes (pack sparingly, an extra pair of socks and a sweatshirt should be fine if you’ve dressed warm already), food and water, a book or a couple of games to keep you entertained, your phone, your wallet, tent, blankets, sleeping bag, and a portable emergency kit (with first aid supplies, just in case).
S’mores aren’t quite the same without the campfire, and even if you’re camping outside a Best Buy on the rural outskirts of a one-horse town, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be permitted to set anything aflame onsite. Likewise, unless you’re one of the ultra-dedicated few to set in for multiple nights before the big day, you’re probably setting up just after a big Thanksgiving meal, so you won’t need to worry about bringing too much in the way of foodstuffs. However, you will want to bring enough of the right items to munch on in order to keep up your energy and stave off the hangry—you don’t want to be getting into fisticuffs over a flat screen just because you haven’t eaten in several hours and have low blood sugar. While you may be tempted to bring a Tupperware full of leftovers, it’s probably best to leave those for the after-sale feast as you don’t want to be sleepy or rise in the morning with a sugar hangover. Pack light, easily prepared or ready-to-eat items like protein bars, fruit, and nuts.
Black Friday is all about strategy. Stores have their strategies for rolling out wicked good deals while still raking in a profit, and you’ve got the strategy to get the most bang for your buck while still making it home in time for a post-Thanksgiving holiday movie marathon and leftovers feast. Have some tried-and-true Black Friday camping tips of your own? Share them in the comments!