Last year, so many people discovered the joy of getting outside—using it as a place for both recreation and socialization. Trails saw an influx of boots and bike tires on the ground while trailheads saw a proliferation of camp chairs and coolers as users hung around in parking lots after their hikes and rides to catch up with friends, hiking buddies, and riding partners. A winning combination, this trend has legs post-pandemic, and trailhead parking lots are busier than ever with users heading out to adventure and then hanging out after for a little apres adventure.

Keep in mind: Hanging out at trailheads is a lot of fun and has become a common sight recently, but it’s not always welcome. Know the rules regarding tailgating, drinking, and cooking before planning a post-adventure gathering and follow them. After all, getting your apres activity shut down is no fun, poor form, and could threaten future access.

If you’ve yet to apres after an outing, here’s what you need to know to hang after a day on the trail.

Credit: Tim Peck

Green Circle

Getting your apres outside game going is easy and while you can get started with a beach chair and styrofoam cooler from the corner store, a few key pieces of gear will make life easier and have you looking like a parking lot pro:

  • Soft-sided cooler: A small soft-sided cooler like the Mountainsmith Sixer holds enough coldies for you and a few friends or a couple of beverages and a snack if it’s a BYO affair—a sandwich is tasty, but a piece of pizza or burrito will make you the envy of apres.
  • Can cooler: Different trailheads have different regulations (learn them and follow them!), but a good rule of thumb is to stay discreet—especially if you’re having a few brews. In addition to keeping drinks cold, the Hydro Flask Cooler Cup keeps them a mystery.
  • Camp chair: No one wants to stand around after a day on the trails and a small, packable camp chair like the classic Helinox Chair One offers a comfortable, simple sitting solution for short apres hangs.
Credit: Tim Peck

Blue Square

A comfortable chair, a cooler, and a bit of discretion are a great start to upping your apres game, but a few other pieces of gear can get you off the bunny slope and take your post-adventure hangouts to the next level.

  • Changing poncho: There’s nothing fun about hanging around post-adventure in sweaty hiking clothes or padded bike shorts. Changing ponchos—part hoodie, part towel, part changing room—have been a staple of surfers for years and allow you to slip into more comfortable clothes without exposing yourself to friends or charges of indecent exposure. In a pinch, a large pack towel, like the beach-sized personal Packtowl, works as a substitute.
  • Comfy footwear: Heavy hiking boots, bike shoes, and climbing kicks are many things, but cozy is generally not one of them. Slide into something more comfortable before kicking back, like the North Face Base Camp Slide (men’s/women’s).
  • Mood music: A small Bluetooth speaker, like the EcoXGear EcoRoam 10 Audio Speaker, is perfect for setting the tone after a day on the trails as well as drowning out your buddies’ groans as they settle into their camp chairs. Remember to keep the music to a level that’s respectful of other users.
  • Insulated food jar: A cooler is great, but an insulated food jar, such as this one from Hydro Flask, greatly increases your options—think warm chili in the fall or ice cream in the summer.
Credit: Tim Peck

Black Diamond

Looking to up your game even more? Don’t worry, expert-level apres is easily attainable by new and old adventurers alike. Much of the apres gear you’ve already acquired is still important, but a few extra pieces will have you partying in style in the parking lot.

  • Grill: Bringing food is for rookies—cooking food is a sign of someone truly adept at apres. The Eureka Gonzo Grill features both a griddle surface and a traditional grill surface, allowing you to serve up everything from quesadillas to burgers.
  • Kitchen: You don’t want to cook on the ground and face it, whipping up something like burgers requires certain accouterments. A table like the Eureka Camp Kitchen provides plenty of space for everything you need—like buns, bacon, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and condiments—and folds up for easy transport.
  • Cookware/Tableware: From plates and bowls to utensils and cookware, a lot goes into throwing a proper parking lot party. You can raid your kitchen, but an all-in-one set like the Stanley Adventure Full Kitchen Base Camp Cookware Set is meant for the rigors of apres and you won’t lose sleep over your wobbly-legged friend handling your good tableware.
  • Hard-sided cooler: Bringing food and condiments means graduating to a bigger cooler. The Yeti Tundra 45 is the Cadillac of coolers—it’s easy to handle, big enough to hold everything you need, and will keep its contents cold whether you’re out for a hot lap or epic all-day ride at Kingdom Trails.
  • Blanket: From delivering extra warmth on crisp fall days in the Rumney parking lot to providing a place to sit at grassy trailheads, a good blanket is a game-changer. The Therm-a-Rest Stellar delivers the fast-drying performance, high-quality insulation, and packability you expect from all your outdoor equipment.