Johnny's Guide to Camping in Chiang Mai Thailand

One thing I've missed most about living in the U.S. is camping. To me it's the perfect way to get out of the city, put away the laptop and reset our circadian rhythms. Just a single night away from artificial lights and electronics can rewild ourselves, help us sleep better, and destress us. This post has been updated for November 2016 as I've done a ton more camping since I last wrote this and just got back from another trip this weekend.

Instead of just daydreaming about one day moving back to the states and camping then, I figured why not do it here? Chiang Mai has beautiful mountains, great weather, and most places are just a short scooter ride away. In this post I show you my three favorite places to camp in Northern Thailand and how inexpensive and easy it can be. Here's everything I know about camping in Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai.

Option 1: Guided Trekking

The easiest way to go overnight camping in Chiang Mai is to sign up for an overnight guided trek. You won't' be sleeping in tents but the bamboo long houses they have set up in the mountain village the first night or by the waterfall if you opt for the two night option both give you the same feel as camping as you're sleeping outdoors after a long day of hiking.

The first time I did an overnight trek I absolutely loved it and think it's something everyone coming to Chiang Mai should definitely do especially if you enjoy a few hours of hiking as well.

The only downside to the overnight treks is for whatever reason the cheapest trek option includes a bunch of touristy stuff such as a local market visit, elephant riding, bamboo rafting, and whitewater rafting and takes up half of your day. The walking only treks are all much more expensive even though they technically should cost the guide less money. But this is Thailand. =)

See more about the overnight treks in my blog post here.

Camping at Doi Mon Chaem

Option 2: Local Camping

The second option for camping in Thailand is most similar to what we're used to back home but because this is Thailand, it's both more complicated, and much cheaper. 

If you have a Thai friend that happens to like camping, this is by far the best option as for around $25 you can buy a brand new tent and sleeping bag and be set with all of your gear. It doesn't get very cold in Chiang Mai even during the coldest months of December/January so you can get away with having a $10 sleeping bag.

There's also a ton of nature just a few hours from the city. The only problem is, if you're not Thai, it's a bit confusing on where you'd allowed to camp. Luckily, I once went with a friend of a friend who took us with them to their favorite camp spot just a few hours from Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to get back there or what it was called which is why option 2 is pretty much reserved for those who speak Thai. If you want to make a reservation for a tent site there's an online reservation system here for all national parks in Thailand.

If you're Thai or have some local friends and want to organize a trip, let me know as I'm always looking forward to overnight camping around Chiang Mai in cool places.

Option 3: Tents for Rent

The option I just got back from this weekend which may have been the easiest of the three is going somewhere that already has tents set up for you and just paying the nightly rate as you would a bungalow. The cool thing about this option is it allows you to invite friends who would rather pay 600 baht to rent instead of 1,000 baht to own their own gear as they don't want the hassle of carrying it with them traveling or selling it afterwards.

The other benefit of these types of trips is hiking is optional as you'll be driving up to the campsite and exploring on your own. 

This weekend I went with a couple friends to Doi Mon Chaem (Thai website) which is just an hour away from the city making it a really easy weekend trip just for a night away. Tents were 600 baht ($17US) per person, per night, but were not only set up for you already, but also included blankets, a flashlight, a candle, towels, and everything else you could think of, making it one of the easiest camping experiences ever. 

Mon Chaem also sometimes spelled Mon Jam is part of the royal project farm and is a super popular tourist destination for Thai locals who like an excuse to wear their winter jackets for the day and take photos with the hill tribe kids. They have a restaurant there that has incredible food so you can pretty much just show up with nothing prepared and buy everything you need while you're there.

The only downside to Mon Chaem is the fact that's a bit too comfortable to really feel like you're camping in nature. It's definitely glamping (glamorous camping) more than a rugged experience.

Other places I want to check out in the future include Mon-Kiang-Dao or Chiang Dao Hill as both allow you to bring your own tent for for around 150 baht ($4US) per person per night. I also want to camp in Doi Inthanon which is campsite halfway up the highest point in Thailand.

But the place I go to most often is Doi Pui as it's an easy drive from the city. Check out my video of what camping in Doi Pui, just up the mountain from Doi Suthep is like.

More Rental Tent Camping:

There's also two campsites near Doi Suthep which is super close to town making it easy to get to. The first is the one at the first waterfall to the right about a quarter way up from Huay Kaew to the waterfall. It's 200 baht to drive into the national park for visitors and the campsites are closed during rainy season from around June 1st - November 1st. The campsite at Doi Pui which is just a few km past Doi Suthep temple is the same schedule.

I went to Doi Pui twice this month as I like it so much, especially since it's less than an hour drive from Chiang Mai. The only thing you need to know is the fact that even though they have signs for food and a restaurant, it was closed both times we've been there which means they don't sell anything, not even drinking water. The good news is you can rent tents, sleeping bags, mats, and even pillows. The only thing you need to bring is:

1. Warm clothes (it's 10 degrees colder in the mountain)
2. Food - You can bring a grill, but we just bring takeout thai food and snacks
3. Water - They don't sell drinking water, so bring your own.
4. Lantern - They don't rent these, so bring a flashlight or better yet, an actual lantern

I'll be updating this guide as I go to more campsites here in Chiang Mai, but so far I can tell that camping in Thailand isn't super popular yet, but once you find places to go it's actually really easy and the views are beautiful. Just make sure you leave your iPad or Tablets at home as the whole point of camping is to unplug yourself from technology for a night and try to get yourself back on a natural track of sleeping a few hours after sunset and waking up as the sun rises.

If you have any other experiences camping in Chiang Mai, I'd love to hear it so please leave a comment before.

Bonus: Here's a 300 page downloadable PDF with everything you want to know about the various national parks and camping here in Thailand!

Happy camping! 

Warm Regards,


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  1. I was just looking into this myself. Thanks for the information.

    1. Hey glad to help! If you come across any more info, feel free to post it here in the comments!

  2. Hey Johnny
    I am reading your post and this very interesting.
    I am traveling to Chiang Mai soon and I was wondering if I should take my gear with me or I can buy some over there, tent and sleeping bag, gaz stove and stuff.
    Can you give me some advises.
    BTW - I'll be staying somewhere in/near Chiang Mai until mid february - we need to meet and have a beer.

    take care

    1. Hey Minervols, you can just buy gear here as it's super cheap. 500 baht ($15US) for a tent and 400 for a sleeping bag.

      Let me know when you're in town, happy to meet.

    2. Johnny, thanks for the info. What about camping stove, is that possible? I like my espresso in the morning...
      I'll contact you in early 2016!

    3. Yup they sell camping stoves as well =)

  3. Thanks for another great post. I am still having trouble finding out where you can camp and not after many years. I also love the local camps where you can have a small fire. Often in a designated spot.
    There is another lovely camp site by the Bai Bua waterfall out past maejo.

    1. Hey thanks on the tip about the Bai Bua site. It's crazy how many beautiful places there are close by Chiang Mai and how little into there is about it =)

  4. Hi Johnny

    I'm planning to go camping up north of Chiang Rai. But will transit in Chiang Mai for few days. Would you be able to suggest a shop in Chiang mai that sells affordable gear (/sleeping bag, flashlight etc) thanks!

    1. You can go to any of the big super markets, either the Big Tesco Lotus, Big C, or Makkro Cash & Carry all have them for cheap. I bought my sleeping bag for 500 baht or so and a tent for 600.

  5. Great post! Can you recommend a good camping site - not too many people, clear night sky views, nice views for sunrise ? I was looking at Chiang Doa, Doi Pui and Doi Inthanon, but really have no idea...Do you have a favorite? Thank you!

    1. Hey Vin, I haven't been to all of them yet but I'd say Chiang Mai would be the most secluded. Doi Pui is nice but it's popular and sometimes busy.

  6. Thanks for the information you shared that's so useful and quite informative and i have taken those into consideration....


  7. Vacation in Thailand is always a dream. I am planning a solo Thailand trip want to have a idea about all the places that i can visit. I found great Thailand tour packages here ,even this can be helpful

  8. I really enjoyed your experiences about camping. Keep writing beautiful stuff like this. Thanks Mate!


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