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All You Need to Know for Camping On Black Friday

All You Need to Know for Camping On Black Friday

Each year in the states we have Black Friday. It is the unofficial kickoff of the Christmas season. If you’re planning to camp out for a good deal, I recommend thinking like a Boy Scout: Be Prepared. Here are eight practical things to know for a night on the sidewalk.

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Black Friday is a bag of mixed thoughts for me:

  • Are you kidding me; it’s time for Christmas?
  • I really dislike shopping!
  • Umm…wonder if there are some good deals out there.
  • Thank God that I don’t have to go anywhere on Friday.

Traditionally, many of our stores open early on Friday morning–around 5 or 6 AM. (Some stores open Thursday evening.) Many people begin gathering in front of their favorite stores, anywhere from Thanksgiving Day to just before the stores open early Friday morning.

If you want a super-special deal and are willing to endure the process to get that deal, it may be worth it. A few years ago I met up with a friend and we did the Black Friday thing. I was a pastor at the time and wanted to save the church a couple hundred dollars on a laptop.

  1. The highlight was that we saved a few hundred dollars.
  2. The low-light was that it took two and a half days to recover.

The skinny

I arrived at Circuit City (now defunct big box store) around 4:30 PM on Thanksgiving Day. I left my in-laws during the first quarter of a 2 win 6 loss Detroit Lions football team playing their traditional Thanksgiving game to go sit in the cold by myself. I set up my camping chair and sat in front of the main entrance.

Around 5PM the store manager showed up. About 25 minutes later, two women rolled up, squealing their tires while jumping out of their SUV. One of the ladies yelled at me, “You’ve ruined my Thanksgiving!”

I later learned she was the wife of the store manager. He called her, saying, “Honey, you better get up here. They are camping out in front of the store!” The “they” was me, myself, and I. The rest of the folks didn’t show until around eight o’clock. The first few hours was me and my two new buddies.


I brought my ceramic heater, which was a life-saver. Being warm was the most important thing. My two lady friends had a cooler full of liquor. We both stayed warm in our own ways, which made for an interesting night.

The faux pas with my heater was its lack of use. It blew out a lot of dust particles for a while. I spent most of the night sneezing. It was one of the most miserable nights of my life.

The sneezing started around midnight and did not stop until Friday afternoon. My nose became raw around 3 AM from the steady wiping and blowing. Then the headaches. Here’s the rest of my list:

PillowsBlanketsLayered clothingGloves
Ski capComfortable shoesWarm socksChapstick
MedicationEar muffsHeadphonesCamera
HeaterElectrical cordTentPower strip
Toilet paperBatteriesHandkerchiefLaptop

I took a 100 foot extension cord and power strip so I could plug in my heater. My new friends let me watch DVDs on their laptop. The power strip was super-handy; it kept a fight from breaking out on the sidewalk because there was only one electrical outlet. Most stores typically have an outlet somewhere around the building.

IN All you need to know about Black Friday

Know what you want

Some stores have employees who come out around 3 or 4 AM to offer vouchers. The voucher is for big-ticket items they have on sale, e.g., a laptop, video camera, TV. They only have a few vouchers, usually about fifty.

Typically, they give you limited time during the day to redeem your voucher. It does not have to be first thing in the morning. If you receive your voucher, you could go home and return later.

I received my laptop voucher, which released me to go home but after 12 hours of camping, it was more about being the first person in line than anything else–a guy thing. Shortly before the store opened at 5AM, I packed up my stuff to put in the car. The folks were nice so reclaiming my spot in line was not a problem.

My friend joined me around 10PM, which was huge. We ordered pizza for a midnight snack. Be sure to check ahead to make sure restaurants are open at a late hour. Take a thermos or two for hot chocolate/coffee, plus a few other drinks in a cooler.

Toilet paper will be a plus. Just say’in.

There may be a few local places where you can use the potty. Sometimes big box stores provide portable toilets to bless the campers. If not, all I can say is, be prepared.

Your tent will keep the wind off you. The wind came from around the side of the building like knives cutting us in half. The tent and heater became our best friends–minus the dust particles.

As for which store?

BFADS (Black Friday Ads) is a good site to find deals. You can also type “Black Friday Ads” into the iTunes Store to find an app. Determine what you want ahead of time.

Do not plan anything for Friday. You’ll be wasted. It was worse than jet lag for me. I was up from 8 AM Thursday to 8 PM Friday. It took a while to fully recover. I bought what I wanted, and saved about $1,000. Not a bad night’s work though I have no plans to ever do that again.

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