So you want to take 50 of your best friends camping? Taking to the wilderness with all of your favorite people is one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do. Doing this kind of trip successfully, though, requires some careful planning and a good bit of work.
1. Assemble the right team
Possibly the most important component to a successful large group trip is having a small group of dedicated friends to plan and execute. Unless you own a big truck and have a lot of free time, you're going to need help gathering the supplies and transporting everything to your campsite. Split up the responsibilities into logical categories; e.g. Andrew is in charge of beer, Cara's bringing the canopies, Joe handles the Costco run, etc.
2. Calculate quantities and costs with a spreadsheet
You need to keep close track of who's coming so you can calculate quantities. It's also very helpful for figuring out the total cost of food, developing budgets, and keeping to them when you're shopping. I like printing out a copy and bringing it to the store with me, checking off items and updating the cost per item as we go. I've found for a long weekend (3 nights) that $40-$50 per person should be sufficient for food, booze, and campsite. View my spreadsheet template here.
3. Pick the perfect location
The earlier you book the campsite, the better selection you will have. For 50 or more people, if you are even somewhat picky in your campsite selection (and you should be, it makes all the difference) book 6 months in advance. Most Federal and CA state parks allow you to book 6 months from your arrival date. Popular weekends at the best campsites often book on the same day the reservation becomes available, and cancellation fees are usually pretty minimal, so be proactive!
4. Make sure you have the appropriate shelter
One of the basic human needs is shelter, but we don't often think about it until we're outside for an extended period. The important thing is keeping everyone dry and comfortable. Know the experience level of your group. If you are going somewhere with the potential for rain or snow, make sure it is obvious to your crew that they will need a good tent with a rainfly, extra tarps and rope, boots, jackets, and extra socks (socks count as shelter).
That said, someone is going to forget their stuff, so I recommend bringing a “Party Tent," It can be an invaluable safe haven if someone's tent floods or they forgot/broke their gear. If you're expecting rain, it may be a good idea to walk through the campground and make sure no one's set up their tent in a dry creek bed…friends don't let friends pitch in shallow depressions.
5. Bring enough food
Feeding 50 for a few days takes a massive quantity of food, but the combined buying power of a large group allows you to provide gourmet meals for minimal cost. Costco is key. You can also look into local commercial markets for bulk items. There's a commercial produce market in the warehouse area of Jack London Square that will sell you cases of veggies for a fraction of what you'd pay at the store. I am continually surprised how easily, and how well you can feed people with this method. For $50/person you can provide three square meals a day, all the beer you can drink, and the campsite, for three days and three nights.