Spring is in full swing bringing with it warm sunny days that cool down in the evenings – a recipe for the perfect camping trip. Growing families introduce a new ingredient that changes the recipe up, adding a little bit of fun and a little more planning. Don’t let a little extra planning slow you down though. While adding kids to the camping mix may require a bit more preparation, the rewards are abundant.
- Bonding by spending undistracted time together as a family.
- Soaking in the beautiful and unique experiences of nature.
- An opportunity to teach and share knowledge and skills.
- Fresh air and wide open spaces offer a chance to decompress and relieve stress.
- Physical activity and exercise that are a welcome break from the day to day.
- Time away from our daily electronic distractions.
- New experiences bring new challenges that build confidence.
So you’re ready for the adventure, but what should you expect and how should you prepare. Researching blogs, you’ll find a few pieces of advice that they all share. First off, start small. The old adage about learning to crawl before you walk is just as applicable here. To start off, consider going out for a day trip to a state park or lake. Have a picnic or take a small hike to start investing in the idea of spending time out of the house in nature.
Instead of jumping into an overnight trip at a state park, you may want to try a dry run by having an overnight in the back yard. A back yard camp out is a perfect opportunity to test the waters. You’ll gain experience with your gear and kiddos in a more controlled environment. Last, should it prove too much for your kids, home is just outside the tent door.
If you’re ready to take on the wild, it’s time to prepare. Make a list and check it again before you hit the road to ensure you have everything you’ll need. Break your list into the following four categories to get organized, then start packing.
1. Living Quarters
- Sleeping bag
- Ground pad
- Proper clothing
Be prepared for cool temperatures or rain
- Flashlights, lanterns and headlamps
A tent is your home away from home so make sure you’ve got the right one for the job. A well ventilated, breathable tent will keep you dry and comfortable all night long. If the forecast is clear, consider taking off the rain fly and use the stars as a nightlight. Don’t forget to bring a ground pad. They don’t just add a comfortable surface to sleep on, they also provide a layer of insulation between you and the ground to keep you warm throughout the night. Make sure your sleeping bag is rated for the coldest temperature you’ll experience and bring along clothes you can layer to add or remove for optimal comfort.
Flashlights are great, but a headlamp will keep your hands free when you need them for a task. Camp chairs offer a creature comfort to the campsite that can’t be beat. Whether you’re resting around the campfire or eating a meal, a good seat will keep everyone happy.
2. Kitchen Supplies
- Camp stove
- Cookware and utensils
- Camping plates, cups or mugs and silverware
- Camp sink (tub or bucket) and soap
- Don’t forget a long utensil for roasting food or marshmallows over the fire.
- Heavy duty foil
- Camp table
- Fire wood
Next on the list is the camp kitchen. Plan out each of your meals in advance and prep everything you can at home beforehand, such as slicing up vegetables or cracking eggs into a container.
Camping cutlery and dishes are a one-time investment that will hold up better than disposable, single-use products. They may require some cleanup, but there will be less to pack and less trash to manage. A tub or bucket can serve as a camp sink when it’s time to clean up, just be sure to remember camp or biodegradable soap and follow campground regulations. Heavy duty foil is convenient and is an integral part of many campfire meals.
If hot dogs are a family favorite, try wrapping Pillsbury crescent rolls around your dogs before roasting them for some added fun. You can easily cook bread in a coffee can, just follow these steps from food.com. Foil pouch meals are another easy option for a tasty dinner. Carrots, potatoes, onions and celery combined with a chicken breast or hamburger patty makes one of the simplest meals. Wrap your ingredients in heavy duty foil and place them in the coals of the fire to cook for about an hour. Check out this and other detailed campfire recipes at activekids.com.
- Light first aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Baby wipes
- Insect repellent
- Saw or axe
- Lighter or matches
With food and shelter planned out, the next step is gathering all the essential items that will make your camp out a safe and comfortable trip. Kids love playing with flashlights so bring plenty of extra batteries to keep their lights on. Insect repellent is another important item to keep those biting bugs at bay. You should bring a small first aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptic and has common remedies for allergies or pain relief.
With younger children, you’ll want to remember to bring medicines specifically for children. Baby wipes help to clean up grubby hands or faces at the end of the day. Last, be sure to clip a whistle to each of your kids should they wander outside your sight. Teach them to blow three short loud whistles if they become lost and to wait for your response. Also have them memorize the number of your campsite and identify landmarks near your camp, such as a playground or proximity to the restroom.
- Guide or app for local plants and animals
- Scavenger hunt bags
- Glow sticks
- Fishing pole and license
- Identifying landmarks
- Camp cleanup
There’s always something amazing to explore or discover while camping, so be sure to bring binoculars or a magnifying glass. A field guide or app can help identify local flora and fauna. Consider making a discovery game by building scavenger bags. Write a list on each bag and turn the little ones loose around camp to find acorns, pinecones, unique rocks or special leaves. In fact, you can make camp chores fun by seeing who can find the most kindling. Giving your kids entertaining tasks will keep them busy while giving them some responsibility for the camp.
A few final things to consider when camping with kids: stay excited and positive. Offer praise for completing tasks. Encouragement as they try out new things. Let them know you’re proud of them as they participate in camp responsibilities. Have each of your children pack a a special item or two that they might normally play with outside while at home. Last and most important, relax and have fun.
Do you have any camping trip must haves or great campfire recipes? If so share them in the comments!