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Forget burnt marshmallows and wet firewood – the real challenge of a family camping trip is trying to sleep in a flimsy tent with a snoring spouse and a toddler who thinks it’s morning at 3 AM. But fear not dear reader, whether you have older children, or younger kids, or this is your first time on a family camping trip, or even if you’ve been camping together for years, we’ve compiled a list of our best tips and tricks to help families survive (and maybe even enjoy) a camping adventure together.
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Get The Right Gear
First and foremost, make sure you have the right gear. A quality tent, sleeping bag, and air mattress will make all the difference in your whole family’s comfort level. Don’t skimp on these items – trust me, you’ll be glad you splurged when you’re all snuggled up in a warm, dry tent on a rainy night. On one of our first camping trips in Colorado, I cheaped out on the air mattress and woke up with horrible back pain. The boys were fine, but as soon as we got home, I ordered a nice one, and the next trip was a complete game changer. Also, make sure you have a plan for dealing with bad weather. If a storm is brewing, make sure you know where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Just in case.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or it’s your first camping trip, when you go camping with kids, there are a few safety gear items that you should never leave home without. Here are the must-haves for a safe and fun camping trip with your kids:
- If you’ll be near any bodies of water, it’s essential that everyone has a properly fitting life jacket. If your camping trip involves swimming in a lake or boating, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. My boys always give me a hard time about making them wear these, but my youngest isn’t the strongest swimmer, and anything can happen. They give me a hard time, but they know, no life jacket, no boat!
- Pack a first aid kit and make sure you know how to use it. Accidents happen, and it’s always good to be prepared. A first-aid kit will come in handy for minor scrapes and bruises.
- Flashlights are essential for nighttime trips to the bathroom, and they can also be used in emergency situations.
- Mosquitoes and other bugs can ruin a camping trip, so it’s best to be prepared and bring bug spray with you.
Best Camping Snacks
Next, plan your meals carefully. No one wants to deal with hangry kids (or adults) in the wilderness (or on the road trip to the wilderness). Pack a variety of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare snacks and meals, and don’t forget the hand sanitizer and wipes. Kids love snacks, especially when they’re traveling! Here are some great non-perishable snacks to add to your checklist for the kids while camping:
Dried fruits and nuts
Dried fruits and nuts are a healthy and filling snack option for kids. Dried fruit is another classic camping snack that’s easy to pack and doesn’t need to be kept cold. Plus, it’s a healthier option than some of the other sugary snacks you might be tempted to bring. My boys love fruit snack gummies, but I finally got them to start asking for dried fruit instead. We love them because they can still be pretty sweet, but I don’t feel as guilty about it as the processed alternative.
Granola bars are a classic camping snack. They’re easy to eat on the go and come in a variety of flavors. These tasty treats are a staple of any camping trip. They’re easy to pack, don’t need to be refrigerated, and are perfect for munching on while you explore the great outdoors. This granola bar brand is the kind my boys love!
Crackers and cheese
Crackers and cheese are a classic camping snack for a reason. They’re easy to pack and store, and my picky eaters love them!
Cooking In The Great Outdoors
For hearty meals, there is a lot of cooking gear available for purchase these days, and it can be tough to know what to buy for cooking while camping. Here are a few key considerations when purchasing cooking gear for camping:
- The first thing to consider is what type of camping you’ll be doing. If you’re planning on using easy access options like car camping, tent campers, or RV sites, you’ll have more space and can bring heavier and less expensive gear. If you’re backpacking, you’ll need to be more selective about your gear, as you’ll need to carry it all on your back until you reach your camp site. If you’re staying at an RV site or tent camping at one of the United States national parks or state parks, there may be a picnic table you can use. But if you’re backpacking, you may want to bring a small collapsable table with you to prep and eat your food.
- The next thing to consider is what type of cooking you’ll be doing. If you’re just boiling water for coffee or tea (or hot chocolate), you’ll need a different setup than if you’re cooking full meals.
- You’ll also need to consider what fuel you’ll be using. If you’re using a camp stove that runs on propane, you’ll need to bring a propane tank. If you’re using a campfire for hot dogs and s’mores, you’ll need to gather or purchase wood and kindling.
- Finally, you’ll need to consider what pots and pans to bring. If you’re just boiling water, you’ll only need a pot. But if you’re cooking full meals, you’ll likely need a variety of pots and pans.
And finally, embrace the chaos. This is not a luxury vacation, it’s a camping trip. There will be bugs, there will be dirt, and there will be moments of frustration. But that’s all part of the fun (or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves). So go ahead, let your kids get messy, and explore their surroundings, in this great place called mother nature. They’ll remember the adventure long after the trip is over. It can be a lot of work to keep them safe and comfortable at tent sites, but it’s worth seeing them enjoy themselves while spending quality time with their family. Plus, if there are other kids camping nearby, this can be a great opportunity to help them make new friends. One of my boys used to be pretty shy, but after we started going camping, he learned friendships didn’t have to be so serious. He loves fishing and has found that he is a pretty good teacher too!
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Tips For Success
No matter how much you plan, something will go wrong. Be prepared for bad weather, insects, and anything else that might come up. This means packing extra clothes, food, and supplies and being aware of your surroundings at all times. You can make online reservations for a nice spot with hot showers, fire pits, and flush toilets, but if you’re planning for a last-minute trip, be prepared to rough it at a bit more primitive campground if need be.
Here are our tried and true tips on how to survive and actually enjoy a family camping trip with your kids!
Keep them busy
A bored child is a recipe for disaster. Have a few good options to keep them entertained. Make sure to bring along plenty of activities to keep them occupied. Some great ideas are books, toys, and games. It’s also a good idea to plan some hikes and other outings that will tire them out so they’ll be ready for bed when you’re ready for them to go to bed. Bring along art supplies, such as crayons, markers, or watercolors, and encourage children to draw or paint the sights and sounds of the camping trip.
Kids can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be flexible when camping with them. If the weather changes or they get tired, it’s ok to adjust your plans. The most important thing is that everyone has a good time, so go with the flow and be prepared for anything. Camping with small children can be a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun. By being prepared and flexible, you can make sure family members have a great time and make some family memories. Embrace the chaos and enjoy the outdoors with your kids!
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