If your pre-parent days were adventurous and packed with outdoor activities, you’ll probably find it difficult to adjust to the new circumstances.
Most parents that used to be the outdoorsy daredevils just give up on the things that brought them joy but are hard to fit into a new routine.
When it comes to camping, it doesn’t have to be like that. Sure, you won’t be able to do all the crazy stuff you used to, but camping with your family can bring a new kind of joy.
It’s all about the planning
If you’re camping with your kids and don’t have a well-thought-out plan in place, the trip is likely to be no fun at all. You’ll probably end up worrying about them every waking moment.
So, I’ve put together a list of top 10 tips for camping with your family.
- Don’t just wing it
If you think about the days of your youth, not having a plan was a part of the adventure. You could simply strap on a backpack, grab your hiking sticks and hit the trail.
That’s not the way to approach family camping.
The foundation of a successful trip is good planning. So, be diligent with your camping checklist of essentials.
It does involve a bit of extra work, but the good news is that you only have to do it once. Make the checklist comprehensive and take extra care to list the items your kids will need.
It’s a chore and it’s not fun but, if done right, it will allow you to relax once you’re on the campsite.
You can see a good example of comprehensive checklist here.
2. Safety first
If you want to have any chance of relaxing on the trip, you have to establish some ground rules and make sure your kids understand them.
Some of the most important safety rules for your little ones are: it’s
- Never wander off without a flashlight and a whistle
- Know your fire safety rules
- Minimize the risk of burns by making sure they can tell which surfaces are hot (like grills and stoves)
- Tent is a fire-free zone – this is an important one, so make sure they understand that even a candle is a huge fire hazard in a tent
I know that planting the seed of rules into a child’s head can be difficult, so get creative with it. For example, you can bring them to the store to choose the color of the whistles and flashlights.
To introduce them to the fire hazards you might make a quiz-game out of before your first trip. They are much likely to learn if you awaken that competitive instinct and make it fun.
Once you get the basics down, have one more chat with them about the risks. This one should be more serious – make sure they understand that the rules they’ve learned go beyond the game.
3. Bring a small fire extinguisher
When camping with kids, the fire hazards should be your primary concern.
In the previous tip, we went over some strategies on how to get them to learn the basics.
The next step is training them to use a fire extinguisher. This shouldn’t be hard because it’s relatively easy to craft the training into a game.
4. Choose a good camping air mattress
Having a tired, sleepy kid on the campsite is a recipe for “disaster.” It can make or break a trip.
In the best scenario, the camping airbed you choose will be fun for them. Don’t be surprised if they want to sleep on it even when you get back home.
But for them to take a liking to this new sleep environment, the camping air mattress you choose would have to be durable enough to take the “abuse” of them jumping around on it (9 out of 10 kids will want to do it).
If you have any experience, choosing the best camping air mattress for the trip should be simple enough. If you don’t, you can always do some research online and read the reviews of the airbed you have your eye on – you can see some good options here.
It also might be a good idea to have a car-camping air mattress, for the back of your vehicle.
A rested camper is a happy camper, the same applies to kids.
5. Choosing your tent
Your tent choice will depend on the sleeping arrangements – whether your kids are sleeping separately or you’re all “slumming it” in a family tent.
If you’re an avid camper, you probably know the ins and outs of choosing a good tent for one or two people, but making the right choice when it comes to family tents is a bit more complicated.
Generally, a cabin-style tent will be more convenient because the vertical walls have a “roomier” feel. This is important if you’re all sleeping together.
If you’re getting a separate tent for the kids, an alternative is a dome-style. These feature slanted walls and your kids might prefer them, especially if they ever built a blanket tent at home.
To minimize the guesswork, it’s always wise to bring them along when shopping for a tent.
6. Plan your meals ahead
I could’ve included this tip as a part of the first one because it goes back to planning right, but I felt it deserves a mention on its own.
One of the first steps of a well-planned family camping trip is crafting the menu.
Think about what your kids like to eat and which of those meals can be adjusted to find their way onto a camping menu.
Based on that, make a comprehensive shopping list.
Divide the list into two parts – one should cover the main meals you have planned and the other should include some handy snacks. For the second part, go with versatile products like energy bars, crackers, and peanut butter.
7. The first aid kit
The first aid kit is one more item on the list that should be adjusted for family camping.
Apart from the standard items that come in the kit supply, at things like OTC meds for pain, diarrhea, and constipation.
8. Water and some more water
If the campsite you’ve chosen doesn’t have a source of clean water, make sure to bring plenty of it. It might sound like common sense but under-packing on water supplies is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Don’t estimate the water needs based on your everyday life, especially if you have some outdoor activities (like hiking) planned.
The rule of thumb here can be that you can never pack too much water.
9. Keeping it all organized
An adult on a campsite will have a dedicated space for every item they bring. With kids, it can all turn south and become chaotic within 2 days.
To avoid that, make sure you bring plastic containers to organize the gear you’ll need.
If you’re lucky, your kids will follow your example and not just leave stuff around.
10. Don’t take the fun out of it
This guide might read like a set of rules that would be hard to follow in real life.
That’s why I’ve stressed that you should do your best to make the whole process as fun as possible.
If you do it right, you’ll be able to relax and plan for some fun activities for the campsite. These will probably be different than what you used to do when camping out with your friends.
Fun activities for family camping might include anything from bringing your guitar and singing around the campfire as you roast the marshmallows to adventures like hiking, bouldering or exploring the wildlife.
Again, the trip will be different compared to the trips from your teenage years, but it doesn’t have to be any less fun.