If you’re looking for a fun and affordable way to spend quality time away from screens, family camping is the answer. Camping allows you to escape your typical responsibilities of everyday life, reconnect with nature, and create unforgettable moments with your kids. But camping also requires some preparation and planning.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to family camping, where you’ll find everything you need to know about picking the best campsite, packing the right camping and hiking gear, your family staying safe and comfortable, having fun and adventure, and cooking delicious food over the fire. Whether you’re an experienced camper or a newbie, our guide will help you make the most of your family camping trip.
Planning Your Family Camping Trip
You’ll want to find a campsite that offers the right balance of comfort and adventure for your family, with facilities like restrooms, fire rings, and tables. It’s not just you; it’s your family, so think about their needs as well.
You’ll also want to pick a location within easy driving distance, but it still gives you a sense of being away from it all. Next, you’ll need to gather all the gear, from a tent to a reliable stove. Don’t forget to pack clothes that can handle weather conditions and extra layers for cool nights. Lastly, you’ll want to think of fun activities to keep your family entertained and happy, whether exploring nature trails, catching fish, or telling stories by the fire.
Here are some tips on finding the perfect campgrounds:
- Explore hidden gems: Don’t settle for the popular campgrounds everyone knows about. Do some research or ask for recommendations of lesser-known campgrounds tucked away in nature.
- Camp outside the peak season: Summer is the busiest time for camping, so why not try camping in the spring or fall instead? You’ll have fewer people to share the campground with, and you’ll get to see nature in a different light.
- Go for dispersed camping: Dispersed camping means camping outside a designated campsite, usually on public land. It’s free, and it gives you more freedom and privacy. Just make sure to respect the environment and leave no trace.
- Hike to your campsite: If you’re feeling adventurous, look for camps requiring a hike. These sites are less accessible and less crowded and often reward you with stunning views.
- Try private campgrounds: Private campgrounds may cost more, but they often have more facilities and a more tranquil atmosphere. They also have fewer visitors since they limit the number of campsites.
- Beach Camping: Beach camping is a unique way to experience the beauty and tranquility of our waterways. Many national seashores and state parks in the United States offer beach camping opportunities.
Items and Gear for Your Family Camping Trip
You can find a complete camping checklist here, but these are some items to keep in mind:
- Sleeping bags and sleeping pads
- First aid kit
- Water bottles or hydration system
- Maps and compass
- Flashlights or headlamps with extra batteries
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- Cooking stove and fuel
- Coffee gear
- Cooler with ice or freezer packs
- Cooking and eating utensils, plates, cups, and bowls
- Trash bags
- Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.)
- Camp chairs or portable seating
- Campfire grill or tripod for cooking over an open flame
- Portable solar charger or power bank for electronic devices
- Portable camping shower
- Portable camp toilet or shovel for digging a cat hole
- Books or magazines for entertainment
- Playing cards or board games
- Musical instruments for campfire sing-alongs
Make sure to pack the proper clothing, even more so depending on where you’re going. So pack clothes that match the weather conditions and extra layers for the cool nights. You should also bring some rain gear, in case the weather changes.
Moreover, don’t leave any prescription medications or special dietary needs behind. Packing these essential and optional items makes your camping trip more comfortable for your kids and spouse.
If you need a backpack for hiking, you can follow this guide on backpacks. There’s a lot of talk about what type of hiking backpack to get. You can see a comparison of internal vs. external frame hiking packs in this guide.
Family Camping Safety
We know this is not everyone’s favorite topic. While outdoor and camping safety isn’t a fun topic to think about, it’s vitally important. Let’s review some things you should remember while on your camping vacation.
- Stay hydrated: Camping in hot and dry conditions can quickly lead to dehydration. Bring plenty of water or a hydration system, and remind everyone in the family to drink regularly throughout the day. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages can worsen dehydration and should be avoided.
- Wildlife safety: Keep a safe distance and never approach or feed them. Store food securely and dispose of waste properly to avoid attracting wildlife. It should go without saying but do not approach or feed any animals, no matter how cute or docile they may seem.
- Avoid poisonous plants: Learn how to identify and avoid poisonous plants in the area. Teach your family to recognize poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
- Supervise children: Camping is an exciting opportunity for children to explore and play in nature, but it is crucial to manage them closely. Set clear boundaries and rules, such as staying within sight or not wandering off alone. Consider bringing a signaling device in case of emergency.
- Emergency preparedness: Accidents can happen when camping, so being prepared for any emergency is crucial. Pack a first aid kit and ensure everyone knows how to use it. Familiarize yourself with the nearest hospital or emergency services, and consider bringing a GPS or other communication device in case of getting lost or injured.
Overall, you know your kids and family the best. If your kids are a wild bunch, you’ll have to keep a closer eye on them to keep them out of trouble.
Family Camping Activities
There are many ways to have fun and make memories on your family camping vacation. Exploring the trails and going off the beaten path just a little is a great way to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. You can also make it more interesting by doing a scavenger hunt, geocaching, or orienteering.
If a lake, river, or pool is nearby, swimming is a great option to cool off and have fun in the water. You can also try canoeing, kayaking, boating, or tubing, but these will take more planning and setup.
Playing games is a fun way to bond with your family. You can play many games at the campsite, such as cornhole, capture the flag, frisbee, tag, hide and seek, or board games. You can also make up your games using natural materials or items you brought.
Crafting is a great activity to explore your creativity and imagination. Make sure to bring a few supplies like paints for your little ones. You can make something from natural or recycled materials, such as painting rocks, making leaf prints, weaving baskets, or creating jewelry.
Singing songs around the campfire is a timeless tradition. You can choose songs that are familiar, funny, or related to camping. You can also make up your own songs or use a songbook.
Telling stories is another classic campfire activity. You can share true, funny, scary or use story starters to get inspired. Alternatively, you can read books or comics together as a family.
Bad Weather Activities
Bad weather can sometimes ruin your plans for outdoor fun when you’re camping with your family. But don’t let that dampen your spirits. You can still have a blast indoors with some backup activities. How about some board games or card games that everyone can join in? Or some books or puzzles to keep your mind sharp?
You can also keep the campfire tradition alive by telling stories in the tent. You can share your own stories or make up a new one together by adding a sentence or two each. And if you have a DVD player or laptop with you, you can always watch some movies. Just don’t forget to bring some snacks and drinks to munch on while you’re cozy inside.
Family Camping Food and Cooking
When it comes to camping, planning and preparing meals can be a fun and creative aspect of the trip. To make things easier, it’s a good idea to bring along easy-to-make snacks like trail mix, fruit, and granola bars. You can put these together yourself or purchase them from just about any store nowadays. Planning meals ahead of time can also save you time and stress. Consider meals that are easy to cook over a campfire or on a portable stove, like hot dogs, burgers, and grilled vegetables.
For more delicious meal ideas, try foil-wrapped meals. You can make a foil packet with veggies and meat or fish, add some seasoning, and cook it over the fire. It’s a simple and flavorful way to cook up a satisfying meal. Another classic camping treat is s’mores. Toast the marshmallow over the fire and sandwich it between the crackers and chocolate for a gooey and delicious dessert.
Camping is also a great opportunity to experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques. Try making a one-pot meal like chili or soup, or bring a portable grill to cook up some fresh fish you catch while fishing. Whatever you choose to make, remember to bring along the necessary cooking utensils and supplies like a pot, pan, and spatula. With a little planning and creativity, you can enjoy simple and delicious meals on your camping trip.
Wrapping Up Family Camping
Family camping is more than just a vacation. It’s a way to escape the stress and noise of everyday life and reconnect with nature. It’s a time to put away the screens and gadgets and appreciate the beauty and wonder surrounding us. The fresh air, stunning views, and wildlife sounds can soothe and heal kids and adults.
Family camping is also an excellent opportunity to bond and make lasting memories with loved ones. There are so many activities to enjoy together, from hiking and fishing to telling stories and singing songs by the campfire. There are no distractions or interruptions, just quality time and fun.
Family camping is an adventure that every family should try at least once. Whether a short weekend getaway or an extended expedition, it’s a chance to experience nature, family, and happiness.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur. Photo Credit: [@Wollwerth/DepositPhotos]
Troy De Ville is an outdoor backpacking enthusiast and founder of Core Mountaineering. His passion for the outdoors began when he was young and has only grown over the years. He's been able to explore some of the wildest and most beautiful places on earth. His mission is to inspire others to get out there and experience nature in all its glory.