Here is the truth, I don’t really like camping all that much, and that’s exactly why I have prepared this guide to camping with kids! Because I learned that by making it simpler and more comfortable, I start to mind less bugs and public bathrooms and appreciate more forest hikes, and canoeing on the lake.
And I just love how kids are running around happily and how our family is reconnecting together over the campfire! Also, I truly believe that camping is great for kids development (I wrote all about that here) so even though I’d feel better in the hotel by the sea, we will keep camping!
There are a couple of things that you can do, to make camping easier and more comfortable, even with little kids around, and even if you’re not sure where to start.
1. Take just the right things.
If you’re a Pinterest junky like I am, then you’ve probably seen these super long “essentials only” lists of things you need when you go camping. Do they overwhelm you? Because they sure did overwhelm me. Until we actually went camping, and found out that we’re all good without a folding table (there was a picnic table!) and without a big box of outdoor toys ( kids did play, even more than ever, using their imagination and a minimum of toys).
Because let’s face it, what’s relaxing about camping is simplifying life, and not spending hours upon arrival on setting things up!
That’s why I’ve prepared you a list that you can print out:
So my advice, is take only the essentials. Sleeping gear, cooking gear, folding chairs for the campfire, a minimum of clothes and food. Ok, I’ll admit that I like to add the French press coffee machine and some pretty plates and a quilt, but that’s just my glamping essentials!
2. Consider ready-to-camp set up.
That’s the easiest of camping options, as you don’t have to set things up, and so your preparation is so much easier. I especially recommend this option for camping newbies and families with babies! We went to one of these ready to camp places when Lili was two years old and Rose was three months old, and it was one of the best vacations we ever had as a family!
3. Camper or tent, which one is for you?
Camper set up is so much easier, and gives you place to eat and cook when it rains, but is considerably more pricey then all the tent gear.
Tent gives you more of an outdoorsy feel, and is much cheaper, but more time-consuming to set up.
I say, try both ( you can rent a camper for a weekend, and there’s always that one friend who has a tent to lent!) before investing in either of them!
We decided that since we don’t go camping every weekend, the investment in a big camper wouldn’t make sense for us. Instead we started camping with a very large tent, that was just enough for our camping trips during the summer. And lately we got an old pop up tent- it gives a bit more of a glamping feel but without braking the bank.
3. Tent camping preparations and what to do a week before:
Set up your tent in your backyard. You need to see if the tent is all good! And I reccomend running a trail night with the kids in the backyard. That means checking if your mattresses aren’t pierced, and if you’re warm enough in your sleeping-bags. I admit that it’s usually my hubby sleeping in the backyard with our older one not me, but it does get everyone exited!
Check if you have enough fuel for your camp stove, if you have batteries and first aid kit is well packed.
4. Tent camping must haves.
Good quality mattresses and sleeping bags are really a necessity! And for some extra comfort I like camping with my own pillow and real bedding. Of course, if you’d like to be sure that the rain won’t ruin your stay a canopy is a good buy, but I never used it, and we where just fine! Also, folding chairs, and if there’s no picnic table provided on your camping ground, then a folding table! ( see my full list above for what to pack for details).
5. Make cooking easier: prepare a meal plan, and have some meals pre-prepared!
Really do make a detailed meal plan. Bake some muffins ahead for easy breakfast, and bring ready-made salsa, dips and pasta souse. What I also do, is opt for easy preparation, like fajita or tacos, hot dogs or pasta! I make sure to have lots of snacks, s’mores box and some drinks for adults!
Also, camping is much better with bacon and eggs for breakfast, and good coffee!
As much as hiking, kayaking and chilling around the camping ground is fun, it’s not as fun if it rains, and that’s why we always camp close to attractions like a zoo, pick up farm, or just close enough to the city. That way when there’s a rainy day head, we’re not stuck in the tent!
7. Let the kids be kids.
You don’t need to prepare them extra activities and they really don’t need all the toys. Bring a couple if their favourites ( max 4 per child) and let them get dirty and wild, let them explore the nature and make use of their imagination.
And lastly, enjoy yourself. Camping with kids is all about reconnecting, unplugging and relaxing, so just let the kids be dirty, eat all the s’mores you want and enjoy the nature!