It’s no secret that nowadays it’s difficult to disconnect from the chaos of the world and plug back into the natural world, but camping provides the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. Besides, there’s nothing quite like the sizzle of s’mores or the crackle of a campfire to settle your mind and put a relaxed smile on your face. Unfortunately, camping as a family takes a lot of preparation -- add kids into the mix it’s enough to scare off even the most adventurous parents. Thankfully, we’ve compiled these 13 tips to make your time in the outdoors an absolute breeze, so you and your family can stress less about the logistics and just enjoy your outdoor adventure.
1. Start with a premade packing list
The golden rule of camping is to be as prepared as possible. Starting your family’s camping trip by tossing things in the trunk and hoping you’ve got it all covered will inevitably end in chaos; you’re bound to have some of the most important items fall through the cracks. So don’t wind up hours from home with a pantry full of cans and no can opener, or plenty of firewood but no matches or lighter--be sure to start your packing with an extensive checklist. If starting one from scratch seems like a mountain you don’t feel like climbing, go on over to the Bub Hub and take a peek at their extensive pre-made packing list.
2. Assemble a first aid kit
We hope that your family’s adventure is all smooth sailing, but it’s always best to be ready for a storm regardless. Camping presents a lot of dangers, whether it be sunburn, skinned knees, or something much more serious. That’s why a first aid kit is absolutely necessary. Never put one together before? That’s alright, follow the easy steps over at MomGoesCamping and you’ll sleep easy in your sleeping bag knowing your clan has everything they need, just in case.
3. Pre-pack snacks to stave off hunger
Every parent knows that the most peaceful of trips can fall to shambles under the sudden cry of “MOM! I’M HUNGRY!” For that reason, preparing for emergencies when camping doesn’t just mean carefully assembling a first aid kit to attend to your child’s possible physical injuries, it also means protecting yourself against tummy rumbles and grumpy stomachs. Just to be safe, it’s smart to take the advice over at Lifehack and prepare and pre-packaged snacks to be ready at a moments notice.
4. Don't unpack your devices
Perhaps the biggest benefit of camping is the precious opportunity to unplug from the chaos of the technological world and reconnect with the nature. Especially for children, time outside without the use of devices can significantly enrich their lives, pique their curiosity about the world around them and promote an active and happy life. So when your family sets out on their big outdoor adventure, consider taking the advice over at Parents Magazine – don’t ban devices (especially if your camp destination is far away and requires a long car ride) but maybe consider leaving them in the car. Remember: this goes for kids as well as moms and dads!
5. Bring toys that inspire activity
Putting your kids devices out of site might initially conjure a car full of displeased whining, but they’ll cheer up right away if you follow the family camping tips over at Lifehack and you bring a carefully-chosen selection of toys that inspire activity and interaction with the environment. As the article suggests, the key is to emphasize quality over quantity. You don’t have to fill the car with Nerf guns, Barbies and toy trucks. Instead, choose items like balls, chalk, and jump ropes that are multi-purpose or encourage activity.
6. Make DIY fire starters
Having trouble starting a fire? Especially for camping newbies, getting a flame up and running hot enough to cook dinner can serve as a challenge. For extra help, make a small batch of these DIY fire starters over at Preparedness Mama before setting out on your adventure – they’re also a fun and helpful way to get the kids involved in the camping trip’s preparation.
7. Always bring easily washable dishes and cookware
While camping provides kids with an endless amount of learning opportunities, perhaps the most important is the chance for them to grow an appreciation for the environment and a desire to protect it through practices like recycling and waste reduction. In spirit with that goal, Mountain Revival suggests employing a “zero waste camp kitchen” model that uses washable cookware in place of plastic and paper disposable items. You and your family will have a clean campsite and an even cleaner conscience.
8. Make a few of these stress-free campfire meals
When your cooking method is a campfire the options are limited. Add in a couple picky eaters and the mission of making a family meal may seem impossible. Thankfully, Broken Head Holiday Park compiled this list of easy campfire meals. With tantalizing options like jaffle iron pizza and campfire nachos, even the touchiest taste buds will be happy.
9. Make one of these hand washing stations
Cleanliness and camping don’t usually go hand-in-hand. It can be especially hard to keep tiny palms clean when there’s dirt literally everywhere. While exploring is encouraged and a little bit of mud never hurt anyone, when meal time comes it’s better to be nice and tidy. Thankfully, over at Making Memories you can follow the directions to make this easy hand washing station out of a water jug, bungee cords, paper towels and soap.
10. Bring along a Scrubba Wash Bag
If your family is a particularly large one, the hardest part of planning your camping trip is often simply having enough room for everyone’s things. Items like clothing (especially necessities like sweatshirts) can take up huge amounts of space in luggage. Particularly if you’re planning to adventure out for a week or more, you might find your family’s clothes a bit hard to fit in and zip up. One innovative solution can be solved with the Scrubba travel washer, reviewed in detail over at Travel Mamas. It allows you the luxury of washing clothing on the go so your family can pack less and simply wash and wear their clothes again.
11. Plan fun, outdoor camping games
While sitting around the campfire can be pleasant, it’s also good to get everyone on their feet and active. Get your family moving with a fast-paced game of “bear catcher” or help the whole family practice outdoor skills in a round of “campfire brigade”. Any of the ten game ideas The Spruce recommends in their list of outdoor activities for families are bound to squash boredom and engage everyone.
12. Pack foam floor tiles for a comfy sleeping surface
If you’ve got kids there’s a good chance you’ve already got a pile of these multi-color foam floor tiles lying somewhere in your garage or playroom. Among a ton of other great camping hacks, the crew over at Spaceships and Laser Beams suggest bringing them along on your camping trip to double not just as a playspace, but also as a perfectly portable sleeping surface.
13. Have a soft-lighting option
When lights-out time comes, you may find that some of your younger campers aren’t quite accustomed to the pitch-black darkness that occurs especially in secluded camping areas. If you’ve got a little one who usually sleeps with the door cracked open or a night light glowing from the corner outlet, you might want to consider some backup lighting options that won’t keep the rest of the members of the family awake. Among 54 other great camping DIY tips and tricks over at DIY & Crafts, you can find the incredibly easy instructions to assemble this soft ambient light milk jug light that will brighten the tent just enough to keep the littlest member of the family feeling safe without disturbing Mom or Dad.
So what are you waiting for? Set down your gadgets, pack your bags and set out on an adventure; your family will thank you later.