There are two kinds of people in the world—those who relish the idea of camping with their kiddos, and those who are filled with anxiety at the idea of carting their kids into the wild.
While the idea of roughing it with little ones can be intimidating, with proper prep and planning your child’s first camping experience can be magical and can set them up for a lifelong love affair with the great outdoors.
And so, we’ve created a must-have list of tips for those planning their inaugural camping excursion with little ones. Let’s dive in!
Your first outdoor experience with the kids is not the time to embark on a 3-day, backcountry thru hike. Start small. Try your hand at car camping first, keeping your vehicle nearby in case of an emergency or bad weather event.
Many campsites book up weeks or months in advance, particularly if you’re planning to stay at a national park or camp during peak seasons. Plan to reserve a site 6 – 9 months in advance if possible.
It’s inevitable—when camping with kids you’ll likely bring more accoutrement than you would if you were going on a grown-up excursion. Clear plastic tubs with lids are great for storing those extra camping items. You can easily see the contents of each tub without digging through it, and the lids keep everything inside protected from the bugs and elements.
You don’t want to overpack…but you do want to be prepared for unexpected shifts in the weather. Be sure to carry a rain fly for your tent, rain jackets for the adults and kiddos, and, if you’re camping in mild weather, some heat-holding layers should the temperature drop suddenly.
If you’re camping with children who are young enough to need naps, stick to their at-home rest schedule. You can thank us later.
When introducing children to outdoor experiences, keeping enthusiasm high is key. Avoid setting out on 5-mile hikes with the kids in tow. Start small—try a 1-mile loop or out-and-back trail to keep morale up and kids happy. The more successful children feel, the more likely they are to want to repeat the experience again.
If you’re kids have phones, encourage them to leave them at home along with tablets and hand-held gaming devices. Set a good example yourself by keeping your phone use to a minimum.
Navigating a campsite in the dark can be tricky and downright dangerous for little ones. Be sure everyone in the family has a headlamp and flashlight. Our rechargeable tactical flashlight is incredibly durable, so it will survive all the drops that can happen when little hands are in charge.
Without tech to keep them occupied, your kids will be looking to you for entertainment. Bring plenty of fun card games, magnifying glasses, and bug observation containers (be sure to let your catches go after a few minutes of observation!).
And don’t forget about camping games—they’re the stuff childhood memories are made of! If you missed our recent post about fun games for campouts, you can read it here.
With proper prep and realistic expectations, camping with the family can become a treasured family tradition. Remember to start small, keep your expectations low, and make plenty of memories.
And may it comfort you to know this—even if the trip is less than idyllic, your family will enjoy laughing over your stories of misadventure for years to come.
May you camp like a champ with your kids!