Camping with kids is the best!! Hey all, it’s Lindsay from Lindsay Ross Blog. Now that it’s warming up in Utah (well, winter never really happened here this year but don’t get me started on that disappointment) I’m starting to think about our adventures for the summer and warmer weather. Camping with kids is high on the list, believe it or not.
We’re a pretty active family and one of our goals is to expose our kids to as many different experiences as we can while they’re young. We LOVE to travel anywhere and everywhere we can WITH our kids. I know, people think we’re crazy to travel with them like we do, but traveling and new experiences is one of the parenting tools we use to teach them all sorts of things.
One of the things we particularly enjoy is camping. Now I’ll admit, camping with kids is WAY harder than camping without them, but there’s something about being in the mountains as a family that is important to us. And can be SO much fun. My husband and I camped quite a bit growing up in our separate families. And we continued camping after we met each other and were married. Once we started having kids, we just brought them along with us. We’ve camped with babies, toddlers, and now kids who are a little older so we’ve experienced all stages of kids when it comes to camping. Along the way we’ve learned a few things about camping with kids I thought I’d share. You may want to check out these camping hacks too.
When I talk about camping with kids for us, I’m talking in a tent, no running water, no toilets, out in the wilderness kind of camping. I’m not a big fan of campgrounds. People are too close. It’s too loud. People are too close. You know. We like our space when camping. And peace. And generally we don’t get cell service up there so we don’t get distracted by real life (always a plus in my book). So we make an effort to do full-on camping. Takes quite a bit more prep work, but we think it’s worth it for the experience.
Camping with Kids ~ My Best Tips!
We bring a LOT of baby wipes, water, and hand soap. And just resolve the kids are going to get really dirty. We always bring more clothes than we ever think we need. And usually with the younger kids, we go through just about everything we bring. Definitely over-pack on clothes. (Check out these fun camping shirts!) And we make sure we bring lots of layers. It can get pretty warm during the day up in the mountains and really cold at night. So we bring enough clothes we can layer when we need to. Before each meal we wash their hands and face as best we can, then before bed we give them a baby-wipe “bath”.
It’s nice to have a few board games and maybe a small craft or two along with a small folding table to play/do them on.
We also usually bring a Frisbee, football or soccer ball, books, crayons and coloring books, squirt guns, toy cars, and glow sticks (my kids will play for hours throwing their glow sticks around after the sun goes down). Check out these Top Rated Water Toys for the Whole Family for some fun ideas of things to bring! You can also find lots of fun games on this Best Outdoor Family Games post.
But we also like to go on little walks/hikes and let them explore and play as much as possible. So I don’t often pack a lot of extra things for them to do. Kids get pretty creative in the mountains and can find hours of simple entertainment. Give a boy a little stick (or giant stick), some dirt and some rocks and they’re good for hours. And our girls always dream up some inventive game of house using pine cones as their kids. Kids are so awesome.
When choosing food, we keep it AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE. That’s one of my best camping tips! Prepping and cooking food in the mountains isn’t exactly easier. And it’s even harder to wash stuff when you don’t have running water. So we keep it simple. We prep as much food as we can ahead of time. If we do tinfoil dinners, I get them cooked at home, then just reheat them on the fire (meat takes a LONG time to cook over a fire). We also take a small stove with us and cook food on that instead of over the fire. We generally save the fire for lots and lots and lots of s’mores.
A few S’mores hacks. You can get the Kellogg’s fudge strip cookies and just stick a melted marshmallow in between two of those. Or bring rolos and press one of those inside a melted marshmallow. Oreos are great as well. We got the peanut butter oreos and pulled them apart, stuck the melted marshmallow in there (yum). And for traditional s’mores, find a warm rock close to the fire, put the chocolate on a graham cracker and set it there while roasting your marshmallow so the chocolate melts a little. Gooey goodness. We also love to roast Starbursts.
A few other things that have helped us while camping:
**If you go somewhere without toilets, buy a cheap camping toilet or make one. This can be one of the more challenging parts about camping where there aren’t toilets and it makes camping with kids so much easier.
**Make sure you bring enough water. And bring refillable water bottles to cut down on trash of disposable water bottles. Nalgene water bottles are an OSSS favorite!
**Keep ALL food in your car at night. No exceptions. There are bears in the areas we camp and all sorts of other wild animals. We never take food into our tent and before we go to bed (or leave camp during the day) we put ALL food in the cars). One of our girls got marshmallow stuck in her hair one year and I didn’t notice until we were in bed. I was stressed all night a bear was going to come bite her head. True story. 🙂
**Headlamps are really helpful once the sun goes down. Flashlights work as well, but headlamps are nice to have so your hands are free. This one gets great reviews!
**We bring a sound machine to block out all the night sounds. We have a few nervous kids so we drown out “what was that?” noises with the sound machine. You can get battery powered sound machines that last for a few weeks.
**Bring lots of ziploc bags. Seems like you need them for all varieties of things (extra food, dirty clothes, diapers, nature collections, etc.) These reusable snack bags are an OSSS favorite!
**If there’s room in the tent, use air mattresses and cots to sleep on. We love cots because you can store all your bags underneath them without taking up more space in the tent.
**Bring enough camping chairs for everyone coming. You can get little chairs for kids that usually work until they’re about 6 or 7. Then bigger chairs for the older kids (this one is an Amazon customer favorite.) This saves a lot of whining and fighting over places to sit.
**If you plan to go camping more than once in a year, assemble a camping bin (just a big tupperware bin) with all the paper goods and general kitchen supplies in one place. This will save you SO much time next time you go camping because it’s already assembled.
**Be sure to have a GOOD packing list and double check to make sure you have everything. Once you’re out there, you’re out there and some things you can live without, but some things are pretty necessary to everyone’s comfort level when camping with kids (like diapers, or coats, or diet coke).
**Bring a separate “play” tent for the kids. We don’t let our kids get in our sleeping tent unless they need to change or it’s time for bed. Otherwise everything gets dirty and chaotic. We set up a smaller extra tent they can play in.
And don’t forget to take a LOT of the RIGHT pictures to tell the story of your camping with kids adventures!
You can find more camping with kids resources, packing lists, craft ideas, and food ideas on my Camping Pinterest Board!
* Another great tip for packing for your camping trip is to take along a few Norwex cleaning cloths. It will save you room from having to bring Clorox wipes or face wash. Plus, it will clean better than the both of them AND be more sanitary, just using water! Crazy, right? You can read more about these amazing cleaning rags and get some of your own RIGHT HERE. The OSSS team is a big fan of them and we use them for cleaning practically everything!