Can We Talk About Camping?

saturday midday

The Edwards' family is planning a camping trip.

It's been way too long since we last camped (I think the last time we did was before either of the kids were born) and I would love to read about product suggestions, activities your family enjoys while camping, best tips for camping with a toddler/kids, recipe suggestions, what I'm most likely to forget, etc.

We'll be buying a tent so if you have one you love I'd like to read about that - we're looking for one that has at least two rooms (unfortunately our little two-man just won't cut it anymore).

We're not going into the back country so we'll still have basic amenities. We'll be near a lake. We will be going with some other families so there might be meal sharing involved.

I'm using a basic packing list I downloaded from and I've done a bit of researching online and I've got a general idea of what we need.

Thanks for sharing your experience and suggestions!

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  1. marlee

    2011-06-04 20:40:34 -0400

    Ali - I'd love to hear more about how you use listplanit. I started using Cultured Code's Things a few year's back based on your recommendation. I still love it, but I'm waiting for a cloud sync.

    Are you still using Things? If so, how do you incorporate listplanit as well?


  2. Sarah

    2011-06-04 22:42:14 -0400

    Ditto for the maps, my children love having their own maps and bringing the extra tent for the kiddos to play with. Other good things are:

    Color scavenger hunt (we put different colors in sections of the egg carton and reviewed rules about not killing live things)

    Coleman Two Burner Stove or equivalent--we did the back country stove and the campfire the first four or five years we camped with kids and then inherited the camp stove. I would never go back as it makes many things so much easier.

    We have the LL Bean Woodlands tent for six people and love it. We looked at many two/three room cabin tents but didn't like the weatherization (and we usually camp in mountains or on the coast, both of which can be windy and wet). We have survived several torrential downpours with both the tent still standing and us being dry.

    We have a tradition of a chapter book to read. We read Pippi Longstockings once, Charlotte's web another time, Mercy Watson yet another time.

    Our last morning we also have a tradition of a mini boxed cereal/juice box hunt.

    One cooler for cold beverages (water, juice, crystal light, etc.) and snacks and another for meals.

    Outdoor toys (soccer ball, bug catching gear, jump ropes, bubbles, etc.).

  3. Reyna

    2011-06-05 11:48:00 -0400

    Hi Ali-
    My kids are 3 and 4 and we love camping. My tips are random but useful. First, start collecting your dryer lint in a baggie or container. It is the best fire starter you'll ever use! Also, I don't want to be the mom who is trapped at the the camp "kitchen" the whole trip so we make meals really simple. I marinate (in Italian dressing), grill, and shred a bunch of chicken breast and use it for easy meals like chicken pita sandwiches or chicken salads. Dinner is usually something kids can help with like hot dogs on a roasting stick. I bring plastic plates that we rinse and reuse. What family doesn't have a ton of that kind of dinnerware? Also, don't forget the duct tape and a good utility knife. I have used them both for things I'd never expect. Last time we camped, we took the kids on a flashlight scavenger hunt. They just looked for basic things like pine cones, picnic tables, stars, etc. They had so much fun. Finally, we always let the kids pack their favorite bedtime books so it's easier to get them snuggled into their tents. We read, listen for frogs, crickets, etc. and then they giggle like maniacs for about 10 minutes. Hearing them is the best part of the trip for me. If you Geocache, most campgrounds have caches to find or great hikes to caches. My kids get so excited finding "treasure". Most smartphones have geocaching apps that make it so easy.
    Disney's latest Family Fun magazine had some great campfire recipes and camping activities too:
    I hope you have a wonderful time! Try to relax and enjoy. I find that the less I bring for the kids, the better time they have exploring the world around them. Good luck!

  4. Lola

    2011-06-05 11:51:18 -0400

    Thanks for the chance to win.

  5. Karen

    2011-06-05 12:43:03 -0400

    Our annual camping group put together a site including packing lists, recipes etc. Friends have told me they refer to our site before heading out on their camping adventures. They use the lists, ideas etc.
    Wallowa Lake in eastern Oregon is a wonderful vacation spot. Our family has been camping there nearly annually since 1980. We are now on our third generation of Wallowa campers!
    Enjoy wonderful camping memories ... there are always great "family bonding" moments!

  6. Jackie Bremer

    2011-06-05 21:59:55 -0400

    Fun to here/read all the suggestions. We camped for years and have so many fond memories. I would always pack outfits for the kids together (sometimes in large baggies and as they got older would just roll them up-shorts, top, underwear etc.) I had one plastic type carry bag that held things to take to the bathroom - especially going with little ones. Also - couldn't do without my little wisk broom/dustpan/rug oinside the tent and just under the awning to take off shoes.

  7. Melissa Fey

    2011-06-06 12:16:48 -0400

    Camping would be the occasion where the bright colored clothing comes out - I want to be able to see my kids!
    Our favorite camping food is a chicken pasta salad. I make it straight into a large ziploc bag before we leave and it's marinated and yummy when we get there. I usually make enough for two meals. It's nice to not be cooking or washing dishes while camping, if possible! (many quinoa salads would also travel well like this, too)

  8. Melissa

    2011-06-06 15:23:31 -0400

    *Use lint from the dryer to get your fire started. Just tuck some in a ziplock back and tuck some into your sticks and it catches so easily.

    *"They" are recommending NOT transferring wood from one location to another so that you don't introduce non-native bugs into a new location. So even though it costs more we buy our firewood locally.

    *We taught our girl right from the start that the tent is closed every time you enter or exit, even if you think you will just be a second. And try to never touch the sides of the tent. It might start to leak there over time.

    *Looking around the campsite for twigs and bark on the group keeps our 5 year old daughter occupied and she feels like she gets to help with the fire.

    *Absolutely no food in the tent as it can draw animals. Even the racoons have been bold enough to enter our state park campsite while we were around the campfire. I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to try getting to food in the tent if they could smell it there. Eat in your car if you must get out of the rain.

    *When our daughter was around one or two she was wide awake all night with the novelty of sleeping in the same space as us. She wanted to play. At 2 am my husband had had it so I took her to our vehicle and buckled her into her car seat and sat with her, singing some lullabies. After 5 minutes of being confined she fell asleep and I carried her back to the tent.

    Have fun!

  9. Melanie

    2011-06-06 15:49:32 -0400

    North Face makes great tents. More expensive, but highly recommended. Our family of 6 and our golden retriever use the Trailhead 8 (fits 8 people) It has a great vestibule, tarp, groundcloth, and slightly porched area, and holds up well in the wind. Very well made and easy set-up for a tent of this size. Your family could probably go with something smaller. I recommend getting some Thermarest airpads to go underneath sleeping bags if you don't use air mattresses. Bring pillows. Warm clothes for the evening when the temps drop. And all the recommendation everyone else has given you. Have fun!

  10. Sarah

    2011-06-08 00:11:36 -0400

    Lots of great ideas here. Silly one here, but for smores, use hershey's chocolate syrup instead of the candy bar - it's yummy and less sugary/fattening than a big bar. Works good for kids with dairy intolerance too. :) Or, if you wanna just go nuts and love peanut butter, try Reeses PB Cups instead of plain chocolate bars. You can tell what my favorite part of camping is! :)

  11. Sarah

    2011-06-08 00:13:11 -0400

    Take some of those flameless battery powered candles (I like tea lights for each kid who won't "eat" them) for a nice, soft nightlight that will last all night.

  12. Tinka

    2011-06-08 19:07:40 -0400

    Ali, the latest issue of either Woman's Day or Family Circle has an article about camping with recommendations for equipment, etc. I got both in the mail yesterday and read one right after the other so don't recall which magazine it was...sorry!

  13. Angela M.

    2011-06-08 21:52:53 -0400

    There are lots of great suggestions. We always pack our Aerobed(we bought an adapter to plug into our car, great investment), down comforter, and flannel sheets. We are always so comfortable and warm. Way better than sleeping bags. We do the same thing for our kids. They share an air mattress as well. Being comfortable sleeping is really important!
    Headlamps are a great suggestion. My kids LOVE theirs! My mom recently got my kids each an emergency whistle. They know that if they start to wander off from the campsite and cannot find or see us, that they can blow that. Especially helpful if you are camping with a big group.
    Bringing your own potty is a great idea too. We have done that before, especially when my kids were small. Total lifesaver!
    Our last group camping trip we did doughboys, which were really fun. You take refrigerated biscuit dough and cook them over the fire over wooden dowels. After they are browned, you take them off the dowel and fill the inside with whatever toppings you want, chocolate chips, marshmallows, nuts, whipped cream, butter/sugar/cinnamon. All the kids liked these better than smores! Have a great time!!

  14. Lori Perrault

    2011-06-08 22:44:58 -0400

    NOt sure if you've already gone camping - but the two best things I've ever done are to prepare all the food in advance. I usually make 2 or 3 large salads - once cous cous with veggies and fruit and a plain fruit salad and then a macaroni salad. We eat them for lunch or with our dinners or the fruit at breakfast. Then I also buy those bagged salads. I marinate all the meat in advance so the only thing we have to do for dinner is BBQ the meat.

    The second thing is a purchase. We bought one of those plastic pull out drawer thingies and keep all our camping supplies in it. Matches, clothes pins, flash lights, bottle openers, steak knives. We also use those tap lights as seen on tv. They are great to have in the tent.

    Finally - baby wipes to wipe down your dirty dusty feet before climbing into bed.

    Have fun.

  15. emily ruth

    2011-06-09 16:15:43 -0400

    When we went last summer I brought watercolors & paper ... it was so fun & there were no worries about spilling. Also makes for great photos

  16. Megan Beverly

    2011-06-10 16:43:21 -0400

    Just read this blog today and thought of you:

    Great meal ideas!

  17. mary

    2011-06-11 09:44:02 -0400

    BIG roll of butcher paper ... great for table cloth/coloring surface :) just got back from bruce peninsula camping - great family memories!!

  18. Denise KC

    2011-06-13 05:50:09 -0400

    Hi Ali,
    How great for you to go camping. Both Simon and Anna are gonna' have a blast.
    We go every 4th of July and have a great time.
    Here's a few things that I find super helpful:
    Cooking ahead of time -- meats, noodles for mac n' cheese, etc. Pre-cut watermelon, veggies, essentially anything you can do ahead of time. If I bag anything, I vacuum seal it first and then put it into a ziploc.
    My girls (9 and 7) love to go fishing -- so we pack up fishing poles, they each have their own little tackle box, a big net, sand toys or at least a shovel and pail.
    Bikes are great for around the campsite.
    Totes are great, wipes are essential, hand sanitizer a must.
    I don't worry about my kids staying clean, it's impossible. I dress them in clothes that can be tossed if necessary -- sometimes you can't get the dirt stains out.
    It gets pretty chilly where we camp (close to Lake Tahoe) so we bundle up before hitting the sack. We sleep in jackets, have a warm blankee in the sleeping bag (-15) and cover our heads to stay warm.
    You can never have enough lanterns or flash lights. Don't forget your first aid kit.
    I know you guys are gonna' have such a great time on your first family camping trip!
    Can't wait to see your pics :)

  19. Where to Begin: Resources for Camping with Kids | The Intentional Parent

    2011-08-05 07:31:41 -0400

    [...] Can We Talk About Camping? ( [...]

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