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Can We Talk About Camping?

saturday midday
FROM MY ANNUAL COASTAL EXCURSION WITH FRIENDS | SUMMER 2010

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 ListPlanIt.com 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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186 thoughts

  1. Josee says…
    06/02/2011

    Camping with kids is great! Bring some of those fluorescent bracelet or necklace (glowstick) kids like to wear them at night, you can easily watch them going around and it provides a soft light in the tent when they go to bed. Have fast meals, you don't want to spend to much time cooking. Enjoy! Josée

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Laurie Clendenen says…
    06/02/2011

    My husband and I love to camp! We have a camper now, but have tent camped in the past. I found that a small plastic stool is very handy...can be used for extra seating, small table, and reaching something high! Also a small rug inside the tent helps to keep the floor clean. I bought a child size broom for sweeping out the tent and a small rake for preparing the area to setup the tent. That's all I can remember right now....have fun camping!!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. dawn says…
    06/02/2011

    Hooray for camping!! I'm so excited for you and Chris to experience this with the kids. We love to camp and try to go at least once every summer. Here are a couple ideas that I've learned over the years.

    My favorite packing idea-to have a basket/bag for each activity
    1. one big laundry baskets holds all our eating supplies/ paper products that way when we eat I just have to take this one basket out of van and put on picnic table. This has our eating utensils and cooking utensils, salt/pepper, wipes, foil, oven mitts, dish towels, dish wash soap, scrub pads, table cloth, anything else kitchen related.
    2. a snack bag so that the kids know where it is, just has boxes/bags of snacks and wipes in there too. I always keep it on the front seat.
    3. I keep wipes everywhere since we are outdoors where we get more dirt on us.
    4. Our beach bag, just like at home it's by the back door. This has all our beach/pool supplies.
    5. One small bag with our supplies for smores/wipes this is also kept in the front seat.
    6. the clothes hamper from home and we put it in the tent so all dirty laundry goes right in there and right to my laundry room ASAP when home. This was a good idea for us because the kids are use to doing this at home, otherwise they were just throwing clothes all over the place and mixed in with the clean clothes.

    Also pack clothespins and some kind of clothesline string/rope to hang up your bathing suits/towels to dry in between using them. Also put these away at night because the night air leaves a wet dew on them, same with shoes left out and any paper products. We also have a little rug inside/outside the tent for shoes. Take plenty of flashlights for those middle of the night bathroom trips.

    I have other tips but have to go get kids ready for school. Will be back later. I'm also looking forward to reading the comments here to give me some new ideas to use.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. janie says…
    06/02/2011

    When we go camping with a group of friends, we plan meals together then each family is responsible for a meal.... makes food packing much easier. So one family is responsible for supper Friday, another for breakfast Saturday, (lunch is jut sandwiches and snacks we each provide for ourselves) then Saturday night is another family... Sunday morning is usually just cereal and pack up...
    This works great for longer camping trips too.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. jill says…
      06/02/2011

      i agree with janie - share the meals with the other families, but let them know if there are any allergies, dislikes. etc.

      My best cooking tips:

      If you're making spaghetti or tacos, brown and season the meat before you go, so all you're doing is heating up what has already been cooked. Take in ziplock bags - they fit in coolers much easier than large, bulky plastic containers.

      If you're taking eggs, crack them open in a washed out gatorade or juice container. That way you're not dealing with a soggy egg container and many more will fit in the cooler.

      Don't forget smore makings ! There are great Very Large campfire marshmallows you can buy now - i just picked some up at Winco the other day (they were near the entrance) Also, rather than hangers, purchase roasting sticks. Well worth the price of a couple dollars.

      Take plastic table cloths for the picnic tables with clamps or something else to hold down the ends in case it's windy.

      A cutting board works great to 'ground' a propane stove on.

      Card games and small board games to play while dinner is cooking. Adults enjoy them when the kids have gone to bed too - which means you're also wanting to take extra propane.

      Fire wood - if you have room. The price tends to be much higher when you're near the campsite, because the seller knows they can get a higher price.

      Door mat / shower mat to put at the entrance into the tent to wipe shoes on.

      Hot pads and towels for cooking.

      If i think of anything else, I'll let you know.

      And, if you need cots for the kids rather than sleeping on the 'floor' or an air mattress, i have two you could borrow.

      Have fun ! jill

  5. amy says…
    06/02/2011

    camping is tons of fun with kids!--check out www.letterboxing.org to see if there are any hidden letterboxes near or within your campground--my 9 year old loves to do this---we have a canvas pencil case which holds his letterboxing notebook (3.5X5 strathmore sketch pad), stamps (one he made and a commercial one) ink, a pen for dating and labeling each letterbox we locate and a box of flat crayons for "rubbings"---really fun activity for all ages!!!, we also swear by mini headlamps for kids---great for nighttime play, walks around the campsite, etc and reading in the tent---and for Jedi magic when needed!--and in addition to the other comments above---ziplocks, ziplocks, ziplocks of all sizes---we put just about anything-food, etc. in these and keep spare supplies on hand. One more thought-we live in MD and our DNR has set up a "park quest" program throughout many of our state parks which provides terrific activities (quests which involve anything from short hikes to kayaking, fishing) for families-you might want to see if the area where you will be camping has anything like this--the nature centers are generally hidden "gems"as well. Enjoy!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Katharina says…
      06/04/2011

      Yes, or try searching for geocaches like i told you some time ago (www.geocaching.com) There will be one near your camping site - I'm sure!!!! (;

  6. tracey says…
    06/02/2011

    have fun! don't forget an extra tarp to put under your tent and one in case you need it to put over your tent when it rains. hammer, extra rope, a radio (weather), flip flops (for the shower), go to target and get a cast iron "pie maker" (you place 2 pieces of bread in it and fill it with different things to make pies.) my favorite was always blueberry pie filling. you cook your pies over the fire like roasting marshmallows, it's incredibly delicious and fun! you have a lot of great suggestions so far good luck!

    Reply 7 Replies
    1. kristin says…
      06/02/2011

      we *love* the mountain pie maker. we have the one my husband's family used when he was growing up. totally still works fine. so much fun to plan the fillings and an easy "over the fire" dinner.

    2. Shawna says…
      06/02/2011

      Ahhh, pie makers!!! When growing up our family, along with 5 others, would rent cabins in Cook's Forest in PA. One of the highlights was what we called fire pies. We would eat as many meals as we could of fire pies - breakfast french toast with sausage, pizzas with a million toppings, and of course, dessert pies! Each family would bring a variety of toppings to share and try to come up with the most combos. What memories! Enjoy! ps...you can find more heavy duty makers from camping supply stores.

    3. kelly X says…
      06/02/2011

      YES to the pie makers! We use ours every time we camp. We do sandwiches with pesto, tomato and cheese slices and pita pizzas with tomato sauce and cheese. Super easy and delicious.

    4. Sally says…
      06/02/2011

      We always called the pie makers "Pudgie Pies" and filled then with pizza sauce and cheese, or apple pie filling. Those were the best meals! :)

    5. Aurora says…
      06/02/2011

      i've never heard of these pie makers! and i was in girl scouts we went camping all the time. i will have to check these out, it sounds way too cool.

    6. Gypsy Chaos says…
      06/03/2011

      These are absolutely one of my favorite pieces of camping equipment! My DH doesn't 'do' camping and I stopped being a GS leader years ago, so it's been way too long since I've camped. But as a kid - between GS and family, I camped often!

      Our family had at least 10 of the pie makers - having many came in handy when using them for dessert for 20+ kids.

    7. Lynnette says…
      06/06/2011

      I agree with the pie makers - the kids love them because they can choose what to put in them, just be sure to cut them in half after they cook - they are really hot inside. Don't want any burnt little tongues :0) Like others said pizza, grilled cheese, pie filling, your imagination is the only limit. Go with Cast iron ones, you can buy cheaper aluminum ones but the tend to warp with the heat of the fire and then are difficult to use - have fun!

  7. kristin says…
    06/02/2011

    hi ali. you all will have so much fun getting out there. planning a bunch of good meals either cooked on the fire (pancakes, eggs, risotto, grilled cheese, foil wrapped dinners etc...) or just straight from a cooler for convenience (granola, fruit, sandwiches, soymilk, crackers & peanut butter etc...) is key. having some simple options in case of rain or something. (i have a bunch of camping posts in a camping category over at my blog http://honeyflake.typepad.com/main/camping/). even at a very young age we would bring watercolors and paper/journals for my daughter. always a good downtime activity for the outdoors. there are so many little extras that we've learned to bring from experience... few extra bandanas or small towels for washing hands, small games to play and stories to tell for inside the tent, headlamps for everyone, small pillows, coffee and tea to brew, ... the time usually fills itself pretty quickly out in the woods but being prepared is always a good thing. there is also a great book out there "Happy Campers" with beautiful photography and ideas to get inspired i think they have a website still too...

    i'll be excited to read everyone's comments here. have fun!!!
    kristin

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. tetcy says…
    06/02/2011

    It's always tempting to bring a lot of things from home to ensure that the kids have activities to keep them busy. Our family tries try to minimize this and let nature engage them. I love the idea mentioned above about bringing crayons for rubbings and finding out about guided park activities. The ones geared to kids are usually very well staffed!! (OF course, you need a "rainy day" bag!)

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  9. Trish says…
    06/02/2011

    Have fun I so love camping. We have a rubbermaid container of games for camping. Don't forget 1st aide kit, sunscreen and bug spray.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Lisl Sukachevin says…
    06/02/2011

    We just got back from our 5th annual Memorial Day camping trip to Assateague Island, so camping is fresh in my mind.

    My main tip would be to do as much food preparation ahead of time as possible. I make as much as I can at home ahead of time, then pack it all up in plastic containers (pasta salad, chili, tomato rotini). I wash and hull strawberries for breakfast at home. This time I even made turkey and cheese sandwiches ahead of time at home. Packed some lettuce and tomato to add at the last minute. It's sooo much easier to just pull a container out of the cooler and be ready to eat, instead of trying to cook at camp. I also open canned food and put the contents in a plastic container ahead of time. Just seems to make meal time so much easier.

    I've given up on big elaborate breakfasts and just buy cereal, fruit, and bagels for breakfast. Don't forget the hot cocoa! I also gave up on having the kids shower while camping, and take very few pieces of clothing for them. I just let them wear the same outfit over each day--why make more dirty laundry! I do take one change in case they get wet/muddy.

    I keep all of our camping gear in two plastic bins along with a check list. Then when we're ready to go, I just have to pull out the bins and tent and sleeping bags, pack up the food and clothing, and we're ready to go. No more hunting around for everything.

    Have a great time! It was definitely more fun camping when I was a kid--now it seems like so much work! But the kids love it, so we keep going :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Sabrina L says…
    06/02/2011

    Embrace the dirt. Prepare yourself that your kids will be covered in it from head to toe. That's what a quick swim before bedtime is for! I had to learn to stop wanting to clean them off all the time and just let them have a few days of being completely carefree.

    I make meals ahead of time so that we either just warm them up or assemble them at the campsite. Things like chili (which I make and freeze the week before), fajitas (cut up all the meat and veggies and just buy a bottle of Trader Joe's sauce and saute everything), burgers (make and freeze patties ahead of time too).

    In terms of stuff to do...sand toys, bubbles, bikes if possible and lots of walks are all my kids have ever needed. They spend hours playing in the dirt and grass at the campsite and it's so much fun to just spend time watching them use their imaginations.

    The board game Trouble is our camping tradition...is even more fun as an adult than it was as a kid!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Wendy says…
      06/02/2011

      Your last comment about the game Trouble made me smile! When we were kids and went camping, my mom's parents would come on some trips with us( my grandparents are no longer with us). My grandpa would sit at the picnic table with my sister and me and play that game for hours! He got the biggest kick out of sending everyone back to start. Thanks for the memory:)

  12. Susie Leggett says…
    06/02/2011

    Hooray for camping. When my husband and I tent camped, our tent had a "porch", basically an outside room to shed rain gear, muddy shoes and boots etc, and we loved it. Kept us from tracking so much dirt in the tent. I'm thinking we had a rug or mat both outside in the porch and also right inside the door - probably very helpful with little ones in and out too. Other things that come to mind are sidewalk chalk (if you’re staying somewhere with concrete pads, a bug box or insect kit for catching lightening bugs etc, and little lanterns or flash lights for the kids. We also love to take our bicycles. Our four year old loves to ride around the campground loop over and over.

    As for cooking, some of our favorites over the fire are baked apples or apple crisp, baked potatoes, corn on the cob. Using those disposable aluminum pans when cooking over the fire makes clean up super easy.

    Camping is awesome family fun, an escape from cell phones and computers and work. Enjoy.

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. Christine says…
      06/02/2011

      I agree--a tent with a porch is great. We bought fake grass to put in the floor of ours. It caught all the dirt, and we left our shoes in the porch. It also was a great place to eat dinner if the meat bees were too thick to be outside. And, as gross as this sounds, we had a little potty we took along. In our three room tent it would sit to one side. The kids could use it, it was a lifesaver when I was pregnant, and it also helped if my husband was in the bathroom and I or a kid had to go and we didn't want to leave the others alone sleeping. If all you do is pee in it, it really doesn't stink. But it sure saved the bathroom juggle. I also make sure I dress my kids in very bright colors in case they wander off. Camo hides the dirt, but it hides the kids too! Have fun!

    2. Gypsy Chaos says…
      06/03/2011

      an easy apple recipe:
      apples
      cinnamon sugar or brown sugar
      shallow pan for cinnamon sugar or brown sugar
      strong sticks

      poke a long stick through an apple, stem to blossom. *wire hangers aren't strong enough!*

      roast over fire just like a marshmallow. The apples will cry like babies as steam escapes through tiny openings!

      when the apple skin looks crinkly, walk away from the fire

      wait a few minutes, then peel the apple. Adult job! Use pot holder(s)!

      roll apple in shallow pan until covered with sugar.

      eat from stick or put apple on a plate

  13. Susie Leggett says…
    06/02/2011

    Love seeing all of these ideas and suggestions about camping this morning.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Cindy deRosier says…
    06/02/2011

    We love camping! I must say, it got significantly easier once diapers weren't on the packing list!

    Things we love to do while camping: gecocaching, scavenger hunts, treasure hunts, and nature rubbings. We bring a soccer ball to kick around. We always bring the sand toys- we usually camp near a beach, but they work in loose dirt too.

    My #1 hint: hand a camera to your child(ren) while the adults are busy. I needed my 4 year old occupied while my husband built a fire and I started prepping food. Over the course of 20 minutes, our son took the most amazing photos of things I would have never thought to photograph. I put them all together into a layout called "This is Camping" which talked about camping through his eyes. One of my all-time favorite LOs.

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  15. Sue TR says…
    06/02/2011

    Hey Ali!
    I'm interested in getting the family (particularly hubby! - sports guy not an outdoorsy guy) outside so can you share with everyone what you ended up with??
    Sue

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Elizabeth G says…
    06/02/2011

    We have a Eureka 10x13 that has two rooms. I did quite a bit of reseach and read lots of reviews before I chose the Eureka. It's very easy to set up and very roomy (with lots of head room). My husband's family had a Eureka tent when he was growing up and now my brother-in-law still uses that tent.

    Also, do as much meal prep as possible at home to make cooking at camp very easy.

    I pack all of our camping supplies in Rubbermaid tubs, clean everything when we get home and put it away. That way everything is ready to put in the car when we want to go camping.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Haley says…
    06/02/2011

    The Coleman Instant Tents are pretty handy and simple, we have a six man but they make a bigger two room one as well, a bit more spendy than regular tents but they can be set up in a minute (no kidding) no poles to thread, you can stand up in them and they are double walled so no rain fly necessary!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Stephanie says…
    06/02/2011

    Camping is our family's favorite pasttime!! We have been doing it with the kids since they were babies (yes, pack 'n play in the tent!) - they are now 15, 12 & 6. The best piece of advice is to minimize and simplify. Do as much prep work on food as you can before you leave and don't take more than you need.

    Keeping things cold is always tricky, we fill milk jugs (quart or half gallon size) with water and freeze them - if you clean out whatever container you use before you fill it the ice that thaws can become extra drinking water! We also used to freeze juice boxes - that doubles their duty too.

    I found that my kids are more interested in exploring than playing with anything I might bring for them. That said, we always bring bikes, buckets, shovels, flashlights, whiffle ball/bat, and frisbee. I also keep a deck of cards and another game (Uno or Yahtzee) packed with our stuff just in case it rains. One year my daughter's class was doing a unit on Fairy Houses - they were reading the book 'Fairy Houses' by Tracy Kane (fantastic book/story) and creating their own fairy houses on our school's nature trail. This activity carried into all of our camping adventures that summer! We built them everwhere!

    I have also learned that rain jackets are a must as well as an extra pair of shoes - otherwise, my kids tend to wear clothes over and over (they're already dirty anyways, right?!).

    Best advice: kick back, relax, and let it all go!! Oh! and Have fun!!

    p.s. My brother had an LL Bean tent that was definitely the nicest one I've seen - it survived a major thunderstorm that dumped 2" of rain in less than an hour and everything inside stayed dry! The Coleman tents (I believe they sell them at Target) are also nicely made.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Chris-Ellyn says…
    06/02/2011

    Hi Ali, My idea of camping is staying at the Marriott! :-) However, I have tent camped in the past and the most important thing I have to offer is: Don't forget to check the family for ticks!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Ste says…
    06/02/2011

    Huzzah for camping!

    You may want to checkout the family camping checklist ( http://bit.ly/j2J7Bj ) that blog also has some other great posts but I suspect thats the one you're probably after!

    Where are you looking to go camping? I love camping, never taken the family though ... suspect the little ones would cause a havoc and we'd be kicked out of camp! mmmm Camping ... bliss.

    Enjoy.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Shelly K says…
    06/02/2011

    Ali...how fun!

    The best tent ever is the KODIAK CANVAS! Easy to set up, roomy, best design for packing/repacking. Heavy - so not a hiker tent. We have camped for many many years and with 3 children, have experienced our share of tents and what works and what doesn't.
    THIS IS THE BEST INVESTMENT WE HAVE MADE! with our camping equipment. With 5 of us in there on our own air mattresses and plenty of space for stuff.

    Got to run to work, but I'll try to give you some suggestions later on food...we are dutch oven lovers!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Raylene says…
      06/02/2011

      We have camped for years, and found that air mattresses are COLD! We found some amazing foam self-inflating mattresses at Costco . . . simply open the valve and they inflate themselves! Mattresses are about and inch and a half thick and are very comfortable . . . even for bones over 50! Also I would recommend some type of potty. (Even I hate to walk to the outdoor bathroom at 2 in the morning!) I think the smell and the deep hole are enough to scare any kid!

  22. Rachel says…
    06/02/2011

    Here a few suggestions:
    1. I would also bring the 2-man tent as a space for the kids to play in when they need to be out of the weather.
    2. Baby powder is great for getting sand off little feet and bodies.
    3. A hand washing station like this http://www.bdgsc.org/news/handwashing.aspx .

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Gypsy Chaos says…
      06/03/2011

      Rachel, I love you! Your link is for a Girl Scout council site!
      (I bleed green and think Girl Scouts are the best thing for girls. No other children's activity has the kids make the decisions about what to do. The rest? Do what the coach/instructor/teacher tells you to do.)

      One caution on the hand washing set up - if it's not shaded, the water may get hot.
      We had a black bladder shower [a military loan] set up (just like the hand washing set up but much larger water container, and hung much higher) with a plastic enclosure - in the sun so the water would get warm. OUCH. The water was almost boiling hot; it literally hurt.

  23. Teal says…
    06/02/2011

    We're all about the meal sharing. When going with a group seems like there are always too many chips and not enough breakfast in my opinion! We split up the families and number of meals needed. We usually end up making one breakfast and one dinner which is great - lots of work two times, then play the rest of the time!

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Louise Fortune says…
    06/02/2011

    Blimey ! so many great suggestions already !
    We always do the glow stcks thing as my smallest son hates the dark., For the showers - Crocs definitely, or flip flops if not, I usually get the boys to wear their crocs.
    Keep all your supplies boxed, for ease of finding them and also so that bugs, grass, sand, dirt doesn't get in the contents. I tend to use really useful boxes.
    Meal sharing is great too - We do one big evening meal each per family, a cooked breakfast in the mornings and then everyman for themselves at lunch time, usually snack style crusty bread, cheese, chips and fruit.

    Hope you have a grand time

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Poppy says…
    06/02/2011

    Hi Ali! We just bought two Regal Creek Tents on sale at Kmart. The tent has two rooms plus a screened in front porch area. They sleep 8 but we got two so the older kids would have their own. We're going the mountains/beach this summer and can't wait to try out our tents!
    Have fun!

    Poppy

    Reply 0 Replies

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