Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

June 2, 2011

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!

Comments

  • 1.
    Josee said…

    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

  • 2.
    Laurie Clendenen said…

    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!!!!

  • 3.
    dawn said…

    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.

  • 4.
    janie said…

    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.

    • ….
      jill said…

      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 said…

    camping is tons of fun with kids!–check out http://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!

    • ….
      Katharina said…

      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 said…

    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!

    • ….
      kristin said…

      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.

    • ….
      Shawna said…

      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.

    • ….
      kelly X said…

      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.

    • ….
      Sally said…

      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! :)

    • ….
      Aurora said…

      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.

    • ….
      Gypsy Chaos said…

      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.

    • ….
      Lynnette said…

      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 said…

    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

  • 8.
    tetcy said…

    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!)

  • 9.
    Trish said…

    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.

  • 10.
    Lisl Sukachevin said…

    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 :)

  • 11.
    Sabrina L said…

    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!

    • ….
      Wendy said…

      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 said…

    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.

    • ….
      Christine said…

      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!

    • ….
      Gypsy Chaos said…

      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 said…

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

  • 14.
    Cindy deRosier said…

    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.

  • 15.
    Sue TR said…

    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

  • 16.
    Elizabeth G said…

    We have a Eureka 10×13 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.

  • 17.
    Haley said…

    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!!

  • 18.
    Stephanie said…

    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.

  • 19.
    Chris-Ellyn said…

    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!

  • 20.
    Ste said…

    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.

  • 21.
    Shelly K said…

    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!

    • ….
      Raylene said…

      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 said…

    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 .

    • ….
      Gypsy Chaos said…

      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 said…

    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!

  • 24.
    Louise Fortune said…

    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

  • 25.
    Poppy said…

    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

  • 26.
    Debbie said…

    A torch for each child!

  • 27.
    CaryB said…

    Here our camping traditions for us:
    * Handwashing Station – Use an empty bleach jug for a handwashing station. Wash it out well. Tie a rope around the handle to suspend it from a tree. Two inches from the bottom, pierce a whole in the jug that will hold a golf tee. Tie a bar of soap in a nylon stocking to the handle about 16 inches long. Now hang it or place it on a stump. Unscrew the lid slightly and pull out the golf tee… you have “running” water!! Tighten the lid and replace the golf tee to “turn off”.
    * Make Darn Goods – Tube biscuits cut up in quarters. Fry in hot oil and toss in a baggy of cinnamon and sugar…. They are delicous hot from the camping stove.
    *Camping Oven for cookies, brownies or dumpcake-
    Pack dry goods in a copypaper box… that has the inside covered with heavy duty foil. Bring 4 empty tin cans (I use tomato paste) and a cookie rack that fits inside the box. Place a sheet of foil on the ground. Top with charcoal broquets (each one is 25 degrees so 350 degrees=10 broquets) Light them. When they are turning gray/white place the cans on the foil so the rack balances on top with the broquets in the middle. Place what your cooking on the rack. Turn the foil lined copy paper box over the top to enclose your “oven”. Use a rock at the end to prop it up 1 inch. Cook as directed and have a few extra broquets to add in to the oven if you cook more then 40 minutes. The kids can’t believe you have an “oven”.
    *Everything you leave out at night will be damp.. so use the totes recommend or always place things in the car at night and bring out each morning. Oilcloth table clothes are a must to keep things clean, both under and over the table. Have silverware in a basket that is always on the table and accessible. Bring Plastic cups that double as vases… as you will get many “bouquets” from your children.
    *When camping with a large group for a week, consider buying a small chest freezer (opens up like a cooler) Freeze all your meals one week ahead. Load it from the bottom is the last day…. top is the first. If don’t need electricity for days to keep it cold… Pack it in a truck or trailer and bring it too your campsite.
    *Chairs… everyone needs their own special chair around the campsite.
    *Tents – are a no shoe zone. So have tubs/box to put in dirty shoes. Which means you need a rug at the tent door for taking off shoes… which can be shaken out. Get a hanging lamp for inside the tent. Consider a screen structure that can go over your picnic table or a fold out small table that can be place inside the tent for times when the bugs… are too much for both big and little people. Cutters/Avon lotion won’t be enough protection, so isolation does the trick.
    Have a fabulous time making memories with great plans and a little dirt!

  • 28.
    Tami said…

    An A to Z scavenger hunt on the beach or in the forest is a fun activity.
    My boys are grown up now but we made good memories camping with them. I did some of the meal prep at home. Such as frying the bacon, browning the taco meat, chopping, etc. We did a lot of meal sharing and it was fun.

  • 29.
    dawn said…

    WOW all these comments are great, I love reading them and found some new ideas for us too. Ali, I posted early this morning and had to come back to give you more ideas. Really everyone covered a lot of them here, way to go campers. Some other ideas:
    1. along with a camera for each kid to use whenever they wanted. They love to come home and make books out of their pictures.
    2. I gave them each a sheet of things to look for, if they find it then we mark it off. They also make a graph of how many tents/rvs we see from our tent then another one from across the way. I give them all a new coloring book, book to read, journal, crayons and this keeps them busy when we have to get cooking/packing up/down done.
    3. my kids started not liking sleeping bags so we take a extra comforter from home and they use their favorite blankets to cover up with and the little blanket is good for the morning chill too. My kids move a lot when they sleep, think that’s why sleeping bags don’t work.
    4. We always have a practice run the week before. Setting up the tent and cooking outside in the backyard is fun and if there’s any problems with anything you have time to fix it or buy a new one.
    5. All these food ideas are great, especially the pie cookers. We also use one small coolor for all drinks then the big one is for all the food. Make sure to keep these in the shade.
    6. We don’t let our kids bring electronics from home, the woods, trails, pool, play ground is all we need.
    7. Don’t forget any favorite stuffed toy they might sleep with or their fave clothes/pj’s from home. Anything they need for comfort. We learned that lesson the hard way.
    8. Just have to agree on making all your food up at home, chopping, peeling, anything to make it easier at campsite.

    You guys will have so much fun and so many precious memories. Good luck you have a lot of good tips here.
    p.s. depending on how far your driving, my kids wear their bathing suits because that’s the first thing they want to do as soon as the tent is up.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Dawn I love that your kids wear their bathing suits in the car. Love that – totally something I would have done as a kid.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      Thanks Ali, it took two trips to figure this out,lol. We even put our sunscreen on before we leave home and the campground is about 45mts away so it’s perfect. I love reading all the comments today.

  • 30.
    Mary Ann said…

    Hi Ali,
    we love camping so much – I got lots of great camping gear at Costco. We got a tent that had a great storage area, an electric lantern, and sleeping bags. We also got a coleman stove that has a griddle – perfect for doing pancakes! On my wish list this year is a camp kitchen and coffee maker. You will have so much fun!

  • 31.
    Sarah said…

    We camp all the time with three boys, currently 8, 5 and 1. Just got back from Memorial Day trip.
    for the kiddos, I normally pack: lots of bubbles, a small container of assorted legos, sidewalk chalk, a few hotwheels, a scavenger hunt sheet (a piece of paper with clip art images of leaves, flowers, crickets, tents, fire – things they can see on a nature walk and they circle the pic with a crayon to complete the sheet – great for those who can’t read), paper and crayons for leaf rubbings, another nature walk with a brown lunch bag to collect things to later examine with a kids magifine glass, sometimes we do crafts with the found objects (only if we are not in a national/state park and I explain the difference). We also allow one movie a day in the van – I don’t like the idea of them using technology while camping but it works great in the evening as we are prepping and cooking supper and they are tired and need a break.

    Don’t forget their pillows! That’s big for my boys.
    Have fun.

  • 32.
    Candy said…

    A great campfire treat is choco-banana melts. Information found here: http://familyfun.go.com/magazine/familyfun-magazine-archive/familyfun-june-2011/choco-banana-melt-1015740/
    They aren’t too messy either.

  • 33.
    Tere (Marie) said…

    Oh how I love to camp, but to be honest, I don’t like all the dirt. My boys could wear the same outfit for the whole stay. I have to let go of some of my NEED for cleanliness.

    But what works for me (with my need to keep things clean)…

    Rug outside the tent, chair for sitting on too, that way they can take off their shoes/socks/dirty pants before entering the tent.
    I bring a broom to sweep it and keep it semi-dirt free.
    I like to bring a couple of dishpan type of buckets (the kind you can set in your sink at home). I may use one for washing feet before bed. Another I will use for washing hands and face, since the bathroom might not be so close to my campsite. I bring a stack of washcloths.
    I’ll warm up some water on the stove/fire to use for washing.
    I bring a large bucket with handle for bringing water to the campsite.

    And a comfy air mattress from Costco. Layer some blankets to sleep on too!

    Wow, I guess I’m a high maintenance camper :)

    Can’t wait to hear all about your trip!

  • 34.
    JennV said…

    Have fun! I love camping! I go camping all the time and things I always forget are: Garbage bags, soap, scrubbers, oven mitts, nail clippers and pens. These things are all useful and easily forgotten.

    Also very useful: tent stake hammer (plastic from REI) and tiny broom and dustpan (to clean the tent). The people we camp with are always borrowing these things from us!

    The best and easiest meals for us have been baked potatoes and kabob. Baked potatoes are easy, just wash and wrap with foil beforehand and then bring the toppings in the cooler…sour cream, green onions, cheese. We cook some bacon and heat some chili and everyone loves this meal! We also make some kabobs. Cut steak and marinate beforehand with some lime juice and spices, bring some skewers, onions and peppers, and cook over the fire. Fun to make and take pictures of. :)

    So excited for you. Camping is so fun to scrapbook as well. ;)

    • ….
      Ellenp said…

      Another thing I’ve forgotten is a good kitchen knife. We found a plastic head mallet at a hardware store for the tent stake pounding. I’m a firm believer in not bringing too much for the kids, simpler things like cards work best. Let them entertain themselves. My 16 year old daughter takes pride in setting up the tent now. She’s already talking about our trip this year.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      JennV, I use to forget all these things too but now that I have the basket and keep everything in it just for camping. When we first started camping I was taking everything from our kitchen with us to save money. Well, that was just double work on packing or forgetting so now we have all the supplies we need just for camping. I keep a list in that basket too so when we go camping I get the list and get anything we are out of. Hope this helps.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      Ellenp, I agree with keeping it simple with the kids too, even the small little things are more fun just because your outdoors. We do bring cards and books and that’s it. That’s awesome your 16yrold still loves to camp and can help.

  • 35.
    Noelle said…

    Hubby and I haven’t been camping in a couple years. I grew up doing what I call “cadillac camping.” My grandparents had an RV. So when hubby and I decided to do tent camping, I insisted we splurge on a HUGE tent. I wanted to be able to stand up straight in the middle. I can. BUt it’s only a one-room tent. It’s a Coleman though.

    Camping as a kid, we did rural PA type stuff….we piled into the car just before dusk and drove around on dirt roads “deer spotting”. That’s where you have a spotlight plugged into a cigarette lighter in the car, and my Dad would shine that out the window into the fields at dusk or after dark, spotting the deer. We’d count how many we could find. SOmetimes it was hundreds. WE often ended with ice cream.

    Get lidded plastic containers for your supplies to keep them dry and bear/raccoon free. (I assume there are bear out your way.) The kids could do things like learning about the trees or plants or nature. I remember it being impressed upon me on hikes not to step on sticks and be as quiet as possible as we moved through the woods, to see as much wildlife as possible. Again…my dad is a rural PA guy whoe grew up hunting. This was info he passed on to his kids. I’ll pass this onto my baby….after she learns to walk and talk.

  • 36.
    Beth said…

    Our family goes on a float trip with friends each year and I am in charge of breakfast. I always make breakfast burritos ahead of time to be heated over the campfire. A quick rundown:

    I mix sausage, green+red peppers in scrambled eggs (I make some eggs+sausage without peppers for little taste buds:). Make enough eggs to have about 2-3 tablespoons of egg mixture per burrito…I make about a dozen eggs for ~15 burritos…a little secret, to keep the eggs moist, add about 2 oz cream cheese to egg mixture while cooking.

    I use whole what flour tortillas, but any flour tortilla will do. layer shredded cheese (cheddar or monterey jack) eggs and then fold in sides and roll up burrito style. Wrap with foil and then put several in gallon ziplocks to be stored in your cooler. I make these several days in advance and keep in the fridge, they also freeze well.

    Warm the burritos in foil over indirect heat on your grill or campfire for 15-20 mins and enjoy with salsa. This is a great compact but hardy breakfast…serve with fruit of choice.

    Have a great time camping! We invested in some cots and let me tell you, it was the best camping investment we ever made :)

  • 37.
    AnnieM said…

    We started tent camping when we had 2 children ages 3 and 1 years. We then expanded to 3 children and have camped numerous times over the summers, both for 1-2 weeks at a time and weekends. They are now college age and we still camp in tents! My go to book? Family Camping Made Simple. Fabulous info. http://tinyurl.com/43ewk5x
    A couple of pointers:
    1. LLBean tent. Worth it’s weight in gold and customer service is FABULOUS.
    2. Keep tent clean! (for Mom’s sanity) This means a strict NO SHOES policy for tent and always, always keeping zipper of tent closed, as there is nothing worse than bugs in the tent while you are sleeping. A rubbermaid box and a small bathroom sized rug right outside the door for shoes is perfect.
    3. Comfortable mattresses for parents. We used air mattresses and still sleep great and we are in our 50′s now! Make sure you have appropriate sleeping bags..we camp in the mountains in May and it get’s below freezing, so 20 degree rated bags (LLBEAN!) are a must.
    4.I put outfits together for the kids in ziploc bags…underwear, socks, shirt, pants/shorts. They only had to grab one bag to get dressed. Depending on how cool it is during the day, have them wear an old tshirt or sweatshirt on top of this outfit around the camp. It keeps the outfit clean if you go anywhere..just pull off top layer.
    5.Flashlights for everyone is a must. Bring LOTS of extra batteries. Reading in the tent by flashlight before bed, snuggled in a sleeping bag is a pleasure everyone should experience.
    6. We also had a strict no electronic equipment policy. No TV, no video gaming,no laptops etc. Easy when you camp only at campgrounds with no electricity! haha. Makes the kids explore the awesomeness of the outdoors. When they became teenagers we relaxed it a bit and let them bring their iPods.
    7.Build a fire everyday and cook supper over it. The best part about camping in my mind.
    8. Be prepared for rain, both mentally and physically. No where to head for fun if it rains..shopping, museums, movies, etc. Bring either rain wear, or be prepared with extra socks, sneakers, and clothes. A screen house with a tarp over it to gather from the rain makes a rain storm romantic in a way. We lit our gas lantern and played games in the evening when it rained and then RAN to the bathrooms and RAN back to the tents for bed.
    9. Shower the kids RIGHT BEFORE BED. Shower, brush teeth, into tent. They get relaxed and sleepy after their shower, sleeping bags stay clean, pajamas stay clean enough to wear for a few nights.
    10. Bring extra towels. You will need more than you think. I would roll up towels and place as many as I could fit into a small laundry basket.
    11.Bring LARGE STURDY trash bags..use for dirty laundry, trash, and in a pinch, a rain poncho.
    12. BABY WIPES. Lots of them. Perfect for washing hands at the campsite.
    13. Buy a coffee percolator like this one: http://tinyurl.com/3k3jtme Trust me. Coffee has NEVER tasted as good as this in the morning made in one of these.
    14. Tie bells (buy large ones at the craft store and string them together) and pin them to your toddlers shirt. You always know where they are!!
    15. Have fun. I LOVE LOVE LOVE camping with my kids. I look forward to it every year as summer comes. Know the things that bother you, and try to manage that. For me, it’s having a clean tent (no bugs, minimum dirt, clean sleeping bags, etc) and I am a HAPPY CAMPER!!!

    • ….
      dawn said…

      I like your tips and think it’s great you’ve been camping since they were so little. I forgot about being prepared for rain, that’s happened to us too, don’t leave anything out at night. The tent has to stay organized and clean, just like at home and the zipper has to stay zipped everytime because of bugs. We always have the kids bring their zip up jackets since evenings and mornings can be cool. That’s a great idea about the towels too, here I’ve been putting them in a bag, but I will go buy another basket and roll them up instead. Thanks.

    • ….
      Gypsy Chaos said…

      Yes! Some one who gets the kids clean every night. My mom followed the same method including putting each day’s outfit in a ziploc bag.

      One thing you should do:
      everyone should strip and put on clean underwear, socks if needed and sleeping clothes before bed. With GS camping, sometimes we’d put on the next day’s outfit [except jeans].
      We were told doing so prevented becoming chilled during the night and possibly sick. We learned how true this was when one girl left her underwear and socks on. In the wee morning hours, she was clammy, sweating, and throwing up.
      There’s just something about sleeping in clothes worn while sweating during the day that makes it harder to sleep well.

  • 38.
    cinback said…

    I have three suggestions that make my camping experiences more enjoyable…

    1. Rubbermaid tubs. I store everything related in one tub (dry goods in one, snacks in another, dishes another, etc.). The tubs allow me to easily find what I am looking for (the clear ones), they stack nicely in the back of our SUV, they keep out any critters or rain. I stack them where I need them…dishes + food tubs by the picnic table, games tub outside the tent, snacks tub by the lounge chairs, etc.

    2. A small futon mattress for sleeping! We got tired of dealing with deflated air-mattresses and feeling the bumps through the hiking mats. We had a small IKEA futon and I just slipped the mattress inside a duvet cover to protect it. We are able to lay it flat in the bottom of our SUV (curled up the sides a bit) and then we stack all our gear (Rubbermaid tubs) on top of it! It sure feels good to get a decent sleep so that we are ready to play another day!

    3. A beach umbrella for shade either at the campsite or beside the water is a must!

    Enjoy!

  • 39.
    bdaiss said…

    Just chiming in to recommend http://www.koa.com for a ton of great recipes and tips. My only other recommendation? Make a list of what you think you need and then judiciously cut it. I always haul along way more “stuff” than gets used. :) And we love our tent…but I have no idea what brand it is anymore. it was pretty inexpensive, but large and has a room dividers so it can be 1, 2, or 3 rooms in various configurations. It’s done well here in the Black Hills where our nights are always chilly, even in July/August. I can send more info from home tonight if you’re still looking.

  • 40.
    Debby said…

    Crack eggs into a sealable container for the cooler, rather than the bound to get wet and mushy paper egg container.

    We bring lots of kid paint – Paint rocks (X and O – tic tac toe and leave for the next camper to find) Paint lady bugs on rocks (again, leave for in unsuspected places after play.) Go on a scavenger hunt for leaves. Paint leaves and print on paper or muslin and make camp banners)

    Find a scavenger hunt game on the internet that you photograph the items found. Print them out at home for a memory book. my kiddos love to take the point and shoot doing this and it keeps them occupied while takeing a hike.

  • 41.
    Rachelle said…

    My daughter loves the outdoors and nature so we bought a nature book for kids to help identify trees, animals, insects, everything nature-ish & keep it in our camper. She loves it and learns while hiking/roaming the campground. We also take a bug box with a magnifying glass on top so she can collect & observe whatever she finds.

  • 42.
    Dee said…

    CLAMP ON KIDDY CHAIR. It is awesome to have that safe and secure place to have kids eat right on the picnic table. I wish I new a brand? Maybe Anna is too tall for it?

    Bring Balls: volleyball, kickball, bouncy ball, frisbee. It is neverending entertainment!

    Bring that small tent for the dog (don’t laugh) It keeps the dog a little cleaner and no chasing small animals in the middle of the night.

    Lastly, buy a screened in tent “room.” It’s nice to get away from the bugs, and have a place to sit at night when the dew sets in. It keeps things dry.

    I am taking my daughter to Silver Springs horse camp this summer and we were going to hang out in Salem while she is there. Any good suggestions?

  • 43.
    Karen said…

    sounds like you have rec’d great info. love camping with the family. the best thing we take is a rope and several cheap plastic boats for the water 7-12 inch variety. amazing what kids can come up with those two items. the boats lead to races, the harbor, going down the falls….the rope, swinging from the trees, jump rope, cowboys…changes as the kids get older….have a lot of fun. the dirtier the kids get, the more fun they are having!

  • 44.
    Christie Smith said…

    My husband and I bought a tent from REI last summer and tried camping in the back yard with our two boys then around 1 and 5 years old. We decided after a night in the tent to buy a trailer!haha! We love our little trailer and love that we can bring “everything we need” and basically keep it packed and keep dry. But, with all the great ideas being posted here it makes me want to bust out the tent again :) Have fun camping!

  • 45.
    Rachel said…

    A few tips…
    - prep some of your food in advance. ie fajitas = precut all the veggies (less mess and less dishes that need handwashing!). I like to take liquid egg (or crack all my eggs and put in a container). eggs always seem to break in the cooler for me. Egg salad made in advance is an easy lunch.
    - bring lots of containers/ziploc bags for the cooler so everything doesn’t get soggy.
    - We use paper plates when camping…and use them for starting the fire :)
    - Dry ice for the cooler means less mess and it should last for a weekend or more (vs having to get fresh ice every day)
    - Lysol wipes are a lifesaver!
    - If you’re going to be camping near a beach, a bike trailer is awesome to transport your stuff to the beach. Fits lots of beach toys, towels, etc.
    - I second what someone said about rubbermaid tubs. I do the same thing, including using a small one for my dishpan, and I put all my dish stuff in it when not in use (dishbrush, dishsoap, cloths, etc)
    - Don’t forget things like salt & pepper, sugar and a can opener!
    - Crocs are great as they are easy to take on and off going into the tent and are a must for the public showers.

    have fun! We love camping :)

  • 46.
    Amanda S. said…

    Make sure you have shoes that slide on and off easy for middle of the night bathroom trips (and early morning/late at night when you are tired). Also, check to see if there are geocatching sites near where you are camping – maybe Simon would like doing that? We also take card games with us to play around the campfire in the evening. As for food, easy is better – cooking in foil packets is way more fun than the standard hot dogs and hamburgers. I’m sure you can google some fun things to make. Oh and pancakes cook well over a campfire. You can make the batter ahead of time and put it in a squeeze bottle (think empty ketchup bottle) and make fun shapes for the kids :) Have fun!!

  • 47.
    Jennifer P said…

    We love camping! I’ve been going almost 30 years and my husband started going when he married me. We have two children (both boys) and they’ve been going since they were in diapers. We’ve graduated to a pop up camper now but we still have our tent and still use it when we need to camp with the cub scouts. We usually go to state parks but sometimes they leave us searching for things to do. The kids play in the water (if present) so I bring them extra clothes (ALWAYS). If rain is expected I plan to play in the rain (make the best of what you got right?). Plastic rain boots and a poncho can be your friend. I have a wooden clothes rack for clothes/towel drying. Not all parks allow you to hang lines from their trees. We play a lot of card games when we camp (Uno, war, swap, etc) My biggest issue when tent camping is shower time. Teaching the kids to stand on their shoes while dressing/undressing and making sure they wear their crocs IN the shower. If bugs are an issue in the area we bring a box fan for the outside seating area. When the fan is blowing mosquitos have a harder time flying into it’s path. Food covers are also a must. We have umbrella like covers that fold up when not in use to make packing easy. http://www.amazon.com/Set-of-4-Food-Umbrellas/dp/B001B7K3SA/ref=pd_sim_ol_2
    My next tip is pack extra clothes in a seperate bag (jackets, pants, things you may need but won’t be a daily staple). No need in digging through extra clothes to find the days outfits. That brings me to another point – outfits. I pack them in large ziplocs (http://www.amazon.com/Ziploc-Double-Zipper-Large-5-Count/dp/B003U6A3C6). The kids can just take their ziploc to the shower with another (empty) wal-mart type bag for dirty clothes and their things stay dry (and if they fall on the floor they stay clean). Nothing like getting out of the shower to find your only pair of clean underware is soaking wet or dirty from the floor! Packing enough but not over packing when tent camping is key. Each of my children has a plastic container with a lid. I allow them to bring personal toys in a box with the requirement that the top must close. These toys are for down time when mom’s cooking and dad’s fishing. It’s impossible to entertain them every second and still keep my sanity. So much more I could tell but we’ll go with that for now. Hope you have great fun!

  • 48.
    Cortney said…

    Seriously, your readers have covered nearly everything! what fun comments. therefore I leave you with our family’s absolute camping essential: HEAD LAMPS. The kids love them, much needed for everything after dark (for s’mores prep, bedtime reading, navigating to brush teeth, check tent for creepy crawlies, etc). Bring an extra set or two in case one gets trampled, and extra batteries.

  • 49.
    Allie said…

    We love our Kelty tent! Truly a cut above any other tent I’ve used or seen. Regardless of brand, I highly recommend a tent that’s built so that you can stand up at the entry to the tent. Many tents are high enough only in the middle, but being able to walk into the tent standing makes a huge difference for me.

    We’re also big fans of hobo dinners (foil wrapped meals cooked over hot coals), but a word to the wise: If you want to include potatoes, either par-boil them or use canned new potatoes. Carrots can be tricky too, but if you chop them nice and small, they’ll cook through in the same amount of time as your meat.

    Have a wonderful time!

  • 50.
    Mandy Moore said…

    We LOVE camping! We have four kids who are currently ages 4, 7, 9, and 11. We have camped with them at all ages!
    There are too many comments for me to read them all so I don’t know if my comments are a repeat…
    1. Just take it easy! Do not stress about anything. There will be great moments and there will be crazy ones, with kids there always is. Just keep a cool head and you can enjoy the entire time.
    2. Bring card games or coloring activities…you always need tent games for it is rains.
    3. Don’t be afraid to run to WalMart after you arrive to buy something that will make the weekend. Sometimes once there a realization comes…just go get it.
    4. Stop at the camp registration site and ask for maps…all my kids love having their own maps of the camping ground and of the trails! When we go on a hike we often stop to look at the trail map, trust me when I say get each kid their own.
    5. We have a two room tent (8 man) and it works great for our family of 6. I would get a 6 man tent for a family of 4, so you have room for all the luggage.
    6. Don’t forget to pack an air matters for you and the hubby! It is sooo much more comfortable that way!

    Hope it is a wonderful trip!!

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