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!

Related Posts

Sign in or sign up to comment.

186 thoughts

  1. Amy Wilson says…

    Do ya'll have a Dutch oven? If so, line the Dutch oven in heavy-duty foil, dump in your choice of canned fruit pie filling. In a large gallon-sized Ziplock baggie, dump in a box of yellow cake mix and one can of Sprite. Mix together then pour on top of the pie filling. Put on the Dutch oven lid and place inside your fire (if you have some charcoal, add some briquettes to the top of the lid). Let bake for 20-25 min or until golden on top. And what do you get? a warm cobbler!

    Reply 3 Replies
    1. dawn says…

      this sounds so yummy, we don't have a dutch oven though. Any other way we could cook this?? Thanks for the idea.

    2. Katrina Kennedy says…

      We love our dutch oven and use it every time we camp! We laugh that we eat better camping since the pace is slower and we have more time to put things together! There are some great dutch oven recipes online.

    3. adelina says…

      I totally agree about the dutch oven!! We bake cakes on every camping trip since we bought our dutch oven. I didn't believe it worked, but it's amazing. It's a great activity for kids to mix the cake batter. We also did corn bread in it once. Really great idea and they're not that expensive at all.

  2. Kirsti says…

    You've gotten a ton of really good advice, so I'll just add a few things:

    1. I pack in Rubbermaid tubs, too--I learned this from my mom. (I've been camping my whole life)

    2. A nylon shower curtain from Goodwill is a great table cover, and you are re-using something, so it's much more green than buying something new.

    3. Headlamps are amazing.

    4. Wisconsin's DNR does a special "Explorer Badge" program for kids where they complete the activities outlined in a guidebook (either over the camping trip or over the summer) and earn a badge upon completion. It was really exciting this weekend for the little ones I was with (Two 7 year olds and a 4 year old) to earn their badges. It also gave the families some structure & guidance to answer questions like "What kind of tree is that?" or "what kind of animal left this poop?"

    Have so much fun!!!!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Kirsti says…

      And I meant to add that you could check with your state's DNR to see if they have a similar program. The WI DNR has the guidebooks on their website, so you could also download and complete the activities from the WI DNR, but the wildlife and plant guides are specific to our region of the US.

  3. GeneB says…

    We go camping 2 weeks and at leats 2-3 weekend during the summer. Always in a tent and sometimes we do canoing and portaging. Our 2 kids are 9-11. For the kids; head lamps, pails and sholves to play in the sand, a few bug catching boxes, balls, frisbee (anything they play with, games and books. they usually just like to explore. We try to bring books that relate to the nature around them. we go on hikes and identify trees & plants. For night time a map of the sky is perfect.
    Food should go in a boox that closes tight so that nothing gets into it. A few extra towls are handy. If you are going with a few friends you could share the meal planning, it's usually more fun that way. Pancake mix for the morning is a big hit and some kind of pasta for supper is usually fast & easy. Keep meals easy and try to prepare some stuff in advance so you can enjoy the time your have with the kids instead of cooking. Bring an emergency kit just in case if you are far it might come in handy.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Sarah says…

    You have a lot of great suggestions in the comments. I used to camp for a living, and now I own a business centered around camping. We have taken our kids since they were babies.

    Since you are camping near a lake, you should really consider a life jacket for Anna. Try to avoid the ones with the large collar (designed to keep the child face up in case they are unconscious in the water). Kids hate them, and they are uncomfortable! A life jacket will give her more confidence and give you a little peace of mind. This is a good option:

    Other people have suggested these items as well, but they are must-haves for our family: headlamps for everyone are a must, they keep your hands free, and the light is always aimed where you need it. Raincoats and rain pants for everyone just in case.

    You are giving your kids a great gift by taking them camping. Not only will it create memories that will last a lifetime (as I am sure you are aware), but it instills a love and respect for nature that just can't be duplicated in the backyard.

    Have fun! I can't wait to hear how you trip went!

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Rachel Witthaus says…

    Our family camp here in Australia at least once a year. We do the rural camping with no amenities so we need to take our own toilet and shower.
    Main needs : shelter, warmth and food - Tent (halve the number it says it can sleep), mattresses, sleeping bags/bedding, clothes, camp stove (which you won't need if the place you're staying has a BBQ or camp kitchen), dry pantry (I use a large plastic tub) and cold items (we have a 3 way fridge that holds about 40L and runs off a gas bottle - we did the frozen bottles and frozen foods but the most we could get out of it was 3 days and we normally camp for 1 week+).
    Chairs and at least one table - we have a concertina folding table that we eat at as well as a stand for the cooker (which has room at the sides to put the wash up bowls and utensils) and a fold up table with canvas storage underneath which is my prep/serving area with the pots, plates, cups, cutlery, etc. stored underneath.
    We are able to collect firewood and build a fire where we go. If it gets really cold you might take hot water bottles too.
    I pack a kit for the girls to colour/draw in the car and we play "I spy" or other travel games and listen to music.
    I can't wait to read about your adventures :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. slmnontec says…

    We always brought too many clothes. Who wants to pack suitcases? Who wants to change clothes? Dirt is part of the experience especially of tent camping. We started when my daughter was a few months old. Nature takes care of activites. There's so much to explore...

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Carrie H says…

    We LOVE to go camping...
    * a few years ago we traded our tent in for a tent trailer ;o)
    * we do a lot of the kids (ages 9 & 7) will hike for hours/miles if we go geocaching instead of hiking.
    * we love to leave a note for the next campers if possible. We like to wish them a great trip and to tell them a bit about how ours was. The kids like leaving a piece of themselves for the next campers. & we LOVE to find notes left for us.
    * After our trip I write in a small journal to remind us about the spots we have been.
    * We also always send a postcard home and keep it's own box.. the kids love to look through the box and remember where we have been. It is also a great conversation piece on our living room table.

    Have a wonderful time and let the kids get messy.... they aren't going to have fun if they are clean heeheehee

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Melissa says…

    We love camping. Everyone has shared great ideas. I have a simple one. I vacuum seal a lot of the food in the ice chest. No hamburger juice in the ice. Turkey and cheese are packaged in the package size I will use for one meal. That's my tip.

    Oh and take me along!

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Tonya says…

    Camping is so much fun. I've been doing it since I was four months old, and most of the really important stuff has been mentioned, so I won't repeat. However...

    plastic/vinyl table cloths are a must. Pack extras and use on the picnic table benches. If you're headed out to camp in Oregon before July, it'll rain.

    Make sure you have extra batteries for flashlights.

    Pack a first aid kit. Include lots of bandaids, Neosporin, Benadryl and any medications your family needs. If you're going to be hiking, make sure you know what poison oak looks like. Pack some calamine just in case.

    Pack a shovel. You can find the foldable ones in the camping supply department or at military surplus stores. Sometimes you need to clear some rocks or other debris.

    Hand sanitizer works well for cleaning pitch off fingers.

    Oregon State parks has a Junior Ranger program for kids 6-12. Info available at

    Bottom line, relax, enjoy and go with the flow. :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Christine says…

    Hi Ali,

    I camped alot as a kid and have fond memories. I started camping with my youngest when she was about Simon's age. I, like you, found lots of good info on the internet. My list would include:

    1) Toilet paper (just in case)
    2) French press for making coffee
    3) Thermos to store extra coffee to keep it hot
    4) Costco, Fred Meyer, and REI have great camping items
    5) Two coolers: one for beverages and one for all other food
    6) Goodwill and other thrift stores are a good place to get pots and pans
    7) Extra batteries for flashlights
    8) plastic table cloth and metal things to attach to table.
    9) Extra tarps
    10) Foldup cooking station is nice to have (Coleman)

    Last 4th of July my daughter and I went camping with her BFF. This girl had never been camping before and brought along a hair dryer, a flat iron, and fancy luggage lol. I was happy to introduce her to the realities of camping. She had a great time and we are planning another trip this year. My husband doesn't like to camp but he is into hiking, so it usually just the two of us.
    I feel strongly that camping and being in nature is something I want my daughter experience. So she has the best of both worlds- camping with Mom and hiking with Dad.
    Have a great time camping with your family. Oregon and Washington have some of the best National Parks and State Parks. I will put a plug in for the two state parks in the San Juan Islands. Moran and Spencer Spit.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Michelle Evans says…

    We have camped for 20 years now....Make sure to bring flashlights, anti bacterial gel, sunscreen, bug spray, anti-itch cream and anti-biotic cream etc....I also always pack extra paper towels and toilet paper! (campground bathrooms often run out). A soft plastic bin with all the toiletries works great for going to the shower house ...

    For food, like everyone says, prep as much as possible in advance. i also freeze what I can, it helps things to stay colder longer in the cooler if there are "bricks" of things such as spaghetti sauce or taco meat, salsa, vegetables etc!

    Have fun!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Terry D. says…

    We have been doing a lot of research also looking for camping equipment. This week Bi-Mart and K-Mart have some great buys for 2 - 3 room tents. We are also going to invest in a shower/changing "room". K-Mart has one for sale too.

    The one thing that is a total must for me is my own porta-potti which will go in one of the changing
    rooms". I hate using public toilets in a campground. LOL Have fun this summer. We are camping while we look for gold on our gold claim. Hope to find the Mother Lode!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. CanadianKristin says…

    As a camping mom of 4 my best advice to you is this: S'mores are easiest made if you buy the LeClerc cookies from Safeway that are shortbread cookies with chocolate on one side. Seems silly, but seriously, as you are building S'mores and struggling with non-melting chocolate bars that just make the graham crackers frustratingly break with the first bite and trying to keep up with the S'more-happy-demands of your kids you will be super happy I shared this tip with you! ;-)

    And pack in laundry hampers because they are easy to rifle through but the stuff inside stays it's easy when you come home with laundry to do! Suitcases are not camping friendly!


    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Girl Scout Camping Gear says…

    [...] Can We Talk About Camping? | Ali Edwards 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. … June 2, Gypsy Chaos said… These are absolutely one of my favorite pieces of 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. [...]

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Margaret C says…

    We too are taking our first family camping trip this year ! One tip from pre-DD trips I will continue is packing clothes into large clear boxes - no haouling every piece of clothing out to find a pair of trousers, and the boxes turn into mini tables as well as stacking easily for a smaller footprint. It really works !!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Barbara says…

    Camping with kids is great ! We packed one IKEA bag ( the blue ones) for each family member. The bags are cheap,easy to stow in the car, the kids have easy access to their stuff, they had their bag beside their sleeping matress.To live out of an IKEA bag, that is easy living;-)
    Have fun !

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Dori says…

    Bring some SOLAR LIGHTS! You can get the ones that have a spike to stick into the ground, or solar string lights that can be used in a variety of ways, and the smaller square or rectangular ones designed to fit the top of fence posts. Charge them up in the sun for a few days at home before your trip to be sure they're working correctly. Put them in the sun during the day near your tent and use them at night to light the area around your campsite, mark your tent doorway, hang them in trees, etc. Bring the fence post solar lights into the tent for safe, odor-free night lights.

    Have a great time!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Lisa says…

    My family owns a campground and one thing you should check before you leave is whether you can even bring your own wood for a campfire. I agree with the person above who said it is cheaper to bring your own, but some states have limitations. In NJ, you cannot bring your own campfire since insects (like moths and woodboring beetles) can travel in the wood and populate an area and decimate the trees. Therefore, you can only use wood that is from the region you are camping in.
    My kids have the cutest flashlights from Melissa and Doug. I also love carts from kiddie go. They have wheels and each child brings what they want (toys, books, beach and sand toys) and can only bring what fits in the cart:

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Karen says…

    Camping is so much fun! The ideas posted so far are great!
    1. Think about having French toast for breakfast; it's so yummy and if you prep ahead of time, it is easy.
    2. We have a easy up we take camping. When it rains, we can still be outside, and enjoy the weather while staying dry (note: when camping with other families, this becomes a popular hang out if there's rain).
    3. We keep everything in rubbermaid totes. When it rains, they keep things dry without the need for additional cover.
    4. Bring extra towels. Especially if you are brining your dog!
    5. If you have a place to hang them (i.e. easy up above), buy cheap hanging wire baskets from wal mart to hold thing you need to access. This also keeps them out of dog height. We keep suns reenact, hand sanitizer, tissues, paper towels, bug spray (you ge the idea) in ours. We also use real plates and silverware, so it doubles as a drying rack. If you see one in copper, take it. Our copper one always attracts hummingbirds!
    6. We use the Coleman marine cooler. You sacrifice space in the cooler since the walls are so thick, but if you prep your food in advance (we do, and freeze, reverse order like mentioned by another poster), then it's good for up to a five day trip without needing more ice. I hate to go into town for ice halfway through a trip.
    7. Remember bring hats (beanies) and gloves. The temperature drops once the sun goes down.
    8. Lastly, but fire starters. They make starting a fire easy, even if it rains and the wood is wet.

    Have fun!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Theresa Blohowiak says…

    A bottle of Elmers white glue will go a long way in making keepsakes from the trip. My oldest who is 27 still has his rock that has small pebbles glued on it to form Orcas from our camping trip to Orcas Island when he was nine. A bug kit or Mason jar is a great way to look at all the wonderful little pets the kiddo's like to pick up.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Teri says…

    We camp every summer for our holidays!

    One thing I want to try with my kids is to create a scavenger hunt list before going and then one afternoon (if the weather's nice) take good long stroll around the park/campground looking for items. Things like: bread clip, pine cone, sparkly rock, etc. This is something Anna and Simon could both play. Or, you could even use Simon's creativity and have him help create the list before you go! Make all the items into a centre piece for your supper that night! :)

    I think someone mentioned this earlier, but preparing a lot of things (foodwise) before you go, like chopping onions, browning meat, etc. is really handy, and takes less space when packing.

    Happy trails!

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. Teri says…

      PS - Bubble blowers are great for kids too, while camping. It's outside, kids love them and the mess stays on the ground!

    2. dawn says…

      Teri, I also make like a I spy kinda treasure hunt for my kids. We go to a campground that doesn't have much walking trails and woods. They have families that live there in their RV'S and lots of campers. So on my list it's stuff like flags, clotheslines, bathing suits, an orange tent, a boat, a dog, just stuff that you'd normally find there. My kids like it though. Last year was cool because for some reason their was a lot of cleveland browns and even the Steelers stuff around us, the kids got a kick out of that. We also look to see how many cars are from out of Ohio. Hope these give you some ideas too.

  22. S Gragg says…

    If you have the space bring the two man tent along with the larger tent you purchase. Makes a great play space for the kids and when they are both old enough they love to sleep in their own "house".

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Ali says…

      Thanks for that suggestion -we are going to do that.

  23. Stacy says…

    Here are a few camping tips of mine:
    ~ Make sure you bring a tarp to lay down on the ground before you pitch your tent. This will provide some insulation and protect the bottom side of your tent.
    ~ Invest in a nice camp stove if you haven't already. Also invest in a plastic egg carrier that will fit in your cooler. Eggs and bacon are yummy for a fancy camping breakfast. (Don't forget a pan!)
    ~ Bring dish washing supplies to wash dishes and pots after you eat.
    ~ Bring a rope and clothespins to hang wet clothes and towels
    ~ Bring cheap flip flops to wear while taking a shower in the public bathrooms (or wear your watershoes while showering).
    ~ Consider bringing a travelsize foldable toilet seat protector in case there are no paper gaskets for the toilet. (I invested in one of these when my first child was potty trained and I love it!)
    ~ Bring life vests for all little people.
    ~ Cook ahead and reheat for dinner. I often make a delicious minestrone soup and bring a pot to reheat it. You can also bake cornbread muffins ahead to eat with the soup. Other favorite soups will do. Even spaghetti can be cooked ahead, placed in the cooler and reheated for dinner on the camp stove.
    ~ Bake muffins or have cereal for easy breakfasts.
    ~ Bring table cloths for the dirty picnic tables.
    ~ Bring non-toxic bug stuff to keep the bugs away at night.
    ~ Bring sunhats and sunblock
    ~ Bring extra blankets. It always gets cold at night.
    Have fun!!
    P.S. This is off topic, but I have a Q&A question for you that I wish I had remembered to ask you a few weeks ago. I thought I'd ask anyway in hopes that you may be able to answer it in the near future. I'm wondering what you do with greeting cards that you guys receive throughout the year (i.e. Mother's Day cards, B-day cards, Anniversary cards, etc.) Do you display for a while and toss or do you save them and if so how? In archival boxes or what?

    Reply 4 Replies
    1. Megan W says…

      About the greeting cards...
      Have you seen her Christmas card pages? Really cool and would work great for birthdays too. Just use a big punch or a paper cutter and punch out a square from each card. Make a grid on a piece of cardstock and voila. Sometimes I use the picture on the front, sometimes the sentiment inside, sometimes the handwritten notes/signature. I'm sure you can look in Ali's archives for samples of her Christmas cards. I think there have been at least two posts.

    2. Stacy says…

      Megan, Thanks for the tip! Yes, I have seen her Christmas card posts, but it's been a while and I'm going to do a search to refresh my memory. I really didn't think about doing the same thing for greeting cards. I guess I kind of feel like I want to save the cards as is without altering them at all. That's what I currently do. I always feel guilty about saving so much stuff, though, which is why I was wondering what Ali does with them. Who knows I may be inspired to change up my method after revisiting Ali's Christmas card posts.

    3. Ali says…

      Usually I just don't keep other cards (birthday, etc) - unless there is something very sentimental about them. I do keep anything that comes from my Mom though or from the kids to me. Most cards I've wanted to save this year have gone into Project Life :).

    4. Stacy says…

      Thanks for chiming in Ali and thanks for the link to your Christmas card post. This year I've also put greeting cards into my PL album. It's perfect for that. I imagine that's what I'll do from now on. We'll see.

  24. Sarah says…
    06/03/2011 is your place!! They have everything you could possibly want for camping.

    They have great tents. I own the Cabela's Deluxe Backwoods Three-Room Cabin ( It's fantastic. Not hard to put up, takes 2 people about 20 minutes.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Megan W says…

    If it's feasible, bring a BBQ. We have an annual camping trip and we always bring at least one BBQ. It's a nice option for good food that isn't cooked on a camp stove. And don't forget the little things. I forgot dish towels one year and it was a nightmare!

    Reply 0 Replies

Sign in or sign up to comment.