Family Camping Trips For Beginners
Imagine barbequing sausages and marshmallows, having makeshift puppet shows and inhaling the sweet smell of the night breeze and pine trees. Sounds like a great opportunity for family bonding right? The first family camping trip can be an exciting time for both you and your little ones, provided adequate preparations are made, such as by buying a tent from theexpertcamper.co.uk/tents/family-tents. Whether it’s your first time camping or whether you’re a seasoned camper, here are some tips we think might be helpful.
The First Step
If you’re taking your first foray into camping, it would be good to look through ample resources (e.g. classes and workshops). The following options are a good way to start:
- RV and Camping Show: Where you can view trailers, RVs and gadgets that help you set up camp efficiently.
- Outdoor Recreation Trailers: Check out L.L. Bean and REI’s classes on camping and wilderness First Aid.
- State Parks: In Minnesota and Texas, there are some departments of natural resources that offer trial camping weekends you can attend before deciding whether to buy camping gear.
Get Some Practice
Before you jet off to the nearest campsite, do a trial run in your backyard first. You will need to test out your newly bought equipment and ensure that essential camping materials (insect repellent, tent poles and batteries for flashlights) are not malfunctioning. It will also give you an opportunity to assess if your children are suited for outdoor camping and to check if your family is comfortable and warm in the outdoors. For even more family fun, you may opt for the National Wildlife Foundation’s Great American Campout held every June, and get to know more families across the country.
Where Should I Camp?
There is a myriad of campground options, depending on the type of environment and level of social activity you’re open to.
- Private campgrounds: You can access scheduled activities, playgrounds, volleyball pits, beaches and pools, similar to a resort.
- Cabin resorts: Some may have areas for camping, which is suitable for families who prefer to socialize.
- State or national park campgrounds: These are located near amphitheatres and visitor centres, and conduct daily activities like scavenger hunts.
- Lesser-known state or national forest campgrounds: These are run by the Army Corps of Engineers, and are suitable for those who prefer a quieter setting.
Go for campsites with ample shade as this will keep your tent cool and afford you some privacy. Before bringing along your family dog, do remember to check the campground’s pet policies. Some popular camping sites will also require you to provide the dimensions of your tent, camper or vehicle.
During peak travel periods, you will need to register months before your trip, especially for popular national park campgrounds. Many state or federal campsites also offer spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. Campsites range from modern to semi-modern and rustic.
You may be able to rent equipment if you decide to camp at a popular outdoor recreation area. If not, you will need to purchase a quality tent and sleeping materials. Easy to assemble tents with sufficient floor space for the entire family is the way to go. Tents that include pockets for glasses and flashlights and a rope clip hanger for hanging a lantern would provide an additional layer of convenience. Do remember to pack a tarp to place below the tent as well.
As for sleeping materials, sleeping bags or air mattresses (with sheets and blankets) are sufficient in warmer climates. However, insulated, high-tech sleeping bags are worth every penny during the colder seasons, or if you are travelling to more elevated areas– these will keep you warm and snug. Other options include sleeping mats, which may self-inflate and keep you comfortable in the tent, and fold-up cots that elevate you from the ground and provide space for camping gear underneath.
Camper Cabins and Yurts
Camper cabins are a great option if you are on a tight budget, and do not wish to invest in tent camping. These cabins are usually located at state parks, and have sleeping bunks; some even have electricity, stoves, picnic tables, outdoor fire pits and a screened-in porch. These are highly popular so reservations are usually mandatory.
Influenced by Mongolian tents, yurts are canvas, dome-shaped tents with bunks, heat, and skylights. Camper cabins and yurts are both slightly more affordable.
Glamping is a more luxurious option for those who prefer more comfort, while still meeting the needs of outdoorsy children. Priced at the same rates as hotels or even higher, these spaces include huge canvas tents and proper beds with quality linens and private baths. Don’t fret, these remote locations will still provide you with panoramic views. Some options in Montana include Bar W Guest Ranch and The Resort at Paws Up.
RVs and Trailers
RVs and trailers are great (albeit more expensive) alternatives to camping in tents. RVs make sleeping in the outdoors feel like home. However, they are difficult to navigate when going on narrow or winding paths. As such, we would recommend that you set up a base with your RV or trailer, and subsequently use the family car or van to explore more difficult areas. Otherwise, this is a great option for snowy or stormy conditions.
Setting Up Camp
You will need equipment for surviving in the outdoors, such as a cooler, collapsible water bottle, and a portable stove. Other useful materials include plastic plates, cups, utensils, towels, roasting forks, plastic bags, a portable clothesline, tablecloth, flashlights, and a storage container. You should bring along two pairs of shoes as well– one waterproof and one for night use.
Safety and First Aid
Here are a few essentials for your kids: First Aid kits, earplugs, hydrocortisone cream for bug bites, acetaminophen, pediatric antihistamines for allergies or stings, and aloe or anaesthetic cream for sunburn or minor burns.
Knowing where the nearest clinic or hospital is would also be crucial.
If you have infants, toddlers or preschoolers, bring along diapers and nighttime pull-ups, as well as extra toilet paper, hand sanitiser and moistened wipes.
Settling Your Meals
To ramp up the fun for your kids, let them be included in planning the meals. Get them involved in picking out snacks like energy bars, or making a custom trail mix. Remember to stock your portable kitchen and pantry with easy meals like oatmeal for fibre and eggs for protein.
Ingredients like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sticks, baby carrots, peas and apples are great as they are fuss-free and do not require cooking. Marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers and other campfire snacks would be the perfect end to the night for your kids.
It would be great to bring some materials around the home that keep your kids engaged throughout the day– a ball or Frisbee, buckets and shovels for playing in the sand, a notebook and some coloured pencils for drawing, and small jars for catching fireflies (remember to release them afterwards!)
Other activities for the whole family include hiking, swimming, sightseeing, and watching the sunrise or sunset. Plastic card games (so that they do not get wet in case of rain) and headlamps for night use will go a long way in your camping journey.
Now that you have mastered the basics of camping, why not head down to your local campsite today and give your kids an unforgettable adventure!