I’ve been going to state parks and tent camping since I was a young kid, and is something we have been doing with our kids for years. Birdsnest first went camping as an infant under a year old. We’ve spent a week or more “up north” in a tent several times with my wife and kids, and for us, getting away and unplugging is necessary to recharge. There’s just something about having no agenda, sitting in front of a campfire or holding a fishing rod that is like hitting the “reset” button on your psyche.
Everywhere we’ve gone car camping with the family has a lake for swimming, catching frogs and fishing. As such, finding activities for the kids to have a good time is easy and even if the weather isn’t perfect, we usually do pretty well. Our camp boxes are always ready to go, and I didn’t put in any effort for this recent long-weekend with the boy, – just grabbed the right tubs and went. Total out of pocket cost, including firewood and gas, was about $40 – half of that for the campsite fee.
Anyway, here’s a few simple things to pack when camping with kids to make your likelihood of success high:
- Proper Attire – It can sometimes get cool at night, or the bugs can be bad. Nothing can ruin a camping trip more than getting wet, being cold, or being bitten and not having the right clothes to deal with the situation. Even if you think you don’t need it, an extra pair of jeans or long-sleeve shirt can be a lifesaver for a kid that is being eaten alive by mosquitos, or who’s clothes get soaked from a rain event.
- Beach toys, games – A couple of buckets is all you really need to bring for kids to be entertained on the beach for hours. Bringing a deck of cards or other game can help if you end up in the tent dodging a rain event for a bit. Entertainment of this type is most excellent to both partake in and observe as a parent.
- Quality sleep equipment – This includes a decent tent with a rain cover (this last weekend, my friend’s old tent let in a lot of rain water since he didn’t have a cover to stop the rain from hitting his non-waterproof nylon tent). Other things that help sleep at night is some sort of sleeping pad, or air mattress. Finally, nothing is worse for kids or adults than trying to fall asleep in a hot tent in the summer. We have this exact fan ($30 cheaper at Sport Chalet than on Amazon) and it has been a lifesaver a couple of times. Plus, the white noise drowns out the loud and obnoxious people while we’re trying to sleep.
- Flashlights – it’s absolutely amazing to me how much fun kids can have with a simple flashlight. Make sure you bring extras and some extra batteries. We enjoy nighttime hikes to watch the stars, playing flashlight tag, or nighttime critter hunts.
- S’Mores – a few bucks spent on marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars will put a smile on the faces of kids young and old. My wife simply likes to cook marshmallows for everyone (usually one in every group), while most just want to eat them.
You may add fishing, hiking, canoeing or kayaking to your list, but I’ve found younger children’s patience for those things to be lacking. They’d rather play at the beach and poke the fire with a stick. Don’t overthink camping and pack the kitchen sink. We didn’t even use plates last weekend, and the boys were constantly finding new ways to entertain themselves with the barest minimum of supplies. The barrier to entry is small, so even if you aren’t too keen on camping yourself, your kids will likely have a blast and may even learn a few life skills (building a fire, how to fish, swimming, navigating trails, nature knowledge, etc.).