7 Tips for Easy Family Camping
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If you’re one of the many people who didn’t grow up camping, your first trip – especially one with kids – might be a little intimidating. You’re out in the wild, there’s so much gear, and how do you know what to bring?
Parents, have no fear: it can actually be quite easy and satisfying to successfully go camping with the kids for the first time. And who knows, after you’ve gone once, you might want to go again and again. After playing in the dirt, sleeping under the stars, and eating a bucket of hot and sticky S’mores, the kids certainly will!
Here are some tips to help you be a less intimidated and more confident family camper. Before you start, consult the experts in your community – and by experts, I don’t necessarily mean the people in the fancy camping stores. Try your neighbors or your friends. If you have a neighborhood association or web group, send out an email saying you’re going camping for the first time and the tips will pour in.
Now it's time to get started!
1. Go car camping. If your children are young (under 10) you will appreciate having a car full of gear and supplies at your disposal. Once you’ve determined that you are driving to your campsite (as opposed to hiking there with backpacks) pick somewhere within easy driving distance – one that your children can handle without getting too antsy. If they’re exhausted from the drive alone, they’ll be no fun out in the woods. And don’t forget to pick a good time of year to go; summer is the most popular because of warm conditions, but don’t rule out the spring or early fall, as long as the nights aren’t too cold.
2. Call ahead and reserve a campsite. This is a must. The last thing you want to do is show up without a reservation and be told that there are no sites available. Look online for county and state parks that offer campsite reservations. Many will allow you to make the reservation and handle the payment online. The cost is low – under $50 in most places – but be sure to inquire about parking rates, the hours of ranger service, and what the facilities offer.
3. Pack enough gear. Since you’re a first-time camper, you probably don’t own much in the way of camping gear. Before you run out to REI and buy everything (remember, this is a low-cost vacation!) see what you can borrow from friends, family and neighbors. The camping community loves to share equipment. First, make a list of the items you’ll need. You’ll want to start with:
- Sleeping bags, pillows
- Sleeping pads
- Firewood (if the campsite allows campfires)
- Clothing in a variety of weights
- Fire starter (lighter, matches)
- Food, utensils, plates, napkins
- Drinking water
- Sturdy shoes
- Wet wipes
- Garbage bags
If you find you can’t borrow the big items like tents or sleeping bags, many large camping stores such as REI will rent them at reasonable rates.
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