Tips for Camping with Kids

Tips for Camping with Kids

Posted by Brady Barnstable on

Last year was a big camping year. We did our usual Memorial Day trip to Afton, I took Louis on his first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area over Father's Day weekend, we visited our favorite campground on Lake Superior (Temperance River Campground), and spent a week in Yellowstone National Park. This year, we did not do a very good job of blocking off weekends, so we don't have as many trips on the books. The least we can do, though, is to share some of our learnings from camping with our 2 boys, so hopefully it encourages you to give it a shot! Feel free to email us with any specific questions or additions to the list -- we'd love to be a resource! -Hannah & Brady

Before Your Trip

  • Reserve your campsite: Many states now have online reservation systems (like Minnesota DNR) that can get booked up on busy weekends month's in advance, so book early! Parks also keep many sites available for 1st come 1st serve as well. 
  • Practice camping at home:  Pitch a tent in the backyard and give it a try. Let your kids hang out in it and sleep in it so they become comfortable with a new sleeping environment. Chances are they will think its a fort and fall in LOVE with it. 

Preparing for a Trip

  • Keep all of your gear in one spot: We have a shelf in our garage dedicated to all of our camp gear in Rubbermaid tubs. This helps reduce pack time and ensure we do not forget anything (although we still always do!). 
  • Stay positive: Why should your kids get fired-up about a family camping trip if you're not? It helps to pack the night before so you are less rushed and stressed. 
  • Bring bikes: If it's a long way from your campsite to the beach or play area, it's faster (and more fun) to use a bike instead of walking or driving. Bikes keep kids entertained, too.
  • Meal plan: We usually make a list of camp meals and visit our local Co-op before heading out of town. If you are car camping, it is much easier to pack a skillet and cooler than if you are backcountry or canoe camping. In either situation, we usually car camp the first night and get at least one dinner and one breakfast while we have the cooler, then pack shelf stable foods and lighter snacks for days 2 and 3. We usually keep it simple with a big breakfast of muesli or pancakes, pack snacks or sandwiches during the day, and hot dogs and S'mores in the evening.
  • Check the weather: As Louis and I found out in the Boundary Waters, weather can change very quickly. If you don't have cell signal, check in with the nearest outfitter or park ranger before heading out.

At the Campground

  • Positive vibes: Be prepared to cope with inconvenience and bad weather. Its best lead by example with an upbeat, can-do attitude.
  • Stay organized: Establish locations for important items like head lamps, matches, etc.
  • Involve your kids: Assign them some meaningful camp chores, such as gathering firewood or collecting water. Recognize their contributions.
  • Make the most of nature: Look for wildlife. Check out bugs. Examine rocks. Play in the water. Show interest in things that interest them. I was amazed at how much Louis entertained himself for hours with sticks, camp pots and water. 
  • Tire them out. If you follow the above instructions, chances are you will all be ready to crash right at dark. Don't even bother trying to put them to bed before you go. 


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