Camping with my kids is something I’ve wanted to do since well before they were born. Camping has been a constant for me throughout my life, and though we didn’t camp as a family as a kid, a decade-plus years in Girl Scouts (plus a bonus year as an overnight camp counselor), as well as a membership in the Outing Club in college where we camped, hiked and climbed every chance we could get- sparked a passion for the outdoors that just seems to grow, every season. My husband and I have been camping and hiking together together since our early days dating (almost thirteen years ago, now) and it’s such a fun tradition to be able to pass onto our girls, now that (we feel) they’re old enough for overnights, as well.
Last year we took our first extended camping trip as a family and interestingly, many of my friends were surprised we took the kids tent camping so young- but the kids had a blast, and immediately wanted to know when we could go again (spoiler alert: we’ll be in the woods when this post goes live!).
For me, camping is the easiest and one of the least stressful vacations we could go on- no plane tickets to deal with, hotel bookings, rental cars, expensive restaurants or bar tabs. But I know camping- especially with kids- can be overwhelming, especially with all the gear! So I thought I’d pass on my wisdom as a longtime camper and mama to encourage you to get outside, this summer or fall (the best time to camp, in my opinion!)– and of course- share some of our favorite meals!
p.s. Don’t forget to download the 2-page camping with kids checklist (main campsite + camp kitchen lists)
There isn’t much of a difference in terms of gear camping with kids versus camping as adults- you just need a little more of it. I use a system based on the one Amanda Outside uses for camping that works really well for us and doesn’t take up a ton of space in our cars (we both have small SUVs, and only bring one car with us camping)- and we can easily grab things whenever we need it without needing everything out, all the time.
I have two bins: a gear bin and a camp ‘pantry’ bin where all our dry goods go. I use a high-quality airtight storage bin for the pantry bin (this is the one I use- Iris Weathertight– even more important to keep animals out) and just a regular storage bin for the rest of the camping gear. We keep the tents (we just upgraded the kids to their own!), tarps, sleeping bags/sheets, air mattress and sleeping pads (for the kids), cooler, chairs and camp stove separate (as well as things like water jugs)- but that’s it. Everything else goes in the bins. This way, we just take out the things that need washing when we get home, and the whole bin goes back in the closet- no unpacking. SO easy.
We pack a large duffel bag with clothes, pajamas, shoes, swimsuits and towels, and toiletries and each of the kids gets their own bag with their flashlight, stuffed animal, a book and a water bottle and my husband and I each have our own backpack (with pretty much the same things).
So what do we pack in each bin?Living/Sleeping:
As they’re non-perishable, we keep the main items in this bin until they run out. Everything else goes in the cooler with big ice packs and frozen water bottles!
I just mentioned a few, but our go-to camping breakfasts (with or without kids) are:
Typically for lunches we’ll do sandwiches, or if it gets cold like it did last year, my kids’ favorite- grilled cheese and tomato soup!
Snacks are exactly what I listed above- dried fruit, nuts, chips, meat sticks- as well as some kid-specific snacks (Annie’s cheddar bunnies, fruit strips) and we’ll also bring a bit of fresh fruit, as well.
It’s likely no surprise I LOVE cooking dinner over the fire or the camp stove! Here’s a bunch of my personal and kid favorites (marked with a KF):
We explore! The campground feels almost like a no-rules zone (it isn’t, but it feels a little like it!) so we go swimming at 8am or 8pm; we stay up way past bed time to look at the stars; we go on hikes; we scooter around the site; we go canoeing, we just simply enjoy nature and hanging out together. I find my kids are SO well behaved when life is moving slow- no expectations, just exploration.
I hope this was helpful and encouraging to get outside, this summer! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and don’t forget to download the free checklist!