When I was a kid, my family went camping every year. We had bins of camping equipment that lived in the basement, and my favourite thing was when we’d pitch the tent in the backyard ahead of time and we could play in it!
Of course, the camping was awesome too – beaches all day, campfires every night. But truthfully I don’t remember the day-to-day of camping. As an adult I’ve never been camping. I’ve never been responsible for packing all the things, and deciding on all the meals, and guess what – that’s a big job!
I’m going to share with you some of things I’ve learned over the last few weeks, while trying to pack us for our first family camping trip. There’s a lot to think about! I did pop over to Pinterest and I just searched “camping” and tons of great stuff popped up. Lists and menus – I suggest popping over there, after you read my post, of course…
7 things I’ve learned packing for a family camping trip:
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You don’t need top quality items, but don’t take your old, beat up stuff.
We looked at camping pots and pans, but ultimately we bought an “on sale” full set of discontinued pots and pans. The camping specific ones were quite small, and it would have been tough to cook enough for our family of four.
We don’t actually own any “old, beat up” pots and pans. but remember why you don’t use those old ones anymore – they don’t cook well! If they didn’t work for you at home, on your nice smooth cooking surface, they aren’t likely to work well on your little camp stove or cooking fire. (This is equally true of knives and any other cooking utensils!)
Glamping IS easier than full-on camping.
This year we are staying in a an oTENTik at a Parks Canada location*. If you don’t know what an oTENTik is, it’s a soft sided cabin, or a tent with a solid floor and beds.
We are so excited to try one out this year – and it means we don’t have a buy a tent for our first camping trip as a family. I think this is almost full-on camping, and not as luxurious as I imagine Glamping can get.
(There is power available at some oTENTik sites, and ours will be close to the washrooms, so I guess the luxury level will be up there…)
Take some entertainment items.
For me, this means books. For everyone else: cards, board games, colouring/sketching stuff and notepads, good shoes for walking/hiking, and whatever else your family enjoys.
If you need to bring tablets or phones, be sure they’re charged, or try bringing a solar powered charging station. And don’t forget outdoor play things like skipping ropes, maybe baseball gloves and a ball, bubbles, water guns, and sand toys if you’re near a beach.
Research your campground.
Knowing things like amount of trees/shade, how close you are to beaches, playgrounds, and other campers can affect what you bring with you. Most camping locations will have maps (though some may be crude) so you can at least have an idea of where you’re camping.
I’d suggest starting with well loved campgrounds for your first family camping trip. If you feel you’re up for more of a challenge, check out some more back country camping.
I just learned that Parks Canada has an app. (We’re going to a Parks Canada* campground this year.) You can choose your park, and then it gives you general suggestions of items to pack for that area. It’s pretty neat, but I haven’t explored the app it to it’s fullest yet. There are apparently things you can do at the campgrounds and sites with the app as well.
Meal Plan (no matter how much you don’t want to)
I can’t get excited about this. Meal planning and I don’t get along. But I totally see how this is necessary when you’re going camping.
By knowing exactly what you’re eating you won’t bring extra food and risk wasting it because it didn’t get eaten. And, knowing what you’ll be eating helps you only pack those pots and pans you’ll need for cooking those meals. That might mean you don’t bring the smallest saucepot and lid – saves you space!
Make sure your gear is rated for what you’re doing.
There are tons of cold weather rated camping items out there. But you don’t need those if you’re a fair weather camper (like me!) My husband has been winter camping, but really, it’s unlikely we’re going to be doing that with the girls at this stage.
When you’re looking for sleeping bags or tents, consider the where and when of your camping trips. No need for a -40° C sleeping bag if you’re camping in July or August in Canada, right?
Something you can’t forget is that weather changes in an instant. Be sure you have wet weather gear with you (tarps, rope and clothespins to hang them up) even if they’re calling for sunny skies on your trip. We went out and bought a tarp, just in case. And I always bring long pants and a sweater – nights can get cold.
Make packing a family affair.
Many hands make light work. Isn’t that how that saying goes? By having everyone pitch in, not only will the packing be easier, everyone has a say in what comes along.
Maybe let each child choose one meal that they want to eat (or make if they’re old enough!) Bring a collection of snacks everyone enjoys, and some family fun card or board games of each person’s choosing.
By including everyone, no one can say they didn’t get to bring what they wanted…
Interested in reading how our first camping trip went? Read my post on staying in a Parks Canada oTENTik to find out how well I did packing us up! Stay connected with me so you can read about more of my travels, and real life adventures – find me @modernmomslife across social media.
Do you take family camping trips? Am I missing anything important when packing for a family camping trip? Let me know in the comments – and share your favourite campground or style of camping. I want to learn from your experiences.
*Parks Canada has given us a 3 nights stay at Glen Rouge Campground, in exchange for mentions on my blog and social media.
How right you are about packing unnecessary items even when packing for the cottage. And dont forget the most important thing. A good first aid kit!!
Good call Darlene – I can’t believe I forgot to mention that!
Great tips here! I didn’t know Parks Canada had an app, thank you!
I’m really interested to try out the app at the park and see what cool features there are! Thanks for the comment Teresa.
You made me want to go camping away but then you mentioned glamping which I have yet to try and so want to. May have to do something about that this Summer. My Dad kept me away from packing and my husband does the same as I go for the chaotic approach! #MMBC
I am definitely an over-packer. It’s a tough job and I’m nervous about forgetting things!
Our last two camping trips have been in a VW camper & a yurt so definitely agree glamping is easier – a bed is a must as I’m breastfeeding too! #MMBC
I’ve never tried glamping (and I haven’t camped in almost 30 years – I’m not that old, I swear!!) so I am totally looking forward to this experience. I don’t know if I would have gone while breastfeeding – it was rough for me. But good for you – I hope you always have a bed to rest in. 🙂
some great advice here, we keep thinking about camping and then deciding against it hahaha #stayclassymama
Thanks Sarah – our trip was fun, but the prep still sucks…
This is a great post, I will bear it in mind as we are planning to go camping this summer for the first time as a family! #StayClassyMama
I hope you have a great camping trip Naomi!
I have only ever camped in the garden! We were going to have 2 nights camping this summer but Chris has pulled a muscle in his back and there is no way I would be able to pitch a tent on my own! Thanks for linking up with #stayclassymama
That’s too bad about your husband. Hope he’s feeling better soon!
Great tips. We love camping and go every year as a family. I totally agree with planning meals, it makes perfect sense. #FabFridayPost
Thanks Sarah! Meal planning worked pretty well for us – we ended up with a little food waste, but overall it was a success.
I’ll have to keep this post in mind and reference it again later when I do start to go camping with my kids. #FabFridayPost
Camping with kids was not as worrisome as I thought it might be. At the campground there were tons of families with very small children. They were braver than I was – my girls are 7 and 9 and this was our first camping trip!
Fabtastic tips for campers. Personally I hate camping but wouldn’t mind checking our glamping 😉 X #fabfridaypost
I would definitely love to check out more of a glamping experience. The oTENTik we stayed in was nice, and had power, but I think I could handle a little more luxury!
It’s funny when you point out: Make packing a family affair. Just as before we went camping last week, my little girl turn up with bags of clothes that aren’t suitable for the weather and most of the bag is packed with her big fluffy toys! lol! Love it!
Thank you very much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost
That’s pretty cute Su! It can be a learning experience for everything – teachable moments, if you will. I’m sure you got everything packed up, despite Evelyn’s help. 😉
Excellent tips. I agree, glamping is easier than camping, but then again according to my husband, glamping isn’t camping in any sense of the word. I have to agree with him, if you have all of the luxuries of the home then you might as well just stay at home, haha. It’s so easy to overpack for a camping trip, I know we have in the past but after a while, you learn what you really need and what is a waste to bring. We stick to the bare minimum, but my one luxury item when we camp is my pillow – I just can’t sleep without it.
My husband says the same things Sarah. But so what, it’s fun either way! We need to do a little more so I can really figure out what is actually needed, and what is just extras.