We are now entering the best time of year…the time to go camping! In most places the weather is now warm enough at night to enjoy an evening under the stars roasting marshmallows and telling stories without freezing our tushies off. My dad started taking my brother and I camping at an early age. It started as short overnights at a site we’d pull up to in the car and very quickly worked it’s way up to 5 night backing packing excursions in Yosemite. These trips with my dad and brother are some of my most fond memories growing up, and we are so excited to make some of our own with Mia.
We starting camping with Mia in the back yard last summer and this year we are ready for the next step…car camping! I have to admit, I was ready to sling a backpack on her and make her hike into the woods for a good few days, but my husband gently reminded me that she’s only four and while we hope to bank some major miles in the future we should start out slow. He’s right!
Camping with the family is truly a wonderful experience and in order to help make sure we can all have a good time whether it’s in the back yard or in the woods, we’ve come up with some helpful hints for setting out on an overnight adventure in a tent.
Start out Slow:
The best way to try your hand at camping is to camp out in the back yard a few times, especially if you have small kids. We also recommend borrowing the camping gear until you know for sure it’s something you want to do on a regular basis. While you don’t need a lot, the price of camping gear can add up so it’s best not to waste your money on a full set just yet.
We’ve found that with almost any new activity it’s best to go in without any expectations. The times we’ve started out on a new adventure and we have high hopes of what it will be like, we are always let down when we find out Mia isn’t having a good time. It’s best to go in knowing that you may have to pull the plug at any given moment no matter how inconvenient the time. Of course your kids don’t need to know this, but it does make it a lot easier for the grown ups to handle their own disappointment if things don’t work out the way you hoped they would.
What to bring:
Whether it’s in your back yard, at the beach or in the High Sierras, camping is always more comfortable when you are well prepared.
The first thing you need is a tent! Since our camping is of the “pull up your car and pitch a tent” variety, we don’t need an ultra light, itty-bitty tent. We want to be comfortable so the bigger the better. We love the this 4 person tent from REI. It’s easy to put up and has a great sunroof for looking at the stars.
You will also need sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Sleeping bags and pads have come a long way since we were kids, they are so much more comfortable and warm! The REI Kindercone is a great starter sleeping bag for kids. It’s warm, easy to roll up and comes in a whole host of fun colors. As for sleeping pads, they can get pricey, but for the grown ups they make the whole experience a lot more comfortable. REI and Thermarest are two great brands that we’ve used for years and offer reasonably priced options.
You’ll also want a couple flashlights and a lantern. Even if you’re just in the back yard, these will be really helpful once the sun goes down. Plus they are great for making shadow puppets on the tent walls!
If you’re sticking to the backyard here is a list of some items that may also be helpful:
- A pillow
- Warm pajamas
- Extra pair of socks
- A warm hat
- Your child’s lovey (of course!)
- Water bottle
If you are planning a trip for one night or more outside the wilds of the back yard, you will want to make sure you have a few more items on hand (aside from food and water):
- Change of clothes (sweatshirt, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, pants, shorts, socks and underwear)
- First aid kit
- Coat or jacket
- Mittens or gloves
- Sun hat/baseball cap
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, eco friendly soap
- Extra batteries
- Waterproof matches or windproof lighter
- Day backpack
- Sandals or flip flops
- Insect repellent
- Cooking stove, cooking and eating utensils
- A children’s book
While spending time in the outdoors is a truly amazing experience, we can’t forget that they are filled with wonderful little creatures. A few tips that will help keep your tent critter free are to never bring food into your tent, keep your tent flaps zipped closed at all times, and never walk around in your tent with your shoes on. You will of course, want to bring your shoes into your tent at night before you go to bed…finding a critter in your shoes in the morning can be a bit surprising. Also make sure all food is safely locked away in a food storage locker at your campsite or locked in your car.
Here’s to some fun, family time this Summer in the great outdoors!