Our best camping tips for the family that wants to try tenting and even those that have gone already but would like a few more pointers.
Indeed, there are all kinds of campers. Basically, any type of sleeping and living outside might be called camping. Sometimes, staying in a remote cabin like school or summer camp is a form of camping, although, I do have to disagree. To me the grounds may be called a camp, but the activity is not. People have even gone so far to say staying in a fancy recreational vehicle is camping. And I do know that they often hook up to a site in a campground.
Actually, it almost seems that any temporary abode is camping according to the dictionary. For me, though, the key to camping is sleeping in a tent. Anything else is just something different.
Therefore, for the sake of this discussion, the camping tips will be focused around either tent camping or tent trailer camping.
One more explanation might be in order here. For those of you unfamiliar with tent trailers, they are units that are pulled behind a vehicle. The bottom half has a square box on wheels. When the lid is popped open, the top portion is a tent with overhangs on the side to create the areas for sleeping that extend well past the square box.
Reasons Why So Many Families Love To Camp
Less Expensive – Camping tends to be relatively cheap when compared to hotels and other forms of accommodations. While rates are increasing as users want more services, there is no doubt it still remains a cheap way to vacation and travel. Basically, you pick out your site or lot, tell them how long you want to stay, decide whether or not you need any amenities where there are extra fees, and you pay, then put your tag on your site. Simple and straight forward. No credit card holds, no hassles.
Not Fancy – One of the major benefits of camping is the fact that it is not fussy. Yes, you can have nice outhouses and facilities for showering, washing and even doing the laundry, and you would expect these to be clean and kept up, but at the same time, you don’t have to worry about the kids and dogs messing everything up.
Think about taking a room in a bed and breakfast. This is someone’s home and you wouldn’t want to walk inside with mud on your feet. Camping takes care of that problem. And despite the fact that many places are moving toward dog-friendly atmospheres, the truth is, it is much harder to take out the pet in the middle of the night. Camping gives you the same ease and comfort as home.
Healthy – I really believe that being outdoors is quite invigorating and conducive to natural living. Not that I am making any judgments here, I only mean that taking in the nice warm sun rays, watching the sun dim and go down at night, sitting under the moonlight roasting marshmallows in a magical campfire, and getting up bright and early to go swimming is a wonderful way to rejuvenate and feel good about oneself.
Food Tastes Better – This is one of those added benefits that I enjoy the most. I don’t know why but when I eat outdoors the food smells and tastes wonderful. I can’t drink coffee, but when I smell other campers brewing up their morning beverage, I can hardly wait to get up.
And as much as I love bacon and eggs anytime, eating them while sitting at the picnic table, thinking about the day’s activities really gets me humming.
But what I love the most is simple toast on one of those little steel gadgets that has a swinging plate on each side and you put over the stove or fire.
Now, you can’t get better toast than that, I say!
Family Camping Tips
Certainly, when you go by yourself, you will do things differently than when you have the kids packed up and raring to go. Safety comes into consideration first of all, the size of your tent will be important, whether or not you need a rain structure, and how you should set up your campsite.
So, I’ve gone to some experts, our cousins who have camped since their children were babies, and we’ve asked them what family camping tips they can provide.
Go State – If you want to save money, typically, it is cheaper to choose a state, provincial or national park, as opposed to privately run campgrounds. Because the parks are run by the government for the people, they tend to have better rates. And, they usually have park rangers on duty to check out problems.
Walk Site Before Choosing – You usually will be permitted to go into the grounds before paying in order to choose the perfect lot. Think about a few things, though, before actually committing to a spot. For example, how close it is to water, whether you want shade or sun. One tip they did give me about lots with trees is be prepared for the sap from the trees sticking to the car and tent. You can check the ground to see if it is really bad.
Also, walk the lot to ensure that there is no broken glass which could be problematic for a variety of reasons. If you go to parks that abut farm fields, be sure it is safe for everyone. They told me a story about camping next to a corn field which can become a maze if the dog or a child wanders.
Free Firewood – Look for your wood in the daytime if you plan to have a campfire. It is just easier, that’s all. Now, some parks do charge for wood that is already split into manageable pieces for the fire. But, if you really want to save, check around to see if departing campers have left their supply behind. Just make sure there isn’t a tag on the lot, indicating someone is occupying that site, as you don’t want to steal someone else’s property.
Screen House – A screen house or kitchen, as they are often called, are perfect for families for many reasons.
- First, they give you a way to avoid the mosquitoes and flies.
- Second, when it rains, there is a place to sit to read or play games.
- Third, it is protection for food and gear that you need for cooking.
- Forth, you have somewhere to chuck everything when you are away from the site on an excursion, rather than having it out in plain view. Plus, if it happens to rain while you are gone, the folding chairs and things won’t get wet.
Pros and Cons of Spigot – When you are tent camping, you are not hooked up to a water source for drinking and boiling. Instead, you have either a pump and well or an actual pipe with tap or spigot positioned in various spots throughout the grounds. Now, some people like to be close to the tap, so they don’t have to carry water too far. That can be a real advantage.
But on the other side of the debate, others do not like having the tap on or near their site because it is too dirty and too busy. What happens is because the water is continually spilling onto the ground, a lot of mud is created making this a sloshy mess. You, your kids, and pets will track this all around. Plus, it is slippery. The other problem is the traffic. You will always have people coming by to use the tap. Needless to say, whichever pro or con you prefer, just be aware first.
Added Water Safety – If you think you need more than boiling to keep your water sanitized, you might want to read our full article on purifying or filtering the water before drinking. We do have to admit that almost any managed campgrounds will have completely potable water, but in the event that you need something in a pinch, these recommendations will help you.
I’ve spoken to both friends and family about camping because, as you can imagine, I have only ever gone with a couple adults. So, while I have a lot of knowledge about the activity itself, I tend to forget things are different when you go as a family unit, complete with adults, children and pets.
Thus, I reached out to others to help me put this camping advice section together.
Know What You Want – There are typically campgrounds that are known for certain things or traits. For example, some are better suited for partyers. That means the end of the school year and special holidays throughout the year, the parks will be busy and noisy. If you don’t like all that hustle and bustle, you need to think in advance of the calendar date and the park you want to visit. An expected well relaxed vacation can turn into a nightmare pretty quickly if you have a bunch of drunken sots all around.
Property Amenities – If you are not sure which campground to choose, there are comparison charts to help you make a decision. They will show things such as whether or not dogs are allowed, if there is a beach or swimming pool, if the property has a general store, if there is an ice vending machine to stock your cooler, a fishing area, boat ramps or docks, the types of facilities in terms of outhouse versus flushing toilets, showers, laundry, and running water.
Spend the time to read up in advance so you can choose the campground that best suits your family’s needs. If you are in New York State, here is their search tool. Of course, all states will have a similar setup to help you.
Things To Do – Most people’s idea of camping is to get away from what ails them at home. So you need to have things to do even if you are just resting. Remember to take along games such as badminton, horse shoes, pop-a-balls, ball and paddle, as well as puzzle books and even some board games. Try to have a selection of different ages so that everyone can enjoy.
Camping Tips for Gear and Equipment
There is a lot of stuff out there trying to catch every camper’s attention. Some items are simply junk and beyond comprehension, while obviously many others are at the opposite end of the scale meaning they are necessities.
Here are a few of our top points when doling out camping advice.
Tent vs Tent Trailer – If you have never camped before, you might want to start out with a tent first to get your bearings. While it is hard to believe, but like most things in life, there are people that simply don’t care for living outdoors. And that is fine and that is why you start off with an inexpensive tent.
Tent trailers, on the other hand are investments and as such can be expensive propositions. Plus, once you have bought one, it needs to be licensed which costs money for a permit. It also needs to be road worthy so buying a used one could be a problem and added expense.
Then, you need to outfit your car or truck with the proper towing equipment and lighting system. Finally, you have to be comfortable with towing it around behind your vehicle, which does take some practice. Needless to say, all this for a first trip makes no sense at all. Our advice is to be sure you want to camp and grow into a tent trailer.
Pitching A Tent – Even with all the videos and camping tips and advice around the internet, it is still difficult to learn how to pitch a tent. Seasoned campers encounter challenges all the time depending on the type of campsite, the weather, and if they forget to pack the bag of poles. Improvisation does come into play quite often.
But for many people, this newer kind of tent which is inflatable or mechanized blow up might suit them better. Trust me, pitching a tent can put the kibosh on any fun trip. You’re defeated before you even start because you know you need that tent the minute the sun goes down and you want to sleep. Luckily, we have written about the new technology in great length, so you can decide whether you would to give pitching a go or simply stand back and watch your tent in action.
Sleeping Arrangements – Trust us on this one. Even if you are only going camping for a short period, you are going to want a cot to sleep on. Air mattresses sound great, but lots of stuff happens. The air gets let out or the mattress sags. You need a fast pump to blow them all up. It is not as comfortable as it is cracked up to be sleeping on the ground even with a mattress or pad.
Do yourself the favor and get a cot. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is. And you can buy them rather cheaply, just be sure to have one for every member of the family.
Not only is it a lot more comfortable providing a more restful sleep, but it keeps you off the ground where it is damp. They even have double ones now so the whole family can sleep on one saving the space and money. And of course, you can put a pad or air mattress on top with a sleeping bag or your own blankets. Make a real bed out of it.
The key to camping is to know there is a learning curve, and that there will be obstacles. But hopefully, those challenges will eventually become your memories. Down the road when your family becomes experts at the activity, you will all laugh at how ridiculous it seemed in the beginning.
But there is one thing about all campers and they tend to be helpful. As long as you don’t impose or outstay your welcome, others are only too happy to provide camping advice and assistance.
Video Fast List
To finish off, here’s a pretty concise list of twenty-five things to know about camping to help make it more enjoyable. I love the idea of burning sage to get rid of mosquitoes!