I grew up camping with my mom and have the sweetest memories of campfire food, vast night skies, looking for constellations, chasing fireflies, and of course sleeping in tents! As an adult, somehow I forgot about camping until my daughter was 6 months old. We wanted something inexpensive to do on the weekends as a family and we set out on our first camping adventure together. We were hooked … Even the 6 month old!
I could make this list 100 tips long, but for now, here are 10 thoughts to get you started. This list covers some of the main things I hear when people tell me “We really want to go camping but…” I am not going to give you a packing list because there are a million of them on Pinterest. I’m also not going to tell you HOW to camp. We don’t all go to the beach the same way and we won’t all camp the same way either. I’m just here with some pointers to motivate you if you need just one more push … 😉
- Camp with friends. If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend finding experienced campers to go with. That way, they can share their gear and you can hold off on purchasing your own until you are sure you love the outdoors this much. Also filed under camp with friends, is wow – it is oh so much fun to camp with friends!
- Keep it simple. At least at first. You really don’t need alllll the things. Bring the basics and a few more until you figure out what you really use. If you are packing up everything you own to go sleep in the woods, then you are exhausting me as I type. Know that over time you will master your packing list and until then it’s trial and error.
- Food and Sleep. You will quickly learn if you prefer to slave over a campfire cooking an elaborate meal or if you just prefer to grill hot dogs all weekend. Maybe you like sleeping on a cot or an air mattress or maybe you just want one sleeping bag on the ground …. My personal and strong opinion is to sleep off the ground. Humidity in these parts tends to make the tent floor damp, and air mattresses are ok, but they are bulky and cold in the winter. We prefer sleeping bags on small cots.
- Camp with electricity, or don’t. But No electronics. There, I made it a rule. Tell your kids it was one of the rules. I prefer electricity for the simple fact that I like to have a little light in the evenings and we usually play some quiet music on our bluetooth speaker. Am I afraid to go primitive? Nope. But am I afraid to have an outlet for setting my favorite ambiance? Also nope. (Worth noting, that passing on electricity is much easier now that the kids are older).
- Camping is not just about sleeping in a tent. We do canoes, we hike, we fish and swim. We relax, we take naps, and we have lengthy conversations. We run and play sports, make friends and explore the parks … I believe boredom is a state of mind, but even with that said, I think it’s hard to get bored while camping. There is plenty to do and if you get tired of doing, well bless it – get in the hammock and take a NAP!
- Camping is an affordable getaway. Can you make it expensive? Of course you can. But it doesn’t have to be. Most campsites cost $25-$40 per night. Once you’ve initially bought your gear, it’s yours for the long haul. Then, for future trips, all you will need is a little gas money and some groceries. Anything else is optional!
- Camping with a bathhouse nearby is not a crime. You are still camping. Maybe you’re content to squat in the woods or skimp on a shower. But if you’re not, camp near a bath house. There, I gave you permission.
- Bugs… yes, there are bugs in nature, just as there are bugs in your yard. Spray your tent with a serious repellent if you’re hard core. Or just keep it well sealed/zipped up. I have rarely ever found bugs inside our tent… They are considerably worse in the summer, but in the fall and spring I find they are manageable with the occasional need for bug spray. Remember, bugs are not stalking you… they are just doing their buggy thing. Except chiggers and ticks. THEY SUCK. So make sure and take the necessary precautions if they’re known to be in the area you’re in.
- Some of our favorite extras to bring… whistles for the kids (blow for help). Walkie-Talkies (endless fun), hammocks, head lamps, bluetooth speaker, a deck of cards.
- Memories. My kids ADORE camping. I have wonderful memories from growing up, and I know they will have the same. As a family, there are many ways to make memories and this is just one of them, but this is one that I highly recommend. It takes great family teamwork and laughter to build a fire together. And there is just something about surviving a rainstorm, pitching a tent, whittling a walking stick and cooking a birthday cake over the fire, that brings you together in a super sweet way you will unlikely forget.