I grew up camping, and have always loved it. I love sitting in nature doing nothing. I love the way pancakes taste cooked on a camp stove. I love the way rain sounds on a tent.
I wanted to continue my tradition of camping with my kids, so two summers ago my husband and I took our kids camping for the first time with a group of friends. We plan on camping with our kids every year.
Camping with kids can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Start small -- kids love backyard camping! -- or stay at a local campground just for a night or two. You can work your way up to week-long (or more!) adventures.
Here are 10 other tips for camping with kids:
1. Do your research.
Find out about the campground or the site where you are hoping to stay. Are the bathrooms clean? Do they even have bathrooms? Are pets allowed? The term 'camping' means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Do your research to make sure there are a minimum number of surprises when you show up.
2. Make a list and check it twice.
The National Wildlife Federation has a great checklist you can use as your starting point when you are thinking about packing for camping.
3. Leave electronics at home.
Camping is a great time to commune with nature, but this is a practical suggestion too -- Wi-Fi might not work at a campground and there might not be a place to charge devices. Instead, bring a deck of cards, a board game, or a guitar.
4. Camp with friends.
Camping can be so much more fun when you go with friends. Friends who camp together, stay together.
5. Camp with family.
Conversely, camping can be a time for you and your family to reconnect without distractions.
6. Be respectful.
Your temporary neighbors include both your nearby campers and local wildlife. Be respectful of both. That means keeping your food away from wildlife, sticking to trails, and keeping quiet after dark.
7. Follow the Leave No TraceTM rules.
Leave trash in a designated area only and carry out anything else that doesn't belong. Check out guidelines from the Leave No TraceTM Center for Outdoor Ethics.
8. Don't forget the marshmallows!
S'mores are a food group when camping with kids. Last summer we put bacon on our s'mores after breakfast one morning. I don't think I could eat a regular s'more again!
9. Don't buy stuff you don't need.
Camping is supposed to be inexpensive. Don't go out and buy a new tent, unless you plan on camping regularly. Instead, borrow one. Don't buy an expensive rain shelter. A tarp will do just fine.
10. Have fun!
You might be dirty. You might have unexpected problems. You might have the time of your lives! And remember, no matter what crops up while camping, just think about all the stories you'll have to tell later!
Camping with kids is a great way to teach this next generation about nature. It's a great way for kids to see the stars. It's a great way to reconnect with family and friends. With the help of these tips, you can help give your kids memories for a lifetime!