Camping is one of those activities that our family has always enjoyed doing together. Being in nature, grounding ourselves, and slowing down for a weekend has been really effective in helping us reconnect and bond when daily life seems so busy. We camp with extended family as well, which, for us, has always been an amazing time.
Our camping journey started in a tent for seven people. There were only two of us and a puppy, so that made it roomy and doable. Our spacious luxury camping getaway quickly became a cramped space when we had our first kiddo.
When little #2 came around, that seven person tent turned into a giant canvas bag of emotions!
So, we bought a Pop-up.
Now at least we had a roof overhead, a stove, and heat and air conditioning!
“What a step up!” we thought until even that became cramped with “baby stuff” and then the space above began to feel like more like this…
Our camping nights started to become very very difficult. It was almost like going back to newborn stages for the first two nights every time we took a trip.
8 pm: Honey, the cloth diaper blew out, we need to go to bathhouse to hose the baby off.
10 pm: Mommy, I have to potty
Midnight: Dangit, now I have to pee
1am: diaper leaks onto mattress
3 am: Mommy I have to potty (again)
Suffice it to say, we…never…slept.
Now that we are GLAMPING it up in a tag along trailer with a bathroom, queen bed, and kitchen, I can look back and give a list of all the things necessary for tent camping with tiny kids. (If you’re not wanting to totally give up on it like I admittedly did)
Kristy’s no bull survival guide to tent camping with kids:
Don’t want to pay $250 for a large WATERPROOF tent? Well, sorry Charlie, you’re gonna be cold and wet in a cheaper one. They can leak, not hold up in the wind, and have a tendency to be crackly and loud when the wind does blow. Better investments equal better experiences in my opinion. This tent is big enough for your overnight bags, the essential change of clothes needed for any accidents, and extra towels/wetbags for any messes or laundry. Dew will make everyone damp and miserable even if you’re not rained on while camping.
In addition to a specific sleeping bag meant for outdoor slumber, you’ll need a buffer between you and the ground. TRUST ME, even if the beautiful weather during the day is warm, the ground at night gets cold! Putting a pocket of air between you, your littles, and the ground can help insure a better night sleep for you all. You can also use a camping pad, or an air mattress (but good luck trying to get the kiddos to sleep when you’ve basically just blown up a bouncy house in a tent!)
One of the things people don’t usually think of, is how bulky pillow can be in the car ride and especially in a tent. They make specific camping pillows that have their own cases for storage when you’re out and about during the day and need more room in your tent to move around.
What shoes you will need for your kiddos depends on time of year, and typography of your campground. We usually do a water based (crick, creek, or lake) campground so our kids can explore, fish, and collect shells and rocks. So we select our favorite Keens that can be amphibious. They are also great on hiking trails that aren’t too rocky. You’ll want an option that’s easy to slip on and off for those bathroom breaks.
Whether you’re roasting hot dogs or marshmallows, let’s be real…who knows who has let their dog pee on a stick nearby! I usually resort to bringing my washable Roasting sticks for all things S’mores related.
For fire stoking, do yourself a favor and have a proper set of fire gloves incase you need to adjust any logs or one goes astray.
For cooking, we use this adjustable tripod that cooks veggies, meats, and will even toast bread right over the fire! It breaks down and goes right back in the box as well for easy traveling.
You’ll obviously need flashlights for when you’re walking around at night. We always have these solar lamps hanging around as well, for use inside the tent as well as around the site itself. Kids and adults alike do well with headlamps as well. Just make sure you teach your kids not to shine it at your eyeballs.
Overestimate the snacks you bring – basically double what they would go through at home. Pick things unlikely to melt/squash like nuts, dried fruit, whole grain crackers and peanut butter, etc…. One of the worst possible camping situation is running out of food. While you’re at it, pack yourself some extra adult beverages.
Cooler packing hack: Prep ahead of time by freezing water bottles, juice boxes or pouches, and squeezable yogurts. Use these along with ice packs and bags of ice. These will keep things cold in there for longer and also be nicely chilled when your kiddos or yourself want to eat them.
And the Piece De La Resistance
I cannot stress to you enough how important this little bugger is. You think, “Oh, we are camping, there’s a bathhouse right there that I’ll walk to” or “I’ll just pee in the woods cause I am woman hear me roar!”
Awesome thought. Really, it is.
HOWEVER, 9 times out of ten when your kid wakes up, you wont want to trek the 100 yards to the actual toilet when they are freaking out about the dark walk or first thing in the morning when the entire campground is sleeping and your kid is screaming that they have to go.
This tent is taller as well, so you can change in it without the hassle of ducking, if you’re tall like my family.
Putting The Fun in Family Time
We like to stay at campgrounds with lots of activities. Crabbing on piers, shark tooth treasure hunts, easy hiking, wagon rides with water balloon fights, splash parks, gem mining, local watering holes and breweries with picnic style seating can be all great things to look for. When hanging fireside, though, we always love to add magic to the experience of being outside and away from home as a family.
These amazing fire color packets change your campfire into a magical rainbow of colors that can spark the imagination of even the curmudgeonist of curmudgeons.
I hope this helps some of y’all get your family out and exploring your area or surrounding areas in order for more tiny humans to learn to appreciate and love this earth that sustains our lives. I know I am awed by the majesty of its landscapes, and weather patterns every time we go.
Oh, and no light pollution of rural campgrounds equals amazing star gazing! (Throw in a little romance for you and your partner as well!) Or some educational constellation spotting with your science kid! (There is an App for that)