Camping Tips - Taking the Family Camping

Camping Tips for Family Camping

If you are searching for camping tips, you are in the right place!

Some of our best summer family memories have taken place while camping. Tent camping. Hard core, cooking over an open fire, no bathrooms in sight kind of camping.

I will tell you right up front that camping in anything other than a gorgeous, fully stocked camper with a kitchen and a shower is really hard for this momma.

The dirty, nitty-gritty of daily tent camping life is not appealing to me at all.

But, I have learned that putting those thoughts aside… grinning and bearing it… digging in and camping anyway has been extremely rewarding for our family.

In the past few years of tent camping, I’ve learned quite a few camping tips about how to set up camp for the most family fun.

If you are planning to camp or are feeling adventurous this summer, I’m sharing with you some tips for camping success.

Camping Tips - Taking the Family Camping

Camping Tips You NEED to Know

Preparation. I can’t stress this enough. Most state park websites are wonderful and allow you to fully explore the campground online. If you are planning to camp over a holiday weekend, reserve your campsite while it is still snowing outside. If you like to camp when no one is there, plan to go when most kids are still in school or plan to camp on weekdays. Research what is available at the park: hiking trails, guided tours, petting zoos, deer feeding and so on. Study park maps. Know where the bathrooms, playgrounds, beach and camp store are located in relation to the site you chose. If you booked online, feel free to call the campground and talk to one of the staff. They will be full of extra information!

Make Lists. for Everything. When we are about to go camping, Jeremy and I plan out our meals in a word doc. For example, Monday Breakfast – pancakes and sausage, Monday lunch – sandwiches and chips, Monday dinner – Hobo pies. (When planning meals, think about which meals need a fire and which meals don’t. If you are going to be at the beach all day or come in hungry from hiking, you won’t want to build a fire for lunch. Something quick would work better.) Then, I figure out what food is needed to make those meals and make a list. I shop from that list. I pack from that list. For clothing, I make a list so that I remember sweatshirts, ponchos, swim cover ups… things I might otherwise forget. Think through the WHOLE day, knowing it could be hot during the day and cold at night. Your list for the campsite is very, very important. This list included things like tents, sleeping bags, tarps, flashlights, batteries, fire cooking tools, spices, shovel, ax, clothes line, rope, broom, trash bags, paper products… This is a huge list and you will need it for packing!

Pro Camping TipsKeep these lists from year to year!!! Huge help for the next time you go camping. We print a master campsite packing list to take with us. Inevitably, we forget something. When we forget something, it gets written on the packing list and then entered into the word doc when we get home so that we don’t forget it again the next year.

Plan out the campsite. This could be done on a plain sheet of printer paper. Draw out where you want your tents so you can visually see where you want things to go. After you’ve camped a few times, you won’t need to do it at all. Sometimes, this can’t be done until you’ve actually seen the site.  If you can, take a drive by where you will camp prior to actually camping there.

Make the most of every adventure!

Set Up. We bring 2 sleeping tents and 2 screen tents. We have large tarps (you’ll want a few of those!) that we lay down in between the tent entrances (as pictured below) so that we have a place for shoes and a place to sit while putting on shoes. We also try to put tarps under the tents to help with moisture. One screen tent is for playing. The girls bring games, coloring books, toys and this tent works great is the weather isn’t nice or if they are tired of being “outside”. You could use it for other things as well. We use the other tent for our kitchen. I like one with straight sides for the kitchen because it gives you more usable space inside the tent. We put the picnic table inside and store our bins of food and coolers there. For the sleeping tents, something like this is perfect with kids!

Camping Tips - Taking the Family Camping

Rubbermaid Bins. Pack everything you can, even clothes, in bins. Things tend to just get wet while camping and bins work much better than suitcases! You want THIS SET of clear roughneck Rubbermaid. The clear bins help you know what is inside each one! Not to mention that raccoons, skunks, squirrels and whatever other tiny creature finds your campsite will have a little more of a challenge eating your food if it is in a bin. Be extremely cautious of food left laying out. They will get it. Promise. Throw trash away or put it in a vehicle every time you leave the campsite. And while we are talking about bins/containers, get yourself a 10 gallon water jug. Fill it up so you have plenty of water for cooking, cleaning and washing right at your site. You also want to bring a good cooler.

Plan for the dark. It is going to get dark and your family is not going to be tired. The kids seem to find things to do if the sun is out but you don’t want them wandering too far from the tents if it is dark. Skunks come visiting at that time. I know from experience. A few things you can do… bring a some shepherd’s poles and Coleman lanterns. They will really help light up your campsite. We like that specific lantern because it comes with a hard carrying case which is perfect for storing/moving/packing it from year to year. You can also hang Christmas lights (check out the fun ones!) around the tents and trees. Bugs will get bad so stay by the fire or burn citronella candles. Bring sparklers and flashlights with plenty of batteries.

Pro Camping Tips – Don’t worry about packing wood. Most parks won’t let you bring it in. You can use charcoal or find what is available from the wooded areas of the park. We have even found great piles of wood left at unused campsites because we often camp when the park is nearly empty.

Think hiking and picnics. We try to have a freezer bag for picnicking or a beach day. Another good thing is a smaller hard cooler. A camelback for snacks and water. You’ll want to leave the big stuff at the camp site but have smaller options to carry along with you as you adventure!

Let the kids be dirty. Stressing about clean clothes and clean hands and faces while camping will only drive you nuts. Let them be dirty. Pack clothes that can be dirty. Pack toys that can be dirty. Bring some wipes but otherwise just let them have some fun in the dirt. Even if your kids aren’t little, teenagers will use the wipes too! Bring them.

Invest in some bed options. Think cots. Anything left on the tent floor is likely to get wet during the night. If you don’t want wet sleeping bags or wet jammies, cots work well to keep you dry all night long. Try this one or this one. My husband also likes these small air mattresses for camping. They work great. Sleeping bag? We like this Coleman mummy sleeping bag.

Pro Camping Tips – Bring those electronics. I know, I know… camping is supposed to get you away from all of that. And, it does. But, having phone on hand for a movie can be a life saver in a storm or during set up and take down of the camp site when you have toddlers. We know. We’ve been there.

Camping Tips - Taking the Family Camping

Some other camping tips and things you might want to check out:

Camp Kitchen Gear – LIFE CHANGING

Campfire Cooking Gear – my husband loves all the cast iron everything for camp cooking!

Headlamp – we don’t leave the house without one

Camp Toilet – with little kids, this is exactly what you need right at your site

Outdoor Blanket – you’ll be glad you have one

Hammock – we set one up each summer and it is a special addition for everyone

A set of Coleman Chairs – for the whole family

Camp Shovel – this was a birthday gift for Jeremy one year and an axe, of course… every wood chopper needs one

Seriously… browse for things that can make your camping trip more fun, relaxing and smooth! Don’t “rough it” when you don’t need to, especially with a family.

Happy Camping!

Make sure you come back to tell me if you went camping, which camping tips helped the most or let me know if your family has been tent camping!






  1. Thanks for stressing the importance of preparation before camping. I’d think that a crucial step in preparing would be getting the right equipment. My brothers want to go camping, so I will share these tips with them.

  2. Great post. One of the things you didn’t cover are coolers. Freezing water bottles and jugs are great, but the best thing for a cooler is the KoolerCap. It is light, inexpensive and extends the life of ice in coolers by over 30 percent! Absolutely the best thing ever invented for coolers.

  3. Care to share your packing list? I haven’t been camping since I was in high school and now we’re about to take our 3 and 5 year old for a weekend in August.

  4. I never enjoyed camping until my sweet husband took over all cooking and kitchen details while camping. I plan the menu but he and the kids do all the cooking and clean up. He also started taking charge of the unpacking when we returned home so that the house was not a wreck. Nothing is less relaxing and bad memory making than camping becoming, to put it plainly, lots of work for Mom. So, Dad, if you want Mom to enjoy this outdoor activity that takes most moms out of our comfort zone, make it truely a family activity right to the last dirty sock put away in the laundry room!

  5. This is great! I really appreciate this. Jason and I camped many times before we had kids, with friends and alone all over the US, but we have not camped since we had kids and we are planning to go camping with our homeschool neighbors the first weekend in June!

  6. I so needed to read this right now! We are nine days away from our first big camping trip {though we are going to be in a camper not a tent}. I am having the hardest time trying to come up with meal ideas…I know we are going to get sick of sandwiches and hot dogs after a week:)

  7. Camping is in our blood. We have been camping with our kids since they were babies. We all love it. We are now into the trailer camping but still bring the tent along for the kids. Some of the best summer times are had while camping. Can’t imagine another way of life now.

  8. My hubby can’t wait to take the girls camping. Me? I can wait a loooong time…but I’m sure that I’ll cave eventually! LOL! I grew up camping and always had a blast, but now the thought of it and all the stuff makes me tired 🙂

    1. it makes me tired too… I have to tell myself “It’s worth it!” about a 100 times while packing and making lists! 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh, do I have some horror stories from our tent camping days! lol But you know what? those times have turned into some our fondest tent camping/getaway memories and have developed into stories that my kids will tell their kids. Good times. Your post makes me want to get out in the woods and camp now- but with a bathroom in sight. 🙂

  10. Thanks so much for these tips! Our girl is still kinda little to take camping (or at least that is my excuse right now) but we are looking forward to making these fun memories in the future!

    1. lol that was MY excuse for a few years too when Jeremy would mention wanting to go camping. I’m so glad that I finally gave in… Abby was 2 the first time we went tent camping. It rained almost the whole time and we ended up packing up before we were supposed to leave. In fact, all three girls sat in the van watching a movie while Jeremy and I packed everything up in the RAIN! BUT… we made GREAT memories!!!

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