Hi there, friends!! I'm a camper. Okay, I guess I would call myself an amateur camper. I grew up camping, but when you are a kid, you aren't responsible for the packing or planning - you are responsible for getting the way, eating all of the food, creating all of the laughter, and enjoying yourself to no end :) Now that I'm an adult (and a parent), I get to see the other side of camping - the work and planning - so that I can enjoy the rest with everyone else :) Let me tell you, I have a whole new appreciation for all of the work my mother and father put in to our camping trips growing up.
So, here are a few tips I have picked up - as an amateur camper. If you are new to this, then maybe you can benefit a bit from this post, a little :) And hey, maybe if you are experienced, you can add to the list in the comments! Let's help each other out, okay?
1. Find out everything you can about the campground amenities.
The goal here is no surprises (or very few, at least). We found out the hard way (i.e. by just showing up) that our campground did not have any fire pits! I mean,...WHA?? I was lucky that I hadn't planned any meals around a campfire (except for hotdogs, but we ended up driving to a nearby park to roast those).
It is worth it to take a moment to read the details on the website (although this one didn't have THAT info) and even call ahead to ask questions like:
- How big are the sites?
- Are there firepits at each site? Is there a fire ban?
- What hook ups are there?
- Is there access to drinking water?
- Does each site have a picnic table?
- Is there a store in the campground? (In case you do forget something)
I know some of these seem obvious, but it's always better to be informed before you get there, right?
2. Plan to arrive in plenty of time to set up while it's light outside! Enough said.
Packing tips. Now, remember, what you need will depend on what type of camping trip you're planning. If you're driving to a campsite with an RV, for example, you can take whatever your vehicle and camper will hold. If you're backpacking into your camp, however, you'll have to limit the weight and volume of your gear. We were camping in a tent trailer, so keep that in mind when I give these tips.
3. Pack activities for the kids.
Yes, you are in nature. The assumption is that the kids will just have fun playing outside. Well, they do, but not every minute of every day. We packed some simple dollar store games and activities that were life savers on our trip. Biggest hits?
- Frisbee - crazy how much fun they had with this
- Bubbles - again, way too much fun
- coloring books and crayons - perfect for moments of poor weather or boredom
- glow sticks/ sparklers
- badminton rackets and birdie
- playing cards
- Other activities that work with your location and time of year (shovels/buckets for a beach, make a cute little nature journal for jotting down things they see, binoculars for bird watching, a star constellation book or guide...you name it)
4. Pack lots of blankets
Even in the warmer weather, nights can get chilly. It's always better to pack more and have too many, then to realize (at night) that it's freezing and you don't have enough. We were lucky to have enough..more than enough...which was perfect because we used the extras underneath as additional padding :)
5. Pack Essentials
So, this is also something you don't want to find out the hard way. Remember to bring some (or all) of the following:
- Hammer (for driving in pegs, etc.)
- scissors (I had no clue how much I would need these)
- Utility knife
- a level (especially for campers)
- matches or lighter - for campfires, camping stoves, BBQs, or even lighting sparklers :)
- MONEY (wallet, etc.)
- Toilet paper (don't assume the campground will provide)
- Flashlights or headlamps for the kids (kids can wear them like a necklace when going out in the evening, then turn them on and use them to see at night - trust me, they will need to see their way back to the campsite when using the bathroom at night)
- extra clothing (the kids will be much harder on their clothes while camping - also something I learned the hard way
- rope -this is essential for tying things down, using as a laundry line (see above tip for WHY), and other things
- garbage bags (not every site will have a garbage can, and you might be surprised by the trash you will accumulate)
- broom (for sweeping out the trailer, outdoor mats, tent, whatever!)
- tarp - has too many uses to list!
- axe, hatchet (not that we needed it without an actual fire pit, but still)
- clock (okay, yes, you are camping but you will still want to know what the time is)
- chairs, etc
- foil, sandwich bags, plastic wrap (for left overs and cooking)
Okay, I could go on, but you get the idea. Pack everything and anything you think you will need. You will figure out, after camping a few times, what you actually use and what you won't.
6. Plan your meals!
This was an amazing blessing for our trip. I planned out the meals, cooked parts of it ahead of time, and packed the food accordingly. It was so easy to work it this way and meals weren't a hassle at all. Here is a little printable you can use to plan your camping meals (based on a long weekend trip):
- Remember to pack seasonings, sugar, and cooking spray or butter for cooking in the pans. Important!
- Try to cook in foil, or try one pot cooking to dirty fewer dishes
- Pre-cook as much as you canto save you time while camping.
- Plan to use the perishable items earlier in the trip, and save the nonpersihable foods for the last day or two.
Okay, there is a LOT more to consider when planning a camping trip, but I hope this is a good start. If you have any camping tips to add, please join in the conversation and leave a comment! We ended up having an amazing time with each other and we can NOT wait to do it all over again in July. YAY!