I’ve never been opposed to the idea of camping, it’s just not something we did as a family growing up. We were city dwellers and we enjoyed our vacations in the comfort of climate controlled hotels 😉 . However, we took the plunge and when on a camping trip for this weekend. Here are some camping tips from our first family camping trip that may help to make your camping trip more enjoyable.
I did spend a LOT of time in nature as a little girl in New Jersey though, and regularly went for hikes with my dad when I was little. Those are my fondest memories of time spent with my dad. My mom and older sister didn’t care much for trudging through the wilderness, so this was OUR time and it was and is VERY special to me.
Living where we live currently though, we don’t really take advantage of the wilderness (in terms of camping) around us because it typically:
A. Involves driving a pretty sizeable distance to find good campgrounds
B. We did not feel experienced enough to take our kids
Thank goodness for Cub Scouts! This past weekend we went on a Cub Scouts camping trip and even though we were pretty nervous, the trip honestly couldn’t have gone better. Our kids did NOT want to leave and we all want to go camping again very soon!
Before our camping trip, I was a Google and Pinterest FOOL! I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on about camping, camping supplies, camp food, and camping experiences (here is my Camping Pinterest board if you want to check it out! ). Also, I wanted to learn more about our designated camping site (Double Lake in Cold Spring Texas). I told myself when I came back, I would write up a good lengthy post on our experience.
I did not want to bring our bulky DSLR camera on a camping trip, so all pictures are taken with my iPhone. I hope you enjoy!
My Top Five Observations as a First Time Camper (to be followed by our menu, things we brought that were useful and things we wish we had brought):
1. I wish we had bought air mattresses. Maybe some people can do without them. I am not those people. We bought a lot of things for this camping trip. We did not buy air mattresses. In hindsight…I would have rather had an air mattress over some of the other “comforts” we brought along with us.
The second night, I took a bunch of pillows and layered some blankets over them and got a somewhat decent night of sleep. Proving to me that a softer place to sleep was the real issue the night before (when I had NO sleep).
2. Kids get super hungry while camping. Think about it, you are moving a lot more and probably getting a lot more physical activity than you are used to. Oddly my husband and I found ourselves LESS hungry, but then we weren’t galloping all over the forest making imaginary man caves and jungle gyms 😉 . Bring a LOT of snacks!
3. Pillows and blankets and layers oh my! Think you have too much clothing? Too many pillows? Too many blankets? Good. You should!
Temperatures fluctuate a LOT in the great outdoors and you never know when you’ll need those extra layers. So pack comfy pillows, sleeping bags, and shirts of varying sleeve lengths and thicknesses. Plus socks socks SOCKS!
4. Do as much food prep before you leave as you can! I wrote out a menu before we left (posted at the end of this page) mainly for grocery shopping purposes, but also so I could meal prep beforehand. I did see some people chopping veggies at the camp site, but that would have been frustrating for me since we did have small children to keep up with.
I premade some pasta salad and some foil packets (burgers with potatoes, onions and carrots diced up. I should have seasoned them MUCH more, but I’ll know better next time. We cooked these right above the fire) and this saved a ton of time.
5. If at all possible, try to camp for the first time with people that have been camping before. I am so very thankful that our first camping trip was with the Cub Scouts. Even more thankful that my BIL and my nephews were there as well.
My husband is a pretty handy guy, so I know in the future, camping will be a breeze for us. We would have stumbled a LOT more though if our maiden camping voyage had been done solo (and I suspect there might have been some arguments as we both get fairly short on patience when struggling through something new to us!).
Here are some items we had that I feel made camping better for us:
A big roomy tent. We purchased this one from Amazon. There are 4 of us and we fit perfectly in our tent along with ALL of our gear minus our chairs (we didn’t want our chairs in there anyways). Our tent was great.
Chairs! This city girl wasn’t really too keen on sitting on logs and the ground for the whole weekend. We brought our comfy chairs (they stay in the back of our van at all times!) and it was great to sit around the fire, or just outside our tent and keep an eye on the kids.
A big cooler. This is a no brainer, but it allowed us to bring milk for cereal and keep our other cold food cold. Our cooler has handles on either side and it rolls. So useful! (this is our cooler…reviews aren’t super awesome, but we’ve had it for several years and never have had a single problem with it)
Flashlights. Um…the forest gets DARK. Like real dark. Not like outside your house at night dark. Pitch black. We also had a camping lantern (this one) and it was great to hang from the top of our tent.
(also great for spooky stories…or in our case…SILLY stories! )
Dish tubs and dish soap. You need to be able to wash your dishes! For our first camping trip, we went easy and brought paper products, but I’m sure in the future we’ll invest in some good camping dishes and cutlery.
However, we still had tongs, s’more forks (what are they called?), knives for peanut butter sandwiches, etc to wash.
The den leader (hope I’m getting that terminology correct…) actually had the older Cub Scouts wash the dishes with a system that involved hot water, soapy water and rinsing water.
They used a lot of pots/pans/dishes and I think in the future, we’ll adopt that system as well.
Things we would LIKE to have for next time:
Air mattresses. I think we’ll get two queen mattresses and we’ll each sleep with a kiddo.
A folding table. Most of the other campers had one of these and there were so many times I wished we had had one too.
A camping grill. We did fine using the fire pit, but we would have more flexibility in our cooking if we had had our own grill. I’m eyeing this one right now: Coleman 2 Burner Dual Fuel Compact Liquid Fuel Stove (do y’all have any suggestions? ).
Bungee cords. We borrowed one from my BIL to hang our light from the roof of our tent. He also had one holding his ice chest closed so that animals couldn’t pry it open. Since we didn’t have one, we had to have our ice chest in our tent. Which resulted in dripping on our bedding sometimes (to clarify, the cooler didn’t leak, but when we got drinks/food from the cooler it was wet…hence the dripping).
A tarp for under our tent. Keeps the bottom of the tent cleaner.
A broom and dust pan. The inside of our tent got ridiculously sandy. I’m not a clean freak, but it was VERY sandy. I wish we had had a broom/dust pan for a quick clean up.
Condiments! We had NO condiments. My kids didn’t want to eat the foil packets without ketchup and to be honest, since they were so under seasoned, I could have used some too (or at least some salt and pepper!). Next time we’ll bring condiments for our food.
A few other tips:
:: Plan to arrive early enough so you aren’t setting up your tent for the very first time in the pitch black dark. 😉 (um yeah…we wouldn’t know ANYTHING about that at all 😉 )
pssst…pic above was taken a couple of minutes after we arrived.
:: Plan to ENJOY nature. Prep your kids beforehand that you are going technology free! My kids did fine with it, but some other kids were disappointed.
:: Let your kids explore and enjoy the wilderness within reason. Teach them how to be safe and let them roam.
This was a bit difficult for this city mama. I keep my babies close and while I let them explore, there’s not much opportunity to do that in suburbia.
I loosened the leash a bit (chill out, it’s an expression! ) on this camping trip and I can’t tell you how glad I am.
Friendships made, imaginations grown and a new appreciation for our Mother Earth was born in my children this past weekend and it was beautiful.
::Oh yeah…and bring this stuff 😉
BTW, a big thing I was curious about before our trip was making a camping menu! Here was our camping menu…and it worked fairly well!
Breakfast: Cereal w/ milk (kept in cooler)
Lunches: Peanut Butter sandwiches, chips and pasta salad (made ahead of time and put in the cooler)
Dinners: Hot dogs on buns with chips and fruit, Foil packets with a hamburger patty and veggies and a tablespoon of butter
Snacks: Fruit, animal crackers, goldfish (they ate these on our hike)
LOTS of bottled waters.
Kids did not want to wait for hot dogs on Friday night when we arrived, so they ended up eating the lunchables I packed for just in case.
Next time our menu will be a bit more elaborate if we have a camping stove! Since Double Lake has fire pits at each camp site (pictured above in the post), we used that for our cooking.
Does your family enjoy camping? Any tips for newbie campers? Comment below!