No one is born equipped with all the knowledge necessary to master a family camping trip. You learn how to pack more efficiently, set up your tent more quickly, and sleep with one little rock poking your back no matter where you move. There are plenty of camping tips and tricks that might make your first weekend sleeping under the stars more enjoyable, but there is no secret. Even after months of experience “roughing it,” I still get nervous when I have to set up camp with an audience. Here are a few of my favorite family camping ideas:
Start with Home Base
Glossy magazine images always show people with color-coordinated outfits carrying their entire lives in their backpacks in faraway places. For the majority of people, though, camping really means parking the car at a campground in a nice state park, grilling some food over a campfire or metal barbecue, roasting marshmallows, and sleeping in a tent. That’s especially true when people ask me for family camping ideas—carrying gear for everyone is a tall order. But, spending a night listening to crickets and owls (and maybe even a few spooky noises in the bushes) doesn’t require a huge hike.
My number one gear recommendation is a good tent. Find a trusted name with the right sleeping capacity for your crew, such as Coleman’s Signal Mountain 4-Person Instant Tent (and maybe some extra room if you don’t like the idea of getting cozy), and practice setting it up in the backyard once or twice. Don’t sweat all the terminology on the packaging, or the weight, or anything else. If you just want to get outside, a reputable brand name and ample space are all you need for a night or two under the stars.
Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Most state parks offer enough utilities and amenities that you can get away with packing the same home kitchen items that you might use for a backyard cookout. The most important item that you might not have in the grilling drawer is a set of s’more skewers, such as the Elfeland Telescoping Smore Sticks Skewers from Walmart. Nothing sticks with you longer than the memory of toasting marshmallows over a campfire or grilling hot dogs yourself—and there’s no better way to keep every family member safe and engaged than with telescoping, reusable metal skewers. Plus, having implements designed for making s’mores makes it seem like you’re extremely prepared, even if they’re the only camp-specific foodware you buy.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Probably the biggest complaint many people have about camping is the actual sleeping part. One of my favorite camping tips and tricks to share is that it really doesn’t have to be an exercise in masochism. From going all-out with the Coleman ComfortSmart Quickbed Air Bed to laying out a bunch of Texsport Dual Foam Sleeping Pads for every family member, the days of using an old tarp and a wool blanket are long gone. Camping gear is more comfortable than ever before. For family camping ideas, consider bringing your coziest spare bedding from home and making camp beds if investing in sleeping bags seems too extreme.
There Are No Secrets
When it comes to camping, there really are no secrets. The more you practice, the better you get at packing the gear you need, and sleeping in unfamiliar places only gets easier as you experience it. The best camping tips and tricks aren’t really shortcuts—they’re just honest bits of wisdom. Once you realize that sleeping in a state park for a night isn’t that crazy and that it only takes a few essential items you might not already have at home, it’s clear there’s never been a better time to take the family outside for a night (or three).