Are you planning a family camping adventure this season? If so, you have likely seen the extensive gear checklists and suggestions for what to bring with you. We have a pretty awesome one located in our Ultimate Guide to Camping with Kids. However, there are a few items the majority of these lists leave out that we think can make a family camping trip a whole lot better.
Versatile, durable slip-on shoes
If you have ever woken up in a tent in the middle of the night to the undeniable urge to use the bathroom, you know that the thought of finding and lacing up your hiking shoes in the dark while trying to not wake the whole tent is daunting enough to have you consider holding it. And, anyone with little kids knows that asking a child to hold it isn’t an option (or at least not a wise one). Bring slip-on shoes for the whole family that are easy to pull on, closed-toe so your toe doesn’t meet a rock in the dark and can double as a hiking shoe. Merrell’s classic Jungle Moc collection fits these criteria while also being stylish with options for every member of your family.
When camping with kids, you never know how the night will go so bring along some pre-prepped meals and ingredients to save your sanity. Here are a few options to make camp cooking a cinch:
- Pre-scrambled eggs – Break your eggs into a large Ziploc bag, add your milk and salt/pepper, seal the bag and store it. When ready to cook, simply shake the bag to mix, pour into your camp pan and you’re good to go! Less mess and you won’t have to worry about keeping the eggs from breaking in the cooler.
- Pancakes – Mix together the ingredients for pancakes into a Ziploc bag and store it. When ready to cook, simply cut the corner off the bag and squeeze a little in the pan at a time.
- Freeze stew or soup – Make your stew/soup ahead of time and freeze in a large Ziploc bag. Throw it into the cooler before you leave and it doubles as an ice pack (this works for meat, like hotdogs too!) By the second night, it will be thawed enough to heat quickly in a pan and enjoy.
- Foil Packet Meals – These pre-prepped meals are super versatile, and all you have to do pull them out of the cooler and plop them on the grill. Check out this article for more information.
Kids Play Tent
This could be a pop-up tent you don’t mind getting dirty or an old tent you no longer use. Give your kids their own space to play with toys, relax or read in the shade while you set up camp and keep everyone happy.
Rag mat or Astroturf for Outside Your Tent
This provides the perfect spot to take off your shoes before entering your tent without tracking excess dirt and debris into the tent. Plus, you’ll always know where to find your shoes!
Even if you take every precaution possible, you will likely still end up with dirt and debris in your tent. Instead of attempting to shake out your tent or remove the dirt by hand, bring along a small dustpan and brush to make cleanup quick and easy. The brush also comes in handy for cleaning up a picnic table and getting caked in sand and dirt out of towels, blankets or clothes.
Whether you are camping near a water source or create your own water fun to cool off after a hike, water gear is sure to make your life easier. A quality pair of fast-drying water shoes with good grips, such as Merrell’s Choprock collection, along with fast-drying UPF clothing make water play both fun and safe. Add in some squirt guns or even some sponges for the kids to soak and toss at each other, and you are set for some fun, water-drenched camping memories!
Old/Inexpensive Digital Camera
Let the kiddos morph into junior nature photographers by supplying an old or low-priced digital camera. You could even send them on a photo scavenger hunt to find and take photos of natural items around your campground. (Check out this list of scavenger hunt ideas here.) This is a wonderful way to explore their surroundings while still Leaving no Trace.
The real question is what can’t you do with duct tape? From patching a tent to using it as a bandage, blister blocker or even rope/cord in a pinch, a roll of this been-there-done-that fixer should be in everyone’s camping gear.
Between the constant supply of dirt and the threat of a global pandemic, a makeshift hand washing station is definitely a good idea. All you need is a container with a spigot for water (such as an old laundry detergent container), a bucket to put underneath to catch the dirty water, and, of course, soap.
Nighttime Adventure Items
There’s nothing quite like sleeping under a sky full of stars, especially if you luck out with a spot in an area with low light pollution. Taking along a star chart to identify constellations along with glow sticks for the whole family can enhance the experience. You can also include a book of scary (or silly) camping stories to end the night with some family fun.
Do you have a piece of gear or something that you brought along that saved your camping trip or made for a more stress-free vacation? Share your favorite camping hacks in the comments!