“And Into The Forest I Go, To Lose My Mind And Find My Soul” ~ John Muir
Camping with kids can sometimes feel like we are losing our minds! Although, I’m sure when John Muir originally wrote this he was not referencing parenthood, but rather a more sophisticated scene where one can tune out and find new perspective.
Either way the quote is fitting. Camping with kids in a tent, in a car, with a goat or on a boat, it’s all a crazy wild adventure and if we’re going to do it, it’s helpful to figure out the best method for our families before we head out. Here are a few pros and cons for both tent and car camping (I’ll leave Dr. Suess to explain the subtle perks of camping with a goat on a boat).
For this article let’s assume that car camping includes actually sleeping in the car as well as camping from it, while tent camping implies that all our necessary gear, food and bedding is hiked into the camping spot with no access to a vehicle.
The first thing that comes to mind is that car camping allows us to bring EVERYTHING! This one can easily be either a pro or con depending on the needs for your family. Having that extra space is great when trying to bring that favorite book, stuffed animal or enough diapers. Plus, there’s endless room for things like bikes, buckets and shovels and frisbees to keep the kids entertained.
Not to mention the adult perks like the big cooler (that’s right, the heavy one with all the ice, drinks and burgers), the two-burner stove, depending on your set-up and those sweet camping chairs to sit around the fire with.
The flip side of bringing so much is that, well, there is so much! It becomes hard to keep track of everything. It also creates a bit of chaos at the campsite (something all parents probably have plenty of already) and the purists among us might argue that it takes away from the actual experience of camping because it creates such luxury.
That brings us to the next thing on my list. Car camping can allow for a lot of things tent camping can’t, but if the goal is to camp overnight in a remote area, car camping is out. Cars can only go so far, but our legs can take us almost anywhere!
Carrying everything in a backpack makes for more succinct, compact packing. The space provided is self-limiting. There is only so much room and once it’s gone, that’s it. So, only the necessities make the cut. Depending on the situation, this may make things more or less difficult. It’s more difficult with smaller kids who may also have to be carried, but it’s less difficult with older kids who may enjoy the independence of packing, hiking and carrying their packs.
And finally, weather is a huge factor to consider when camping. If it’s a nice sunny day, then no worries, car camping, tent camping and even goat camping is a great option. But if the weather turns, so can the entire camping trip! Being prepared for any kind of weather is the best any of us can do, but car camping can ensure protection from bad weather — even during those unpredictable weeks between seasons.
Tent camping in bad weather is doable but comes down to preparation and gear. For instance, a four-person family tent with standing room may be just as leak-proof as some vehicles out there, but a lightweight 3-season tent with no head room may prove a bit more interesting in terms of staying warm and dry in that spring storm.
On that note, just like anything else, camping is not one-size-fits-all and every family is different. Choosing the best camping solution for your family depends on your camping goals, timeframe and, of course, those tiny people we bring along with us!
This is a basic list of pros and cons but there are many others that could be added. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons for your family!
- The ultimate guide to camping with kids
- What to look for in a kid-friendly camping site
- Helpful camping hacks for camping with kids
Photos by Arika Bauer.