Camping is one of those outdoor adventures that leaves lasting memories and provides stories for years to come. Camping with kids? That’s a whole different animal. While the memories and stories will still be there, the mere thought of bringing kids camping is enough to strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. What if they don’t sleep? What if they try to pet a wild animal? What if they get bored and whine us to death? While these are all legitimate concerns (especially that last one), with the right planning, you can make sure your overnight adventure under the stars goes smoothly, and we are here to help. Read on for advice on how to make camping with kids your new favorite outdoor adventure.
Picking Your Site
Before you even think about what to bring, you’ll want to think about where you are going. Camping with kids brings extra considerations that may not come into play when camping with only adults. You will want to find a site that is fairly close to a bathroom if your kiddos are potty training or a little shy to do their business in the woods. Also, if the campground has water features (such as a beach or a creek), you may want to choose a site that isn’t right on the water if you are worried your kiddos will run right in. Lastly, the volume can be an issue at some campgrounds, especially those that have sites close together. Seek out a campground with large sites or book two sites next to each other to help prevent the all-night party crowd from keeping your kids up at night.
Here are more tips on what to look for in a kid-friendly camping site. Also, this article gives tips on how to stay safe while camping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By far the biggest concern we hear regarding camping with kids is how to get them to sleep in unfamiliar territory. We hear questions like “what if they never fall asleep?”, “What if they get too cold?”, “What if I wake them up?, and “What if they wake up raring to go at 4 am?”. The list of worries may be long, but trust us, the family memories are worth it! Here are a few tips we have picked up along the way to help ease your worries:
- Warm comfy sleep is essential. Check the weather report and pack layers if needed. If it’s going to get really chilly you may want an extra blanket under and over your sleeping bags. For the youngest kiddos and babies, rigging up a warm and safe sleeping solution can be tough. A sleeping bag specifically made for little bodies is a great option to help them regulate their body temperature at night. Morrison Outdoors specializes in safe, comfortable sleeping bags for children as young as 6 months. For more information and reviews for these kid-approved sleeping bags, check out this article.
- Wear them out! This is generally pretty easy since there is so much to explore. Plan activities that will expend plenty of energy such as hiking, swimming, or riding bikes.
- If possible, be flexible with bedtimes. That doesn’t mean throw your routine out the window, buthttps://morrisonoutdoors.com/?aff=1 with little escape from the sunlight, it may be hard to get kiddos to sleep at their normal time. Letting them stay up an extra hour will feel like a treat for them and mean less struggle for you when it comes time to hit the sleeping bags.
- Decide how you want to configure your sleeping arrangements ahead of time, and practice at home if possible. You may find that a 4-person tent just isn’t big enough to accommodate a family of 4 when you factor in sleeping pads/mattresses, the use of a portable crib, and your gear.
Check out this article for more information on how to sleep in a tent with young kids.
What to Eat
Bring snacks! And more snacks! For dinner, there is nothing wrong with the tried and true “hotdog on a skewer” camping meal, but you may be wondering if other easy options exist (especially ones that include more than just the meat food category). From delicious skillet meals to foil packets, you can prepare at home, this article has tons of tips on easy camping meals for kids. For recipes broken down by meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert), start with these fun and kid-friendly camping recipes.
Every season brings new advantages (and challenges) to camping. For seasonal-specific tips, check out these articles for tips on cold-weather camping and how to layer for winter camping, and this article for planning a summer camping adventure.
For more specific information, check out the topics below:
Camping with Kids Gear Checklist
Here is a helpful, downloadable packing checklist for camping with kids:
Be sure to join the Hike it Baby Community Facebook Group. It’s a great place to ask questions, learn from others, and share your family camping and other outdoor adventures!
ABOUT HIKE IT BABY
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Jacobson, Deanna Curry, Elise Giordano
This post is sponsored by Morrison Outdoors, however, we would not recommend something that we and our children do not love. Our opinions are our own.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through one of those links you won’t pay more but Hike it Baby will get a small commission which helps us further our mission. Thanks!
This post was inspired by an article originally written in March of 2018.
Great article! My husband and I were just talking about planning a hiking trip last night! Sending him the article now ?
Such a helpful resource and checklist! Can’t wait to camp this coming spring and summer!
As a dad who has gone on several camping trips and Ex-Rei employee, I have a couple of tips. On Amazon you can get a toddler cot form Regalo for about $25 bucks. These things are pretty amazing. They pack small, help keep my kid in her sleep space and not sprawled about. They also create a space underneath to store her things. As for the sleeping bag, some kids bags come with a drawstring and toggle to sort of tie off half the bag. That way you can get a larger kids bag that your child can grow into but can section off so when they’re little they can still keep warm.
We also have a Regalo and LOVE it! My son, who is now 5, was never much of a co-sleeper and in hotels, he’d insist on sleeping by himself on the floor. So the Regalo saved me a lot of mom-anxiety.
My family, along with 3 others, took our kids on their very first camping trip. There were 5 21-month old toddlers! My daughter was cozy in her pack and play, tucked into her sleep sack and sleeping bag. I am planning on getting the Regalo cot for when she’s no longer in the pack and play. It will also be useful for sleepovers at the grandparents’ house.