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How to take your family camping

Tips for beginners that ensure that everyone is a happy, healthy and safe motorhome.

Even during normal times, camping, hiking and generally enjoying nature is one of the best things you can do with your family. But during the coronavirus pandemic, when so many leisure options are off the table, camping has become even more inviting. It's a way to bond, build new memories and show your children a world beyond their screens and routines. Being in nature is (usually) fun and fun has been hard to find by 2020.

Do you not want some space after all this time with your family? As it turns out, a camping trip can be a great way to be together as a family – while letting everyone do their own thing. Maybe you all go in the morning, then the children go and climb trees after lunch while the parents fish, walk or just do nothing.

This fall, there will be many families hiking or camping for the first time. . If that includes you, take a look at our family camping tips below, including what to buy, where to go and what to ignore.

In this article:

Where are you going?

As with hotels, there are many different types of campgrounds, ranging from luxurious – resort-like sites with swimming pools, beaches, restaurants and the like – to rustic sites that offer little more than a beautiful place to pitch tents. There are private campsites all over the country, as well as options in many state and national parks.

Once you have decided which part of the country you plan to visit, consider what you want from your experience and who is coming. If your older child is being dragged along while their younger siblings can not wait to watch the birds, you may want to choose a place with some structured activities for the former and plenty of trees for the latter. If you want peace and privacy, you can skip the most famous national parks and look at campsites run by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which are generally less busy (and often located by lakes). Be honest with yourself about how much you want to rough it. If nice bathrooms are important to you, choose a campsite that has them.

Wherever you hope to stay, it is best to make a reservation. (You are not the only person who has suddenly developed an interest in seeing Yellowstone this year.) And check out the camping policy. For example, if you are going to bring the family dog, make sure it is allowed.

When you get there, try to pitch your tent in the shade – a warm tent is not fun during the day – and on high ground: If you camp at the bottom of a hill and it rains, your tent may look like a splash pond .

What should you bring?

A tent

Depending on where you camp, you may be able to rent a tent instead of buying one. Either way, these are the things you should keep in mind when choosing your new home-home-home.

Size: Your tent should be large enough for all the people who will sleep in it, plus the bags you want to keep inside. In addition, there should be room for people to climb over each other (midnight baths, early risers) without causing too much complaint. Also remember that nothing and no one should touch the sides of the tent: there is a chance that the tent will leak if you do. If you are unsure, go bigger, not smaller.

Weight: If you plan to camp in a different wilderness every night, you want your tent to be as light as possible (because you carry it). This will increase the cost. But if you are going to a campsite with your children, weight is not a factor – just throw the tent in the trunk and do not think about it.

Design and functions: Tents are a bit like coats: Know what weather you use it in and buy accordingly. If you stumble in the fall, a two-season tent should suffice. If you hike the Canadian cliffs in December, you want a tent for four seasons. Get one with vents that allow airflow on hot days and flaps that can be fully rolled up so you can enjoy the outdoors from inside your tent when the kids need a nap.

Look for a tent with inner pockets (because things go wrong when the floor is covered by people) and ceiling loops that make it easy to hang lamps.

Finally get something that is easy to put together (color coded poles are worth looking for). Your family will be impressed if you can build a fire from scratch, but no one will appreciate it when setting up a tricky tent. Make it easy for yourself.

Try before you buy: The easiest way to make sure you buy the tent you want is to go and try it. If you have a nearby camping shop, see some tents on your own and make sure it can be set up by someone who is not an engineer. If your only option is to buy online, read the reviews: Tent reviews tend to be less polemical than reviews of books or music, so this is a part of online life where the comments are quite useful

A tarp

You You need a little ground cover under your tent: It helps prevent moisture from seeping into it from below and protects the tent's outer base from rough ground, tree roots, rocks and other things that can wear it out. Make sure that the tarpaulin does not extend beyond the edge of your tent, otherwise moisture that runs down the outside of the tent may get there. You can buy a specially designed "footprint" for some tents – basically a tarpaulin that is exactly the size you need – but if you know how to fold a sheet, you can fold a standard present to the dimensions you need.

Something to sleep on (and in)

You and your family will be most comfortable if there is something between you and the bottom of your tent. This can be an air mattress if you have some at home, or if you can buy or rent sleeping mats made for camping. Some inflate and all protect you from the cold of the ground overnight. To stay warm, you can get away with sheets and blankets from home if you are camping in mild weather. otherwise you want a sleeping bag. As with tent choices, choose your sleeping bags based on the temperatures you are likely to encounter.

Also bring …

  • Trash
  • Something to read (you are on holiday)
  • Flashlights (several) and batteries
  • Bug spray
  • Snacks
  • Extra shoes (if a pair get wet) and lots of warm socks
  • A portable clothesline (for wet shoes, towels and everything else)
  • Cooking utensils, plates, cutlery and everything else you need to make dinner under the stars – everything from " just two sticks to rub together "into a camp oven, depending on how you approach things
  • A cooler

What happens if things are sold out?

If you tried to buy a bicycle or an inflatable pool during the summer, you have noticed that things are sold out in new ways thanks to coronavirus. If you encounter this problem when shopping for your camping trip, try to think creatively. If your local store has run out of tents and you can not find one you like online, see if you can rent one at the campsite you have booked.

If you have trouble finding other items, keep in mind that some outdoor camping equipment is just a repackaged version of something you can find in a regular store. Do you need extra hanging loops for the inside of your tent? It's just a band; they have them in your local hardware store. Has your camping shop sold out of tarps to go under your tent? It is a large piece of sturdy waterproof material; Once again, the hardware store can help. Is there a shortage of hiking socks? Ask your children to wear two regular pairs. Part of an outdoor family camping trip is about adapting to the conditions. You can begin that process before going out the front door by packing the right camping gear.

How about the essentials?

When planning a camping trip, so much thought goes into the logistics as the tent that it is easy to forget that you also have to deal with familiar activities that will be unknown by being outdoors. Such as …


If you live in a campsite, check out what the food options are – ready-made food? a well-stocked store nearby? – then shop afterwards before you go on the road. One of the great joys of camping is cooking under the stars, so make sure you have everything you need, from fuel to ingredients. Take the time to think through everything you need, from any kind of fireplace to kitchen utensils to suitable plates and cups. Also find out what the rules for cooking are where you live.

Make it easy for your kids to use your cooking outdoors – it's a big part of the fun. If your children are older, they may be able to grill meat. If they are younger, they can really roast some marshmallows, as long as you have brought extra long skewers.

Be sure to bring plenty of food that does not require cooking – granola bars, raw veggie sticks, peanut butter and bread, lots of fruit. Your family will be active, which means they will be hungrier than usual, and no one wants their six-year-old to go from hungry to hungry in the middle of the forest. Also remember that food that can be eaten from the package will be needed if cooking under the stars turns into not cooking under the rain.


Even a very basic campsite is likely to have a bathroom, but do not assume it will be well equipped. Bring plenty of toilet paper, towels, disinfectant and hand soap. A pair of cheap flip-flops for each family member means that no one needs to think about how clean the showers are.


Your children will run around outdoors – things happen. If someone breaks the leg, you have a professional deal with it. (Make sure you know where the nearest hospital is, anyway.) But you should be prepared to deal with basic bumps, scratches and bites. Bring a standard first aid kit, plus antiseptic gel, tan lotion, hydrocortisone cream for bites, antihistamines for allergies or sticks (suitable strength for your children's ages) and bandages

What advice can you ignore?

Do a test drive

There are people who say that you should first try camping in your garden with your children to see how they react to it. This is about as sensible as telling your child the whole plot of the movie you are taking them to see. When you go camping, the idea is that you get an experience that is different from what you have at home; to experience surprises. Do not deprive yourself of that opportunity. If your kids do not show that they love camping, let them find out while they really do.

As I said: if you have not set up a tent before or what you bought is an unknown design, it is worth putting it together once before you go. If you arrive at your campsite in the dark after a long drive, it is not the best time to decipher new instructions or to realize that you are missing a pole.

Bring familiar entertainment options

You may be advised to bring plenty of home comforts for your children when you go camping so that they do not get bored. Do not do it. The point of camping is not to create a sofa-free version of your living room – it is to do something different and to spend time with nature. Try to leave space for your children to entertain themselves in a new environment without all their familiar tools, especially those that need electricity or batteries. Depending on your children's age and kindness, it may not be possible to leave their screens at home, but the closer you get, the closer they get to nature

As I said, we do not advise you to throw your children out into the wilderness with nothing but a compass. Bring things for them to do that are related to where you are going. If you go somewhere near water (stream, sea, lake) a bucket and something to dig will provide countless hours of fun for younger children. Older people may be interested in a book on local flora and fauna, balls to throw around or extra flashlights to enable exploration at night.

A few words about hiking

Camping and hiking have a lot in common – and if you do the former, you will probably do a bit of the latter. But even if you plan to return to your own bed at night, here are some tips that apply specifically to hiking.

How to dress

Above all, comfortable. If you are camping with little ones, make sure they have plenty of clothing to keep them warm when hanging by the fire. Shoes that do not cause blisters. Loosely fitting, breathable clothing. These are the sartoral bedding from a pleasant walk. "Hiking" means different things to different people, and depending on how ambitious you and your breeding will be, you may not need to buy anything new. If you are going to walk in the woods, old sneakers and jeans should be sufficient. If you walk on serious trails, you may want hiking boots, but beware: they often have to be broken into. If you and your family are trying a new level of outdoor hiking with brand new hiking shoes, there may be more tears of frustration and pain than tears of joy on your outdoor adventure.

How to prepare

First explain to your children that you are going for a walk – no one is wearing. Plan now with the right hiking and camping equipment. When you start hiking as a family, it is best to underestimate how far your children can go and overestimate how long it will take. Your kids may have less stamina than you expect – and it may also be true for you after months of closed gyms and working out from home. Also remember that in an ideal world, they will find interesting things along the way that will make your walk take longer than expected. If your child is enchanted by a caterpillar moving from leaf to leaf or an ant column carrying on its business – yes, that's what you came for. Sit back and enjoy your family adventure outdoors. Make sure you have given yourself enough time to really enjoy the great outdoors without having to race the sun back to camp.

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