One of our favourite things to do in the summer is to load up the car with the kids and a tent and head out of the city for some camping. It’s an annual tradition for our family, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything!
Getting back to nature with your family is a fantastic way to connect and make memories. But even though that part of camping is tons of fun, the logistics can get a little aggravating sometimes, especially when you’re wrangling kids along with everything else. Here are 25 practical camping tips that will help make your car camping experience a little less stressful and leave more time to have fun with your family.
1. Make a camping checklist
Start by sitting down and making a list of everything you need so you don’t forget anything when you head out.
2. Pack your cooler with frozen water bottles
You can freeze plastic water bottles and use them in the cooler instead of bags of ice or ice packs. They’ll keep your food just as cold and won’t melt as quickly as bagged ice. You’ll also avoid a puddle of water in your cooler, and once the bottles thaw you’ll have ice cold water to drink.
3. Prepare food and snacks at home
Do as much prep work as you can the night before you leave. Without a fully stocked kitchen at your campsite it can be a pain to cut, chop, peel, and prepare items.
4. Bring tarps
A tent just isn’t enough to protect you from a sudden rainstorm. Hang a tarp over the tent to shield your family from the rain and use a second tarp to cover your main cooking and eating area.
5. Bring solar lights
Solar-powered lights are a fantastic way to light up your campsite, eating area, or tent in the evening hours. You don’t have to worry about batteries or electricity, and you will be able to see when you need to.
6. Pack glow sticks
Glow sticks are another great (and fun!) way to ensure that everyone can see at night. Hang them from tent pegs, tree stumps, or anywhere else you may need a little lighting. We get our glow sticks at the dollar store, and they’re an easy way to mark trails and obstacles that might be hard to see at night as well as just a fun nighttime toy for the kids
7. Use fans
Camping in the summer heat can be downright exhausting. When it’s too hot in your tent, it can be difficult for everyone to get a good night’s sleep. One or two small tent fans mounted from the top of the tent can help.
8. Bring along a rake
Nobody wants to sleep on rocks! A telescoping travel rake will make it so much easier to smooth out and quickly get rid of pine cones, rocks, sticks, or any other uncomfortable debris at your camp site.
9. Pack a few rugs
Sand and dirt are always an issue when camping. You can cut down on the amount of dirt that ends up in your tent with a couple of budget outdoor rugs. Put one on the inside and one on the outside of the tent door so campers can wipe their feet before and after entering the tent. When you’re packing up, shake them out and roll them up for next time.
10. Pack a handheld broom and dustpan
Keep your tent and sleeping area clean with a small, handheld broom and dustpan.
11. Bring extra rope
Always pack a couple of lengths of extra rope in case you need to hang a tarp, hang food up, or put up a clothesline.
12. Pack clothes in sealable bags
Pack your clothing in resealable bags or zippered wet bags to ensure that it stays dry, even if the rest of your stuff gets wet, say in an unexpected rainfall. Wet clothes and gear are no joke!
13. Always pack extra socks
This may seem basic, but you always go through more socks than you think you’ll need. Camping can be dirty and wet, so make sure you’ve got extra socks to keep your feet warm and dry.
14. Don’t forget the bug spray
Camping and bugs go hand in hand. Bug spray isn’t just about avoiding the pain and itchiness of being bitten. Mosquitoes and deer ticks among others can transmit serious diseases through their bites, so you need to protect yourself and your family.
15. Bring sunscreen
Don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen (minimum 30 SPF), and don’t forget to apply it to all exposed skin generously and regularly throughout the day. Remember you’ll need to reapply more often if you’re playing in the water.
16. Remember over the counter medicines
Sure you’ve got your First Aid kit, but don’t forget to pack some over the counter medicines for things like headaches, upset stomachs, and bug bites so everyone can keep having fun.
17. Bring a screen canopy
These pop-up canopies offer a fantastic place for kids to play protected from the sun and the bugs. If you have a toddler, a screen canopy is an easy way to help keep them close and discourage them from wandering off.
18. Pack extra blankets
Whether it’s cold and everyone needs an extra blanket to stay warm, or it’s hot and you want to have a picnic outside, extra blankets always come in handy.
19. Pack fire starter sticks
If you’re planning to have a campfire, fire starter sticks are a useful shortcut to help you get your fire going quicker and with less effort.
20. Store firewood under your vehicle
Place your dry firewood under your vehicle so it will stay (mostly) dry if it rains.
21. Consider a portable fire bowl
For many of us, tinder dry forests and campfire bans mean campfires aren’t an option much of the summer. Most jurisdictions allow portable propane fire bowls though, so you can still enjoy a campfire and s’mores without the risk of wildfires. If you have the space for a fire bowl and a propane tank, these are so nice to have at night.
22. Plan games and activities ahead of time
Bring a couple board games, card games, colouring books, and other family and kid activities. That way, even if it rains you’ll have some family activities to keep everyone busy and entertained.
23. Bring a playpen
If you’re camping with a baby or toddler, a playpen is a must have. A playpen will do double-duty as a safe sleeping area and as a secure place for your little one to play during the day.
24. Pack an air mattress
The most convenient thing about car camping is all the room you have to bring things that may not be strictly necessary, but make the trip a lot more comfortable. Kids don’t seem to care, but as a parent, having an inflatable air mattress can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sore back all the next day. Some have an electric pump you can plug right into your car which will save you from manually pumping it up.
25. Bring a portable potty
If you have young children, especially if they’re still potty training, you may want to consider bringing along a portable potty. You’ll be grateful you did, especially when they wake you up in the middle of the night needing to pee.
Of course, the most important thing to remember is to have fun! Create memories, laugh, and enjoy every minute.
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