Tips for Camping with Little Ones

by Josée
My parents brought us camping often and my siblings and I have many fond memories of our camping adventures together. So, it has become one of my missions to pass these cherished times on to my children. My husband also did some camping but his family had an recreational vehicle. This, my friends, is not camping in the truest sense. I believe that camping must be done in a temporary and uncomfortable space: a tent. I will admit, however, that my hostility toward these gas guzzling road snails has diminished (a little) after our recent weekend camping trip.
Camping with little ones is an adventure, not a holiday, but I think that it’s worth while thing to do. The time spent together as a family exploring, learning and working together can be intense but it is a special time. I want to share a few tips I learned on our recent weekend camping trip. I’m sure there is still much to learned, and if you can think of other tips to share please post yours in the comment section below.
Tip #1 – Consider how you will clean. Bring a plastic wash tub. It is very useful for washing dishes, faces, hair and bums (not all at once!).
One of the things I failed to check was whether our campsite had showers. There were no showers. Now this isn’t the end of the world just as long as you bring a plastic wash tub. I didn’t bring a wash tub. We emptied a small storage tub and used that instead. It is also helpful to bring biodegradable soap, dish cloths, face cloths, dish towels and bath towels.
Tip #2 – Consider how you will cook and check all your cooking gear before you leave on your camping adventure.
Coleman Speckled Enamelware Dining Kit
The next thing to consider is how you will cook your food. We borrowed my parents’ well used Coleman stove. Luckily it came with a propane tank and all the appropriate attachments. Although, we did have a moment of panic when we couldn’t find the attachment the first night.
Here are some basic cooking items to consider bringing: coleman stove, propane, matches, stainless steel pot with lid, stainless steel frying pan, small cutting board, knives (serrated and non-serrated), wooden spoon, ladle, flipper, forks, spoons, knives, plates, bowls (or plate-bowls), mugs and stainless steel water bottles. Also consider bringing a chair or Bumbo to sit you littlest one in to eat (another thing we forgot).
Tip #3 – Consider the toilet. Bring a potty!
When picking a camping spot it’s nice to be close to the toilets but not so close that you can smell them. A respectable distance is what you want. However, running your three year old down the path every time “pee or poo is coming” can be somewhat stressful. Bring a small plastic potty to make toddler elimination stress free. We used the potty for pit stops on our way to and from our camp ground and once there we showed Monkey where the potty was and he had no accident the whole weekend. It’s a little gross to clean out but better in the potty then in the pants.
Tip #4 – Consider bringing clothes for all seasons and lots of it!
Unless you’re going for a long camping trip and plan to hand wash or launder your clothes, bring a lot of clothes for the little ones. Pack some toques for nightime and suncaps for the day, rain gear and swim gear. Don’t bother organizing it too much just toss it into a big bag or laundry bin.
Tip #5 – Consider packing a good first aid kit and medicine kit.
My family pokes fun at me when I remind them to bring ibuprophen, acetaminphone, throat lozenges and dimenhydrinate (gravol) when they go camping, but you never know when you might need them. On our three day trip my Husband hurt his back and got a sore throat, Monkey got blisters on his toes, Sweetpea started cutting teeth and I was having sinus issues. Some campgrounds lock down at 11pm and don’t open again until 7am. If there is an emergency at night they’ll let you through but I’m not sure a sore throat or sore gums would be considered emergent.
Tip #6 – Consider how you will make a fire – bring an axe, wood, newspaper and matches or lighter!
We forgot our axe and our wood. Luckily for us the campground manager made a mistake with our reservation and gave us free wood to make up for it. Yes, in many camp grounds you have to buy wood if you don’t bring your own. Wood at our camp ground was $8 a bundle, enough for a few hours of fire. Also, an axe and some newspaper make starting a fire much easier so don’t forget them.
Tip #7 – Plan your meals and don’t forget the marshmallows.
The menu doesn’t need to be complicated but it is so much easier to plan ahead.  Making multiple trips to a grocery store from the camp ground can be time consuming and much more expensive than back home. This is especially true if you are camping in touristy areas like Banff or Jasper.
Some foods items to bring are fruits, veggies, eggs, butter, milk, cheese, meats, crackers, cookies, bread, salt, pepper, sugar and marshmallows of course! Pack any perishable foods in a cooler with ice.
Tip #8 – Consider the sleeping arrangements.
For our camping trip we borrowed a tent from my parents. The tent is huge and sleeps 6-8 people. I call it the fun house because you could have a party in there. It is so big we could easily fit all our clothes, sleeping bags, mattresses and Sweetpea’s Peapod inside with room to spare for another two adults. Having a large tent is great for space but it isn’t as cozy during the night. With all the space we had we only used about 1/3 of it when we huddled together at night to keep warm.
Happy camping! I hope to share more tips over the summer.

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knitting by Steph May 30, 2011 - 6:51 pm

I'm a single mom of 4 little ones. I've never taken the kids camping, but we have camped several times in our backyard, like we are this weekend. We always have so much fun, even though I get little sleep! Someday we'll go somewhere to camp, but the backyard is alot of fun too. 🙂

Josée May 30, 2011 - 7:02 pm

Camping in your backyard is a great idea, and a good way to get used to sleeping in a tent with you little ones. Thanks for sharing this idea Steph! I agree though, there is not much sleep to be had. I think I slept only a few hours the first night, but the second night was much better.

Jane June 1, 2011 - 12:51 pm

We went camping with Spencer last summer in the Okanagan – we quickly had to find ways in which to keep cool! When the breeze is warm at night and it only gets down to 25 or so, spray bottles can work wonders :). And just a diaper for the little one.

Olivia Rose December 17, 2015 - 1:16 am

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