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Your Best Camping Tips (and the winner is…)

Lets get right to it. The winner (chosen by random.org) of the $50 REI gift certificate is LAUREN!! Congratulations!

Her best camping tip:

I have to agree with those who mentioned “the bin” system. I live by it. It makes camping life so much easier. But, a tip of my own… frisbees make great plates and obviously provide other fun functionality as well, and always have duct tape on you… whether car camping or backpacking. It’s easy to have a bit of it wrapped around your water bottle or stashed and it almost always comes in handy. I mean, what can’t you fix with duct tape? :)

Now for a roundup of YOUR BEST CAMPING TIPS:

Note: Some comments were combined and most have been shortened, for details on these ideas read through the comments on this post.

1. Create “The Bin”, The Bin (a rain proof tote) has everything you need for your camping trip with mini-bins inside separating your camp area essentials (make two: one for backpacking, car camping, etc.).

2. Go often. The more often you go, the easier it is to actually get out the door because you have to establish some sort of a routine to actually get out the door!

3. Glowsticks and headlamps for kids. Makes them easier to spot in the dark, plus makes the dark that much more fun.

4. Simplifying your meals and prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

5. When camping with kids, go with another family. Everything seems a little more manageable when there are more hands on deck.

6. We have a list that we print out before every camp trip so we don’t forget anything. We have a specific list for camping near water, in the mountains, or backpacking.

7. Don’t worry too much about kids getting dirty. Let them explore and have grand adventures. Clean them up at the end of the day.

8. Don’t focus so much on finding the “perfect” place camp. Our little guy could care less…he is just so happy to be there and taking in everything around him!

9. Never underestimate the power of a “bribe”. For real.

10. Frisbees make great plates and obviously provide other fun functionality.

11. Always check the drainage of the spot you plan to set up the tent. Make sure it isn’t a low spot or where water would flow through if it rained. No food in the tent either! :-)

12. Don’t plan too much! One of the best parts about camping with kids is remembering how it made you feel when you were a kid (and didn’t have as much stuff available to do). You’ll be amazed at what you all come up with when you don’t have all the “STUFF” to get in the way.

13. The Mountain House raspberry crumble dessert makes a fantastic breakfast treat (bribe for staying in the tent a bit longer!) when mixed with healthy hot cereal.

14. Be flexible with everything. Distances, trails, times, everything. Then you won’t be disappointed.

15. Bring little plastic bug catchers and magnifying glasses. These simple tools have provided my kids with hours of entertainment.

16. When holding your daughter to pee in the wilderness make sure you’re aiming towards a down hill slope…and keep your feet spread wide enough away to reduce splash effect.

17. Pack a deck of cards and know a few old-school card games, and enjoy campfire stories or other things you don’t normally do at home

18. Just get out there. There is never going to be a perfect weekend, with no chance of rain, nothing on the calendar, and everyone in perfect health.

19. Start the kids young, go often, and make outdoor adventure a regular part of your life.

20. Go close to home so you can be home early on sunday to put everything away and enjoy the last beer from the cooler while the kids run around the yard..

21. For little boys, a toy dump truck is essential. We also like checking out audio books from the library and downloading them onto an MP3 player for the drive.

22. We make our big pancake breakfast on the day we were leaving! Spend the whole morning cooking and eating a wonderful meal and then toss the dirty pots in a container and wash at home.

23. If you go camping and want to bake a cake over the fire, a dutch over works great!

24. Bring lots of garbage bags for all the wet and dirty things. And extra towels just in case (spontaneous river jumps, carsick babies, etc)

25. Turn the phone off. Also, if you’re trying to bury a body, October is the best month to do so.

26. Cheap yet priceless mess saving camping gear…Coghlan’s Squeeze Tubes: Mix your pb and j in a bowl at home, put it in the tube before you leave, never deal with a nasty knife or jar again.

27. Keep some sort of barf bag in the tent for emergencies. Yes, I am speaking from experience… a really gross and cold experience.

28. A bar of dark chocolate can serve many little pick-me-ups when the little ones get down.

29. Always bring a camera. You will always have those special memories from a photo to look back on.

30. Lower your expectations. A day playing in the dirt for a 2 year old can surpass a hike to a lake anytime.

31. Let kids help. Small children can gather sticks for a campfire, older kids can pack their own gear and help plan food. Having a job helps build self-confidence, responsibility and independence.

32. Duct tape can be used to repair most everything on a trip. Wrap some around your water bottles. I mean, what can’t you fix with duct tape?

33. Bring the grandparents along for extra help with the kids.

34. Try not to plan too much. Some of the most fun trips I’ve been on are when nothing is really planned and i’ve done some exploring on my own.

35. If you have little ones – become a babywearer. If your young ones learn to love the carrier – they’ll feel at home no matter where you are. And it frees up your hands.

36. The best thing to take camping is a plan. A plan if things go well, a plan if they don’t. You can’t do much if it suddenly starts pouring rain, but if you plan for it, you’ll be ok.

37. Make sure you bring PLENTY of GOOD food. Nothing worse than hungry campers (especially with kids!)

38. Stop and smell the roses! Or watch the bugs! My kids are 11, 14, 17 and 46… your never too old.

39. Take care of the environment to keep it beautiful for future campers!

40. What helped our 3 year old on her first hike-in overnight camping trip was to totally talk it up before-hand and make it seem like such a “big” girl thing that she could do this all on her own. And we gave her own little backpack, which she loved.

41. Bug spray and mole skin. Two of the best inventions EVER.

42. Bring along a simple laminated field guide so kids can have an outdoor “scavenger hunt.” For toddlers use laminated 4X6 cards with pictures of common animals, plants, etc.

43. Charge the iPad and download movies that you can watch while you are wrestling the kids to bed at midnight and you are dead tired!

44. Double sleeping bag to keep you and toddler warm.

45. Camp near a water source – it enhances the entire experience (particularly with children present).

46. Getting a tarp for car camping. Just in case it rains.

47. A good cast iron pan is essential. You can make anything awesome in one over the fire.

48. Treasure hunts! Name a special rock or tree, bury a little bit of treasure…so much excitement!!

49. Start small. We started last year by just participating in the Great American Backyard Campout. My tot got hooked and we’ve been camping a dozen times since.

50. Have a ready-to-go camp kitchen stocked with quick non-perishable food for dinner and breakfast (e.g. spaghetti and pancakes). That way, you can just grab your dedicated gear and go.

51. Manage your expectations. We used to go camping and run around the whole time: climbing routes, mountain biking, bouldering, summitting mountains… With kids, the ONLY expectation is to be camping. We don’t even expect to sleep….

52. Carry Wagbags. It saves your campsite from getting smelly, animals from seeking you out, and your dogs from digging up gross things later! The PETT toilet is pretty awesome too.

53. Practice, practice, practice. Go hiking, camping and biking a lot so that the out of doors becomes second nature. Start with small trips but make them regular and consistent.

54. Although we have yet to take our 4 month old camping, The first time we do I am going to remember to bring a sense of humor!

55. When camping with kids bring your patience, bring a sense of humor, leave expectations at home and most importantly have fun!

56. Prepare as much of the food as you can ahead of time and store in organized and labeled containers so that meal prep at the campsite is as simple as possible!

57. If your an amateur camper, tag along with someone else who knows where they’re going & what they’re doing.

9 Comments so far

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  1. Congratulations Lauren!

  2. Thanks for compiling this list and all the great suggestions people shared!

  3. Kim

    Yeah for Lauren!!!! What a fun giveaway. Now to put all that great advice to good use and get outside camping and playing and enjoying the world. No need to become better indoorsmen.

  4. Great ideas, everyone!

  5. Lauren

    Yahoooooo! Thank you so very much!! So excited! Also, thanks to everyone for all of the excellent tips. Can’t wait to put them to use in our first summer with the girls (7 months old in just a few days!!).

    • Lauren – You are very welcome!! I’m sure the gift card will come in handy being that you need to outfit TWO 7 month olds for the approaching camping season ;). You should get an email from REI with a gift code in the next 24 hours!

  6. Amber

    Fun suggestions! But where did the “if you want to bury a body” one come from?

  7. I really enjoyed going through your website. I think what you are doing is wonderful. Getting kids outside is an important issue across much of the world. If you would like to read an article I wrote about the Healing Benefits of Nature on Children here it is http://kelleyward.hubpages.com/_3u47dtkr7xqut/hub/The-Healing-Effects-Of-Nature

    • Hi Kelley – Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for posting that link. Great article!! I agree 100%, and I think we as adults reap the same benefits!

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