I have a lot of issues with the English language – we need more words to describe camping.
When my son was young, we went camping cross country in a RV, camped in our back yard under the stars, slept in the bed of our truck many times, and did the classic tent camping thing too. People refer to all the above as camping! I know you’re thinking that my favorite was going camping cross country in an RV but it’s not. I do not have a favorite way to camp.
Wonderful memories were made on every camping trip we took!
Imagine fishing in a local stream with your kids after hiking in to camp on a flat spot by the water or driving down to the ocean and curling up on the bed of your truck while listening to the music of the ocean?
How about spending time with your littles crouched over some river rocks looking for salamanders, going back to the campsite, building a fire together and ending the night watching for a shooting star while snacking on a delicious S’more!
Just like life, camping is not all butterflies and rainbows. Before the rainbow is the rain. Oh ya, rain. Rain, or cold temps, wind, and even sleet or snow might interrupt your camping vacation.
Bring your sense of humor – you’ll need it on “weather” days!
You can decide what type of camping suits you and your family best but the supplies you need to bring for all types of camping are similar.
Fyi, most private campgrounds usually have showers, bathrooms (with FLUSH toilets), a camp store (for the batteries you forgot), activities, picnic tables on the sites, spots to park your car or RV and pitch your tent.
If you decide to camp in the backcountry in a lean-to built for that use, be sure to reserve the spot because most require a small payment and advance reservations. You’ll have to pack in all your gear by foot. If you decide on back country camping, you definitely need to pare down this list! Your food list will certainly include lots of granola or protein bars, nuts, dried fruit and water. When I go on horseback pack trips I stuff as many of those things in my pack as will fit. For some reason, when I get in the woods, my appetite becomes insatiable.
Plan ahead and make lists! You really don’t want to vacation on a remote campsite only to realize that you forgot bug spray and toilet paper.
OK, let’s start planning
You have to bring pretty much the same gear whether you are camping for one night or a week. The big difference would be the number of consumables like food, diapers, paper plates, etc. that you pack.
There are a few topics I’d like to discuss – some of downsides of them are unfortunately, from experience.
Tents – Most campers underestimate how much room you’ll need if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and struts her stuff with rain, sleet, wind, cold, or snow. You might have to eat, sleep, play, and live in the tent for an extended period of time. Pick a tent with that in mind. Make sure you purchase a waterproof tent and bring a few tarps just in case. Being soggy for days is not my cup of tea.
Beds and bedding – I don’t know about you, but I hate blow up mattresses. For me, they have always meant waking up on the ground. They are heavy to carry too. I’m a camping cot and yogo mat kinda gal. My cot has never failed to keep me dry even if the tent has an inch of water in it!
Safety supplies – The weight I saved by not bringing a blow up mattress, I use in stuff to keep me safe and comfy. How long has it been since you’ve used an ax? What are the chances you’re going to nick a finger? Do you have a great sense of direction? Several times those late night pee calls have had me going in circles trying to find my way back to camp.
What’s your idea of fun – Leave the board games home and instead, pack cards (and card game instructions), Bannagrams, a great book, travel size games, Mad-Libs, and pencil and paper for Hangman.
Consumables and Food – Camping is not the time to try out new foods or recipes. Stick to things you love and get adventurous if you go shopping. Buy that homemade blueberry jam for your morning toast.
I always over pack the paper goods. There’s nothing like running out of paper plates when you’re a half hour to the nearest store.
If you’re looking to save big bucks, head on over to the $1 store. Stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes and just about any other consumable you can think of!
Pick a place – If camping is new to you, make sure that you are realistic about what you’re willing to give up. My “must” is a flush toilet. My husband jokes that it cost him $20,000 to take me camping the first time. Aside from the dollar amount being a gross exaggeration, I was clear that I would go anywhere as long as a flush toilet was a walk away. Make a list of your “musts” and stick to it. You won’t be sorry!
Traveling with young’uns – Rent a U-Haul… only kidding! You will have to bring lots of extra this and thats but it’ll be worth it! When the kids were little, the sun, bugs, and allergens like poison oak and ivy were my main concerns. Assume that they might get a sunburn/bite/rash and bring what you would use at home. Prepare to get some hesitation from the very littles about using a composting toilet, bucket, or outhouse. They will get over it but it’s a new experience for them too! They make toilet tents for privacy and they are pretty cheap.
Drum Roll Please – Camp Checklist
It’s a great idea to read through this list before you begin packing. Items I have listed might nudge you to think about things that might take some planning. For instance, you might agree with me that blow up mattresses are not all they are cracked up to be. If you decide on a cot, you’ll probably want to ask around for recommendations and do some research far in advance of your blast off date. If you order early, you won’t be sweating a two-day Amazon Prime delivery!
I don’t expect that you’ll bring every item on this long list but if you’re like me, you probably will plus some!
Food and Cooking • Pack more than you thought you’d need • Pack lost of healthy and not-so-healthy snacks • Lots of water
Camping Gear • Tent, poles, stakes, extra rope, lots of duct tape just in case • Tarps – one for the tent, one for under the tent, and one for an outside covered area and one just in case • Sleeping bags, quilts, blankets • Yoga or sleeping pad • Pillows • Lanterns, flashlights, headlamps • Good quality batteries for above and lantern fuel, matches • Chairs • Radio or Bluetooth speaker • Clothing • Clothes for day use – pack extra in case of rain • Bathing suits • Shoes – water, hiking, boots for rainy days • Hats for sunny days, cold nights, and rainy days • Rain gear • Gloves for cold nights and work • Warm wool or fleece for cold nights
Kitchen Supplies – Find out in advance if the campground you have chosen has potable water. If they don’t, you have two choices, bring your own or prepare to treat the water. • Paper goods including; plates, cups, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper • Dish soap • Sponge, dish towel, dish pan for washing • Cooler, ice • Water bottles • Plates, cups, bowls, glasses, forks, knives, spoons • Carving knife, spatula, wooden spoon • Cutting board • Foil, food storage containers and bags, elastics • Trash bags • Tablecloth • Coffee maker • Stove • Frying pan and pot • Crock pot • Grill rack • Griddle • Corkscrew, bottle opener, can opener
Safety, Personal and Medical Supplies • Confirmation of campsite reservation • Credit card and cash • Picture ID • Deodorant • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss • Prescription medicine • Body lotion • Body soap, shampoo, conditioner • Sunscreen, aloe, calamine lotion, arnica, after bite or vinegar, chap stick • Baby wipes • Alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, aspirin, Tylenol, advil, bug spray, citronella candles • Hand sanitizer • Menstrual supplies
Miscellaneous Stuff That Will Make Camping Great • Maps, brochures, • An extra, fully charged phone battery • Bikes, water toys • Field glasses • Marshmallows • Camera or a great cell phone • Radio with new batteries • Your kid’s favorite snuggy • Hammock • Rope for a clothesline • Small broom • Pocket knife with lots of tools on it • Hammer or mallet • Saw or ax • Star chart • Dry bag
I already listed it but once again, duct tape (can be used for blow up mattress repair, tent pole repair, keeping the tablecloth on the table, hemming your skirt – only kidding)
Phew! I’m tired just reading that list!
Yes, I know it’s a lot of preparation and I also know that you will probably have a fight with your significant other/partner/friend because they think you packed too much. Remember, that’s why you get along so great… you prepare for Armageddon and they come along for the ride!
Photo by cecily_ward_photography on Reshot