No doubt about it, camping is challenging. Packing and unpacking is brutal. Sleeping in a tent is uncomfortable. Bathroom cleanliness is questionable. Mosquitoes and flies are after us. Still, we challenge ourselves and go, because being close to nature is healing. And because memories created during camping trips are priceless.
Published: February 2, 2018
By: Yvonne Jasinski
Author Website: Click to Visit
Like with any trip, the key is the right preparation. Over the years, I developed helpful strategies for a successful camping trip.
Invest in your camping equipment
Proper equipment is crucial when it comes to camping. Most important is a tent. A leaking tent can ruin your trip. I highly recommend the Eureka brand. It is not overly expensive but delivers high quality. I currently own four Eureka tents, from a light tiny tent for backpacking to a five-person “lodge” for longer trips. None of them ever failed. In general, when buying a tent, make sure that it has a fly going down to the ground. It will provide extra protection against the rain and also it will provide heat and cold isolation.
Choose your location wisely and make your reservation early
Make sure to make your camping reservation well in advance, especially on long weekends. Some popular campgrounds are sold out almost a year in advance. Waterfront sites usually disappear on the first day they are available for booking.
I suggest state parks over private campgrounds because a majority of them are located in unique areas. They deliver natural playgrounds with boulders to climb, river or lakes to swim, waterfalls, hiking trails, and fishing. They offer nature program for kids, canoe, and boat rentals, and large fields to play sports.
Before making reservations, especially for longer trips, make sure that there is at least a limited grocery store nearby. Buying as you need will make your packing easier and make keeping food fresh less challenging. It is also a good idea to stay within a half hour drive from some kind of town where you can take a little break from camping to go for a fresh pizza, ice cream, or even to see a movie on a rainy day.
Go over your packing list way before you actually start packing
There are so many items you need to take on a camping trip, it is easy to forget a few. I suggest following one of the camping packing lists widely available online and modify it to your family’s needs.
You need to go over each item to make sure that you have them all at home. Most likely you’ll need batteries, fuel, flashlights, paper products, garbage and Ziploc bags. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a large number of Ziploc bags or Ziploc boxes in a variety of sizes. They will keep your food relatively dry and separated in the cooler. If you go for a hike, they will keep your sandwiches and other foods organized. They will also keep your cameras dry if you get caught in the rain.
In the same category, make sure that you have a variety of garbage bags, including huge ones. They are perfect to keep your wood dry, to protect your belongings from elements on the boat, and often to pack a wet tent for the way home. It is also essential to bring a canopy that could be placed on a picnic table. It will give you shade from the sun and, in case of rain, a shelter to play a game of cards or eat your meal.
Let go of the rules you have at home
Let your children get dirty. You did not bring them to the spa. You brought them to the woods. They will not get any diseases from not taking a bath for a day or two, especially if they go swimming during the day. Let them be. Let them run wild. Let them remember this feeling of freedom far from electronics, TVs, and organized sports. If at night they are exhausted, it means they had a day full of adventures and go to bed happy. Let them stay up late if they want to sit by the fire longer. They’ll remember those special moments of closeness with family and friends.
Keep your cooking simple
Bring food that is securely packed so the water in your cooler will not penetrate it. Nothing is less appealing than a floating hamburger! Bring potatoes, cereal, bread, granola bars. They do not need to be refrigerated. Important to remember: keep those items in a car, otherwise you might not see them again. They are an invitation to a feast for animals.
Hobo meals are a perfect solution for hot meals during camping. Get tinfoil and cut or tear it into decently sized square sheets. Throw everything you think will taste good together into one square. For example, onions, sausage, potatoes, peppers, carrots and your favorite seasoning. Put another square on the top and fold up the ends to keep everything inside. Cook on the grill for 15-20 minutes. When done, eat straight from the foil. No plates required.
Know when it is time to quit
If it rains a few days in a row and everyone is miserable, pack and go home. Good thing you did not spend a fortune. No need to be brave if there is nothing left of enjoyment. Otherwise, it could be your last camping trip.
A version of this story first appeared on TravelingMom.com, the leading family travel website.