Time to plan the first camping trip!
Let’s talk about camping with kids. Because at long last springtime is upon us, and here at the Casa de crazy, it’s the time we start thinking about the end of the school year and the beginning of the camping season!
Wait, say what now? These crazy fools go camping with six kids ages 7 and under?
Yes. yes, we do. Even crazier? – we usually do it multiple times every summer. Clearly, my husband and I are gluttons for punishment.
This summer we have tent camping adventures planned to Itasca State Park in Minnesota, one of the Kettle Moraine State Parks in eastern Wisconsin, and Mirror Lake State Park in southwestern Wisconsin.
Let’s Get Ready to Go!
One of my favorite parts of the summer is camping prep; pulling out all the gear, and making additions and subtractions as necessary. As we’ve grown, our gear needs and supplies have changed from winging it with just the two of us to pretty closely following the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) camping list that we have developed over time.
Our kids just seem to flourish when we are out camping. They love sitting around the campfire, hiking with us, exploring the beaches and woods, and admiring the beautiful overlooks. They don’t even realize there is no television, and while we are gone it doesn’t usually get mentioned.
Alright, to be honest, I have to give a lot of credit to my parents here- they definitely instilled and nourished a love of the outdoors and “getting our camp on”. During my tenure as a resident of their home, we, as a family, visited every single state park in Minnesota. Pretty fabulous accomplishment for a family!
Most of my treasured family memories involve our adventures out camping- for instance, that time my brother got an entire water bottle dumped on him because no one noticed the lid wasn’t on when the bottle was passed back.
He’s still bitter about it and will have words with you if you even mention the phrase “glug, glug, glug”. Or the time the raccoon tried to sleep with him in the bed of a truck. On second thought, that brother might want to give up on the whole camping thing.
When I got married, I figured I might be out of luck in the nature-loving department. Thankfully, that was not to be, my husband loves camping too – which is actually a bit odd…his family never camped!
We’ve adopted a lot of camping strategies from my experiences growing up, but we’ve also had to come up with some of our own.
Where are we going from here
Ultimately, I think that one post is probably a bit much for ALL the information I have been storing up in my brain- so I will break it down into a few bite-sized pieces.
Finding a campsite
Gear for sleeping
Meals, kitchen gear, and meal prep
Kid-friendly camping activities
The only thing I can’t help you with is actually getting out there with your kids 😉
First things first…
Finding the Best Place to go Camping
Do you know where to go camping near you? Chances are, the nearest place is actually pretty near. The amazing thing is, you don’t have to go far to find some beautiful little gem that you never even knew was right there all along!
Here are some great resources for finding a place to hang your hammock and set up a campsite- (my specialty is tent camping, but many of these resources will also help you find places for that pop-up or RV camper).
By far one of my favorite websites to find spots. This site encompasses most of the federal parks, lots of state forests, and many state parks. You can make reservations online, change them, modify them. Sometimes there are pictures of the campsites even! They will usually have an associated campground map for the parks that you can look at to help choose a spot. If there are not many openings left, you may not get a choice, but it’s always nice if you can get the ‘pick of the litter’. Sometimes this means reserving EXTREMELY early! (A year in advance in some cases!) Campers are voracious predators. You really gotta watch out for them, they will steal your campsite so fast you will not know what hit you.
This site specializes in private campgrounds and RV parks. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking for extra amenities beyond your standard tent site and fire pit. Many of these places have pools, game rooms, mini-golf. Extra entertainment options. We shall call this “glamping” aka glamorous camping. I shall make fun of this. But truthfully, we pretty much “glamp” too- so please don’t feel too offended.
Your Own Backyard
Maybe you are legitimately scared to go camping for the first time or you just don’t think you can make it work with your little ones. Try your backyard!
If your kids are young enough to think it’s cool and not dorky. I’ll be honest, I camped with some tweens and teens in our backyard last summer- it was great fun for all of us.
Just think of it as moving your epic blanket fort outside for a night.
I’ve found a lot of information on trip advisor about campsites. As with everything, I take reviews with a bit of a grain of salt- but the nice thing about trip advisor is seeing other things in the area that are available to you as well. This is especially great if you are on a longer camping vacation and the weather maybe isn’t cooperating so you are trying to find some alternate activities in the vicinity.
This is a great resource for finding photos of your next campsite. This site is particularly helpful if you are trying to decide between a couple of sites and all you have to go on is the map and no pictures. Not every single campsite is represented, but many state park, forest service, and national park sites are featured. Definitely worth checking out.
Alright- you picked a site, and you are getting all geared up to get out there and camp… now if you just knew what to pack…
Don’t worry- I’ve got you covered in Camping with kids-Part the 2nd: Gear and Packing.
Ready for your free camping packing list and meal planning worksheets? Click here!