Welcome back to camping with kids! We are going to break down all the sleeping gear you’ll need to make your upcoming trip a sleeping success.
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Let’s Get To It
The first thing you are probably asking yourself is: “Okay, she convinced me to leave the house with the kids, but isn’t sleeping in a tent on the ground a lot like sleeping on a torture rack with a rock for a pillow?”
Well, um, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be – if you play your cards right.
Tent Gear – Setting Up Your Tent For Success
Your tent is obviously a critical piece of camping gear. Tent costs range from very basic and very cheap, to very fancy and outrageously expensive. As with most things, you get what you pay for. A good middle of the road tent is probably your best bet. A cheaply made tent will not hold up to the wear and tear of indelicate, grace-lacking children.
Currently, we are sleeping in a Eureka Copper Canyon.
We’ve had this particular tent for about six or seven years, and so far it’s doing an awesome job accommodating our growing family. We particularly enjoy the cabin style – it is tall enough to stand in with additional clearance overhead. Our friends lovingly refer to our tent as the “Taj Mahal” because of how big it feels. We have the twelve-person version, but it also comes in four, six, and eight.
Tent care and maintenance
Before you ever take that tent out on its inaugural camping excursion, you’ll want to do a couple of rather important things.
Set it up.
Trust me. Unless you and your spouse function as a seamless team, and you’ve never argued about following instructions… Set it up at least once. If you get to the campsite and you spend three hours setting up your tent, chances are pretty overwhelming that one of you is stomping off into the woods or locking yourself in the car. To avoid such needless displays of exasperation, make sure you’ve chosen a fair weather day to figure out the tent together.
Once your tent is set up, be sure to use a quality seam sealer.
This stuff is amazing at helping keep the dihydrogen monoxide out of your tent. That would be water, for the chemically challenged among us.
Keeping those seams dry will be especially helpful for both rainy nights and dewy mornings.
Be sure to check your tent for tears or small holes that may need patching. You can usually find patches through your tent manufacturer.
Other Tent Gear
We always bring a tarp that fits the dimensions of our tent on the inside. This helps keep dew and rain moisture out of the inside of the tent. Alternatively, your tarp can go down under your tent, however, we’ve had better luck staying dry by lining the inside.
Foam floor tiles – this is a more recent addition to our arsenal. We discovered this idea a few years ago and absolutely love the results. It helps insulate the floor, takes the chill out, and makes a great mat for the kids to sleep on. My biggest issue with it is space consumption when packing.
You’ll want to put down rugs both on the outside of the tent door and the inside of the tent door. This is really no different than your house. The goal is to track as little of the dirty little munchkins dirt and mud into your small sleeping area as possible. I recommend a waterproof rug for outside, in the event of rain you’ll appreciate your artificial turf.
Hand broom and dustpan – No matter how great of a job you think you did, you’ll ultimately find a layer of dirt, sand, and dead bugs if your kids are collectors of such things, all over the bottom of your tent when it’s been cleared out. Never leave home without your broom.
Your tent will probably come with stakes, if it doesn’t, make sure you have some to keep your tent in place! This is especially important so that rain and wind do not affect the integrity of your tent.
Great for pounding in stakes, great for not breaking plastic stakes in half, great for telling your spouse they are not holding up their part of putting the tent up.
Hanging tent light
A long time ago we picked up this awesome little push button LED light that hangs from a hook in the middle of the tent ceiling. Most tents have a similar hook area in the middle.
This is not the exact version of the light we have, but a very close approximation. A quick search on Amazon yielded quite a few options. When you are trying desperately to convince your kids it’s time to go to sleep (really, how is that different from normal?) having a hands free tent lighting option is a must. If your kids insist upon having a light on to chase away the occasional “I’m afraid of the dark” situation, this is the perfect tool. It allows mom and or dad to head back out to the campfire to do adult things like zone out, drink too much, and laugh with friends.
I think that takes care of most of my recommendations for tent gear – now let’s move on to the next segment –
Sleeping Gear – Preparing For a Good Night’s Slumber
Kids Sleeping bags
You will of course probably want sleeping bags. There are a plethora of viable options. My parents love to help outfit us with camping gear, so when the kids turn two they usually receive their first sleeping bag – A Eureka Grasshopper. It’s pretty much a camping rite of passage at our house.
- These bags are rated to 30 degrees F, so it can get quite cold before you really have to be concerned about the outside temp – as long as your kid is in the bag.
- They pack down for great space-saving.
There are some really cool cots being made. We used cots for quite a while when I was growing up. I recently saw they even make a bunk bed style cot for extra floor space! Down the road, I could totally see us investing in those.
I always bring along a top sheet for each child and myself. If it’s humid at all, or the night just doesn’t get cool, they have the option of laying on top of their bag with a sheet, which is the perfect amount of coverage on humid nights.
Here are a couple of options for pillows
- Bring your normal pillows from home
- Travel pillows for space-saving
- Bring just a pillowcase and stuff it with clothing as a make-shift pillow
- (this is totally viable with non-fussy kids ((do they make non-fussy kids??)) and will help save a ton on space.)
Adult sleeping arrangements
This is obviously the ultimate importance of your camping excursion. If you aren’t sleeping it makes for a pretty crappy and less enjoyable experience.
I will be totally honest – our air mattresses never last. Using a single high versus a double high usually helps them last a bit longer, but it seems like we are replacing air mattresses at a higher rate than I would prefer.
As another option you can also look into bedrolls – my parents use them and love them, but you must have the space to pack them. With kids, it’s probably just easier to go with the blowup mattress.
On top of the mattress, you could use sheets and blankets like at home, or even individual sleeping bags. When we are camping we use two large heavy cotton flannel canvas sleeping bags that we zip together. They also have started selling these queen size super sleeping bags that come with a compression sack to save space! Awesome!
I still bring myself a sheet and sometimes an extra blanket if I can’t get my temp just right. My foot must stick out of the sheets and blankets when I sleep or I can’t breathe. I’m pretty sure my foot is claustrophobic.
Portable crib or Snuggle Nest
If you are bringing an infant, you may want to bring along your pack ‘n’ play or other sleeping devices for babies. This summer I will be bringing along my Snuggle Nest infant sleeper for the baby – this thing has changed my life. Love it for traveling with the baby.
That’s it for now
I think that concludes this segment of Camping with kids. As I started going I realized that I want to do more than just tell you what we bring, but also why we bring it (how it could be valuable information for you!) so it’s going to take a few more segments until we hit all the high points!
If you are looking for my free worksheets and meal planning click here!
If you have any questions about this article or suggestions on other camping or kid travel you’d like to see here, I’d love your feedback.
Go here if you missed part one – Camping with Kids Part 1: Finding a Campsite
Or skip ahead to part 3 – Camping With Kids Part 3: Camp Gear for more great gear ideas!
Part 4 of the camping series is all about some of our favorite things to do with our family