Are you thinking of taking your kids camping this summer? Sometimes the thought of this strikes fear in a parent’s heart or visions of hard, hard work, but with these 11 Genius Hacks for Camping with Kids you’ll be prepared and guaranteed to have a great time in the woods with your family. These tips will help you go camping with kids and have a great time!
Are you thinking of taking your kids camping? Whether it’s your first camping trip or 20th camping adventure with the whole family, these camping hacks may change the way you “rough it” when you go camping with kids in tow.
I grew up camping. We didn’t have a lot of money for vacations but could set up a couple tents, roll out the sleeping bags and have a blast playing with sticks, in streams and exploring.
My husband on the other hand, had a bit different childhood. He had never been camping before I practically dragged him along so I could share the same camping experiences with our kids.
Before our first camping trip with kids, it was clear by his anxiety he was worried. He asked things like what “if the kids got poison ivy,” or “if the kids didn’t sleep at all,” or “if we start a forest fire.” Clearly, he was nervous about his first time camping – and first time camping with kids.
It wasn’t until we got back from taking the kids camping that he finally relented and admitted he had a great time, and how much fun the kids had out of the house and in nature.
He may have initially had visions of our toddlers eating rocks and dirt, encounters with wildlife and going to the bathroom in the woods with only a handful of leaves, but when I pulled out these camping hacks to set up a kid-friendly campsite and the entire experience was a blast, he relented that he was ready to take the kids camping again.
1) PACK EVERYTHING IN CLEAR TUBS FOR OPTIMAL CAMPING ORGANIZATION
Organizing your camping supplies before you head out is the key to staying organized when you arrive at your campsite and the first step to ensuring your experience is enjoyable!
Organize your camping supplies so that once you get to your camping spot, everything is labeled and easy to find. Just like your house, your campsite is your home away from home and you’ll need everything to be in an easy spot to identify and grab it when you need it.
Organize bins (large plastic tubs that you can label and then stack and store afterwards are ideal) in the following categories:
- Kitchen Supplies
- Food & Snacks
- Bathroom & Bathing
- Tents & Sleeping Bags
- Clothes & Laundry
- Music & Entertainment
When you have labeled bins, this helps everything that gets taken out, be put back in the right bin so no further organization at home has to happen. This is a tremendous time-saver when you’re preparing for your trip and can easily store the bins when you get back home.
You’ll also know exactly where your dirty laundry is to wash, kitchen supplies that need cleaned and food that is salvageable for later with a little camping organization.
2) SET-UP A HAND + FOOT WASHING STATION WHEN YOU’RE CAMPING WITH KIDS
This is absolutely essential for every campsite, especially when you are camping with kids.
To set-up a hand and food washing station, bring a double or single jug that has an open/close spout which controls the water flow. You can find these at your local big box store and sometimes in a local grocery store.
Bring a washing basin – a plastic bin or even a baby bath with a flat bottom – adults and kids can step into and wash off dirty feet. Set the washing basin on towels or a blanket so that when you step out of the basin, you can immediately dry off feet and won’t be tracking dirt or mud into any camping tents and into sleeping bags.
Make sure to bring extra water so you have enough water for drinking, cooking, bathing and a hand and foot washing station. Be sure to pack hand and bar soap, along with dishrags or wash cloths that help scrub the dirt off – especially helpful for little fingers and in between tiny toes when you take your kids camping.
3) MUST HAVE WHEN CAMPING WITH KIDS: BATH STATION
If you’re at a campsite without showers there will come a time that baby wipes just won’t cut it (though, be sure to bring a half-load of these for all the other times you’ll need them.)
Bring a plastic baby bath for babies or an extra plastic tub for bigger kids that you can fill with water. Warm bath tip: fill up the bin in the morning and let it sit out in the sun to warm up. A fully-washed and clean baby and child often times leads to a great night of sleep!
For adults, a solar-heated shower bag will do the trick when you can’t take it anymore and need to scrub up.
4) LOAD UP ON BABY WIPES & ANTIBACTERIAL WIPES
Bring several packs of baby wipes and antibacterial wipes for those times when you need to wipe the kids down but won’t be able to give them a full bath. Wipes are great to clean hands and feet before they crawl into sleeping bags too.
Always set out a blanket or towel before the camping tent doors so you can sit down and wipe feet, hands, faces, arms and legs without tracking in dirt into the tent.
5) SETTING UP KID-FRIENDLY SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS
If your baby is still used to sleeping in a crib, bring a pack and play and an extra sheet to throw on the top so you can keep bugs out during naps and nighttime. Pack and plays are great because you can move them around so while you’re making breakfast or dinner, you can put the baby in it while you prepare food hands-free but still keep an eye on him.
If you’re camping with kids who are older, a double camping cot (like this one) will save space in your tent and can be taken apart into two single cots. Our kids like using it at home too!
If your kids are sleeping on the floor, a super easy way to add an additional layer of softness is to set up a soft floor mat underneath the sleeping bags. You can also use a yoga mat which is the same material just a little thiner.
SUPER CAMPING WITH KIDS TIP: One of my favorite tips to share that we used as kids is to bring pillow cases but no pillows. Put jackets in the pillow cases so the pillows are soft and fluffy. If if you have to make middle of the night or first thing in the morning potty runs, you can throw on your jackets quickly and then tuck them back inside the pillow cases when you get back.
6) COME PREPARED WITH TOYS & ENTERTAINMENT
If you’re taking kids camping, there is only so much dirt, rocks and bugs that kids will entertain kids before they can tend to venture into trouble. Pack a tub full of toys to bring with you that are camping friendly and electronic free and camping with kids will be a total breeze without kids getting into mischief (or poison oak.)
Camping Toy Ideas:
- Squirt Guns
- Balls – Soccer, Football, Lacrosse Sticks & Balls, Velcro Hand Toss
- Learning Resources Camp Set
- Coloring Books
- Water Pen Coloring Books
- Crafts (Decorate Your Own Walking Stick, Make a Snack Necklace)
- Have a Nature Themed Scavenger Hunt
- Camping Bingo – Free Download Here
- Magnifying Glasses
- Card Games (Old Maid, Go Fish, UNO)
Bring an extra tent to use as a designated play area. This way, your kids can play with their toys and you don’t have to clean up the sleeping and changing tent from left out toys.
It’s nice to have the spaces separate from one another and don’t always have to worry about cleaning feet before they climb into the “play tent” like you would the sleeping tent. Plus, it’s shaded if you need to get the kids out of the sun for a while.
7) NIGHTIME SAFETY
Glow sticks are easy to find (check the $1 bins at Target or Michaels) and work great for kids to string together and wear as a necklace, anklet or bracelet so you can keep track of them when it gets dark. Throw glow sticks into water bottles for more illumination or if you have a handful of water bottles, this could be a a fun game of night bowling before bedtime.
Headlamps are really inexpensive and worth the cost to make sure everyone has their own. Another neat little trick is to put a headlamp around a a jug of water for a homemade glowing lantern on tables and inside your tent.
8) A NEAT TRICK FOR CLOTHES & DIRTY LAUNDRY
A Hanging Clothes Organizer lets you set out outfits for your kids – and for yourself so you’re not always sorting through a tub or suitcase full of clothes. Unpack all the outfits into the hanging clothes organizers once your camp is set up.
This organizes your clothes but also empties the bin you packed all the clothes in, so when they become dirty, just throw them back in the bin and it becomes . the laundry hamper. Once you get home, everything in the tub goes straight into the washing machine and no sorting through bins to find all the dirties
9) PACKING FOOD FOR CAMPING WITH KIDS
A couple quick tips for packing food and water when you take the kids camping:
- Invest in a cooler light so you can open your cooler and find what you need without juggling a flashlight and sifting through things, especially at night.
- Keep your matches dry in a mason jar container with lid. Don’t risk it rain, leaks or coolers which can all soak matches and ruin the fun (and s’mores)
- Freeze jugs of water ahead of time and they’ll act as ice for your coolers and to keep your food safe, but when they melt you have drinking water for your family. (Fill them up 2/3 of the way to give room for when they expand as they freeze.)
- Chips such as Doritos and Fritos that have a bit of grease on them can be great fire starters to throw in with your kindling and work faster than the traditional methods.
- Fill up tic tac containers with spices for cooking so you don’t lug your kitchen pantry around with you.
- Repurpose condiment containers (ketchup, mustard) and fill with pre-made pancake mix for easy breakfast in the morning
- Invest in a 12-in-1 Camping Tool – it has scissors, screwdrivers, can opener, magnet, wrench, fish scaler, nut cracker, jar wrench, wire stripper, wire cutter, bottle opener and knife) so you only have to bring this one tool instead of all 12.
10) INVALUABLE & HANDY CAMPING SUPPLIES
- Battery Operated Sound Machine
- Camping High Chair
- Solar Powered Charger for Cell Phones and Electronics
- Whitelabel Drop Waterproof Speaker Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Portable Speaker
- Anti-Bug Sunscreen
- Lotion with Insect Repellent
- Complete First Aid Kit
11) STASHING VALUABLES TIPS
Keys, wallets, phones, chargers, electronics… store them all in ziplock bags (the large freezer kind). This keeps them safe from spills and food, but also easier to keep track of once you get to your campsite and things get a little chaotic with the kids running around. When everything is bagged together in one spot, it’ll be easier to stay on top of.
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