Are you thinking of taking your kids camping soon? Helpful hacks to make camping with kids a fun experience! Taking your kids camping can be both a challenge and a great time, but with these tips we’ll ensure camping with kids is a stress-free adventure. How to prepare for your trip & camping tips for once you’re on site. Plus camping ideas for families.
Anddd…. if you need some fun ideas to have on hand while camping, this 104 page activity bundle will be a perfect addition to your adventures (and they’re also great for when the kids are stuck inside or complain “I’m bored.”)
Taking Your Kids Camping? Genius Camping Tips You Need For Your next Camping Adventure
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 in streams and exploring the great outdoors.
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 I grew up with, 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 “what if the kids didn’t sleep at all,” or “what if we start a forest fire.”
Clearly, he was nervous about his first time camping – and to top it off, the first time camping with twin toddlers.
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.
Psstttt… if you need a camping checklist so you don’t forget anything your next trip, you can download it here at the bottom of this article.
1) PACK EVERYTHING IN CLEAR TUBS FOR EASY 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, or for the unexpected.
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 when you get back home.
2) SET-UP A HAND & FOOT WASHING STATION WHEN YOU GO CAMPING WITH KIDS
A hand and foot washing station is absolutely essential for every campsite, especially when you are camping with kids.
To set-up a hand and food washing station, just bring a double water 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. These collapsible water jugs (make sure you get more than one because you’ll need it) work too and are reusable.
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 your camping tent and into sleeping bags.
There’s nothing worse than sweeping out dirt from your tent and picking pebbles out of sleeping bags when you’re dead tired.
Be sure to bring extra water so you have enough water for drinking, cooking, bathing and a hand and foot washing station. You definitely don’t want to run out of this one important supply!
Also, pack hand soap, along with dishrags or wash cloths to help scrub the dirt off – especially helpful for little fingers and in between tiny toes when you take your kids camping.
I bought a pack of these foaming hand soap containers for my house, but then saved two of them for our camping bins. When it’s time to go camping, I fill them with a mix of water and a few tsp. of Branch Basics concentrate to use for hand soap, body soap and shampoo (this is the ONLY non-toxic cleaner I use for EVERYTHING and swear by it. I make hand soap, shampoo if you need for camping, dishes, laundry, stains, floors, etc. and it works like magic. Plus, it’s completely safe, fragrance free and non-toxic.)
3) MUST HAVE WHEN CAMPING WITH KIDS: A 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 baby wipes for all the other times you’ll need them.)
Bring a plastic baby bath for babies (flat bottom baby baths have more space) 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 (be sure to cover it too so there aren’t any bugs, dirt or pollen that’s flying around.) A fully-washed and clean baby and child often times leads to a better 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 off the dirt.
4) LOAD UP ON BABY WIPES & ANTIBACTERIAL WIPES
Bring several packs of baby wipes and non-toxic antibacterial wipes (do not load kids up with hand sanitizer – so many are being recalled right now because they are dangerous and this goes straight into the bloodstream within 20 seconds of applying) 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 in front of camping tent doors so you can sit down and wipe feet, hands, faces, arms and legs without tracking in dirt into the tent (as well as your foot bath.)
You’ll also want to make sure you bring along bug spray or bug wipes (the non-toxic and deet-free kind!) to keep the bugs and bug bites away.
5) KID CAMPING STYLE: SETTING UP SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS
If your baby is still used to sleeping in a crib, bring a portable pack and play and an extra sheet to throw on the top so you can keep bugs out during naps and nighttime. There’s also the option of bring a pack and play with a breathable zip top to keep bugs out (and good for hanging in your backyard or trips to the park in warm weather, too.)
Pack and plays are great because you can move them around so while you’re making easy camping meals, you can put the baby in it while you prepare food hands-free but still keep an eye on him.
If you have a baby, a portable bassinet is a good option for this age.
If you’re an avid camping with kids who are older, a double camping cot that’s like a bunkbed (like this one) can save space in your tent and can be taken apart into two single cots. It’s more expensive, so if you use it, it’ll be well worth the investment. 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 at least 1” thick underneath the sleeping bags. You can also use a yoga mat which is the same material but much thiner.
Sleeping bags are important to keep kids warm, so make sure the camping temperature listed on the sleeping bags matches the overnight temps you’ll be staying in.
A jacket like sleeping bag makes sure kids aren’t crawling out of sleeping bags and shivering at night. Coleman makes a good mummy bag for kids down to camping in 30 degree temps and are build much better than in-house sleepover bags you find at most box stores.
SUPER CAMPING WITH KIDS TIP:
One of my favorite tips to share for camping with our kids is to bring pillow cases without pillows. That’s right. Here’s what we do instead.
Stuff jackets in the pillow cases if you’er camping in cooler weather 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 find and throw on your jackets quickly and then tuck them back inside the pillow cases when you get back.
6) CAMPING WITH CHILDREN: BRING ALONG ENTERTAINMENT
If you’re taking kids camping, there is only so much dirt, rocks and bugs that’ll entertain kids before they can tend to venture into trouble or complain they’re “bored.”
The best solution is to pack a tub full of toys to bring with you that are camping friendly and electronic free and then your camping trip with kids will be a total breeze without getting into mischief or poison oak.
Camping Entertainment Toy Ideas:
- Squirt Guns
- Balls – Soccer, Football, Lacrosse Sticks & Balls
- Camping & Outdoor Exploring Camp Set (so cute!)
- Coloring Books
- Water Pen Coloring Books (these are great for flying and traveling with kids too!)
- Crafts (Decorate Your Own Walking Stick, Make a Snack Necklace)
- Print and bring along these two free Outdoor Scavenger Hunt or Nature Sensory Scavenger Hunts
- Camping Bingo – Free Download Here
- Magnifying Glasses
- Bug Catcher Case
- 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. We bought an inexpensive two-person tent just for this reason, and at home, sometimes the kids will set it up in the house for “camp outs” so it definitely gets it’s fair share of use.
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 another shaded area if you need to get the kids out of the sun for a while.
7) NIGHTTIME SAFETY IS IMPORTANT WHEN CAMPING WITH KIDS
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 fairly 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.
I have a few attachable / hanging rechargeable camping lights to put inside the tent and around our camping spot to keep things illuminated for the kids. They work pretty well and are really helpful when it gets dark outside or you’re looking for something in the tent.
One of our favorite camping hacks is to bring along glow in the dark rope and glow in the dark tent stakes so that no one tripes over these parts of the tent that stick out when it gets dark and especially during the middle of the night bathroom trips when you’re half asleep and wondering in the woods.
8) A NEAT TRICK FOR CLEAN CLOTHES & DIRTY LAUNDRY
A Hanging Clothes Organizer lets you set out outfits for everyone so you’re not sorting through a tub or suitcase full of clothes. Each person can get their own cubby or you can do one for each person in a different color.
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 the clothes everyone wears become dirty, just throw them back in the bin and it turns into your laundry hamper.
Once you get home, everything in the laundry tub goes straight into the washing machine and there’s no sorting through bins to find all the dirties!
9) PACKING FOOD CAMPING HACKS
A couple quick tips for packing food and water when you take a family camping trip:
- Invest in a rechargeable light for your cooler 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. The next time you have an empty container at home, just wash it and toss into your camping bins for your next camping trip. Take off the labels and use a permanent marker to label the container so you know what’s inside.
- 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. It’s worth it!
Need easy meal ideas? Here are 30 Easy to make Camping Meals Your Entire Family will Love.
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 and Safe Mineral Sunscreen
- Lotion with Insect Repellent (Fragrance Free is the key!)
- Complete First Aid Kit (keep this in your car at all times no matter if you’re camping or not.)
11) STASH YOUR VALUABLES
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.
More Camping with Kids Resources:
- Handy Printable Family Camping Checklist (for Fun Camping with Kids)
- Camping with Kids: 21 Camping Games & Activities to Entertain Kids
- 30 Stress-Free & Easy Camping Food Ideas
- 10 Essentials for Camping with Kids You Don’t Want to Forget
- Keep Your Family Safe: Tick Prevention & Safe Tick Removal
- What to Look for When Choosing a Safe Sunscreen