An Expert Guide to Camping with Kids

Taking your family camping is a great way to teach kids to appreciate nature. Camping expert Alex V. has some advice on how to make the experience fun for the whole family!

Photo by Caleb Oquendo
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Camping and hiking are excellent ways for children to learn a lasting appreciation for nature and a lifelong interest in caring for the planet. Taking your kids camping is also a great excuse to take a pause from electronic devices and modern amenities to appreciate what's around us!

It also might be of interest for you to take your family on a trip without spending a ton of money. It doesn't take much but motivation to get outdoors and enjoy some beautiful and enriching scenery. Check out local camping destinations like state parks. Usually, there's one not too far away.

Whether you plan on staying in a RV, cabin, or tent, camping has amazing health, physical, emotional, and social benefits!

Through adventuring outdoors, families learn to work together and problem solve. It’s also a great time for kids to learn from their parents and develop a greater level of respect.

Is this your first time planning a family camping trip? No problem. Here's a few tips!

A family stands around a campfire roasting snacks on sticks
Photo by Daiga Ellaby

Plan Ahead of Time: Make Checklists and Boxes

Organization is key. Planning will save you time and minimize stress. If you want to get a great campsite, you’ll have to make a reservation well beforehand.

Decide whether you'll be renting or bringing your own equipment. Grab camping chairs, board or card games, wood, cookware, sleeping bags, and a first aid kit among other essentials like food and water.

Have young ones too small to hike on their own? Check out the Deuter Kid Comfort carrier - awesome for hiking with babies to two-year-olds!

Involve Everyone in the Planning Process

What activities do you think your kids might enjoy? Ask them! This will stoke their excitement for the journey and you might even gain an idea or two. Maybe it's time to teach them how to fish or teach them about local plant and animal species.

A child gazes up at a very tall tree while standing next to a sign reading "big tree"
Photo by Clint McKoy

Camping Practice

Bust out the gear and set your tent up in your living room or backyard. This allows your kiddos to get used to being and sleeping in the tent. Most kids love them, instant forts! If they eventually get comfortable and feel safe, this should quell anxiety or nervousness when it comes to camping wilderness.

Tents

First step – you’ll want to purchase or rent a tent big enough for your entire family. If you mean to camp with them in the same tent, you’ll need at least thirty square feet per adult, around 15 for the kids. To put it to scale, a family of four will need at least a 6-man tent.

If you have teenagers, they’ll probably want a tent of their own. A two- or three-person tent should give them enough stretching room.

Make sure you get an appropriate tent for the occasion and climate! Research the technical specifications and how many seasons the tent is intended for. Make sure it’s waterproof before taking it out in the rain!

Sleeping

Depending on the time of year, you can choose between a few different types of sleeping bags to suit the climate. Stick with something light for Summer, between 37 and 50 degrees, and something warmer for winter and fall, with a temp rating of 0 to 35+ degrees. Want to double up and share they body heat? Double sleeping bags are an excellent choice!

Plan Easy Meals and Snacks

Easy packable snacks go a long way, such as apples, grapes, graham crackers, bananas, cheese, crackers, sliced cucumbers, dried fruit, and baby carrots. Just make sure to get a good three- to five-day cooler and pack some non-perishable food as well.

Make Cooking Fun!

Young ones love to be involved in cooking their own food. This can be something as simple as cooking a hot dog at the end of a stick or the classic traditions of roasting marshmallows over the fire.

A little boy in a hat crouches next to a pile of sticks set up for a campfire
Photo by Bambi Corro

Camp Chores

Instill some confidence and responsibility by giving your kids small tasks around the campsite. Even small children can gather wood! Give them an idea of what it takes living in the elements, find teaching moments, while still advising them of the dangers. Making fire can be one of the most exciting and relaxing parts of camping. Doing dishes or blowing up sleeping pads are other ideas. The more involved they are, the better!

Safety First and First Aid

Always pack a first aid kit, sun protection, bug spray, and tweezers. Keeping these items near by, and always in the same area, is key to staying calm when an event arises.

Give each child a whistle and instruct them to blow it if they become separated from you. Glow sticks work great for tracking your tots at night. Walk them around the campground and be mindful of nearby hazards, especially running bodies of water or steep drop-offs. Set boundaries and rules. At night, make sure everyone has a flashlight or headlamp.

A first air kid stocked with supplies

Try Something New

Get the entire family out of their comfort zone and do something you can all learn from and enjoy! Be it a small hike on an unknown trail by day or staying up to see a meteor shower by night. The options are limitless! Do some light research online to discover what's around to see and check out near your camping area.

Pro Tip: While you're doing that - be sure to check out the Forest Service or National Park websites to check if there are any fire or camping restrictions during the time you'll be there!

A boy balances on a paddle board on a river
Photo by Ben White

Clothing & Layering

It can be difficult for smaller bodies to generate enough heat to stay warm during colder temperature drops. Make sure there are plenty of extra, dry layers to keep warm while camping with young ones. Don’t forget a pair of thick warm socks, especially for nights when it can get much chillier! I'm a huge fan of Merino Wool layers for early Fall or anywhere where it drops below 40 degrees - great at wicking moisture and keeping you warm while still being very breathable.

A little girl and a woman look at each other across a small, grassy canal
Photo by Simon Rae

Finally, HAVE FUN!

A child's first few experiences camping, no matter their age, can give them memories for a lifetime and play a huge role in their personal development and confidence growing up. The more fun they have, the more enriching the experience. Camping is an amazing opportunity for an entire family to learn from each other and bring everyone closer together!

Need help finding the right gear for your family camping trip? Reach out to any Curated expert for advice and gear suggestions!

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Written By
I've camped and hiked across many parts of the Western United States, Hawaii and Canada. I have been actively training to do the PCT in the next couple of years. I've worked in the outdoor industry for almost two decades. I understand a lot of products, materials and tech that goes into gear which c...

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