10 Family Camping Tips for Non-Campers

camping tentI think I’m pretty upfront about the fact that I am not a camper. Sure, I’ve slept in a tent. At a campground. Twice. It was fun, but I’ll never be a set-up-your-own-tent-in-the-forest kind of girl. However, I do like the idea of exposing my kids to camping, so if you’re like me, here are 10 family camping tips for the non-camper in you.

1. Stay in a Cabin. Some people may not consider this to be “camping,” but I do. Two summers ago, I stayed with my kids at two different KOAs. We stayed in cabins with bunk beds, bathrooms and a kitchen. The kids had a blast making s’mores, riding bikes around the campground and playing on the playgrounds. It was the perfect mix of outdoor fun and indoor comfort.

2. Try Camper-Ready Camping. I don’t own a tent. I could probably rent one from REI, but I really don’t want to be involved in setting up a tent (properly). So, camper-ready camping, in which a campsite is all set up for you, sounds appealing to me. You bring your own bedding and food supplies, but the tent, chairs, a propane stove and a lantern are all provided.

3. Bring Along a Camping Box. If you’re not a regular camper, there are some items you’ll probably end up leaving at home, making for a less-than-ideal camping experience. So, create a camping box to bring with you. Include kitchen utensils and tools, like a can opener and a spatula, as well as cleaning supplies, like a dishpan and dish soap.

4. Create a Soft(er) Floor in Your Tent. Once the sun goes down, it can be a long night in a sleeping bag, particularly for a non-camper. Make sure you’re comfortable by bringing along an air mattress and a yoga mat (to go under the air mattress). Don’t forget your pillow, too.

5. Don’t Skimp on Sleeping Gear. Don’t go cheap on a sleeping bag. You want to stay warm and protected inside your sleeping bag. Also, don’t skimp on an air mattress unless you want to be on the ground by daybreak. Borrow gear from friends or rent from a store that sells tents, lanterns, etc. if you need to do so.

6. Start Slow. Be Realistic. Keep your family camping trip (particularly if it’s your first one) to one or two nights to see how everyone does and what needs to be tweaked for the next time. Start out at a campground, not at a deep woods camp site. Make sure your camping area has bathrooms (and showers). A mini convenience store is always a nice bonus, too.

7. Go Gadget-Free & Plan Activities. A camping adventure is a great opportunity to go gadget-free (if you can do it). No iPads, iPods, etc. While many campgrounds, particularly KOAs and Jellystone Parks, have swimming pools and playgrounds, have some activities in your back pocket, like these 10 Fun Camping Games for Kids (scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, etc.).

8. Create a Camping Meal Plan. No need to write down exactly what you plan to cook and eat every moment of the camping trip, but putting together a meal plan is a good idea so you bring everything you need (including cooking supplies). Here are 25 easy-to-make camping recipes, including lots of great tin foil recipes, so don’t forget to bring that with you.

9. Insect Repellant. That’s it, that’s my tip: insect repellant. Nothing is going to make a family camping trip go downhill fast like a bunch of bug bites or a swarm of gnats. Whether bug spray from a can that you pick up at the drugstore or a spray bottle of homemade insect repellant, make sure you bring some with you. And, for that matter, bring along calamine lotion for post-bite relief (just in case).

10. Bring an Extra Change of Clothes. You never know when you or your kids are going to fall in a stream or get dirty in the mud. Getting dirty is okay, but no one wants to be wet, cold and uncomfortable. Also, check overnight temperatures and bring along extra sweaters or coats if it’s expected to be chilly during sleeping hours.

Have you ever been camping as a family? What are some of your best camping tips for non-campers? Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: GlacierNPS