Did you go camping when you were growing up? As a kid there's no better adventure than spending all day outside exploring the woods followed by roasting a hot dog, eating s'mores, and then snuggling into your sleeping bag in a tent. When I was growing up my family went on one or two camping trips each year. I also went camping with my Girl Scout troop. I have such fond memories of those trips with my family and friends. I loved being outside, helping to lay a fire, taking notice of plants and wildlife, and, when I got older, whittling sticks with a pocket knife. At night my dad would point out constellations to us and we'd look for shooting stars.
I love that camping simplifies your existence for a few days. Your tasks are reduced to preparing food, having conversations, exploring, and relaxing. I love being reminded of the rhythms of the natural world and how small we are within in. I'm sure that camping had a part to play in my interest in the natural world which led me to pursue environmental studies in college and graduate school.
Now that I have my own family I've been eager to make us a camping family. I hope camping will give our boys an appreciation of the outdoors and I love the idea of a family pastime where we have long stretches together with no screens. I'm happy to say that after our June camping trip I feel like we are a camping family!
When we camped this past fall we tagged along on a group trip with seasoned camping families. They brought all the equipment for cooking and gave us packing lists for what to bring. For our June trip we invited our good friends to come with us and I felt like the designated planner. I thought through each part of the day and planned what we'd need and what we'd eat.
One of the most daunting things to me about camping was acquiring all the gear: so expensive! What helped was buying gear over time and borrowing what we didn't have as we built up our collection (luckily we have friends who are camping enthusiasts but renting is another option too). I also loved finding used camping gear on Craigslist and Ebay. Used is a great option because good quality camping gear is made to last and often people buy it but don't use it often.
For our June trip I had mentally prepared for parts of camping to feel stressful, liking having to wash dishes after dinner when we were tired. But I ended up really enjoying washing dishes and no part of the trip felt like drudgery. I was so pleased! And my preparation paid off – there was nothing that we needed that we didn't have. From making coffee in the morning to starting a fire to washing hands, we had it all.
Now that we've had such a successful trip with our own gear and have a master packing list, camping should just get easier (and cheaper) from here! I'd love to share my packing list in case you're dreaming of a weekend in the outdoors. I'll list out everything we took and will include links (may be affiliate) for specific gear that we have. At the end of the list I'll include a link where you can download the list via Google.
- tarp for under tent
- sleeping pads
- sleeping bags (for the boys I found slightly older models of the REI Kindercone on Ebay and Craigslist and I'm so happy with them)
- mallet (for pounding in tent stakes)
- doormat (optional but nice for wiping feet to keep the tent clean)
- layers for the weather including gloves and hats if needed
- pajamas, for chilly weather (50s and below) we sleep in close fitting pajamas plus sweats over pajamas, thick socks or double socks
Gear for your camp kitchen will obviously depend on what you'll be cooking and eating so tailor accordingly.
- camp stove
- propane (one canister lasted us through two nights but was very low at the end)
- refillable water jug (we used the water jug plus soap to create a hand-washing station)
- biodegradable hand + dish soap (another option)
- garbage bags
- water bottle for each person
- plate/bowl/fork/spoon for each person
- cup/mug for each person
- cooking pots (one medium sauce pot and one medium saute pan is a good start)
- mixing bowl
- serving spoon
- butter knife
- sharp knife
- cooking spray
- cutting board
- reusable cleaning rags (for wiping hands, table)
- table cloth and table cloth clips
- dishwashing bins (2)
- dishwashing gloves
- dish towels (for drying dishes and hands)
- bungee line (for setting up a clothesline to dry dish towels)
- dish scraper
- coffee maker (we loved our percolator)
- egg holder
- hot dog/marshmallow roasting sticks
- firewood, purchased locally or from camp host. Depending on fire use, you might need two bundles or more of wood/fire
- dust pan and broom (for sweeping out tent at the end)
- fire starter
- fire poker
- basic first aid kit
- headlamps or flashlights
- camp chair for each person
- basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant)
- bug spray
- backpack for day hikes/exploring
- extra batteries
- cash (for purchasing wood, paying parking fees, etc.)
- activities/games for kids: buckets and shovels, cars/dinosaurs/toy animals, balls, walkie-talkies (don’t forget batteries!)
- hospital directions printed out, one for each car with the group
Is there anything you would add to this list? Happy camping!