Camping Gear – What You Need For A Family Friendly Camp Out

family-campingAlright so you’ve decided that you want to take the family camping. Pack the car, the kids and the family dog; then off to the great outdoors for some bonding time and fun adventure.

The only problem is that if you pack too much, you might as well stay home because you’ll spend the entire weekend packing, moving, assembling and re-packing gear. Pack too little and everyone will be miserable.

I can guarantee you one thing; if you do not pack toilet paper your family will probably never allow you the opportunity to hone your camping skills in the great outdoors!

Ok so what are the absolute essentials? (In no particular order)

Must Have Gear

Toilet Paper (okay, so I may have lied about he “no particular order thing)
Anything from John Wayne TP that won’t take crap off anyone to cushioney soft Charmin. To be honest in the wild anything is better than trying to harvest some fern to clean your bottom with!

Most people will opt for a tent here unless you own a camper or RV. For the rest of this article we will stay focuses on tent camping.
So let me give you possibly the 2nd largest tip of this article. Get a tent big enough to fit your entire clan!

Then before you head to the outdoors, head to your backyard, set up the tent and have everyone get in it. INCLUDING FIDO! That way if you don’t fit, you can take the shelter back and return it for the next size up.

Just because the manufacturer claims that the tent can sleep six does not mean it can sleep your six.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags and extra blankets are an absolute to not forget. I recommend taking extra blankets. If you don’t need them you can always sleep on them to help separate you a little further from that root you will inevitably find digging into your ribs all night long!


Pack water. I have been to several campsites with “water available” only to find that the plumbing was broken or the available water is not safe to drink.

Let me emphasize that no matter how much TP you pack, if your family comes down with some kind of intestial infection; you will not ever get the chance to hone your wilderness skills in the future.

For a family of 4 plus 2 dogs I can get by comfortably on 2 five gallon jugs of water.

YES, 10 gallons. That will be used for drinking, cleaning and bathing. You will hopefully take close to 1/2 of that water back home but a wise man once told me that it is better to have than have not!


coatRemember weather patterns in the great outdoors are different than they are in your suburban neighborhood. Make sure you are prepared for chilly evenings even in the middle of summer.

Pack extra socks. If you do not pack anything else, do yourself a favor and take extra socks. If the ones on your feet get wet you will be thanking me for this tip. Or better yet if your kids feet get wet, you will be thanking me for this one. You are welcome 🙂

Take some good sturdy shoes. Having a pair of flip flops is fine if your just lounging around camp but you will more than likely want to explore your surroundings so make sure you and your family is properly prepared with good foot wear.

Last thought on clothing: you don’t have to pack heavy wool or down filled clothes for a typical camping trip. Just pack light and comfortable clothes that you can layer. That way if it gets cold you simply add layers and when you heat up you take layers off. The simple layering strategy makes body temperature management much easier.

Mess Hall

You will need food.

Don’t worry too much about getting fancy here. As long as you plan on taking a cooler with ice you can pack what you like.
Remember we are going camping to a spot that we can park relatively close to. So don’t worry about trying to pack all dehydrated backpacking food. Pack hot dogs and hamburgers. A pot of chili or spaghetti. If you eat it at home, take it camping!

Here’s a hot tip for you: Pre-cook casseroles or stews at home, pack them in zip lock bags and toss them in the cooler. Don’t forget to take the necessary pots and pans you will need. I typically travel with one large frying pan and one large cooking pot. Take a couple good kitchen knives, a spatula and large serving spoon. Do not, I repeat DO NOT plan on cooking your meals over an open fire. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan on letting the kids roast a frank over the open fire but do not plan on that being your main cook top.

We take a tailgater style 2 burner propane stove. It has folding legs that make it easy to pack but much more user friendly when your in the middle of preparing the family meal.

  • REMEMBER to pack the appropriate type of fuel for the cook top you decide to take.
  • Cleaning supplies for washing dishes and a container to use as a sink.
  • Plan on 3 meals a day plus snacks. Here’s a tip: Take egg in a carton. That way you don’t have to worry about a dozen broken eggs after traveling for miles on that wash-boarded dirt road.
  • For a more detailed post discussing your camp kitchen check out our other post here.

Extra Curricular Items

  • Take games, musical instruments, or books to help pass your time.
  • Horseshoes or Bocce ball
  • A guitar to sing silly songs around the camp fire
  • Checkers or Chess for the calm afternoons
  • A card game for the evening or if the weather gets bad
  • Fishing poles
  • Binoculars

Try to leave the electronics at home. This is a time for your family to unplug and reconnect with themselves as humans and with you as their family. Do yourself a favor and save Facebook and Twitter for when you get back home.

Things That Get Forgotten or May Prove Useful

It is inevitable. You will forget something but here’s a list of common items that I have forgotten at least once.

  • Toilet Paper!
  • Trash Bags
  • Zip-lock bags to put left overs in
  • Cooking oil and/or spices
  • Coffee
  • Sleeping Bags
  • A lighter
  • Pepper spray or stun gun for self defense against attackers.
  • A good pocket knife. You will be surprised at the uses you can find for a good pocket knife.
  • Fire wood. Yes you are in the great outdoors; but chances are if you are going to a popular camping area, the good fire wood may be picked through.
  • A small Hatchet to split fire wood

Final Thoughts

Remember that you are going to have fun. If you can relax and find your groove, your family will too.

It can be hard to let go of the stress and try and stay in rigid control of everything. Lighten up. You’re on vacation and you are with the ones that matter most in your life.

So get out there and roll the challenges of forgotten necessities and try on to think about he list of emails that will be waiting for you on Monday morning.

Let me know your thoughts and any tips you may have to share from your experiences. Let’s talk outdoors.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Camping Tips

Setting Up The Perfect Campsite

setup-campYou got all your gear packed and you have the perfect camp kitchen put together. Your claim is staked on a great campsite and now it is time to set up camp. Take a deep breath in… let it out

along with your stress. This is the great outdoors and with a little forethought and a few simple tips you are going to turn this great location into the perfect campsite!

1st Things 1st scout the area

Take a walk around the area and carefully survey the grounds. The first order of business if finding a suitable location for your tent.

If there is a pre-built fire ring note it’s location, you will not want your tent too close. Keep looking at the ground for large rocks, tree-root systems, ant holes, etc. As you’re walking try and determine

what direction the wind is generally blowing from. If the weather gets bad you won’t want the wind blowing directly into your door and you also do not want smoke from your fire blowing into your

tent. Look for a place that is level and firm. Try to avoid setting up your tent on wild flowers or delicate vegetation.

Now that you’ve found the perfect ground-space. Look up.

Are there trees above and around you? Do any of them look dead or are there loose branches hanging? There have been many instances where campers get seriously injured by falling trees in

the middle of the night, take precautions so that you do not become one of those numbers.

Your tent location is now secured and safe from falling trees above and bugs from below.

Camp Kitchen

Food should NEVER be prepared in or near your tent. The wonderful smells that you create while cooking could also attract animals to come and investigate. You probably don’t want a bear sniffing around your tent while you’re sleeping. So on that note here are a couple more important tips:


Clean up after ever meal and throw your trash away if you have trash dumpsters near you. If not you should consider tying your food trash high in a tree away from your campsite!

Never take food into your tent with you!


So if your venture outdoors has taken you to a campground than you may have restrooms available. Some with running water, some without. If this is the case than you need no further explanation from me.outhouse

However if you have ventured further away from civilization than you may need a couple tips. When doing your business outdoors you will may need to experiment to find your preferred technique.

Going #1 is very simple for men. Women tend to have a few more difficulties in this are.

For going #2 I personally suggest that you find a tree or fallen log that you can rest your back against. Your legs can get tired quickly and believe me you do not want to lose balance while trying to take care of business!

Also please, please, please, use biodegradable TP and bury your droppings. There is nothing worse than hiking around an established campsite and finding the leftovers from another campers latrine.

The Camp Family Room

Everyone loves hanging around a campfire. Having your campfire ring built before you need it is extremely helpful so be sure to be thinking about it before it gets dark. If a ring isn’t built yet you will need to gather some large rocks and make one yourself. My suggestion is to try to build it as if you are laying bricks and then pack dirt in the cracks. Again look up, you don’t want your campfire

directly below low hanging dead tree branches.

Don’t make the ring too big, a bonfire is not your goal out in the wilderness. Keep it small and manageable. Next if you didn’t bring pre-cut firewood with you part of your day will need to be spent gathering wood for the evening entertainment.

Next when you are done, with your fire, make sure it is out. Never, ever leave a campfire burning or smoldering unattended. Remember what Smokey the Bear tells us, “Only you can prevent forest fires”.

And finally before you leave for the weekend if you built the campfire ring be sure to dismantle it, scatter the rocks used back in the forest and bury any leftover ash.

So that’s it; take a little time to think through your campsite before just plowing forward and I guarantee that you will have a much better weekend with a higher chance of having a successful and fun time in the great outdoors. I look forward to hearing your stories and adventures.  Let’s talk outdoors.

Comments Off on Setting Up The Perfect Campsite

Filed under Camping Tips

Risks When Camping

green-riverWe just spent the last weekend exploring the desert and canyon country near Green River Utah over the Memorial Day weekend.

We had a great time but it occurred to me that we took several risks that got me thinking about the following questions…

“How many risks do you take during an outdoor adventure and what makes the risk worth the reward?”


“How can you minimize the risk factor to make the risk low enough that does make it worth the reward?”

For instance we explored a fairly mild slot canyon called Moonshine Wash; by all definition this canyon is a “non-technical” canyon. However prior to our visit the area had been getting quite a bit of rain. Even the night that we arrived we got a few light showers throughout the evening. The next day we woke up and without hesitation or discussion we headed into the canyon.

What is the risk?

Well once in the canyon there are basically only three ways out.

#1 is the way you entered the canyon which in this case is at the top or beginning. So during a flash flood, you probably can’t exit this way due to the simple obstacles quickly becoming difficult when fighting a torrent of water beating down against you.

#2 is the bottom of the canyon; in our example we would have to hike several miles to end up at the San Rafael River and then again during a flood type situation if the river is swollen you may end up getting into a worse situation trying to escape from the bottom.

#3 is climb to safety. This is the tricky one. Remember that I said this is by all definition a “non-technical” canyon? Well when you are 20 meters in the bottom of a slot canyon with no ropes or climbing gear this becomes a task that is next to impossible, not to mention that the canyon walls get slick when wet.

As we entered into the canyon we did see standing pools of water; we came across a dead and rotting cow that you could not help but wonder if her fate was due to getting trapped by rushing water.

After looking down we looked up and glanced west. Blue skies and though the signs indicated that the risk level was higher than normal we were willing to take the chance for the reward of exploring an amazing slot canyon.

The weather forecast indicated a 25% chance of afternoon showers. (I checked before we left camp!)

So was the risk worth it? Yes of course it was. We saw an amazing canyon. So what lowered the risk for me to take the chance that we might encounter flooding?

First and foremost, I educated myself. I knew that the canyon was only a few miles long and that we would be in and out before the afternoon showers possibly hit. Consequently it did sprinkle later that evening when we were back at camp, but not enough for flooding to occur.

rockSecondly , everyone that was in our party has some experience rock climbing. No we couldn’t have necessarily scrambled out of the canyon in the event of a flash flood, however in the damp conditions with standing pools I knew that everyone could maneuver the obstacles with very little trouble.

For this being an “easy” canyon as our guide book and online travel sites suggested I found that given the conditions we encountered some areas that were a lot tougher than we anticipated.

The moral of the story is this…

Even in the easiest of situations no matter how much research you do, weather conditions can and do dictate the level of risk you must take during any given adventure. If this canyon was dry, it would have simply been a slightly strenuous hike with some scrambling over a few boulders. The muddy and wet conditions made this a little more difficult and we underestimated it even though we made it through unscathed.

Educate yourself and train for the adventures you are going to go on. For me I spend a couple nights a week at the local rock gym to stay conditioned and learn climbing techniques so that I can confidently explore the canyons.

Don’t be afraid to stop and turn around. A couple months ago we went to this same area and were prepared to explore 3 canyon. Our planned entry/ exit point was blocked due to the Green River being so high. We could have rappelled into the canyon at another point but I was not confident enough that we could have found another safe entry /exit point. My plans were relying 100% on the one entry/ exit where the canyon met the Green River; so instead of taking the risk we simply explored the rim of the canyon and hiked around the desert. Not the kind of adventure we were looking for but we all remained safe. The risk in this case was being able to enter the canyon but not being able to get out; so we opted to not take the risk in this particular case.

The bottom line is that you must know not only your own abilities and comfort level but also that of your companions. It is true when taking risks in the outdoors that you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Attitude in how we handle these situations when they arise will dictate how your adventure goes; whether you follow through with your original plans or you have to call a time out and change plans mid-adventure.

So get out there and realize that risk is something we always take when heading to the wilderness; don’t let fear stop you but let it help you make safe decisions so that you and your friends can safely adventure together for years to come. Let’s talk outdoors.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Camping Tips