Alright 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 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!
Remember 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.
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
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
- 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
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.