Activities

How to go camping with kids

We have some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of camping with your family.

By Nadine Silverthorne

How to go camping with kids

How to go camping with kids

Camping with kids

I was a reluctant camper. A fashion-loving, urban-living editor, the outdoors were not my strong suit. "But there's no WIFI! Or Starbucks! How is it a vacation if I have to SURVIVE it?" I would cry, obsessively checking the forecast for days before we left, and being horrified at the site of cloud icons with lightening bolts over top.

Then last summer, it occurred to me that I now loved it. It hit me out of the blue, looking out over the lake with my sleepless daughter (who always wakes at 5:30am when we camp). I realized that I was a pretty good camper too! When did that happen?

Here are some tips to help you enjoy camping as a family.

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: sjlocke/iStockphoto

Get the right gear

The first year we camped as a family, we had my husband's "camping with the boys" gear. No good. You need to be comfortable. (Read: air mattresses and a tent that fits two more bodies than the number of people sleeping in it — kids have a lot of gear!) And you need to be able to cook for many. (Read Coleman stove, not single burner from his portaging trip through Algonquin.)

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: ArtmannWitte/iStockphoto

Borrow or rent your gear

If point #1 made you see dollar signs, don't fret. The reason families love to camp is that it's affordable. Most campsites in Canada range between $25-50 per night. If you're trying it out to see if it suits your style, borrow from experienced friends, who will likely have their gear down to just what you need (no one likes multiple trips to the car). If you find you like camping, check out the message boards on MEC.ca (members sell their gear all the time) or try Craigslist or Kijiji. Build your gear list slowly.

How to go camping with kids

Camp with another family so labour is distributed

For example, the moms take kids to beach while the dads set up tents and do the lugging. Dads are at beach while moms make meals, etc. Everybody gets a turn washing dishes. The kids are over the moon at waking up to see their friends at the breakfast table. It's a win-win.

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: kali9/iStockphoto

Don't get over-ambitious

Portaging with a newborn can be done, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you like throwing yourself extra curveballs. If your family has kids under age six, stick to car camping for a while. When they're old enough to help carry a canoe through a forest, you can consider adventure camping again.

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: Mike_Kiev/iStockphoto

Pick the right age

We first camped when Lucy was 11-months-old and crawling. Crawling and forest floors don't mix, unless you don't mind finding rocks and twigs in a diaper. Also, you couldn't pay me to sleep in a tent when pregnant. (But I'm kind of a princess like that.) You know your kids and yourself. Listen to the little voice in your head that tells you when something might make you uncomfortable. (a.k.a. don't let your partner goad you into camping when you know you'll have a lot of work to do with keeping the wee ones out of harm's way.)

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: omgimages/iStockphoto

Make peace with dirt and bugs

Everyone will be filthy until you come home. There will be mosquito bites. But there will also be s'mores, campfire and tent snuggles, and "I saw a loon Mom!" I never thought I'd say this, but there's something about being outdoors 24-7 that is so good for the soul. By the end of 2-3 days, your city girl fancy ways are so broken down by dirt, sand and smoke that you discover who you really are underneath the layers. And being a family around the clock like that, sleeping so close, swimming all day, well, that makes for a special trip indeed.

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: Birute/iStockphoto

Easy recipes for camping

How to go camping with kidsPhoto: Christa/Flickr

This article was originally published on Jun 25, 2012
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