Let's go camping!

It's not fancy; you will get dirty. But grab a tent and some rations, and get set for a fun family adventure the kids will love!

Outdoor living with little ones

When it comes to camping with the under-five set, it’s the little things that add up to a terrific experience. Here’s some tried-and-true tips from some seasoned campers:

• Keep a potty in the tent for nighttime bathroom breaks and double up on diapers.
• Don’t forget sleep toys, blankets and pacifiers.
• Bring along an ExerSaucer or playpen to corral crawlers.
• For cool nights, dress babes in toques and footed sleepers.
• Bring the baby backpack for family hikes and keeping your hands free around the campsite.
• Set play boundaries and tell kids not to touch wildlife or plants without checking with mom or dad.
• Douse campfires completely to prevent accidental burning.
• Have kids wear a whistle pinned to their shirt to blow in case of emergency.
• Put a life jacket on kids playing in or by open water.

What to pack

You know the basics (tents, sleeping bags, tarps, cookware), but what about these essentials?

• outdoor entertainment (kites, Frisbees, inflatable balls, sand toys, etc.)
• clothesline for wet clothes, bathing suits and sleeping bags
• trowel for digging ditches around the tent to keep out rain
• extra flashlights and batteries (kids like having one of their own too)
• small surprises (toys, treats) to pull out if spirits need a lift
• portable, dry snacks in airtight containers
• bottled water
• binoculars for spotting wildlife
• battery-operated lanterns for nighttime
• bug repellent (plus long sleeve shirts and pants)
• curiosity kit: a large coffee can with plastic tweezers, magnifying glass, tiny plastic containers, paintbrush, little notebook and pencil for studying nature
• extra plastic or zip-top bags for packing clothes, food and other items
• sturdy closed-toe shoes for hiking
• toilet paper (privy paper can be rough)
• lightweight folding chairs
• silicone plates, bowls and cups — metal can be too hot for little hands to hold

Camping cuisine

“We make group meals with friends and eat quite well — it’s so easy now with pre-marinated, individually wrapped salmon, filet mignon and so on,” says Lisa Murphy, a Toronto mom who has taken 10-day camping trips with her husband, Rich, and kids, Rowan, seven, and Maggie, five.

Whether you want to whip up a gourmet meal or keep it simple, parents like Murphy agree that planning is key when it comes to camping. Here are three recipes (available in our Recipe file) that put the smack in lip smacking:

Campfire Pizza
Bogburger Ragout
Indispensable Biscuit Mix

And for dessert:

Chocodillas
1 flour tortilla, 6 in (15 cm) size
1 tbsp (15 mL) semi-sweet chocoate chips
10 mini-marshmallows

On one half of the tortilla, arrange the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Fold the other half on top and press firmly (it won’t seal, but that’s OK). Place the folded Chocodilla on a preheated griddle or frying pan (no oil or grease needed) over medium heat. Cook, pressing down with a spatula, until lightly browned on the bottom. Turn and continue to cook until the other side is browned and the chocolate and marshmallows are melted. Let cool a minute or two before devouring.