Like I mentioned yesterday, camping is a fun way to get your family into nature. As we are getting closer to summer and with college and jobs getting in the way of our vacation plans, we are seriously considering a camping trip or two over the summer. We’ve camped in Oregon, up north in Santa Cruz, Yosemite and we even took an RV from Colorado home visiting National Parks along the way.
I thought I would share some of our favorite tips for making camping a little easier.
To me the packing and unpacking is the hardest part of camping. We have it down to a system at this point. We keep a few boxes in the garage with all of camping gear so when we plan a trip we know we have what we need in those boxes.
We have a kitchen box with things like pots, pans, bowls and dishes. A few years ago we got the blue enamel dishes that we only use for camping. We wash them after every meal which means we don’t have to get paper plates and plastic utensils. It’s environmentally friendly. I keep a set of knives, cutting board and a can opener that I’ve collected over the years.
We grab our tent, sleeping bag and clothes. We take empty ice chests for food, games, books and other activities.
Make a list and check it twice. I plan our meals before leaving the house and make a list of things we need. It helps to have a plan so you can make use of the things that you buy for various meals. Cook up bacon in the morning then use the leftovers to crumble over a baked potato at dinner. (Ha, I said leftover bacon.) Grill BBQ chicken for dinner and use the leftovers to make a salad for lunch.
Breakfast: We eat cereal, eggs, bacon, pancakes and breakfast burritos. Lots of coffee. Making coffee on the stove is probably the best thing on a camping trip.
Lunch: Sandwiches, salads, hot dogs. Lunch is usually on the go when you are camping and sandwiches is the way to go so you can pack that up and take it with you on a hike or boating adventure. Individually bagged chips or crackers and water or juice pouches are perfect.
Dinner: This needs the most planning. When we went to Little Basin, north of Santa Cruz, a few years ago we stopped at a Trader Joe’s to get our groceries. We bought their marinated chicken for tacos, BBQ ribs and salad kits that made it so easy to put a meal together. I don’t do any prep at home so buying prepared meals makes it really easy when it comes to meal time. I usually make pasta with marinara since that’s quick and simple. I make garlic bread on the grill and we pack a few bottles of wine or beer.
Snacks: Trail mix, granola bars, homemade cookies, lots of fruit and veggies. and of course s’mores. We have perfected the gourmet s’more made with specialty chocolate and sliced fruit. It’s a-ma-zing!
The great thing about camping with three kids is that we have three more sets of hands to help. They know that we work together to get camp set up. They do dishes at the end of the meal and we remind them to keep camp clean and tidy. It’s always someone’s responsibility to make sure all of the food is put in the bear box and that it is locked at all times. We also make sure someone is in charge of putting the trash in the bins and not left out for the raccoons to eat.
I love that camping is a team effort. We have camped with other families and we each take turns making meals and doing the dishes.
Make it an electronic free zone
This is a natural occurrence in nature. Lots of camp grounds do not get connection. Aside from the coffee in the morning, no internet connection is the best part of camping. We turn our phones off, don’t take our tablets and just live in the “wild”. We take books, lots of games and find ways to have fun away from the screens.
Read. Play games, Hike. Explore. Run around and play. One of the campsites that we stayed in had a playground. We would spend the evening swinging, hanging and being kids. Lots of campgrounds have ranger talks, organized hikes and museums. We love learning about the place we are living in. Over thanksgiving we stayed in Sequoia and loved listening to the ranger talk about the bear population in the park and the history of the trees.
Invest in a good tent, warm sleeping bags and kitchen gear. A good stove and portable grill is a must. We get lanterns for each of the kids. We especially love the ones that do not require batteries. Lighting is very important, especially because it gets pitch black. We also have battery operated twinkling lights to hang over our table. A fun little addition.
Bring buckets for washing dishes and hands. Bring towels for showers and water play. Lots of backpacks for taking on hikes. We bring paper towels, kitchen towels and toilet paper. Be careful on the toiletries you take. Some campgrounds won’t let you use soap or even toothpaste with a scent as they attract critters and bears.
Enjoy the moments
Some of our best memories have been from our camping adventures. Believe me, I have great memories of walking on the beach in Kaui too. But camping is fun.
There are beautiful places to discover around the country. One of my favorite, and quite honestly coldest, camp grounds we’ve stayed at is Patrick’s Point in Eureka, CA. It was right by the ocean, which meant that in the morning it was foggy and at night it was freezing, at least for me.
Campgrounds bring people together from all over the world. You get to meet them as your making your campfire or washing your dishes. Some of them camp all the time and they have great tips and advice. Being social is a big part of camping – at least for us.
One of my favorite family moments was at Zion National Park. We had hiked to see a waterfall and afterwards sat on the grassy area in front of the lodge with an ice cream from the store. We sat under the shade of a beautiful tree – the five of us taking it all in. I felt so much peace in that moment and happiness in the memories we were creating with the kids.
Find places to discover and make memories. Take time to plan an adventure. It’s hard work but it’s worth it.