Planning for the Weather When Camping
Parents need to plan for all types of weather when camping with children. Although the afternoons may be warm and sunny, evenings and mornings can be quite cool even in warmer climates. Packing for cool temperatures will ensure everyone’s comfort during the trip. Children should have access to sweatshirts, long sleeved shirts, pants, socks and sturdy shoes. Dressing in layers will get the family through the day without numerous clothing changes.
Since the overnight hours can be especially cool in a tent, bringing a few extra blankets will increase the chances of a good night’s sleep for everyone. Placing several blankets under a sleeping bag, or using a portable crib for babies and toddlers, will get little sleepers off the ground and help keep them warm.
A canopy or awning is a great way to add more dry space to a campsite, in the event of a rainy day. Placing a tarp or other canopy over the picnic table provides a place to play a board game, color or prepare a meal. A screen tent will help keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay, as well.
Planning Children’s Activities for Camping Trips
Planning for activities with all family members requires thought about transportation. For infants, strollers are helpful to have along for some areas, but typically will not work well on unpaved hiking trails. Parents may consider bringing a backpack for use on uneven terrain, so everyone can participate in the fun activities that camping offers.
If there are bike trails at the campground, packing bicycles for the family provides a quick way to travel between restrooms, water sources and activities. They also offer a fun activity and exercise for children, especially the older ones.
Planning for rain and storms is very important to ensure enjoyment of the trip. For those inevitable rainy days, parents should pack an activity bag for each child, based upon their age and ability level. For small children, coloring books, crayons, books, small toys and board games will give them something to do if rain pushes them into the tent or camper for a few hours.
Camping Safety and First Aid Essentials
Since injuries and illness can occur during any camping trip, a first aid kit should be an essential part of anyone’s equipment. Items that soothe burns, sunburns, insect stings and bites, bandages and antibiotic ointment are minimum requirements. Sunscreen should also be taken along for use everyday, especially on tender skin.
Bugs and bug bites can spoil even the best family trip. Insect repellant is an essential item for every camping trip. Another great option is repellants that work in the entire campsite. From chemical foggers to candle-based repellants, keeping biting insects at bay will make everyone’s trip more comfortable.
For inevitable nighttime bathroom trips, parents should be sure to pack plenty of flashlights and batteries. A lantern, whether gas or battery powered, will light a large area of the campsite creating a safer area at night. In addition, packing a battery-operated weather radio will keep the family informed of any approaching storms or threatening weather.
As the campfire can be a major source of injury for very small children, packing a metal gate system to surround the fire pit can be a good idea. This will help keep toddlers a safe distance from the fire. Obviously, good parental supervision is the best way to prevent burns while camping.
Camping with small children, even infants, can create such wonderful family memories. Planning ahead for potential problems will not eliminate them, but it will certainly make them more bearable.
Family Camping Gear Checklist
Few things are more pleasing to lovers of outdoor recreation than a relaxing weekend free of the distractions of the workaday life, but packing all the right things can be frustrating and cumbersome. Follow this family camping gear checklist to ensure a relaxing–and cheap–trip.
Family Camping Gear: The Essentials
Shelter – Tent or camper, shelter is a must—unless, of course, a cabin rental is planned. Also, for trips longer than a weekend, pack a second tent for extra shelter and storage.
Tarps – Pack one tarp for each tent, slightly larger than the size of the tent, and place it under the tent when setting it up. The bottom of the tent will be thankful when it emerges from the camping trip unscathed by mud, sticks, or stones, and the tarp can be hosed off later.
Mallet – Pound in tent stakes with something meant for the job, not a boot, fallen log, or whatever may be handy.
Appropriate sleeping bags and blankets – Extra warmth for spring or fall camping, lighter-weight for summer camping, but it’s always good to be prepared for cold weather. Pack more than is needed and a sweatshirt or two for good measure—there’s no way to know when the temperature will take a nighttime dive.
Extra cash – Aside from the price of renting a camp site, the campground may charge a hefty price for other things, like ice, food, or fishing gear. Also, many regions ban outside firewood due to insect contamination problems. This forces campers to purchase the campground’s wood supply—for which they’ll be happy to charge high prices—or go without a fire.
First aid kit – It is always a good idea to be prepared for the event of mishap or tragedy. Make sure the camping first aid kit has the right things.
Food – Whether it’s dogs or dishes, pack ahead of time and pack for hunger. Many of the activities that go along with camping—hiking, swimming, and canoeing, to name three—require higher energy expenditure than normal activities. Don’t waste money on overpriced food from the campground’s convenience store.
Drinks – Water is best. Also consider bringing along a water filtration device to filter water for the family.
Cooler – Food and drinks need to be stored and kept cold. A cooler is simply a must unless the cabin or camper has a refrigerator, and even then it’ll come in handy. Consider bringing more than one.
Cooking tools – There’s nothing so rustic-feeling as cooking over an open fire, but make sure to bring pots, pans, and utensils with which to cook. Also, consider a travel propane grill for easier use.
Lighter – Fires don’t start themselves, so bring a lighter.
Tinder – Although hauling in firewood will probably be off limits, tinder such as old papers will work wonders for starting a fire.
Clothes and towels – Slightly more than enough for everyone on the trip, just in case someone gets wet.
Table service – Relying on paper plates and plastic utensils is one way, but bring along real silverware—it’s better for the planet and less flimsy, too. Active campers may want a chuck box especially for camping.
Sunscreen and insect repellent – Essentials for summer camping. And remember, the campground convenience store will be happy to charge forgetful campers a hefty price.
Garbage bags – Dirty clothes and trash needs to go somewhere. Littering is no fun for anyone.
Rope – Make a clothesline to hang wet towels and swimming suits, or use the rope to make shelter. Rope is useful.
Hatchet or axe – Even if the campground sells firewood, it may need to be split.
Knife – Carve a marshmallow roasting stick, slice food, or practice whittling.
Light – Whether it’s a flashlight or a lantern or both, bring plenty of light.
Family Camping Gear: The Extras
Camera – Family camping trips are really family memory-creating trips, so don’t forget a camera.
Fishing gear – If the campground has a lake, it probably has good fishing. Bring as much fishing gear as possible, because campgrounds will be more than happy to take that extra cash for an extra lure, bobber, or bucket.
Sleeping pad – For some this may be something of a necessity due to back problems, but most any camper will appreciate a soft surface.
Shower/personal care essentials – Most campgrounds have access to showers. Might as well use them.
Table and chairs – Picnic tables are common, which is what keeps this from the essentials list, but it never hurts to have extra seating.
Extra shoes – Avoid the discomfort of wet shoes by bringing a spare.
Campfire entertainment – Know how to play the guitar? Bring an acoustic. Know some scary stores? Rehearse beforehand. Campfires bring out entertainment and bring people together.
S’mores ingredients – Buy from a grocery store beforehand and save money.
Thinking about trips beforehand saves cash, meaning more money left over for more family camping trips. This list is only an example and can hardly claim to guess the essentials for every unique family. Make a list and pack for the family camping trip together. Most importantly, remember to have fun and enjoy the great outdoors.
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