Get Outside · Parenting · Trip Report

Camping With Kids (part 1)

My partner and I love camping. With the exception of 3 summers when I had an infant, then was pregnant, then had two small kids, we’ve gone canoeing every year. For the past 3 summers it’s been our kid-free vacation. For our honeymoon we also camped – along the Machame route of Mt Kilimanjaro, and then in Serengeti National Park. Sleeping with a herd of Cape Buffalo grazing inches from my head separated only by a thin layer of nylon was by far the wildest camping experience I’ve ever had.

Camping on Kilimanjaro
Cape Buffalo roamed around right outside of our tents one night in Ngorongoro Crater
Also an elephant crashed our site to have a drink from the water tank
Camping in Ngorongoro Crater was pretty incredible.

We’re outdoorsy people.

We couldn’t wait to introduce our kids to camping, but we wanted to wait until we felt the kids were old enough. And this summer, at 5 and 3 years old, we decided to go for it.

Prior to booking anything, we let the kids camp in the backyard one night. We set up the tent, blew up the air mattress (the deluxe one, not our ultralight compression ones) and roasted marshmallows over our propane fire pit before we tucked in under the stars. The night went off without a hitch, so we booked a site.

For our first trip we decided to keep it as easy and close to home as we could. We settled on a Provincial Park about a half hour drive from home with car camping sites. We packed the car and set out.

The kids were excited to help set up the tent and get their beds ready. Then we set off on a hike and went to check out the beach before heading back to our site for dinner. We roasted hot dogs over the fire and made stick bread (alternate title of my blog: There’s a bread for that!). If you haven’t made stick bread I highly recommend you do next time you have a fire.

We roasted marshmallows and had s’mores, then got ready for bed. We slept with the fly off so that we could let in ambient light for the kids, as well as try to spot any stars. Unfortunately it was a bit too bright to really get a good look at any.

We were woken around 4 am to rain drops on our faces, so my partner and I rushed around putting the fly over the tent before it got soaked. I was SHOCKED the kids slept through it. We were not quiet.

It drizzled for most of the morning so we played some high stakes Go Fish, and coloured in the tent. Once the rain eased up we made breakfast and then headed back to the beach, before packing up to head home.

TL;DR, here are my top tips for camping with kids:

1. Bring all of the snacks. All of them. Think you packed enough food? Pack more. My small humans went through 5 granola bars, an apple, 2 kiwis, and 2 oranges, 2/3 of an emergency bag of Party Mix (we needed more snacks), 5 hot dogs, stick bread, and s’mores from the time we arrived to the time they fell asleep. Day two was much the same.

2. If your kids are small (and your site is a bit of a walk from the bathrooms) bring a potty. It saved us a few long walks to the bathrooms in the rain.

3. Bring some form of entertainment, but don’t go overboard. We had a colouring book and a deck of Peppa Pig cards for Memory (which also worked for Go Fish; side note: my daughter is now a Vegas professional level Go Fish player).

4. Turn anything and everything into an adventure. Rain ruined your plans? Play fun games in the tent. Dance in it. Accidentally set your kid down in a colony of red ants? Talk up what a brave explorer they are, while quietly cursing over the bites you got.

Have you been camping with your kids? What tips would you add to this list?

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