Camping is one of our family's favorite, and least expensive, ways to "vacation" in the summer. We teamed up with Energizer and The Motherhood for this summer's camping fun. Sharing our best tips for Better Camping with Kids and a fun GIVEAWAY.
I may be a single mother with a limited budget for vacationing, but I'm determined to give my kids the experience and memories of time away from home in the summer. Camping is one of our favorite ways to "get away" for the summer without spending a lot of money. We don't have to go far from home, but we still get to experience a more relaxed environment, grow closer as a family, and make memories together.
But if you're a parent, then you'll know what I mean when I say that a vacation with kids is a challenge of its own. Just the process of gathering and packing for four kids can sometimes make me question why I'm so determined to get my kids out of town. Still, when all is said and done, I'm always so glad we did it! And, after our most recent mountain getaway, I've got a few tips to make camping with kids a little bit easier.
This single mother set up a tent all by herself, manned the dutch ovens for three days of eating, and managed to bring home all four children with a minimal number of scrapes and bruises. Total success! Here are my tips for better camping with kids:
1. Pick the Right Spot
A good location makes all the difference! If you're new to camping with kids, find a spot that isn't too far from home, then if things go south, it's easy to throw in the towel.
Consider the differences between disbursed camping and developed camping and decide what will work best for your family. The upside to developed camping is bathrooms, trash cans, and easy access. The downside is having neighbors and paying fees. For the most part now, we camp on our own away from developed camp sites. But if you have very young kids, or you're still getting the hang of the whole camping thing, developed camp sites really are nice.
My best tip for picking the right spot is to try to find a spot near water. Camping with kids near a stream makes everything easier for me and more fun for the kids. The kids spent almost our entire camping trip in the water, which meant more time for me to relax!
2. Bring the Right Gear
The right gear means the difference between a relaxing weekend away or a camping disaster. You can find good checklists for the essentials and obvious items like a tent and sleeping bags (here's a good one), but here's a few more that really making the family camping experience easier:
- A Lantern: Flashlights are great, but when you're trying to change diapers, get kids dressed, and find your 6 year old's favorite (and tiny) stuffed animal in the dark, you're going to want a reliable lantern. Trust me. Energizer's versatile lanterns are powerful and portable, just what you need for family camping trips. Our Energizer lantern led the way to the bathroom at night, plus kept all the boogeymen out of the tent until the little ones fell asleep, which, honestly, is the real reason we can't camp without a high powered lantern. Energizer area lanterns are the safe, reliable way to provide bright 360° light long into the night, at the camp fire, or while weathering a storm.
- A high chair: If you have a little one, find the extra space to bring a high chair. Not only does it make meal times easier, but it can be a lifesaver when you're trying to keep a toddler away from the camp fire and other camping dangers when you're hands are busy. I learned this trick when I took my first baby camping for the first time and spent a not very relaxing weekend playing goalie at the campfire and fishing pine needles and rocks out of her mouth.
- Hammocks: You may think this doesn't really sound like "essential" family camping gear, but I'll disagree. Yes, it's delightful to relax in a hammock and stare up at blue sky and big trees - nothing quite like it. But, I really put it on the list because the hammocks kept the kids so entertained. If they weren't in the water, they were in the hammocks. Hammock games were devised, afternoon rest time was made possible, and a nap or two may even have happened and I owe it all to the hammocks.
- A Hand Washing Station: Okay, I haven't ever actually done this but when I saw this after our most recent camping trip, I vowed to make this part of our essential camping gear next time. As you'll see in the pictures I've posted here, kids get really, really dirty on camping trips.
- Kid Friendly Bug Repellent: I'm a big fan of essential oils and we do make our own bug sprays for camping, but the kids really love these kid friendly mosquito repellent bracelets. They were effective repelling bugs, but the kids also just thought they were fun - a camping fashion statement if you will. But really, I'll try almost anything if it keeps the kids from complaining about bugs all weekend.
- Towels: Bring so many towels. More than you think you'll need. Really, you can't bring enough towels.
- Batteries: What I said about towels goes for batteries too. It gets really dark out there. When you’re preparing for your summertime adventures, don’t forget the batteries! Even better, bring Energizer batteries. Energizer® EcoAdvanced™ batteries are the world’s first AA and AAA battery made with four percent recycled batteries.
- Headlights : And I should say this, enough head lights for all your kids because they're going to think they're amazing and want their own. I only brought two this last time and it was a bigger problem than I care to explain (read: temper tantrum at bed time because not enough lights for reading 🙁 ). But seriously, hands free lighting, especially when you're camping with kids, is amazing! Energizer headlights are lightweight, versatile and water resistant with pivoting functionality to direct light where you need it.
3. Good Food
I've long thought that food tastes better when eaten outside, so camping food is one of my life's great pleasures. If you haven't tried cooking in a dutch oven while camping, I can't recommend it highly enough! It's so easy, but so delicious. Dutch oven pizza is one of my favorite camping dinners, but we enjoyed some amazing Dutch Oven Ravioli on our most recent camping trip too. And Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler, oh dear!
Over on Simple Bites, Aimee has a fantastic guide for good camping food. Her Homemade Instant Maple Oatmeal has recently become a favorite camping breakfast. And the Ginger Beef and Bean Burritos I prepared ahead of time, out of the book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars was a lunch favorite (we've even made them again since we came home and just baked them in the oven).
And don't forget the s'mores. Is it really called camping without marshmallows and s'mores? We like to go the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup route with our s'mores and it never disappoints. But remember that hand washing station? You'll want one after these for sure.
4. Let them play
For the best experience camping with kids, build in a lot of play time. It's helpful to bring some structured play just in case :
- Card Games
- Sport's Equipment (balls, frisbees, etc.)
- Nature Crafts (crafts that involve leafs, or pine cones, or rocks)
- Story Books
- Buckets and water toys
But plan for plenty of unstructured play too! One of my favorite tools for getting the kids playing on their own is this book: The Great Big Book of Children's Games . This gets them started, but it normally leads to a lot of fun, child led activities and their imagination takes it from there.
I've also found that normal "chores" become more like play when we're camping too. Washing dishes while camping = fun. And teaching outdoor skills feels like a lot of fun too:
- tying knots
- using pocket knives
- safe fire skills
- reading a compass
- bird watching
- identifying animal tracks
5. Embrace the outdoors
In his wonderful book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv said,
Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.
When you go camping, your kids have the opportunity to experience nature and fall in love with it. There's no need to bring all of the electronics and distractions from home, instead, embrace nature. This is something fun that you can do for your children, but it's also something important.
“Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).” Richard Louv
To make your family's summer adventures and camping trips with kids a little bit easier, I've got a great giveaway from Energizer! Energizer lights and batteries are the perfect accessories for all your summertime family activities.
• One Energizer® Fusion LED Folding Lantern
• One Energizer® Vision HD + Focus LED Headlight
• Two packs of Energizer® EcoAdvanced® AA and AAA Batteries
This post was sponsored by Energizer and The Motherhood. All experiences and opinions are entirely my own.