In our earlier days of tent camping we didn’t always end up “happy campers”, however after years of trying new ways to make camping more fun I learned a few things that have made camping less of a chore and more of a relaxing getaway for everyone. I believe the more you plan and prepare for your trip, the more you’ll enjoy your experience.
Tips When Planning A Camping Trip
Test Drive Camping At Home
You don’t want to end up sleeping underneath the stars because you couldn’t figure out how to set up your tent! It’s a good idea to test your camping gear at home in the backyard or pop the tent up in your living room before you get to the actual campground. Plus, kids love indoor camping!
Beginners – Camp Close To Home
I always recommend new campers to camp close to home. That way if the trip goes South it isn’t a huge car ride back to reality.
Google Reviews Of The Campground
Let me ask you a question, when buying a car do you trust the dealer more or a friend who has driven the same type of vehicle you are looking to purchase? In most cases you would rely on your friend’s option. The same idea fits in with planning a camping vacation. There is nothing more frustrating than arriving to your campsite and it looks nothing like what the campground website advertised! Reviewing campgrounds online, like here on Beyond The Tent, is a helpful way to see what campground fits into your ideal travel plans.
Review Campground Maps Before Reserving A Site
Once you have chosen the perfect campground it’s time to reserve the best campsite. I have made it a habit to study the campground maps prior to booking our sites. I try to stay clear from large drop offs or any type of water next to our tent. At least that is the case when we camp with the kids. In fact, when we are with the kids I like to have a restroom near-by, however on the same hand I don’t want to neighbor the restroom. It can be a busy spot in the middle of the night!
In Most Cases Leave Pets At Home
Without a doubt I love pets. I have seen a lot of animals who seem just fine being in a campground environment, yet I have also seen well behaved dogs turn from their normal personality into something else. Last year we had a boxer scratch our truck door from jumping at the window because it saw our dog in the back seat. It all came without any sort of warning and the dog owner ran away to hide in their camper with their boxer. Since then we line up a dog sitter while we are camping. You and I may love dogs, but not everyone does and when you are camping you have to remember you are within a tight spaced community where you should respect one another’s space.
Camping Gear Tips
Spend A Little Extra On Comfortable Camp Chairs
You can purchase cheap camping chairs and that is what you will get in the end, a cheap chair. Think about the number of hours you will be spending sitting around the camping fire. Those hours will count as a negative if your body is not supported well. It’s worth every extra penny you spend to get a chair that makes you say, “Ahh, that’s nice” when you sit down. Some chairs we really like are
Buy A ThermaCELL Lantern
One thing I have learned from my past camping trips is that bugs can really bug! I am head over heels about ThermaCELL products. They have kept the mosquitoes from invading our fun countless times. I also use the lantern in our backyard throughout the summer. You can purchase the Thermacell Lantern from Amazon.
Screened In Tents Are Awesome
Another way to keep the bugs from ruining your trip is by additionally using a screened in tent. We place our screened in tent over the picnic table. That way we can eat without an army of flies landing on our food. We like the Eureka Rectangular Screen House for $159.95.
Packing For Your Camping Trip Tips
Make Camp Ready Meals At Home
Cooking your meals over a campfire can be time consuming, reduce your time spent in a camp kitchen by making meals ahead of time from home. For instance you could prepare sticks of chicken kabobs ready for the campfire or simply have the ingredients for a tin foil dinner sliced and stored in Ziplock bags prior to leaving the house. Saving time on the food end will gain you more time to enjoy being in the outdoors.
Pack Simple – Yet Comfortable
I can’t count how many times I have read pack light when camping. Each time my eyes pass over those words I relate light to uncomfortable. A huge camping myth is the idea that camping is all about stuffing your face with fire burnt marshmallows and sleeping on the cold rock hard ground. This is not what camping looks like… for most people. I agree you shouldn’t pack your king sized headboard, however I do encourage campers to pack for their comfort level. I will not leave home without my memory foam pad and pillow! If you need a simple camping checklist here is a LINK to one we made just for you.
Use Storage Totes For Packing
It can be puzzling trying to fit the tent back into the bag it came pack in, so use storage totes for pain free packing. You don’t have to worry about getting a Rubbermaid zipped up and you can fit more than one item in your storage container. They also stack very well in the back of your vehicle.
Add Tweezers To Your First Aid Kit
You will thank me for this tip if you get a sliver while building up your camp fire this summer.
Purchase A Case Of Fresh Drinking Water
A day spent in the sunshine can deplete your body. It is recommended to drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour while doing high-energy activities like outdoor hiking. We bring a case for the weekend to stay well hydrated throughout the day.
Pack Extra Blankets
Back to that comfort tip, you will want to pack extra blankets in case the temperature drops during the middle of the night. They also come in handy in case a kid decides to run into the tent with muddy shoes.
Don’t Forget Extra Padding
The inflatable air mattresses you see at stores are nice to have and now days most of them keep their air throughout the night. You can use camping cots to get you completely off the ground, too. If you can’t afford to invest in either of these types of camp bedding there are a number of other padding options on the market.
Ear Plugs Save The Night
If your camp neighbor didn’t read this article and missed the point about keeping pets at home you will be happy to have packed a small baggie of ear plugs. They drown out the background dog barking noise that is keeping you and your kids up into the wee hours of the night. They work on the other neighbors who are singing campfire songs off key, too!!
Helpful Campground Tips
Arrive At The Campsite Early
I have found the average check in time for Minnesota campgrounds is 3pm – 4pm. I suggest getting to your campground on the earlier side of the check in time frame because testing your skills of setting up camp in the dark is not as exciting as you may think! Especially if you didn’t listen to the first set of tips, which highlight test driving camping before the actual trip.
Remember Dirt Doesn’t Hurt
Camping is not the time to wear your Sunday best. Embrace nature and all it has to offer you while in the great outdoors. Each night make a visit to the shower room. Going to bed clean helps everyone to sleep better through the night, however during the day play hard.
Bring A Hammer or Mallet
Driving down tent stakes can be hard work if you don’t have a small hammer or mallet packed.
Keep The Mosquitoes Out Of Your Tent
Facing your tent door into the wind will help keep those nasty mosquitoes from joining your sleepover. Of course if you have the ThermoCell in your camp area you won’t be too worried about mosquitoes visiting. Another quick tip to keep the bugs out is to make sure to tell the kiddos camp rule number one: Always zip up the tent door.
Keep Coolers And Food In The Truck
The best way to make sure you don’t have night guest such as raccoons or mice treating themselves to a midnight snack is to keep your food supply and coolers inside your vehicle. Plus, I find it helps keep the kids from grabbing their own snacks if I have everything out of sight.
Bring Games and Plan Outdoor Activities
Camping is the best time to play card games and board games. Unlike at home you have the time to sit down and play. We like to pack our portable disc golf basket and discs when we are camping. It can be a really fun way to pass the time. The state parks are loaded with weekend activities that include educational teaching, too. Here is a few outdoor camping games you can play with the younger kids.
Weather Changes Be Ready
When you arrive at the campground you should be given a campground map, which highlights safe building in case of severe weather. Make sure you look this over and drive by the location before you set up your campsite. The above photo was from our road trip up to Itasca State Park and looking at the clouds coming in I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it there!
Always Keep Close To Kids
Every year there is a heartbreaking story of a child who was injured or passed away while camping with family and friends. If you are near by water be sure to have life jackets and pack a smaller sized safety kit to bring with on hiking trails. Also, have a stranger danger talk with your children.
Always Dry Out The Tent Prior To Storing
If you get caught in the rain be sure to set the tent back up to dry out prior to storing it away for the next trip. Leaving it packed when it is wet or has any moisture on it can cause it to grow mildew and mold.
Camping Is A Great Adventure
I hope some if not all of these tent camping tips are useful to you. If you have any you would like to mention that have made your family camping more enjoyable, please share them in the comments below.
Happy Camping – Kelly