Family Camping Guide

Camping with your family is a great way to bond. It can build skills in children that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment.

Spending time in the outdoors can build confidence and help you relieve stress.

Some family members may be resistant to the idea of camping.  The idea of not having a bathroom or a comfy bed close by can seem daunting.

This doesn’t have to be a deterrent. There are many different styles of camping with varying levels or remoteness.

There are campsites that have cabins with rustic toilets available. There are also sites that have modern showers and bathrooms available nearby.

So, as you can see it’s possible to ease your more reluctant family members into camping.

Benefits Of Family Camping

Finding opportunities for family  bonding time is becoming more difficult. With the increasing use of technology, quality family time is becoming rare.  Phones and video games can take up a large amount of free time.

Camping with your family can be a great way to interrupt the constant flood of information. Enjoying a beautiful natural view together will relieve stress and make you all grow closer.

When it comes to bonding, few things are as effective as overcoming obstacles together. Long hikes, canoe trips or stays in remote locations are great examples. They can a boost a family’s sense of accomplishment and make great memories.

Family Camping Planning

If you’re going on a Family Camping trip having a good plan is essential. A packing list is definitely something that you’ll want to put together.

If you’re going to be using a tent, you’ll want to decide how large a tent you need. There are many options here. From 10 person tents to tents with internal room dividers.

One thing to keep in mind is that the larger your tent is, the heavier it will be. If you need to carry it any distance, you’ll need to take weight into consideration. 

Family Camping Checklist

Sleeping Pads And Air Mattresses

When I go camping, being able to sleep comfortably is a huge deal.

At times when I need to save weight, a 1.5 inch inflatable pad works fine. 

But when I’m able to carry gear in a vehicle instead of on my back, I opt for comfort.

An air mattress that combines air and foam is the ticket. I have one that’s over 3 inches thick. It’s heavy and bulky but it’s worth it. You’ll get a restful night’s sleep. This can mean the difference between a wonderful family camping experience and grumpy kids and parents.

So, don’t skimp on a quality mattress. You can get multiple single mattresses or one large full size mattress.

I prefer air mattresses for one because I can use them when I go camping by myself. However, one or 2 full size mattresses for 2 can mean less gear to keep track of. It’s really a matter of preference.

Family Friendly Camping Sites

If you’re camping with children and pets, it’s important to make sure that campsites can accommodate them. 

This doesn’t just mean that they allow pets and kids. You should consider what types of activities you’ll be doing.

For example, hiking and swimming can be great activities that the whole family can enjoy.

If you’re going to be car camping, then having a playground or dog park on the premises is a great convenience.

Car Camping

A great way to get started camping without being to serious is car camping.

Car camping involves renting a campsite where you drive in and park on the campsite.  There you unload your tent and set it up close to your car.

This allows you to bring many home amenities out with you. Car camping makes it much easier to bring items like generators and stoves with you.

Most camp site like this have trails and natural scenery that you can enjoy.

Some even prefer to sleep inside their car. Having your car nearby provides an added sense of security.

Also, if the weather turns, your car is right there.

Practice Your Setup

Before you set out on your first family camping journey you should have a practice session.

You’ll get to test out your gear and have some fun while you’re at it. You can even spend that night out in your backyard and practice sleeping in your tent.

  • Make sure you check the following.
  • Flashlights Work As Expected.
  • Sleeping Pads or Mattresses are Comfortable.
  • Tent Setup Is Manageable.

Having a practice run setting up your gear will make it easier when you’re out at your site. It’s much better to find problems at home than when you’re out in the woods.

Safety And First Aid

First Aid Kit

When you’re out on a camping trip with family, you may encounter the usual cuts and scrapes. Don’t let a minor problem cut your trip short.

Make sure you carry a basic first aid kit. It should include items such as:

  • Bandages 
  • Bandage Tape
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Antibacterial Spray
  • Safety Scissors
  • Alcohol Swabs
  • Sterile Eye Dressings
  • Thermometer

The first aid kit might also be a good place to store your medications and pain relievers.

In addition, keep a card with all necessary emergency information. For example, you could include phone numbers for emergency contacts and physician information.

Don’t forget to put the first aid kit in a location where an adult can find it if needed.

GPS Trackers And Emergency Beacons

When you’re camping in the woods getting lost is a real possibility. If you’re out with children or pets, this can be an even greater concern.

GPS trackers and beacons can be a great insurance policy to help keep you safe.

Let’s say you’re out on a trail with kids or a dog. Getting a small battery operated GPS tracker and attaching it to your child’s clothing is a great idea. These trackers are small and have batteries that can last for days. They will periodically transmit position data to the owner. The peace of mind they can afford is priceless.

Emergency beacons are another useful tool to carry on wilderness family trips. These devices can serve triple duty as a light mapping tool, a messaging tool or an emergency alert beacon.

For example, the Garmin In-Reach Explorer includes topographical maps, satellite messaging and more. You can send SMS messages and location data even when you’re out of cellular range.

Just keep in mind that these communications features require a subscription service. But, for the peace of mind that it affords, it should be worth it.

Another option is an EPIRB. Beacons of this variety do not require a subscription to send an SOS message to authorities. However, they do require a subscription if you just want to send your loved ones an “I’m OK” message.

Family Camping Meals

When you’re out camping with your family  it can be difficult to come up with meal ideas that everyone will love. A key desire is to make meals simple and easy to transport to the campsite.

Foods that require lots of space and refrigeration can be problematic.

Think about space saving tricks that can help you make the most of it. For example, using frozen water bottles as ice in a cooler. This will keep any meats and dairy cold and also provide you with drinking water at the end of the trip.

Cracking eggs and putting the yolks and whites in a jar is another great space saving trick.


Camping snacks usually mean granola bars and beef jerky. Those are fine. I do love me some good beef jerky.

But I also like to have some nice out of the ordinary snacks when I’m out in the field. 

For example some bison jerky would be a nice change up. Some flavored popcorn or your favorite nuts is also a good choice. 

Ever heard of ice cream while camping? Well, if you put a few ice cream bars at the bottom of your cooler, they should last at least a day.


Dinners can be tough when you’re out camping with a group. As the sun starts to set, new considerations com into play.

Low light conditions and bugs can become a problem. Make sure that if you need some prep time that you have adequate light and bug protection.

As for meal ideas, freeze dried foods are the convenient option. All you need to do is boil water and add it to the meal pouch. Within minutes you’ll have a hot dinner serving. The downside is that some people don’t like freeze dried meals. You also have to pick from a limited set of options.

Alternatives will usually require more work.

If you want to have perishable meats and dairy products, then you’ll need a way to keep them cold. If you don’t have access to refrigeration, then a high quality cooler is a good option.

Modern rotomolded coolers can hold ice for days. If you use good insulation and shade techniques, you can get the most out of these types of coolers. Some people will line the inside of their coolers with aluminum foil. This will add a reflective layer that will help keep the contents colder longer. 

Another technique is using saltwater ice bottles or containers. Salt water freezes at a lower temperature than freshwater. This means you can get these saltwater ice bottles down to an even lower temp. Put this in your cooler, and you can keep perishables cold longer. Just make sure to keep a divider between the saltwater bottles and the meats. They could easily freeze your steaks and hot dogs.

With these techniques it becomes possible to bring meats like steaks and hot dogs. These are great campfire dinners that can really bring a family together after a long day of activities.

If you’re going to grill meats over a campfire, make sure you bring a grill grate with you. Also think ahead about how you will maintain distance between the campfire coals and the meat. You don’t want your dinner to come in direct contact with flames for too long. This would result in a charred dinner.

I recommend you separate some hot coals from your fire and use those to cook with.

For more details on feeding large groups at camp, check out my article on camping meals for large groups.


When you’re out in the woods with family, water requirements can get large. If you’re carrying water bottles, the amount of weight can become unbearable.

If you’re in an RV or car camping you have a solution. But what if you’re in a tent or otherwise not able to carry in a sufficient supply of water.

Water Filtering

If you’re camping in the woods with your family, carrying a water supply may not always be an option.

In these situations, it’s necessary to be near a suitable water supply. This can be a relatively clean creek, river, lake or pond. Then, you’ll need the proper water filtration gear. 

Water filter can range the gamut from very simple straws to more complicated setups. For example, you may need water for a weekend and you’ll be near a reasonable safe drinking supply. Gravity filters should work well for this. A filter that can remove particles that are 2 microns in size or smaller is a good idea. It should be able to dispense at about 10 liters per hour.

Family Camping Fun And Games

When you’re out at camp with the family, there may be times when you’re looking for something to do. Camp games can be great fun. But if space is limited, taking the whole cornhole set might not be an option.

A deck of cards is a simple way to have fun with the family.  If you do miss your bean bag toss, just take the bags and leave the bulky wooden ramps behind.

Don’t forget the campfire. If you’re out with kids, campfire stories are a great way to bond. 

Finally, if you’re going to be near water, be sure to bring inflatables for a relaxing float.

Family Glamping

If roughing it is not your style, then you’re in luck. In recent years companies have sprung up the meet your needs.

Luxurious tents and yurts are the latest. These tents will feature climate control and even a hot tub for late night relaxing. 

The mobility of these setups is key. It means that companies can set them up in locations that have beautiful natural views.

You may be able to find a luxury campsite in many of your favorite natural areas. If being on the water is your dream, there are even luxury houseboats available for rent. These boats can put you right on the water and come with all the gear you need to enjoy yourself. This can include water slides, inflatables and even personal watercraft.


Recreational Vehicles (RVs) are a great way to get away with the family.  These vehicles can be outfitted with multiple bedrooms. You can even get an RV that has a kitchen and full bathroom.

It’s a great way to visit natural areas and National Parks. The best part is that you get to stay right in the park instead of a far away hotel or resort.

Now, you may be thinking that RVs are prohibitively expensive. However, there are ways you can have a vacation without having to get a second mortgage. There are companies that rent RVs. So you can enjoy all the fun and freedom, and then when you’re done, just return it.


Family camping trips are essential for building camaraderie. Sibling bond and the whole family benefits. The memories you build will be the types of memories that last.

Run of the mill days of watching TV and sitting around don’t compare.

Yes, it takes some work and preparation. But if you plan it out properly, you can have a comfortable trip. 

Tent camping may not be for everyone, but don’t let that prevent you from going out into the wild. Rustic camping cabins or houseboats or RVs can offer you a family outdoors experience.

So, leave a comment and let me know what your best family camping tip is.

Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s Site for more tips on family camping.

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