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Making Camping With Kids A Little Easier

By Melissa Summers

Earlier this year a group of families from the school we moved to, invited us to go camping with them in August. I’ve always thought of camping as an activity meant for people who are not me. To me, camping with kids seems like the exact opposite of a “vacation.” But then you see I am quite into hanging out with other families, so I was caught in a dilemma. In the end, I decided the kids should get to try camping and we, adults, should get to know other families at our school better and spend more time with the ones we know already. So, camping it is.

My little boy and I had a camping-test-run in May at an overnight camping event with his Cub Scout group. This little experiment was, kind of a disaster. It turns out tents are not automatically water proof and even a short camping outing, at a site without running water, requires more than just a bag of supplies. I was incredibly under-prepared. So, in preparing for our upcoming summer trip I’ve been reading up on Camping With Kids and have found tons of great tips for making the experience as smooth as possible.

General Camping with Kids Tips

I emailed Asha Dornfest at Parent Hacks asking her to collect her readers’ camping hacks. I knew this was a group of parents that would not disappoint. You can read some tips here. And, here is another exhaustive list of collected camping hacks. Parent Hacks, why weren’t you around when my babies were little?

Camping with Babies

Here’s a great set of 10 tips for tent camping with a little one. My favorite tip: Warn people you’ve got a baby on site by leaving baby related items in clear sight, so baby-friendly campers choose a site near yours and the others get far away.

What to Eat When Camping with Kids

I’ve been curious about what we’ll eat while camping, my brain can’t quite wrap itself around not having a microwave handy. Mother’s Kitchen (a fellow Michigander) has a few great recipes to share. I’m excited to try out the techniques, but will be bringing along quite a few boxes of cereal in case of emergency.

Checklists for Camping with Kids

To make our camping experience a little smoother this time around, here’s what I have planned.

My friend Maggie, who actually enjoys camping, gave me her master packing list for camping and all sorts of trips. I made the camping section into a PDF you can download here. Customize it for your own family and then laminate it for repeat use.

To keep everything organized and easy to find, I’ll be packing things in a few plastic totes, like these. One tote will hold clothes and toiletry items, another will hold gear, like lanterns and flashlights, and a third will hold all the food and food prep items. Everything is then easily stacked and waterproof. Still, to prevent small animals, like the very adept raccoon, from trying to break-in, those bins will have to be stored, probably in the car.
Camping With Kids
On our last camping trip I didn’t realize there would be no running water anywhere near our campsite. Luckily the trip was just one night but I saw a really easy way to keep water on site at one of the other camper’s set-up. I eyed it longingly. A large water cooler with spigot will keep drinking water accessible, lets your kids brush their teeth easily in the morning, and with the addition of a nylon “Soap Bag”, makes a perfect hand washing station.

Some other Quick Tips for Camping with Kids:

1. I’ll be packing each of the kids a whistle they can wear while exploring around our campsite, if they get lost they can blow the whistle until we find them.

2. We’ll be bringing a bulk box of glow sticks for the kids. Someone had that idea at our last camping excursion, and they were such a simple hit for everyone. And at under $1 a stick, totally worth it.

3. I am usually a little less than relaxed about messes, so while camping I’m taking advantage of the already-messy conditions and bringing quite a few craft supplies, including the much dreaded and often ignored PAINT SUPPLIES.

We’re heading into the wild during the first week in August. I’ll be sure to post an update after we return…if we make it out alive.

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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Tarps on bottom and top are a wonderful thing! My brother’s Scout troop used to dig a ditch around the tent when it was supposed to rain to divert the water, too. Me, I ended up floating on an air mattress one night.

L Gregg
L Gregg

Try taking 3 kids, ages 7,10, and 15 on a 3 day hiking trip UP a mountain! We did! everyone carried thier own sleeping bags, food and supplies on thier back in packs, even the youngest. No tents! They survived and actually enjoyed it. Now they are wanting to start the applalachian trail and walk it for 2 weeks every year until they walk the whole thing! I think they are crazy!


Since Max is a Cub Scout have you seen Dutch Oven cooking? It totally rocks! You make a mean in one big pot. I think you can google “dutch oven cooking” for recipes. There is even an dutch oven cooking yahoo group. We went to a family weekend at a local scout camp when one of my stepsons was a Cub Scout. I was helping with leather crafts in the same open-air building as the dutch oven cooking. For breakfast they made some cinnamon-y deliciousness and a tater tot and egg thing. For lunch it was a stew with biscuits.… Read more »


Thanks for the link! I hope you enjoy your trip. 🙂 One thing I forgot when we went this summer, that would have been a huge help, was ziplock baggies! Just an FYI!

Moms Kitchen

Thanks for the shout out regarding my camping recipes.