Camping is a great opportunity for a family to spend quality time together. Getting away from the lure of digital distractions and having to work together for a common goal is a guaranteed opportunity for memory making that camping provides. But without a proper pre-planning a family camping trip can be a disaster waiting to happen! Whether it’s flashlights left at home or meals that take so much time to prepare and clean up after that you have to start prepping the next meal as soon as you finish the prior one—forgetting to plan effectively can put a real damper on a family camping trip. This makes it vitally important that, once you have decided where you are going to camp, you take the time to plan effectively so you can enjoy the trip with your family.
It is, of course, most important that you have all of the supplies to keep you safe and protected from the weather and nature itself. Hopefully, you will have well researched the area where you’ll be camping and know the type of gear you will need to be best protected and comfortable—zero degree or better rated tents and sleeping bags along with extra socks for those winter camping excursions, or bug spray and hammocks for long, trail hiking camping trips. For exhaustive lists and suggestions for what to pack for camping trips, Pinterest is a gold mine. Search for a region or expected weather and “camping” and you can cherry pick lists to ensure that you are not only safe, but also that you will actually enjoy your camping trip.
Once you have established the gear you will need, you then have to consider how you’re going to feed your family. There are two key things to consider when deciding on a camping menu: how much time do you actually want to spend cooking and what resources are available for you to cook on or with. The latter is the most important, as it will dictate what types of things you can even cook. For instance, if you are hiking and will need to take a backpacking stove, then you know you will either be reheating lots of precooked items or adding water to a premixed item. If you have the luxury of a camp stove or fire pit you will have considerably more freedom as to what you cook, but you will have to decide how much of your time you want to devote to cooking.
By way of example, consider the following plan for a weekend camping trip:
First Evening: pick something for dinner that requires only reheating or no heat at all. You will be tired from setting up camp and will probably not want to cook or clean up!
Second Day: this is the day you can spend some time fixing breakfast and dinner, but make sure lunch is a no-cook option, preferably pre-prepared. A pre-prepared lunch gives you the opportunity to have an un-interrupted day of camping activities with your family between breakfast and lunch. As for breakfast and dinner, make things easier by pre-prearing some, if not all, of your meal. For instance, for breakfast put pancake mix in a bottle so that you only have to add water, shake, and then pour it out. You can easily throw the bottle away afterward and have less to cleanup. Having foil pack meals for dinner? If you didn’t completely make them prior to your trip, then at least have the ingredients precut and ready to be divvied up into the foil packs.
Third Day: you have packing up to do, so washing up is probably going to be low on your list of priorities. This is the perfect time for premade breakfast items like granola bars and yogurts. For an added benefit, try freezing the yogurts prior to your trip and using them to help keep your cooler chilled while they thaw.
When you picked your camping destination you no doubt picked it not just for the space to spread a tent, but the activities that are available. Nearby hikes, swimming holes, and natural wonders will certainly occupy the bulk of your time. But there is always down time and when you are preparing for a camping trip with you family it’s important you plan for that down time, too. Card games and sports equipment that take up little of your precious packing room are great options. When those lose appeal, guided or independent tasks can guarantee you don’t hear choruses of “I’m boooored”. Consider activities like kindling collecting races (seeing who can collect the most kindling in a certain amount of time) or rainbow scavenger hunts (finding something in nature for each color of the rainbow – but remember not to disturb it if it is not something that can be removed without harming it or its surroundings).
So remember, a little planning and preparation before you go on a camping trip can guarantee that you’ll have a much smoother, and hopefully more enjoyable, experience. Ensuring you have the proper gear is first and foremost in your planning to ensure you are safe and protected. Any pre-planning you do after that is for the sake of your sanity and allowing yourself time to enjoy your camping trip along with your family.