My hubby and I both grew up loving camping, and have been camping together since we started dating 10 years ago. We have now successfully completed canoe trips while 34 weeks pregnant with a toddler in tow, and recently this July with our 2 little ones, ages 4 years and 21 months. I recognize that camping is not for everyone, but for those of us who love it, there is nothing better than introducing your kids to the great outdoors through a fun family camping trip.
Camping is always a messy adventure, but one we would never trade. Heading into the backcountry gives us a much needed break from technology and work. Time to slow down, enjoy nature, and spend a few days connecting with our kids & the simple pleasures of life. Some of our best family memories have been made camping, and it's amazing to hear our little guy already counting down the days to next summer's trip. He's a camper at heart and it makes his daddy and I so proud.
In order to enjoy camping it's important to prepare in advance and pack well. There are lots of camping packing lists available online (I promise to share mine one day soon), but I want to focus instead on a few key pieces of equipment that I believe can make your family camping experience a great one.
My Top 6 Must Haves for Camping with Kids:
1. Family Size Mattress - Sleep is central to having fun with kids, no matter where you are, so don't forget this key piece of equipment. Last summer we upgraded and purchased the MEC Super Reactor Double Size Mattress and we LOVE it! No more rolling off of our single sized mattresses onto the floor of the tent and no more cold drafts. Plus it rolls up and stores relatively small for a family size mattress (red cylindrical bag in photo) and offers excellent comfort. So worth it!
2. Baby Carrier - Tossing your kiddo up onto your front or back (depending on age, carrier, skill etc) can be a great way to keep them safe while walking a portage, around water or to keep them away from fire or sharps at mealtime prep. If your little one is used to being rocked to sleep at night, walking along the water with the sounds of the waves is a great way to lull them to sleep before transferring them into your tent. *Please make sure to wear supportive shoes while babywearing, especially on uneven ground, to avoid falls.
3. Bug Shelter - Ontario summers are pretty buggy and little ones can have a terrible reaction to bug bites (as we found out this summer with our little Lucy). In order to enjoy our meals and have a place to escape the bugs we always bring our MEC Hootenanny Bug Shelter. It was a big purchase initially, but one that has definitely been worth it on our recent trips. I can't even imagine how many bites Lucy would have had without it!
4. Headlamps - It's freaking dark in the wilderness at night (unless you happen to go camping during a full moon), so be prepared with some good lighting. Headlamps make everything easier, especially when you're dealing with messy kids. Having handsfree while changing a dirty diaper in the dark, or trekking out to the bathroom with a little one at night is so essential. Plus kids LOVE them! *Make sure to check your batteries before each trip and pack a few extras just in case.
5. Booster Seat - Feeding little ones can be a difficult task while camping, so to make it easier bring along a collapsable booster seat. They clip easily onto picnic tables found at most camp sites and mean you can keep baby off your lap while eating so you can enjoy your meal too! Lucy loved it on last years trip.
6. Rainy Day Activities - Although you hope to get perfect weather while camping it can't be guaranteed, so make sure to pack some fun rainy day activities. MEC has some amazing resources on their Camp Big site for families, including some great colouring & activity pages you can print and bring along. Some other great activities that we like to pack include travel board games, cards, board books, play doh and a few toy cars packed in the car caddy I made Ben years ago. You don't need to go overboard but definitely want to be prepared.
I hope my Top 6 Must Haves for Camping With Kids help you in your camping adventures this summer!
Check out Part 2 of this series My 7 Tips & Tricks For Camping With Kids.