Here we have compiled an ultimate list of family camping tips and tricks for beginners that you’ll feel like you are camping like a pro.
Camping is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience. It is the number one way we have forged such strong bonds with our kids and friends over the years.
Learning how to camp like a pro takes time with lots, and I mean LOTS of errors and wasted time and money along the way.
Even a short weekend camping trip takes planning and forgetting even the simplest of items or not bringing enough of another can mean the difference between a great weekend or a miserable one… Enjoy!
Table Of Contents
- Family Camping Tips and Tricks
- Tips on How to Start a Campfire
- Family Camping Food Tips & Hacks
- How do you bring water for camping?
Family Camping Tips and Tricks
It is always good to return to camp and enjoy a campfire, great food, as well as the company of friends and family. Learning how to camp comfortably, to your level of comfort, can however take years of practice and trial and error. Below are some of our best tips gathered over many decades of happy camping to help shorten your learning curve and get your stress-free camping experience.
- You’re not alone if you’re struggling with camping meal planning to feed the family. Try a book with 200+ easy campfire recipes. You can browse the photos with the kids while they help choose easy to make entrees and desserts.
- Using tent rope between trees to make a clothes line will create a perfect spot to hang boots or coats and to dry wet clothes. When poles and a tarp are added, it can double as a quick shelter. When afternoon showers unexpectedly appear out of nowhere, it could be handy to protect a spread on the picnic table.
- Don’t allow money to prevent you from having an amazing camping adventure. There are many different ways in which you can stretch your dollars and make sure you get excellent value for money when buying equipment for camping. It is certainly possible to camp in a tent on a budget.
- Compression bags have multiple uses while camping. They save space by compressing down pillows, clothing, and sleeping bags. Compression bags also make nifty pillows when stuffed with extra clothing.
- Divide your campsite into various areas for first aid, lounging, washing, and eating. An organized camp allows for everything to have its own place, and anything can easily be found when needed.
- There are various options available for tent flooring and these will make your feet very happy after a long day. Old rugs are perfect, or you may want to rather try something a bit more creative like modern modular foam floors.
- Although most campgrounds have restrictions on excessive noise, a small battery operated set of speakers can be a perfect mood setter. Simply drop in an iPod or other device and enjoy your favorite music at the campfire. Batteries can be recharged with solar recharging devices.
- Planning ahead is key to having an enjoyable camping experience. Although scurrying to pack at the last minute before heading out the door may not sour the trip, it could cause unnecessary stress.
- A camping trip can quickly become a major challenge if you have unhappy children around. Keep them busy with activities and games appropriate to the relevant age group(s).
- An extra headlamp can be a tool to set the mood by looping it around a clear gallon jug with the light shining into the bottle. This creates a cool nightlight and looks amazing with bottles of different colors.
Essential Tips for Camping Shelter
A shelter is the number one requirement in a campground. This is not only where you’ll sleep, but you’ll spend a lot of time here if the weather turns nasty. Comfort should be your highest priority as it is your also home base while camping. To get a truly comfortable experience, you need more than a big enough tent.
How to Pick a Campsite
- Watch out for dead trees as these could come crashing down and turn a camping trip into a disaster. Fallen branches and debris would be good indicators of what might come.
- If you get to a campground without having a reservation, check out the surroundings first. Loud neighbors can ruin a camping weekend very quickly.
- Campgrounds often have fire pits and picnic tables. If you can find a campsite with some tree cover, it could have benefits in light rain.
- Check the general direction of the wind. You definitely don’t want to be burden by someone else’s campfire smoke.
- Find out where the sun rises and sets. Trees could block early morning sun, while a lovely sunset view is always very rewarding.
How to Choose a Tent
- Although it is good to have a tent with the size to fits your requirements, don’t go too big. A bigger tent will typically take more hard work to erect or break down.
- A smaller tent will provide more choice for placing on any campsite than what a bigger one would.
- Take the wind direction into account. A tent that is placed downwind from a campfire could result in a smoky night.
- A tent with double doors is real handy. If you use the fly, vestibules could be a tool to store gear, creating more space for movement. The additional storage provide by vestibules may allow you to use a small tent and still be comfortable.
- A hammock might even be a good shelter for you. Camping hammocks can be great for single campers and they’re able to handle many types of conditions and temperatures.
How to Choose the Right Sleeping Bag
- Padded Sleeping Bag: You need to select a good pad system with a sleeping bag that is suitable for both the weather conditions and your body. For people that sleep on their side, a combo that comes with the pad integrated in a sleeve is great. If you learn how to camp with a lightweight backpack, you could save a good chunk of money.
- Camping Air Matress: Many campers prefer using an inflatable mattress rather than pads. Inflatable mattresses are perfect complements to sleeping bags in warmer weather, or for families with small children that prefer to sleep with their parents.
- Single Camping Cot: If you prefer to sleep above ground, a larger tent with a cot system would be ideal. Although they need more room, cots combined with pads and sleeping bags can make for excellent sleep. Cots can typically be broken down and stowed in a three foot long case. If you’re looking for something for more than one person, check out our review of the Top 5 Best Double Camping Cots.
- Camping Hammock: Hammock camping can really be good if you invest in a good top quilt and bottom quilt or insulating pad.
- Kids Sleeping Bag: For children, sleeping bags that are designed for them are ideal. Kids will definitely feel cozier in a bag designed for them than an old bag of yours.
Once you have the proper site, a good tent and a suitable sleep system, you will be ready for most conditions Mother Nature chooses to throw at you.
Tips on how to set up a campsite
- After a trip, do a quick campground comparison, making notes about which ones you used, listing alternative ones that may be better for future trips, and keep a list of campsites that should be avoided. This could be very handy for any campground that you may want to visit again at a later stage.
- Old rugs are great to add some comfort to a tent. They help managing dirt and feel good on your feet.
- Make the tent cozy with rope lights. Wrap them around the poles on the outside but underneath the fly. They only require small power packs and their ambient light they provide is great for putting kids to bed.
- Water bottles can be used with either hot or cold water to make your sleeping bag that much more comfortable. Fill the hot water bottle when you go to bed and put it in your sleeping bag, snuggled in anywhere you want it. You could even drop it into your sleeping bag 10 minutes before you’re ready to climb in. You’ll never have to get into a cold sleeping bag again.
- When using a small backpacking tent for an outing on your own, you may want to take a cot anyway. Two person tents often fit well on top of a cot. Although that’s the way it’s normally used, the cot doesn’t have to go inside.
Tips on How to Start a Campfire
At the end of a long, exiting but tiring day, there is nothing quite as good as a camp fire. Planning a fire, especially the tools and wood needed to sustain it for long enough, often gives campers lots of trouble. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have to be without a fire for a night. If you have too much however, you’ll have to take it home when you return from your trip.
Burn Rate: How much firewood is needed for a campfire?
- Between 12 and 14 logs split into sections should be enough to cook dinner and then to fuel the fire until about midnight
- Take into account that hardwoods will burn slower than lighter, dry wood.
- It’s a good idea to take some extra wood to cover for contingencies. You might be able to sell it off at the campground rather than taking it home if you don’t use it.
Scenarios will always be different. When you’re for example camping in a cold climate, you may have to stoke up a fire through the night and most of the day. In other locations, you might only have a fire in the night. The trick is to know how many logs you have, and how long the stack will last.
How to start a camp fire easily
- A cotton ball with some petroleum jelly on it makes for a great fire starter. To limit the mess, store them in plastic bags.
- To make twelve fire starters, put small dryer lint balls in a used egg carton and cover these with wax.
- Another trick is to fill cardboard toilet paper rolls with dryer lint to start your fire easy.
- You can also buy fire starter sticks online or where you normally purchase your charcoal.
- Set up wood piles of different sizes when you’re setting up camp. The process will be so much easier, especially when there is a breeze, if you have a pile of tinder to get the fire started, with a supply of thin slat wood to follow up with.
Family Camping Food Tips & Hacks
A highlight of family camping is enjoying great meals in a natural setting. We are reminded of simpler times when we cooking on an open flame, while it also adds a rustic touch to meals. Cooking in the wild does not have to mean you can only have simple dishes. Your camp cuisine can in fact be elevated quite easily.
Tips for Meal Planning for Camping Food
- You can get a book with 200+ easy campfire recipes and ideas for the family.
- Try a portable camping bonfire, like the Solo Stove Titan, if you love to make extended outdoor stays a regular activity.
- Utilizing options that are shelf stable could save on limited cooler space. Using canned items can still deliver stunning dishes.
- Where possible, modify recipes to cater for one pot meals. Cleaning up duty will then become the absolute minimum.
- Be aware of how much time each meal takes to prepare. It is a good idea to have some quick prep meals for those nights where you had so much fun that you arrive back at camp much later than expected.
Preparing camping meals beforehand
- If you take the time to prepare ingredients at home, meal times in camp will be so much easier. Do as much prep as you can in the comfort of your own kitchen at home.
- Doing preparations at home will also allow you to only take with what you need for each meal. Making notes during and after trips will help you adjust recipes so that they are spot on during the next trip.
- Split meals up into a number of servings. If the number of people you feed in camp changes, you can cook only what is needed.
Campfire Cooking Tips
- Start the fire on the side of the fire pit and keep adding wood to the open side. This will gradually build a perfect bed of coals you can cook on.
- Estimate the temperature by placing a Dutch oven in the coals and then holding a hand over it at the side level. Count backwards in 50s starting at 550 until it gets so hot you have to take your hand way. That will give you a ballpark of the temperature of the fire.
Use block ice
- Ice cubes melt much quicker than block ice. Load a cooler with one block of ice for a weekend camping trip, adding food and drinks, and then filling up the remaining space with ice cube.
- Don’t dispose of the water until it doesn’t keep the food cold anymore. Even with some ice has melted, the water will assist in keeping the cooler’s temperature lower.
Making camping meal clean up easy with these cleaning hacks
- Using only one storage bin for everything that has to be washed, including cups, plates, and utensils. Do the final washing at home where it is easy, and repack all items once they are clean.
- Pack several garbage bags for use at a campsite. Most campgrounds have a dumpster around somewhere and your rubbish can easily be discarded when you leave the campground.
- Make cleaning up a game. Children love scavenger hunts and giving them the job of finding debris that does not belong at the campsite will keep things neat and tidy easily.
Tips for cuisine while camping
- Try using meals that have the same ingredients to minimize the number of ingredients that have to be brought. Baked potatoes left over from one night can for example make killer fries the next day.
- Use storage containers to hold all camping gear based on a storage plan. If you put the same equipment in the same containers all the time it will not only be easy to break down camp, but also to find your stuff while you are there. Labeling the containers or using different colors will differentiate them.
How do you bring water for camping?
After a long day hiking, getting back to camp and taking that first gulp of ice cold water is a great feeling. Water is an important element of camping, as hydration is key to good health. Water also has many other uses in camp.
Think about how you can effectively store and organize water at your campsite to make it easy to get to what you need when it is needed.
How do you store water when camping?
- Gallon jugs make it easy and simple for campers to grab some water when they’re on their way out.
- Two gallon containers with spouts hold a bigger volume and the spout makes it easy to fill hydration bladders, bottles, and cups.
- There are a variety of collapsible water carriers available. These range from a two gallon container to a water bucket that can hold as much as 20 liters.
- Five gallon igloo style water coolers can be found online or at just about any Little League baseball park and are extremely useful for camping.
Best camping water containers for personal use
- Water bags are cheap and can easily withstand the elements. Although many options are available for water bags, the base design for most is the same. They can hung from a branch, left on a picnic table, or fit into a pack.
- A very versatile option for campers are hydration bladders, especially for those planning to be hiking by day and in camp by night.
- Water bottles are available in many shapes and sizes and come as insulated stainless steel models, travel mugs, and squeeze bottles.
- You can pack a Life Straw as part of your emergency preparedness kit,
How to filter water for camping: Filtration, Treatment & Purification
- Gravity flow filters are easy to use and don’t have moving parts, making it the filter of choice for many. They do however tend to be expensive and are tricky to use if you have a small water source.
- Handheld pump filters have been the standard for backpacking and camping users for a very long time. They are normally easy to use, but have moving parts that can break or wear.
- Ultraviolet sterilizers have been made famous by SteriPen. They are battery powered and easy to use. They use UV-C light rays to destroy viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, and are up to 99.99% effective.
- Squeeze filters are relatively new, have no moving parts and are very mobile. They are most suitable for use by individuals, rather than groups.
- Water treatment drops save many lives in developing countries and can also be used for group camping. They can be used to treat big quantities of water, are easy to use and lightweight.
How to keep drinks cold when camping
- A river or stream next to your campsite is an absolute treat. You can keeps drinks in the water by using a mesh laundry bag with a drawstring, tying it to the bank and allowing it to drift at will. The drinks will cool down to the running water’s temperature.
- Set up a number of watering stations. A tap in a central location can be used for washing up, but should also be close to the cooking area. If possible, a separate station for drinking water is a great idea.
- Always have water enhancers with you. These powders and tablets are heavy with electrolytes and can assist with rehydration while adding flavor to water.
- Chip pieces off the ice block in the cooler during the trip. These may be used to cool drinks in the hydration bladder or bottles.
We hope you enjoyed the family camping tips and tricks that we’ve made as a Mega List to have you camping stress-free like a pro!
Feel free to bookmark this page and come back when you are planning your next camping trip.