These camping hacks for beginners will have you camping with kids like a pro. Just a few tips can deliver a stress-free campout! Let’s get started.
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10 Camping Hacks for Beginners
When you go camping, you’ll have a great time. I truly believe that no camping trip can be considered bad, especially if you’re camping with kids.
That said, as a beginner camper, you will most likely make some mistakes. This list of camping hacks for beginners is my way of helping you to avoid the mistakes I made when we first started camping with kids.
1. Keep a Camping Gear Checklist
Before you even get out of the house to go camping, have a checklist that contains everything you will need for this period. Cross items off the checklist as you pack.
You do not want to get to the camping ground and find that you packed everything else and forgot your tent! A checklist will keep you in check and preserve your sanity in the process.
A checklist also helps to reduce overwhelm – there can be a lot of stuff. We go into detail about what to bring when camping (and the single best thing we ever did)!
2. Know You’ll Need to Improvise
Camping like a pro requires a lot of improvising.
No lamp? No problem! Use a flashlight and wrap it around a clear bottle. Fill that bottle with water and you will get a beautiful, almost natural, white light.
Keep your keys, glasses, or anything else important afloat by using floaters. Use a piece of wood to attach your keys. A wine cork works perfectly. Even if the keys fall into the water, they will not sink.
3. Use Microfiber Towels
Instead of carrying many towels on your hikes or trips to the creek, carry microfiber towels. They are quick to dry and easily absorbent. They are also easy to fold and can fit in small places.
We bring normal towels, too, if we’re car-camping, but we use our small microfiber towels on every trip.
4. Meal Plan Easy Meals
The best hack with regard to camp food is a little preparation.
When I first started camping with kids, I honestly had more anxiety about what to prepare for dinner than I had about anything else!
Meals need to be hearty to refuel after a long day of hikes, swimming, and exploring. But honestly, no one wants to slave over a camp stove while everyone else is enjoying themselves.
I picked up this cookbook and use it to prepare kid-friendly meals, even for large groups!
5. Carry Portable Cookware or Prepare Meals at Home
You will need to cook during camping – a person can only eat so much trail mix.
We have a JetBoil Genesis and I will tell you, although it’s pricier than some, this thing is a workhorse! We’ve fed large groups of people with the dual burners and it’s easy to clean up.
But don’t forget, you can use the fire pit or grill if you’re at a establish campsite, too. Cooking over afire is a lot of fun for the kids.
If you are not going camping for long, consider preparing your meals at home instead of carrying a lot of cookware. Hearty pasta dishes, casseroles, and chili are some good go-to meals you could make ahead.
6. Bring the “Right” Clothing and Shoes for the Trip
Dress for the occasion and, more importantly, the weather. Not a trip goes by where we don’t see kids shivering in shorts and tank tops in the mountains. Even if it’s summer, be sure to check the location’s weather – always pack layers.
Shoes are a consideration, especially if you’re camping with kids. We always pack water shoes and tennis shoes for the younger kids. It’s a rule that the older kids must wear something they could run in. The right shoes can make or break the entire trip.
7. Know the Bugs – Bug Repellant and Tick Keys
Bugs and mosquitoes can make your camping experience terrible. Do a quick search to check for the bug situation in your camping area. No matter the location, always have bug and mosquito repellant in your gear.
If you’re in an area with ticks, bring along a tick key. They are very small but can make a WORLD of difference when camping.
Tip: bring a small bundle of sage in your camping gear. Break off a bit of it and throw it in the campfire at dusk. It’s a natural repellant and smells a lot better than citronella.
8. Ice Smarts (Car / Campsite Hack)
Instead of small blocks of ice, use a big block or a few large big blocks. A large, single block of ice will occupy a larger surface area, making the process of melting slower compared to many small ice blocks.
We use gallon water jugs with just a bit of room at the top to allow for expansion and contraction.
9. Make Pillows Using Clothing
If you cannot sleep without a one, you can use your clothing to make a pillow. Fold the clothes nicely, stuff them into your sleeping bag cover, and snore away. Carrying an extra pillow will only add to your luggage.
We use these small camp pillows when we’re going on treks 5+ days, otherwise, we’ll put clothes into our sleeping bag covers and use them.
10. Safety Whistle
Always, always, always have the kids wear a whistle. It’s likely the easiest hack to ensure a little one’s safety. Teach them how to use it and what to do if they are separated from the group.
We go into more detail in our post about safety tips for camping with kids. Give it a quick read – it has a lot of great tips we’ve learned over the years.