Camping Tips for Safe and Fun Family Bonding Experiences

Family CampingWhy on earth would any parent go camping with their kids? Between the packing, the hauling and the dirt, it’s enough to send you running to the Holiday Inn. But it’s these very same rustic realities that make a weekend or even a week in the woods the perfect glue for a great family bonding experience.

“Unlike other types of vacations, you aren’t led around, signs don’t tell you what to do or where to go, there aren’t lines to wait on,” says Rick McClintock, executive director for the National Association for Therapeutic Wilderness Camping. “As a family, you have to depend on each other to create the activities and the structure for the day and to provide the necessities you all need for living.”

Camping isn’t just about working together as a family, of course. It’s about having a blast in a world where the regular rules don’t always apply. Things that may be taboo back at home — starting campfires, skinny-dipping in the moonlight or sliding in the mud — may be perfectly OK in the woods. “My daughter Zoe and I fight so much less when we’re camping, because I’m no longer “the enforcer” that I am at home. She’s more relaxed, I’m more relaxed, and we can both enjoy bending the rules together,” says Jamie Scurletis, 49, of Rumson, N.J. Sound interesting? Here are some tips to get you started:

Cut your teeth with car camping. Hiking into the woods with kids and setting up a backcountry camp is a recipe for stress if you’ve never done it before. Find a campground that allows you to park your car right next to the spot where you’ll pitch your tent. That means your supplies — and your quick escape — are seconds away.

Start short and stay close. Think in terms of two nights away and two hours from home. There’s less at stake and less to pack. Save big, long trips for when you’re more confident campers.

Choose a campsite with care. Campgrounds range from pastoral and peaceful to downright dreadful. Ask friends and family who camp what campgrounds and campsites they suggest. You can also find campground reviews online.

Borrow what you can. There’s no sense in investing big bucks in all the gear only to find out camping isn’t for you. Ask friends or relatives if you can borrow the basic stuff. Check out The Coleman Company for a laundry list of basics (as well as other good beginner camping tips).

Do your homework. Find out ahead of time what facilities your campground does and doesn’t have. It’s no fun showing up, for example, and finding out that everyone else has bikes because the woods are laced with great backcountry carriage roads. Do some research about local attractions, such as hiking trails and white-water rafting, as well as rainy-day bailouts like movie theaters and bowling alleys.

Stage a backyard dress rehearsal. A dry run just a handful of yards from the house can help everyone get comfortable with the idea of camping. It’ll also give you a chance to get acquainted with the tent and other equipment. Now’s the time to discover that the air mattress your neighbor loaned you is flat as a pancake a mere 10 minutes after you blow it up.

Even with careful planning, camping can present real challenges: drenching rains, mosquito swarms or fishhooks in the hand can test even the heartiest camping clans. “There are definitely times that you’ll be sitting under a tarp playing cards as the rain pours down, and thinking, ‘wow, this really stinks,’” says McClintock. “But when you think about it, when’s the last time you and the kids actually played cards together?”


Editor’s Note: As a true Canadian, I grew up camping every summer for extended periods and we have been passing that tradition on to our son. It is a great way to bond doing things you don’t normally get to do – like figuring out where to string a clothesline and making s’mores and popcorn over a fire. But as the article says, do check out online camping supply lists and make sure you plan for excessive sun and heat as well as rainy days. After record heat during our camping trip in Kentucky last week we were very grateful for the canopies we brought and the opportunity to do local underground cave tours in cool temperatures. Also make sure you have a complete first aid kit that is stocked for camping – including burn creams and sunburn treatments. We found ourselves in need of these but were far from any well-stocked shop or pharmacy. Hope you have safe and enjoyable camping experiences – they can provide memories to last a lifetime! Cheers, Audra.

About the Author

Peg Rosen has contributed to such magazines as More, Self, Redbook, Real Simple, Parents, Family Circle and American Baby, and Web sites like Parentcenter and WebMd. She also maintains Relish-This, a Blogspot blog about fitness, health, nutrition, parenting and travel.


3 Responses to “Camping Tips for Safe and Fun Family Bonding Experiences”

  1. I grew up camping in the 1000 Islands my entire life and have yet to take my kids camping (they can’t live without a power supply to their electronics) but my parents and I have been talking about possibly bringing them up there next year.

  2. Camping is one of the best activities a family can get along in concert. It’s a mini- vacation, with sight of opportunities for learning, bringing together and relaxing together as a household. Thanks for sharing this article. …

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