Every time I go camping with friends, I learn a new trick or discover a piece of gear that makes life outdoors more comfortable. But there are some basic items that are a must for an enjoyable family camping trip:
Don’t buy one that is too small, especially if you’re bringing the kids along. My rule of thumb: One camper needs a two-person tent. Two campers need a four-person tent, and so on. You don’t want to be cramped and uncomfortable. Dome tents are popular because they’re easy to set up and there are several inexpensive models to choose from. I have a 10-by-12-foot tent that works great. You’ll appreciate being able to stand up inside so get one that is around six feet-tall.
For families of four or more, you might consider a 10-by-16-foot cabin tent. Most will have a divider in the middle creating two rooms. An awning over the door is nice, where you can store your backpack, wet boots, and stuff you don’t want inside with you.
These come in a wide array of styles and insulation ratings. Choose your bag based on temperature conditions and size. “Camp” style bags are bigger and more rectangular in design, as well as easy to get in and out of. “Mummy” style bags are designed for hikers and climbers to stay warm in cold temperatures. Several include fleece liner inserts that create a dual-purpose bag for warm and cooler weather. I like Alps Mountaineering sleeping bags and pads.
I use a three-inch foam pad and maybe more if the ground is rocky. Inflatable pads are nice, too. With colder weather coming, you’ll appreciate insulation between you and chilly ground. Cots are awesome if you can manage the extra bulk and weight. They add a great amount of comfort and living space because you can store items underneath.
For years, these devices used “white gas” as fuel. They were messy and rather scary to operate. Nowadays, portable propane bottles make things much easier and safe. I now have a Camp Chef stove and lanterns that use propane bottles. If you’re cooking for larger groups you’ll need a two or three burner Camp Chef stand-up stove. They use a five-gallon tank and are great.
Food is very important for a successful camping experience. You don’t want to cook your first few times out, Mountain House freeze-dried meals are excellent and easy to carry and prepare.
To see how wonderfully simple these meals are to prepare, watch the experts at 50 Campfires review the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. The crew at 50 Campfires does a superb job of providing all types of outdoor enthusiasts with camping gear advice, recipes, and other helpful pointers. Make sure to check out 50Campfires.com for more great resources and camping tips.
Be sure to pack some Starbucks Via coffee packets for those chilly mornings and you’re living pretty high on the hog. All you need to bring is a couple of pots to boil water and mix your meals, and paper plates, cups, utensils plus a few garbage bags.
If you’re only camping for a night or two, a cheap cooler is fine but if you’re out for more than a couple of days you should consider an Orion or Yeti. They can retain ice cold temperatures for nearly a week.
You’ll need a good flashlight. I’ve been using the Coast HP7R the last few years. It’s a medium-sized flashlight but it is super bright. I really like it since it is rechargeable so I’m not constantly feeding it batteries. Coast makes great lanterns also, for lighting your campsite area. For the kids, I just buy them some cheap little LED lights because they’re sure to lose them!
Don’t forget folding camp chairs for everyone. You probably already have a few in the garage. If not, there are many to choose from in any outdoor retailer or hardware store.