family camping: everything you need to know to get started

family camping tips and tricks

Hi, babes! Summer is in full effect and it seems like so many people are escaping the city for some good ole family camping. There has been a huge uptick in the amount of families that are ditching their current COVID situation to go camping in the mountains or nearby state parks. And do you blame them? I mean, what’s not to love about being outdoors? It’s good for the soul, it’s great for physical activity, and bonus – you don’t have to wear a mask!

As most of you know, each summer my family makes the 15 hour drive to Silverton, CO to tent camp for a week. Silverton is a tiny little tourist town outside of Durango, CO, and the campground we stay at is called South Mineral. In my opinion, it’s the prettiest campground in the San Juan mountains. The neatest part about camping in South Mineral though is that I have been camping there every summer since I was a child! I grew up tent camping with my family and now we are passing on the tradition to our girls.

I Do Have To Clarify, When I Say Camping, I Mean Tent Camping.

I don’t know why, but when I tell people we tent camp, they are usually shocked. Maybe it’s because we live in a city? Maybe it’s because I’m an influencer? Who knows!

What I do know though, is that tent camping is so incredibly fun! Not only is it a blast, but it’s easy and doesn’t cost very much. It’s one of those activities you can start on a dime and gradually start investing in. It’s also a great way to see different parts of the country and to introduce your kids to new activities and experiences.

We started family camping with our girls when Abby was just 9 months old and Emma Grace was barely 3. It’s been so good for our city girls to get outside, get dirty, and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

I Get It Though, Camping Can Seem Daunting.

If you’ve never done it and don’t know anyone who has, camping may seem like a lot to take on. So, I thought I’d spend today sharing with you all some family camping basics to help you get started if camping has been on your radar.

Do keep in mind, I am not an expert by any means. I simply enjoy tent camping and have been doing it for a long time. I’m constantly learning – from others, from reading, and from talking with REI personnel. All I’m sharing today is knowledge I’ve learned over the years. Heck, that’s the beauty of camping – it’s one of those activities you can always learn more about.

family camping tips and tricks


  • start small – start by taking a weekend trip. This way you will have some time to adjust and acclimate. The first couple of times will be trial and error and if you end up hating it, better to have only invested in a couple days rather than a week.
  • stay close to home – staying close to home can be helpful your first time. This way if you forget something you desperately need or someone calls it quits in the middle of the night, you aren’t too far away.
  • Borrow or rent before you buy a tent – before investing in a tent (because they can get pricey), borrow a tent from a friend or rent one. I don’t think you can rent from every REI store, but we have rented from the Denver, CO REI before and it was a great experience; super affordable and easy to do!
  • Accumulate gear as you camp – don’t feel like you need to go out and buy all the things. The basics you’ll need to start with are a  tent, sleeping bags, camp chairs, a camping stove/fire, flash lights, coolers, and wood for fires. As you begin to camp you’ll start to realize what other items you’ll want for your family. 
  • Bring food that doesn’t need a stove – avoiding stove cooking is simply less of a hassle and a whole lot easier. Cook things you can make without heat like sandwiches or make things you can do over a fire like hot dogs. 
  • Use what you have – tennis shoes (v hiking boots), coolers (whatever is in your garage), and backpacks (v hiking-specific backpacks). 
  • avoid hottest months of the year – let me tell you, tent camping in the heat is straight miserable. Camping in the freezing cold can be hard too, especially if you don’t have the right gear. So, to avoid either of those scenarios, opt for a time with mild daytime temps (70s/80s) and cooler evenings.
  • state parks – state parks are great places to camp for first timers as they generally have sites with electricity, clean bathrooms & showers, park rangers to assist you, and typically several outdoor activities such as hiking trails or paddle boats.
  • be prepared for starting a fire – this sounds silly, but if you’ve never started a fire, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Push the easy button as my mom says, and bring some fire starters to help you start a fire with ease.

family camping tips and tricks


These are the very basics of what you’ll need to camp. Like I stated above, start off by using what you have or what you can borrow and then upgrade as you go!

  • tent
  • sleeping bags
  • camp chairs
  • flash lights
  • cooler


Each time we camp we make a list of things we want to upgrade. Depending on what type of climate you are camping in, the most important upgrades you do are probably a tent and sleeping bags.

  • tent – we often camp in temperatures that drop below 35 degrees at night, so we invested in a nice tent pretty quickly. There are all different sizes and shapes of tents, so you’ll want to choose what’s right for your family. For us, we went with a 6-man tent so we would have room for our bags inside the tent and not feel cramped. We have the REI Co-op Base Camp 6 Tent.
  • camping stove – camping over the fire is nice, but having a stove is even nicer. You can cook so much more with a stove, which simply makes your meals more enjoyable. This is also a fairly inexpensive upgrade. We have this Coleman gas stove and love it. They haven’t changed the design of it in decades because it is that good and that durable.
  • sleeping bags – quality sleeping bags are key, especially if you are sleeping in temperatures that drop below freezing. We all 4 have bags that can withstand freezing temps.
  • sleeping mats – this was an upgrade Trav and I made a couple years ago. Sleeping on the ground is not always the easiest for our old bones. We always put down several layers of blankets, but good padded mats to go under your bag make a world of a difference. We have the REI Co-op Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads.
  • canopy for table – a canopy to go over your picnic table is a great upgrade. This will block the sun and keep you out of the rain when cooking.

family camping tips and tricks


  1. Is it hard to camp with kids if you never have before? Not at all! It will be a learning experience though. I recommend planning out your camping trip as much as possible; try and think through all the details. Think through what you’ll need to make every meal, what outfits your kids will be wearing, the type of shoes they’ll need, what activities you’ll be doing, what camping gear you’ll need, and what you’ll do if something goes wrong. I’d recommend camping at a state park or somewhere with clean bathrooms and I’d recommend staying close to home in case it doesn’t go as planned the first time.
  2. How do you successfully camp and make it fun with kids under the age of 5? In short, lots of planning and lots of extra clothes. As mentioned in the answer to the question above, planning out as much as you can will help things go smoother. But, in the end, having a “go-with-the-flow” attitude is the best thing you can do when camping with kids. We started camping with the girls when Abby was less than a year old. Evenings were hard with her, but the overall experience was great. You will be surprised by how much your kids will love exploring the outdoors!
  3. How old were your girls when you first camped? Great question! I’ve kind of answered it above, but Emma Grace was about 3 years old and Abby was only 9 months. Nighttime was hard with Abby because we had her in a pack’n’play and night temps were around 32 degrees, but we survived. Diaper changing is also a new challenge, but it was totally doable. I’m so glad we started them so early!
  4. How does a baby sleep in a tent? – A pack’n’play! As stated above, we camped when Abby was only 9 months old so she was still in a crib. We simply camped in a tent bigger than what we needed (a 6-man tent) and brought our pack’n’play. We had lots and lots of blankets for her and essentially made a little cocoon for her to sleep in.

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