L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA on May 28, 2010
Never Been Camping... Should We?
We have never been camping... well, unless girl scout camping 25+ yrs ago counts!
We are thinking of going this summer with my 4 year old son. What suggestions do you have?
Any tent advice? Do you recommend air mattresses?
Activities to stay busy? I know its all about nature, but anything specific your family loves to do?
Food? Should we take a grill?
Drinks? Will we need to take our own water? (You can see I really am a novice here!! LOL)
What items are ESSENTIALS? What things can we do without?
Any and all suggestions and advice are welcome to help us prepare for our first camping adventure! We are starting from square one, so we don't want to buy unnecessary things, but on the other hand, want to make sure we get what we'll need!
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J.B. answers from Atlanta on May 28, 2010
There are many different types of places to camp. Since you're a novice, you should probably try some state or national park areas first (we aren't novices and still love those areas with kids!) -Usually you'll have a bath house/flushing toilet somewhere and a water source. You should always plan to bring plenty of drinking water in case the water source at your campsite or at the park isn't potable.
Most park camping sites have grills or grill areas for your use as well. There are tons of new "portable" grills at appliance centers these days for tailgating and camping, and you can always get a hibachi.
We like to find state parks with swimmable lakes/beach areas during the summer. Usually there is hiking and often you can also rent boats, canoes, paddle boats, etc. Depending on the park there may be fishing, tubing, miniature golf, horseback riding, tennis -some even have pools and offer summer concert series. Take some games and bikes. Often a state park or national park will be near some type of attraction you can visit as well.
I recommend a NICE air mattress for the adults! We have a queen-sized one that cost about $100 at REI, and it has lasted 10 years! It holds the air, so you don't wake up on the hard ground. Your 4 year old would probably love one of the air mattress/sleeping bag combos you can find very cheaply at Target or Walmart. My 4 year old has a Lightening McQueen one that's actually been pretty durable.
Take plenty of wet wipes, paper towels, real towels and bug spray. Take citronella candles and something to build a campfire with. Take lanterns -battery or gas powered and a camp stove (I still love the classic Coleman you use the gas canisters with). Nothing is better than breakfast outside from the camp stove! If you have to have coffee, there are Lexan French presses available online and at REI. I think I saw one at Target too. When car-camping I like to throw in sheets, a blanket and our pillows -I mean -why not?
As far as a tent -I've had ultra expensive backpacking tents, medium range, etc. The best family tent we've ever had is a 3 room Eddie Bauer tent I got on clearance from Target for $27. As far as tents go -Coleman won't steer you wrong. If you want a little more high-end -go to REI. My rule for festival and other car-camping events though is to have a tent with a center clearance of 6' so my husband and I can stand upright in it. It may seem like a small thing -but it makes you so much more comfortable!
Here's a list of must haves. I camp a lot and now I'm camping with a 19m old and a 4 year old. We go to state parks, music festivals -wherever:
*Bug spray/mosquito repellant
*Citronella candles in the buckets
*Lanterns/flashlights -head lamps are AWESOME for night maneuvers -especially if there's a port-a-potty situation involved
*Comfortable air mattresses and pillows. Invest some money in a high quality air mattress -you won't be sorry!
*A few tarps for ground cover under the tent or to tie at a slant above the tent for rain cover/shade.
*Cooler full of food and favorite drinks
*Plenty of drinkable water -we get the 2.5 gallon containers.
*First Aid kit -band aids, itch cream, antiseptic wipes, neosporin, alcohol, gauze and tape, one of those cool/hot packs
*Something to start fire with -preferably a lighter (and for campfires -wood,kindling, etc.)
*Camp chairs -the kind that fold up and usually come in a bag for easy transportation.
*Usually state parks have picnic tables on site, but bringing a folding camp table is never a terrible idea.
*Trash bags, paper plates, cups, utensils, gallon zip-locks
*Duct tape, rope, utility knife or Leatherman tool, can opener
*Dr. Bronners or other environmentally friendly soap. Dr. Bronner's can be used to bathe with, wash dishes with -whatever.
After the necessities -it's up to you!
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H.S. answers from Washington DC on May 28, 2010
Everyone has had some great suggestions...an idea I had for you was to do a test night in your yard...practice setting up the tent, use your grill or a fire pit to cook dinner outside. We are getting ready to do this with our son. He will be 4 in august...but we are not sure how he will handle sleeping out in a tent so he and my husband our going to spend the night in the yard. Good luck and have fun! Camping trip mis-haps always make for good stories later :)
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M.H. answers from Atlanta on May 28, 2010
Since it's your first time, I would go to a local state park. The Rangers are usually great at being there for you for anything you need and they make it easy. I grew up camping but my husband did not, so when we started, it was real easy for us. Bath houses with toilets are great!
For your first tent, get a tent that is easy to set up. No need to get frustrated before you begin. (Decide who is in charge of the tent before you get there. It will make for a much more pleasant experience if you don't argue with your husband like I do, lol) With just you three, you don't need anything complicated. Air mattresses are a choice. My husband loves them. I hate them. I prefer a sleeping bag or a cot.
Bug repellent is a must. I mix my own with a line of non toxic products we use. That way I know it's safe. Some are terribly dangerous. AVOID anything with DEET in it. It causes brain damage. Mine lasts from shower to shower and it's good for my skin as well.
Keep your sleeping bags and your tent zipped at all times. This doesn't just keep the bugs out but also the bigger critters. Check sleeping bags, tents, shoes and other closed containers before sticking your hands or feet in them.
Take at least one flashlight per person and one lantern. It's easier if everyone can guide their own footsteps and also, if you need something in the middle of the night, it's right there. Your four year old will really think that it's cool! It also makes you feel safer. My Dady always told me to have a large one so I could hit someone over the head with it if necessary......He was protecting his little girl.....
Make food simple on your first trip. You can take a grill but sandwiches might be a better first experience. Don't forget the graham crackers, marshmellows, chocolate and wire coat hangers for smores....
Hope this helps some and HAVE FUN!
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K.A. answers from Pittsburgh on May 28, 2010
Camping is a great adventure for the family. What you need all depends on the type of camping your going to do. If you go to a 'park' they usually have facilites and running water etc....If you're going to do a little bit more rustic camping you will need to bring your own water and facilities are usually what nature provides : ) Tents...I would recommend Coleman's three room tent. It is a larger tent, but it's nice when you have children. You can stand up in it, and there's plenty of room for everyone. If it rains, the three room tent does provide some extra space to stay out of the elements. For sleeping, we've upgraded to cots lately. There off of the ground, which is nice incase the tent happens to leak. Fortunately for us, our Coleman three room tent it 10 years old and has yet to leak. We love our tent! Cots are a little more expensive, but we use them for house guests as well. So they are nice for that too. Coelman also make a really nice stove. If you aren't going to be cooking over a fire, or it rains the stoves are nice to have. You might want to check out DICKS Sporting goods. They'll have what you need at a reasonible price. Cast iron is really nice for cooking over fires too. Coleman also makes a nice rack to place over the fire to cook on. As for food, we usually take; steaks, burgers, lunch meat, cold salads, eggs, bacon, potatoes. Just about anything you would eat at home. Stuff for smores is a must : ) We've been camping for a long time and have accumulated a tone of things. Try not to go overboard your first time out. Make a list of the things you think you may need, and go through the motions in your head. What will you need for this....what will you need for that. We've got it down to a science at this point and keep everyting we need to take in big rubber tubs. Having things protect from the rain is key. No one wants to be a wet camper! Have fun.
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D.K. answers from State College on May 28, 2010
I haven't been in awhile, but it is great fun.
Tent- something easy to set up and take down. I'm sure a camping or outdoor store could help you pick a great one.
Food- We have a little propane stove with two burners that works great and is easily portable. Some campsites will have permanent charcoal grills you can use. We usually had a cooler for a few things, took PBJ makings, canned foods and if we were going to have meat we bought it that day. Several years ago hamburger helper was one of our easiest to make since we were camping for 3 weeks. Also a lot of grilled foods- chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs. Also take plenty of drinks. You will probably want to bring water with you.
Some of the campgrounds will have showers (might not be warm) and almost all of them at least have a pit toilet or porta potty. The bigger ones usually have acutally bathrooms. Some form of bathroom was the one thing I always requested when we were going camping.
Air Mattress if you don't think you will like sleeping on the ground. Depending on where you camp it can be pretty rocky. We had a thin ones for camping that was about 2 or 3 inches thick, so just enough to give you a little padding. Your son probably won't care.
Make sure to take some bug spray. Some areas you may need DEET, but most places just a good regular bug spray is needed. If it is buggy, spray around the tent on the outside too. Also make sure after cooking to put any dirty water far away from the tent- the animals will come and check it out. I have made that mistake before. You also will not want to leave any food in the tent- lock it back up in the car to keep animals away. Take flashlights and extra batteries just in case.
Since you haven't gone before I would suggest a campsite close to your house and plan on 1-2 nights for the first trip. That way you can really get a feel for it. Also look into the campsites first, some are almost all rvs now, not much fun when you are tent camping. Other campgrounds have tent areas or are more geared to tent camping and will have more scenic places to set up and more likely grass or dirt for the tent. Flip flops for showers are nice to have, the floors aren't always the nicest and extra tp just in case there isn't any.
Hope you have a great time and really enjoying camping! We are going on a trip soon and may do some camping!
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T.G. answers from St. Louis on May 28, 2010
YES, YES, YES! Camping is a wonderful family outing. You get away from the tv, computers and phones and you can concentrate on each other!
First, make a check list so you don't forget anything.
Some ideas for you:
Food- simple grill foods like burgers, hotdogs, chicken. Side items like beans, pasta and potato salad etc.
We bring one cooler for food and one for drinks. WE ahve 4 kids so we also bring a 3 gallon water cooler jug (like the kind you see at sporting events) and keep it full of ice water so the kids can drink whenever they want to.
We bring disposable plates, cups and silverwear most of the time. If ou choose to bring plastic, you will need extra water and dish soap so you can wash them.
I pack everything in totes to keep out the animals and bugs from our suppllies. One tote has disposable supplies - napkins, plates, cups, silverwear, plastic table cloth, etc.
Drinks- We bring a few gallons of bottled water. It can be used for making coffee(yes, we bring our coffee maker, lol), washing dishes, drinking and sponge bathes for the little one.
Sleeping- airmatress is great if you have back issues. If not, sleeping bags and extra blankets are fine. Pillows too.
Misc items- flash lights, extra batteries, camera, toilet paper to go(just in case)and I bring lysol spray because some camp site bathroom are NOT kept clean. Travel size shampoo, body wash, tooth paste, toothbrush etc.
Bath towels and face clothes, flip flops (wear them in the shower so you don't take the chance of catching any foot fungus), bug spray, first aid kit, camping chairs, camping table(optional) Trash bags and take some of your wal mart plastic bags with you if you save them. They are good for putting your dirty clothes in. Firewood, fire starters.
As far as activities- nature walks (bring zipper bags so he can collect items). You can bring your bikes if you have a bike rack. Baseball or football to play catch with, any outside lawn games are good. Oh, and items to make s'mores!!
If you have a printer at home and are interested, I have a checklist I have made and tweaked over the years. EMail me and i will send it to you so you can print it. I find it so helpful with staing organized. Nothing worse than arriving at our camp site and then remembering your underwear!!
You are going to have a good time. This is also a good opportunity to teach your son about how we treat nature. Picking up our trash, fire safety and such.
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D.B. answers from Minneapolis on May 28, 2010
Go for it!! Start out easy though. Maybe a night in the back yard so you can get a feeling for what kind of comfort and facility level your particular family unit will require. Then venture onto a one night stay at a local campground. Many 'RV' parks also have tent camping sites. You'll have access to water, shower facilities, playgrounds, pools at many of these places all at a reasonable price. See how it goes & before you know it, you'll be ready for a one or two nighter at a state park! Have fun!!
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L.A. answers from Austin on May 28, 2010
Any state park has wonderful facilities like potties and showers. You will need your own towels and bath products.. shower shoes or swim shoes.
The campsites will have a grill and a fire ring.
You will Charcoal, long lighter etc..
Try to borrow a tent and practice setting it up at home in your backyard.
You can purchase an air mattress, remember to get a battery powered inflater.. most of them come with one.. We used to take a bunch of blankets and make a pallet on the floor of the tent, before air mattresses, it worked fine too. you will need pillows.
We always take a large container of drinking water so we do not have to worry about the water. There will be water available at each campsite. we use it mainly for washing pots and pans..You will need dish soap a spnge and a bucket or something to use to hod the water so you can wash dishes.
Take either paper products (they can be burned or take your own dishes for meals. Even going to a garage sales or Goodwill you can find plastic plates bits and pieces of flatware ect.. Place them and transport them in the bucket you will use to wash dishes in.. Cooking utensils.
Ice chest with ice and your food. Ziploc bags, trash bags, sunscreen, bug spray, changes of clothing..
You can hike, give your child a box camera so he can take photos that are all his. Remind him not to take them all at once. A plastic magnifying glass.
Swim suits. Flashlights, battery operated lanterns, batteries.
Try to borrow as much stuff as possible and remember it is camping so you can live without a lot when out there.
Have a blast!
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