Advise for 1St Time Campers

Updated on July 08, 2011
M.R. asks from Chicago, IL
13 answers

So my daughter has been asking to go camping so we've decided we will give it a try for one night at a KOA. Our kids are 5 and 2.

What kinds of things do you bring for fun? We don't have room on our small SUV for bikes or anything like that.
What kids of food do you bring? Nothing too complicated to prepare.

Any other advise from those with some experience would be greatly appreciated!


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answers from Spokane on

Spaghetti is great camping food, so are tacos, chili - think 1 pot/pan meals. Bring bottled water, juice, fruit and veggies - cut and wash everything at home so it's ready to go.

Other stuff to remember is EXTRA shoes, socks, clothes; hats, jackets, sunscreen, bug repellant, towels and swim suits, more diapers than you think you need, toiletries.

Have fun!!!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

For fun things for 5 and two you already have some good answers. To make you more comfortable, bring a sheet to place inside your sleeping bag. It will make a surprising comfort difference. If you sleep with a pillow, bring a pillow.

Do your kids like grapes? If so, pull grapes from the vine and place in a baggie and put in the freezer. Frozen grapes are a wonderful treat on a camp out, especially when its hot outside.

Bring bananas to make banana boats. (Cut the banana down the center lengthwise. Push chocolate chips into the cut, then push mini marshmellows in on top of the chips. Place the banana boats in the coals next to the fire and with a pair of tongs put coals all around the banana. When the marshmellows and chocolate chips melt, take the banana boats out with tongs and put on a plate. Eat with a spoon.)

To make food more fun, bring clothes hangers to cook hot dogs and marshmellows over an open fire. Or make foil packs. (Foil pack: place two 12" squares of aluminum foil on top of one another. Place a piece of chicken and cut up potatoes, and carrots, onions and the like. Sprinkle with spices. Fold the four corners to the center and fold to seal. Use the top to grasp with tongs and place on the edge of the fire with coals all around it. The chicken will be cooked in about 30 minutes. Pull out of the fire, place on a plate and enjoy.

To make camp stew, put the aluminum foil in a bowl and press to shape. Put cut up beef or what ever meat, two tablespoons of cream of mushroom soup, 1/4 cup of water, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc and spices. fold the corners to seal. Place on the edge of the fire and put coals around it. Take out in about 30 minutes. The cream of mushroom soup will have made gravy for the stew.

Go to you local Boy Scouts of America office. Look at their camping books. They will give you tons of ideas about camping.

Where did those ideas come from? I was a scout master and involved in scouting for 20 years. All 6 of my sons made Eagle Scout.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

KOA's usually have playgrounds so im sure you will spend quite a bit of time there. Buckets to play with the dirt, balls, trucks not sure if you have boys or girls so their toys. lunchables in a cooler are always a quick lunch along with gatorades, water etc. we have brought a ton of toys before and the kids just ended up playing with the dirt! Have fun camping is AWESOME!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

KOA's usually have pools. I would definitely take advantage of that. Some have chuck wagons open for breakfast...that's really fun! I really love camping with kids, just take a ball, frisbee, chalk, bubbles, magnetic darts-stuff they can do while you're busy. The great thing about kids and camping is that nature is so captivating, it won't take much more to keep them happy.

Check out this website for some meal ideas .

Have a great time!


answers from Spokane on

Trucks, bubbles, water guns, fishing gear if you're near a lake, coloring books/crayons, books, glove/ball, football, shovels, buckets.
don't forget sunscreen and bug spray.
hats and closed toes shoes for a hike.
easy meals are sandwiches or wraps, chicken, anything bbq'd if you have acces and cereal.
Have fun! We camp a lot and our boys are 7 and 3 and have been camping since they were itty bitty.


answers from Phoenix on

Ha! I posted this quite a while ago for our first camping trip. You may want to look back in my questions. Ours ended up being the trip from hell, you can read that too on my questions. Don't want to scare you but just be prepared for anything! Anyway, I got a lot of good info that I wouldn't have thought of so you may want to see that too. good luck and have fun!


answers from New York on

glow sticks or bracelets make a perfect night light and made going to bed fun (he didn't get them until bedtime, watched the fire until bedtime) if you will be walking to a bathroom consider a bike for five yr old so you can hurry. we bring the potty chair even though he has long since outgrown it it is our night time potty. bring a small cooler for snacks and drinks to keep from digging through the big cooler all the time. WE cook corn on the cob just wrap in tin foil and hotdogs, quicker than burgers. if you want burgers make a hole in the center to make donut shape and they cook faster. Have fun!



answers from Albuquerque on

KOA is a fantastic franchise! Call ahead and ask what activities, food, & etc they have. Nearly every KOA I've ever stayed at (many since I was young, and all across the country) has had very friendly and helpful staff. You'll probably even get some good pointers & information if you just tell them "it's our first time, and we have 2 kids"! I'd say to go minimal on the toys/entertainment.

Bring extra blankets, towels, and clothes. Nothing worse than climbing into bed and feeling all itchy from the sand/grass/etc! Make sure your tent is big enough for all of you! Or better yet, look into a Kamping Kabin! They aren't much more expensive than a tent site, but are more secure, have beds, doors, and electricity!

You can just do "picnic" foods (sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, poptarts, etc), if you think it will be too much hassle to cook. I do like to cook "camping meals" (hot dogs, mac n'cheese, burgers, corn on the cob, etc), but it adds a whole extra level to the preparations (don't forget the milk, butter, ice, etc). So, like I said, for the first time, I'd stick with No Cooking. This goes along with calling the campground ahead of time, too, because many KOAs will have group meals and snacks (pancake breakfast, ice cream social, hot dogs & chips, etc).

Most of all--just Have Fun! Camping can be a wonderful experience for your family! I've always enjoyed camping and take my daughter as often as I can!


answers from Redding on

Take it from me, you have to make sure the youngest child isnt scared of inside the tent..lor the sound the sleeping bag makes when youre in it...ol that was a camping trip to remember!



answers from Kansas City on

Great question b/c we were just thinking of this too! We're looking for a good campground near a lake so if any Overland Park people are reading this...let me know! ;)

Anyway, I was going to suggest flashlights for the kids, which are both fun and useful. I was wondering about food too, but I was thinking things like Jiffy Pop, and of course, S'mores, which would be fun and you could cook in on a grill or over a fire. I think the key is to have a couple of coolers. As far as toys, I'd go with balls, buckets, frisbees, maybe sidewalk chalk?, bubbles, and maybe some card or board games. Have fun and I'll certainly be checking back to pick up some useful ideas too!



answers from Philadelphia on

Don't bring too much in the attempt to entertain your kids. Kids will play with anything and everything. Leave them be to a certain extent and they will find fun in simply being in a new place.

Wet washcloth and place them in a ziplock baggie, then freeze. While you are away these help keep the cooler cool and help cool down and clean tired sweaty dirty kids!

Bug spray, sun block and a go with it attitude and you'll have fun!



answers from St. Louis on

do you have a roof rack on your suv? That's where the bikes can go!

Staying at a KOA means you'll have playgrounds & a pool. You're set! Just pack like you would for a day at the pool & you should be okay for the daytime.

For evenings: s'mores, lots of flashlights/batteries, bug spray, topical Benadryl for the inevitable bug bites, chairs for both adults & kids. Hanging lanterns are fun, & if you have an electrical supply....a lot of people bring Christmas lights/etc to hang around their site. We travel most wkends, & with our suv, I have found that using storage tubs really helps keep things organized & easier to transport. + it helps keep the raccoons at bay! Suitcases/duffle bags are then smashed down around the tubs.....& if you have the popular fold-up chairs, then they fit very well under the backseat! Oh, & we use the coolers on much easier.

Food: most sites have a small grill. Stick with that for dinner & it will be super easy! I always take gallon bags of prepped vegies & fruit. Nothing more refreshing than ice-cold grapes straight from the cooler! Pack lots of water, some juice, some milk .....& you should be good to go! Have fun...


answers from Pocatello on

we bring hotdogs, or anything that can be grilled over an open flame! you can also cook corn on the cob, smores, or if you have a dutch ovenyou have a world of cassarole- type camping dishes that you can make with meat, potatoes, onions and cheese or milk... mmm

depending on the campsite, you can get fishing gear and go fishing (they sell cute little fishing poles for kids- so fun!... Bring a ball to play with.. squirt guns or water toys and a bucket of water, and have dad or mom carry a pocket knife and make fun by making your very own hiking sticks! and then go on a hike with them! oh, and bring binoculars for spotting animals! Also having cameras so the kids can take pictures of thier adventures could be fun. kids don't need a lot of "stuff" to play with when they are camping... nature itself will keep them pretty busy!

And end the evening by roasting marshmallows over the fire, telling not so spooky tales or going on a short evening hike (close to camp) to find some mythical beast (remember to leave some clues)!

good luck!

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