Never Been Camping... Should We?

Updated on May 29, 2010
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
18 answers

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)

Toileting? How?

Showering/bathing? How?

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!

Thanks, moms!

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answers from Atlanta on

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!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Hi L.,

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!


2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

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.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from State College on

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!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

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.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Everyone has had some great 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 :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

ok you definately need a tent or camper which ever you have! Yes take water with you not every camp site has running water. Most camp sites have portapotties and some do have actual toilets. As for food wise take what you know you will want to eat. Simple meals that won't be to heavy if it is hot out is best. We don't take our grill but you can since it is easier for someone who really has no idea how to camp lol If you go to a state lake a lot of times they have showers close to the swimming area although not all do. so either do without or you can but a camp shower. Not sure how well they work though.

The essentials is food, water, tent/camper, lighter to start a fire or grill for cooking, we prefer to take our air mattress but just plain sleeping bags and blankets work too, basic toiletries such as tooth brush toilet paper, hair brush. Wipes are great for a quick clean up, cooking essentials such as spices, pans for stuff like veggies, any toys your son will not sleep without, lighting such as torches or lamps. We usually take our dogs but that is because we pretty much have to (no one can feed them but us). Extra trash bags for cleaning up and to store dirty clothes in. Take extra sets of clothes just in case they get wet or super dirty. We take swimming gear and fishing gear. BUG SPRAY!!! Also a first aid kit is a must.

as for activities we go for walks and play in the water. we also do a lot of fishing. Our daughter's first camping trip was when she was only 5 months old and she loved just sitting in her bumbo chair and watching the leaves. Now she just loves running around picking flowers splashing in the water and just generally listening to all the natural sounds.

As for what food we usually take hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, some canned veggies or fresh veggies, fruits for snacking on such as apples, grapes, watermelon. brats work great too. Sandwich makings for quick easy lunches. Make sure you pack the food really good in a cooler with lots of ice.

But the last word of advice if neither of you are good with nature and especially being dirty with bugs around don't go camping at all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Their are so many options as to camp sites - some have activities where as some are totaly natural... as to what to do depends on what kind of site you choose to go to. Some do also have restrooms & showers... so maybe one with that option would be best for your first time, but if you choose a natural site - the restroom in a hidden place in the woods w/out any 3 (poison ivy) or (poison oak) 5 leaf plants around.

As to what to take - tent, blankets or sleeping bags, pillows, air matters (if you choose to), chairs (unless you are willing to sit on the ground), camping stove (to make coffee or breakfast), cooking utensiles/pans (including long grill tons & sticks for hot dogs or marshmellows), knife, aluminum foil, silverwear, plates & cups (plastic & paper if you don't want to wash it ), napkins/paper toiles, TP, a few extra changes of clothes, matches or liter.

As for food - depending on what you want to eat... we usually take stuff to make lunchmeat & PPJ sandwiches, snack size bagged chips, dry cereal, snack bars/cookies, hot dogs & buns, milk, drinks (instant coffee w/ cream & sugar, hot coco, tea bags, pop, bottled water, kool-aid singles), eggs, dry pancake mix & sausage (if we bring a cook stove), "butter", corn (can be cooked in campfire if wrapped in foil & a little "butter" put on it). We also take the stuff for "bum stew"... ground hamberger, potatoes (cubed), carrots (sliced), salt & pepper - you just put out a pc of foil sprinkle some raw ground burger on the foil, add potatoes & carrots, then salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of "butter". Roll the foil up to make a pack - add a second layer of foil. The after you have hot coals in the fire pit - you add the packs to the campfire... cook on both sides for about 15-20 min. Then each person gets a pack to eat out of once you pull them out of the fire... I like mine plain, but everyone else like a little ketcupt on theirs.

We usually got from Friday - Sunday... meaning 2 of each meals have to be served. Friday night is usually the bum stew for dinner, Saturday morning - eggs, pancakes & sasage : lunch - sandwiches & chips : dinner - hot dogs & chips, Sunday morning - cereal w/ milk : lunch (if you haven't pulled out) sandwiches & chips again. So make sure you have enough to feed everyone & have a few snacks cause if you are busy & doing a lot they will need them.

When we go to the natural sites, we spend time walking the trails, hunting for frogs or lizards, playing cards, roasting mellows or making s'mors (you'd need to bring chocolet bars & crackers), hunting for wood & supplies in the woods, but mainly going w/ the flow & seeing what we end up doing & relax. When we go to the other sites - they usually have a play ground or activies to do - bingo, painting/craft, movies, ect. depending on the site.

Since it just you, hubby & one little one - a four man tent should be big enough... but remember to put all your food items in the car/truck when you aren't using it, or you may have unwanted guesses (critters) snagging your food.

Good luck and have fun with it... it's a cool adventure for kids!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If you stay in a hotel with a restaurant and a pool, you won't have to take food, air mattresses, grill, OR water! LOL Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Camping is great! I usually pack my non-perishable groceries and cookware in the see-through tubs with lockable lids. Cast iron skillet, hot dog sticks, tin foil, newspapers for firestarting, can opener, cooking utensils with long handles are some of my must have items. I hate to mess with my hair while camping so I'm usually wearing a baseball hat or visor. We'll typically have 2-3 bottles of sunscreen and a bottle of aloe vera.

If you're camping in a campground that has water hookups, be sure to bring a water hose with a nozzle on the end. Bring a broom to sweep off picnic tables and for cleaning out the tent before and after you use it.

Dinner doesn't always have to be hamburgers/hotdogs and chips. Make pouches using foil. One of my favorites is: take broccoli, cauliflower, zuchinni, mushrooms, and onion; chop or slice into large bites; pile all veggies into pile on a 18" strip of foil; top with 1 cup ice cubes (for steam); fold up edges of foil to seal and make a pouch; place over campfire and turn every few minutes until done. Carefully open pouch and you have delicious steamed veggies! You can cook boneless, skinless chicken breast the same way - spray the inside of foil with Pam or use some olive oil. My kids always love doing the JiffyPop popcorn if you can find it.

Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

First if you are not thrilled with the idea of a tent maybe try a cabin first. Tenting is fun and I grew up taking summer vacations camping and still doing it :)

MATTRESS: I would get an air mattress for you guys and maybe kiddo... my daughter slept fine on a thin foam mattress (she was 3) last year but I am thinking of getting an air mattress for her this year.

TENT: If you do not have a tent yet, plan on getting one that is bigger then you need. Do NOT go by the three people fit in the tent, they mean three sleeping bags side by side fit in the tent... We have a "6 person" tent that sleeps 3 comfortably with a queen air mattress and a foam pad (a small air mattress would also fit nicely) and all of our clothes bags fit nicely in there. I have also found that if you plan on camping frequently (every year) then go with a higher quality tent that can be bought at Gander Mountain or similar store NOT walmart (those tents are cheap and leak water if it rains).

ACTIVITIES: We always bring along cards, one or two favorite board games, coloring book w crayons, lawn bowling, ball toss, books for the adults and kiddo. If the camp ground has a place you can fish bring along a fishing pool. We also love to hike but our favorite is just sitting around talking and enjoying time to relax.

FOOD: We have a portable stove (different then a grill) that uses gas and we can boil water, cook and do things you typically do at home on the stove. Breakfast ideas: if you get a portable stove you can make pancakes and we also bring along those small cereal boxes. Lunch: Sandwiches are the easiest to do but with a portable stove could also make mac & cheese or grilled cheese. Dinner: Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Sandwiches. You can also get some really cool things to cook over the fire, just check out the cooking area in the outdoor camping section. Also keep all food locked in vehicle otherwise the animals will get at it while you are sleeping.

DRINKS: MOST camping sites will have a place or two you can go to get water, we used this water to boil to water to do dishes or to cook with... We always brought our own drinking water and then some kind of juice mix and soda. When packing food/drinks we would have a cooler (or two) to keep the cold food cold (we found that big blocks of frozen water, in various sized plastic containers, keeps the cooler colder then bagged ice or ice packs).

TOLIET: It really depends on the campsite, it may or may not having running water toilets. A lot of place I have been to will have running water toilets in the main building and then around the property there would be glorified portapotties. Sometimes all the bathrooms would have running water toilets BUT it really various from campground to campground, this is something you can check on when you make a reservation. If you want all "normal" toilets make sure you check with the campgrounds before going. Same with showers, places will have them but you may not be near them...if you want the comfort of having them in close walking distant (which honestly you don't want to be too close) check with the campground when you make the reservations.

-- We always have a big extra tarp because you never know when you may need to use it for added shade or throw over the tent if it is pouring to help keep out additional rain.
-- I love having a portable stove, you could do with out it BUT if you want to make camping a family activity every year it would be worth getting out.
-- Have a hammer to help out things in the ground.
-- Have items to start a fire which is a great way to cook food or have light at night.
-- Put clothes in a Rubbermaid/plastic container instead of a suitcase/bag, this helps keep them dry if it rains OR can us the container as a nightstand at night.
-- Lantern (both or either oil & battery)
-- Sunscreen, bug spray.
-- Paper items (plates, napkins, Kleenex, toilet paper, disposable silverware or the real stuff if you are up to cleaning them)
-- Clothes (and extra)
-- Towels (two per person so one has time to dry if you go swimming & shower)

I am sure there are other things but this is a good start :)

Here is a check list I found... you can also search online for camping checklist.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

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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answers from Washington DC on

Supplies: Google search for camping check list. Go through a couple of these to put together a comprehensive list. I always over pack but then again we've been in situations where I've never used "x" when camping before but this time we did need it. Bring an extra set of clothes for each person beyond a set for each day and bring long pants/shirt for each person and a light jacket since it may get cool at night. 2 pairs shoes for each person as well.
Food: Also search camping recipes. Keep it simple for your first time out. Precook some things like chicken and you can always reheat by wrapping in foil over the fire. It doesn't have to be hamburgers and hotdogs only. Lots of tin foil! If you like eggs, a quick easy way to cook them is to boil a pot of water. Put a couple/few eggs in a heavy ziplock bag and add a couple ingredients (mushrooms, cheese, etc) zip the bag, squish everything together in the bag and then put the bag in the boiling water. Let boil for approx 5 minutes and when you take the bag out, the eggs are cooked!! very easy and fun for the kid as well. (just bring tongs so you don't burn yourself!)
Tent: For 3 of you, you don't need a big tent. You also don't want a tiny tent since a small one won't really give you any room to put your bags/clothes etc. We've always had a 6 person tent for the 4 of us, but now our boys are getting bigger so we went up to an 8 person tent - but we camp alot so it's more justified. You don't need to spend alot - keep an eye out, tents are on sale all over the place. Also check out craigslist-if you go this route, when you get there, put the tent together and check it out. It must be 1-easy enough to put together. 2-no holes or tears or patches 3- the zippers work well. Don't feel weird about putting it together before you buy - you just have to to make sure it's ok.
Bedding: Sleeping bags for everyone. I'd only invest in an air mattress if you think you'll use it more than this one time. Also, make sure your tent is big enough for it (a friend got a queen size air mattress and it ended up sticking out the front door of his small tent!) Bring pillows.
Equipment: a camp grill will definetely come in handy. Cooking over a fire is do-able but more difficult as well. Since you'll have a little guy running around, a grill will allow for faster cooking. Bring extra propane. You may want to do a test run as well if you've never used one. A lantern will also come in handy but you can certainly just use flashlights. Bring extra batteries. Bring extra tarps. Put one down under your tent. This will help keep any moisture from your tent. I always lay one out in front of the tent to make a "foyer" so we have a place to take off our shoes before entering the tent. (bring a small dust broom to sweep out the tent and off the foyer-it's nice to have a clean place to stand/sit) Bring extra tent pegs. It always happens that when we don't have extras, we end up breaking/bending one. We have the yellow plastic pegs and the thinner metal ones. Each work better in different groundcover. One does better in sand or gravel and the other in dirt. Bring a mallot - this works better than a hammer. Bring a table cloth (cheapy vinyl type-I always buy extra after holidays so I get a couple big ones for like a quarter each) Some sort of folding chairs.
Misc: there is so much you can bring (dont' forget a ball, and misc toys for your son). Go to WalMart to get most of your supplies, it's just cheaper. Only plan on going for 1 or 2 nights to start. It will be an adjustment for your wee one. Do this a few times and he'll be ready for longer trips. Each time you go, you should make a list of the things you wish you had brought, so you'll be better prepared the next time.
Friends: If you have friends who'd like to go,,,,,bring them!! We always love to camp with friends. That way we all share the chores, the cooking, cleaning, etc. and you get an extra set of hands or two with the kids.

It is a lot of prep - more so than on a 'regular' vacation, but it is so worth it. We enjoy a nice hotel just like anyone, but we do camp at least once a year and sometimes more. Our boys just love it and the hubby and I grew up camping so it's a great family experience. There is no electronics (except our cell phones) and the boys always have fun.

Check out nearby campsites. The national park service website will show you what national parks are near your zip code. Go to: and check it out. Look for something nearby, something with bathroom/shower facilities, picnic tables at the site are nice.

Get there as early as you can and set everything up right away. Get the work out of the way so you can relax the rest of the time. Don't lose the tent instructions either!!!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yes, take your son camping. I loved camping as a kid, still enjoy it very much and so do the kids.

You'll need....
a tent (make sure it's large enough so you have some room to move arround)
blankets or a sleeping bag (remember it can get cold at night)
something to put under the sleeping bag like an air matress or a mat
a table cloth (I recommend 3 - one for the top of the picnic table and two for the seats, because they can get damp at night or you always have the chance of rain)
a tarp for just outside the tent, prevents a lot of dirt and sand getting in
garbage bags

As far as many of the other questions, it'll depend on where your staying and for how long. What type of campground are you looking for public or private? There are many private campgrounds that are like resorts and have every type of recreational thing imaginable to playgrounds, swimming pools, basketball courts, nightly entertainment, game rooms, activities running all day like craft classes, bingo, field games with little nature activities. On the other extreme, there are state campgrounds with non-flush toilets and no shower facilities. Check out for campground listings (most states now require you to make reservations thru this site) as well as camping tips.

There are alway kids riding bikes, so if you have room you may want to consider bringing along a bike, big wheel, etc.

As far as showers, many facilites now have paid showers, so you'll need to bring along some quarters. Don't forget the flip flops. I rarely get dressed in the shower room, I wrap up in a bathrobe and go back and change at our site.

As for water, you need a water jug. Most campgrounds have many spiggets where you can get cold water.

As for a grill, that's a personal choice on what you want to eat. We do most of our cooking over the open campfire. Or you can choose to just bring foods that do not require cooking or heating. We have a small table top Coleman Roadtrip party grill that runs on propane that we love. It's perfect for day trips, so it's not something you may purchase and then never use.

There have been some really great posts within the past few months, so I recommend you do a search for some more great camping advise.

Have a great trip!

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answers from Austin on

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!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Camping is fun, inexpensive, educational, and relaxing!! Tent: I would get a 3-man or 4-man tent to allow enough room for all of you comfortably. Kids don't need an air mattress, but as an adult, I prefer one!

Activities: Most campgrounds have activity suggestions. One thing I love to do with my kids is create a "Scavenger Hunt" before we go. Then we take a nice nature walk, and we look for the items on our scavenger hunt. You can google "Camping scavenger hunt" or "Nature walk scavenger hunt" for some great ideas. Since your son is 4, keep it simple..."brown leaf", "spider web", "acorn", etc. This is a lot of fun and educational, plus you're getting exercise! At the campground - play cards, Memory, simple board games, I-Spy, read books.

Food - you can google this, too. Hot dogs, marshmallows, smoked sausage, etc on a stick. You can do so many things on a campfire (don't bring a grill - do it all on the campfire!) Go to Dick's or Sports Authority, etc. Check out their camping section. You can get an inexpensive frying pan for eggs, grilled cheese, etc...all over a campfire. You can put beef cubes, veggies, potatoes & seasoning in foil packets and make stew over a campfire. You can even brew coffee! Lots of options with research!

You will need a cooler, obviously, to keep your food in. HINT: at night, secure the cooler inside your vehicle or under the bench of the picnic table (all campsites have a picnic table). This will keep the raccoons from stealing your food - they know how to open coolers!

Bathroom: Most campgrounds these days have bath houses for toileting and showering. Just bring your own toiletries (including TP) and towels.

You will LOVE camping. It is so much fun - once you gather all of your necessary equipment the first time (tents, air mattresses, cooking items), this adventure becomes quite inexpensive!

Do your homework on google to make it tons of fun!



answers from Pittsburgh on

You got lots of great responses! Since we camp in a 32 foot travel trailer, I don't have much to add from what was already responded. I do want to say to YES go camping, the family time is so worth it, a hotel won't even compare. Definitely take some time and find a campground that suits what you want to do and your needs, such a decent bathroom, close by but not too close to your site. I suggest buying a good tent and plan on camping a few times a year. Start out with a 1-2 night weekend, close to home so if you forgot something, you can go and get it or close enough to a store so you can buy it. We have a seasonal site (which means we take our camper to the campground in late May and it stays there until late September, we go every weekend, and our 15 year old works at the campground so he stayed there all summer last year and will do the same this year). It is relaxing to get away from the house and have quality family time, we have been camping for several years now, you will memories to last a lifetime.



answers from Pittsburgh on

We love to go camping! I say stay close to home for the first time and keep your menu simple. The first time we took our daughter we went to a Laurel Hill state park ( it is only like an hour away from our house. We paid for one night at a time, in case our daughter hated it or in case it rained since we were in a tent. PA has some really nice facilities at most of the parks. It is best to buy firewood either at the campground or close by as there is some invasive beetle the parks are trying to keep out of the area.

I would recommend sandwiches for lunch, hot dogs or foil dinners (hamburgers, an assortment of veggies, such as carrots, potatoes, onions, and a couple of ice cubes for moisture) for supper and cereal for breakfast. That will help to keep your budget low until you are sure you like it. Also be sure to take a table cloth and some extra towels or rugs for the picnic table benches, that will help to keep your butt clean and dry. Don't forget the bug spray & sunscreen. Most of the state parks have free showers and bathrooms with toilet paper & hand dryers, but you will need soap to wash your hands. Some sites have electricity, but if you aren't taking any appliances, try to get a site that doesn't have the electricity since they do cost more money, however, it is probably cheaper to take your coffee maker & electric skillet/griddle than it is to buy the gadgets necessary to make everything over the campfire.

It's a lot to process and everyone has really great advice. Good Luck!

P.S. Don't forget your son's favorite blanket or stuffed animal - that could ruin an otherwise great experience!

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