We have been camping now for about 5 years with our sons’ cub scout pack. When we first started, we were really apprehensive about going. Neither my husband nor I had camped as children, so we really had no idea what we were doing or what we needed.
We knew that we wanted our children to grow up with memories of family camping and experience being out in nature as much as we could. Going camping with the scouts gave us a great opportunity to do this. We knew there would be people around us to show us the ropes and help us where we needed it. Also, if we forgot something, all the families are so nice and are willing to share and help each other out. We go twice a year, the fall camp out is always farther away, while the spring camp out is at a local camp ground. I always watch those families that have 2-4 people in them, as they set up their cute small tents, that take about 5 seconds to put up. Then they have those 2 chairs neatly out front, one on each side and a small table with a lantern on it, and boom!!! they are all done setting up.
Well, we camp with a family size of 7!! There is nothing small about our campsite… it is like moving a small army around. Our kids range from 4-13, so they all have different needs and interests. Plus, not all of them love to camp, so having enough stuff to do to keep them entertained during the down time is a challenge too.
We actually have to bring two vehicles with us, when ever we go. Once you fit 7 people in a minivan, there is very little room for anything else. You might get the 7 folding camp chairs, the tent and a stove, but that is about it, and we all know that is not enough.
So through the years, we have purchased items every trip to make life a little easier, some we love… some we could have done without. I’m going to take you through what we bring with us on a camp out.
Of course we have our family tent.
It says it sleeps 10, but we double kids up on cots, so we have room to walk inside. It is a Coleman tent, and although it is big, it is fairly easy to put up. The poles are color coded, so it makes matching the poles and the slots they go in faster. This Ozark Trail one on Amazon is very similar to the one we have. I like having straighter sides to the tent, so I can really get my cots into the corners. I find it stabilizes the tent better as well.
We use folding cots.
Ok, well it might be glamping a little, but I really prefer to sleep on a cot. There are 3 reasons I prefer cots for sleeping.
- They are easier to pack. They come in bags, just like the camping chairs, with a strap, so you can carry them over your shoulder.
- They are easier to set up than inflatable mattresses. No need for pumps, taking the time to inflate and deflate, and you don’t have to worry about them getting a hole in them.
- You can store your clothes, or other supplies under them, so they don’t need to take up extra room in the tent. It helps to keep things tidier inside the tent, which can become a mess with 4 little boys running in and out.
We have different types of cots we use. Two of them are Colemans They fold open and then they have a end bar on each side that has to get popped in. It takes some muscle to get them to pop, and sometimes we just skip that part. The cot is tighter and more sturdy if the end bars are in. But, they are a good quality cot and usually run between $30-$40 (same price as an inflatable mattress and will probably last a lot longer).
We recently bought a Rio Adventure Military Cot and we love it!! It is so easy to set up, just place a loop over each side piece and step down on the pedal and it locks into place. They are a little narrower than the Coleman, but good quality as well. Our kids are young and narrow is good, it means I can line more of them up. If I purchase another cot for us, I will be getting this one again,
Battery operated paper lanterns
I love these and bring them on every trip. I hang them up inside the tent and they give off a very soft glow at night. That way if one of the children wake up to use the restroom, the tent is not pitch black inside. Since they are LED lights, 2 AAA batteries will last the two nights, even being on all night long. The kids love having them on too. They don’t get as scared and they love the little glow as they go off to bed. Plus, when you come back from the restroom in the middle of the night, it is a little easier to find your tent, since it will glow, just a little (but not enough to bother other campers). They come in a variety of colors, so pick your style.
The Camping Drawer
I have a plastic Sterilite Drawer that I use to store all the little parts. It holds the extra batteries, mallet, extra stakes, zip ties, rope, ziploc bags, small flashlights, hooks, screwdrivers, scissors, all those little things you might need while camping. It is the greatest thing.. we always know where to look to find what we need. It gets stored on a shelf in the garage, so if I come across something that might work for our next trip, I just have to pull open the drawer and pop it in, and it is ready for our next adventure. I also bring one for food utensils. Inside that one, I put things like cooking spray, aluminum foil, paper towel, spatulas, utensils, spices, etc. It gets set up on our cooking table, so everything you need when you are cooking is right there and contained. They stack, and can be stored under the cots at night, if needed.
Hot Hands Body and Hand Warmers
I will admit it.. I am a wimp. The only thing I really dislike about camping is how cold I get at night. It doesn’t matter how warm I dress or the sleeping bag I am in, I get cold. That keeps me awake and it is the only part I dread sleeping out in nature. I have bought these hand warmers on past trips just to get that extra little burst of heat. Wow, do they really heat up too, and they last for about 8-12 hours, so it is perfect!
Single Burner Stove Top
We have a full cooktop from Coleman and have really enjoyed it, but we are trying to downsize where we can, and this worked out perfect for us this trip. The butane canisters are smaller than the gas ones, and seem to last just as long. We brought along our cast iron skillet and made all our meals on it. We cooked hamburger and hot dogs, taco meat, then made quesadillas and for breakfast we had fluffy pancakes. As you can see from the picture, they turned out really well. It comes with it’s own little case with a handle, so it travels really easily. We are thinking about bringing it to the beach with us next time. Although it is small, it was enough to cook for our whole family, and left extra room in the cars for other essentials.
It’s always a good idea to have some type of mat in front of your tent. You can leave your shoes on it before tracking dirt into the tent. We bought a large one from COSTCO a few years back, and we love it. It gives you a soft place to rest your feet, and gives your little ones a place to sit and play, if you don’t want them in the dirt at a certain time. It really cuts down the amount of dirt and dust that come in the tent as well. It is able to be folded, so it packs nicely into the car. When we get home, we get the vacuum out and clean it up and store it for another camping adventure.
Yes, we know that the kids will be busy exploring the great outdoors, but there is some down time at camp and kids still need to have things to do. When we go camping with the cub scouts the boys play,play, play. When we don’t bring toys they just pick up sticks and run around with them. We have found that Poke-mon cards and NERF guns are the toys of choice. We have also done R/C cars and of course different types of balls to play with. For the little kids we pack bubbles, a dump truck so they can collect things and push them around. This is our youngest, ready to defend the camp. The boys run around ALL day like this. They have so much fun.
I like to bring glow sticks with me to camp. The kids love to wear them at night, and it helps me to find them easier. We bring either the ones that can be connected into necklaces, or the ones that have a large glow stick on a string that can be worn as a necklace. I have also brought these with me to Las Vegas when we went walking on The Strip. It made it easier for me to see the kids walking on such a busy street at night. The kids think they are fun to wear, so I don’t get any push back from them about wearing them. Win-Win!!!
This is a great tip I saw another parent do this past camp out. Her son had the brightest neon yellow shirt on. It was actually a scout shirt but you could see hi from a mile away, Since we have 5 kids, running in 5 different directions during our camp outs, it gets hard to keep track of them. Although they all know not to go past the camp site or explore anywhere without an adult, we still like to do the “count the kids” drill every once in awhile, just to keep tabs on their location. If you put them in the brightest shirt possible, you will be able to look out on the field or in the cluster of trees and find your child a lot faster.
Bring a Folding Wagon
These little guys are life-savers. It doesn’t matter where we have camped, we have always had some type of walk to make to the campsite. Bringing a wagon with you makes transporting all your gear to the site so much easier. By having a wagon, you can also enlist the help of your children. It is sometimes hard to get the kids to help once you have reached the campground. They have been in the car for awhile, and they just want to get out and play. But, you still need need help unloading the cars!! Well, the kids love pulling wagons, so you can usually get them to help more if you add a little bit of fun to the chore. These little wagons are really durable and you would be surprised how much stuff you can pile on top of them. We have a wagon with the thinner wheels, but if we were to purchase another one, I think I would definitely spend a little extra and get the ones with the wider wheels on it. They can maneuver across sand and gravel a lot better than the thin wheels. The wagons are also a great play thing for your kids while you are camping. They have so much fun loading it up with their friends and then taking tuns pulling them around the campsite. It’s also good for transporting tired little ones back and forth to outings, since you may not have a stroller with you.
Of course you will need to bring more items with you camping, like the basic sleeping bags, flashlights, chairs and more. These are just the items that we have found to be extremely useful for us, since we camp with many children of different ages.
Camping is such a great family outing. My children have wonderful memories of camping with the Cub Scouts. If you have never gone camping before and are apprehensive about it, I say “GO FOR IT!!”. Pick a campground close by, borrow equipment from friends to see if you like it, go with a group so you can learn and ins and outs, but just try it. Who knows you might love it.
Did I mention that we kinda “Glamp”?? Yes, this is our Pack having a movie night at our camp out, complete with popcorn. We did pick a “scouting-like” movie, Disney’s UP!. Russel is the ultimate Wilderness Explorer. Who says you can’t have fun while camping too.