Camping is a rite of passage when you’re young, and it’s always a memorable occasion when you go with family or friends. You bond with each other and the landscape, releasing mental and emotional stressors that help you come together and get back to basics. If you do it right, it’s an epic and unforgettable experience.
When you focus on all the things you forgot or all that could go wrong, your summer camping trip won’t be so epic after all. Mosquitoes attack. There’s no breakfast or burnt breakfast. You get a flat and can’t drive out for supplies at the nearest store, which happens to be tens of miles out of camp. Your bait might as well be someone saying, “Here, fishie, fishie… Fishie?”
You’re stuck in a campsite full of sweaty, cranky folks who can’t wait to get back home when the idea was to get the heck out of dodge in the first place. Stop your tent slinging and poking the antagonism bear with the “everybody sucks” stick.
Your family can have the camping trip of a lifetime when you come prepared, share the work burden and let go of stress to spend time enjoying your beautiful surroundings:
Location, Location, Location
“Location is everything,” real estate and travel agents tell you, and that’s especially true for your campsite. It’s a rare occasion that you can just show up to pitch your tent and score a site close to the bathrooms. Some locations might even require reservations.
Proximity to amenities is everything. Being able to enjoy a nice shower after a long day of hiking or fishing will make a significant difference in your gang’s mood. The drive may be worth it and affordable for the amenities alone.
Consider needs that are specific to your group. What else do you need or want proximity to? Are members of your group really into fishing, kayaking or bird watching? A beautiful view makes a big difference, with larger rocks and big trees to nestle you in a private area.
How far do you want to travel to get away from it all? How about driving to a dark skies campground for a view of the stars without light pollution? These factors will help you determine the location of your campsite and serve as a great reminder of why you came together to get away when your kids start acting out or refusing to pitch in.
Do Your Research and Bring Supplies
Bringing supplies based on your environment and family’s needs is a crucial step in your camping preparation. For example, if you’ve you decided to go camping in the desert for the view of the stars, you’ll need extra water and clothes for hot and cold weather since desert temperatures differentiate dramatically between day and night. Get to know the area you’ll be camping in, from temperature fluctuations to the types of animals or threats of wildfire you could encounter.
It’s important to be prepared with the right camping supplies. If you’re planning to drink lake water, check with local authorities first about the water quality and plan to boil it first no matter what. If camping in a dry climate or a high altitude, rest often and keep yourself nourished.
It’s an excellent idea to make a camping supplies checklist ahead of time and print it out to make your shopping trips and packing less hectic. Obviously, you’ll need a tent, but if you go hiking with it, you need to make sure you can carry it. Your tent will need proper ventilation and protection from bugs. Make sure your sleeping bag is padded and appropriate for area temperatures. A multipurpose utility knife and tool is always handy to have. Plan meals in advance and freeze what you can.
If you do forget supplies, you can always make a trip to the store or little camping hacks to get by. It’s smart to find a store close to your campsite before you get there. Pro tip: If you happen to forget a lantern, you could direct the light of a headlamp or flashlight toward a water jug for an instant lamp.
Bring the Little Luxuries
Roughing it doesn’t mean you have to go without comfy padding in your sleeping bag or your morning coffee to see you through the day. Pack a French press to bring with you for your morning coffee, even if your supplies signal more glamping than camping. Heck, bring a tiara for your daughter and let her wear it on your hike!
Happy campers are those who get quality nourishment and shut eye, and that also means adhering to your unwinding rituals before bedtime where possible. Bring the little luxuries to stay sane and enhance your camping experience.
A small battery powered radio or iPod will add a soundtrack to your experience, or bring a guitar or djembe to create your own music if the campsite allows it. Imagine a toasty campfire, with smores, hotdogs and good company and tunes.
Luxuries also include games — don’t forget your horseshoe toss and cornhole sets for daytime fun and a deck of cards for the evening. A little friendly competition keeps camping fun for the whole family.
Motivation and Attitude
It may sound excessively Zen, but camping is a mindset. If you go into the experience grumbling, your camping trip will be an unfortunate one, too.
Keep in mind why you wanted to get away in the first place. Do you want to spend your days hiking and biking hard or do you want to spend most of it relaxing by the lake with a fishing pole? Make sure you and your family are on the same wavelength about how you’ll be spending your time before you go.
Once you’ve determined your location based on your goals and amenities, make a checklist for camping supplies, but don’t stress over the little things. Have a backup place in mind for the campsite and supplies shopping, just in case.
Remember that you don’t have to rough it to have a “real” camping experience. Good padding in a sleeping bag will help you get a more restful sleep. Coffee in the morning will keep you chipper. Games and other little luxuries will make the camping trip more fun and unforgettable for all.
With the right motivation and attitude in mind, the most essential thing you need is good company to have an epic camping trip this summer, starting a new tradition for your family to enjoy every year.