By Nick Kania • August 21, 2015
Camping is an age-old way of escaping civilization and having some family time. It allows families some peace and quiet and lets them reconnect with their nature roots. However, I’d wager that most families aren’t going out and living like Bear Grylls. Before you make any of your purchases, check out what coupons we have for stores like Amazon, Cabelas, Sports Authority, and more to save you money that can be spent on more fun adventures! The traditional family camping trip requires certain items and lots of planning – this list can help you get your family out of the house and into the great outdoors.
Unless you’re really roughing it, a tent will be serving as your home for the duration of your camping trip. As such, your tent should be reputable, durable, and spacious. A family of four might want to check out the Coleman 4-person Instant Tent, while a larger family should look into the Klondike 8-person tent. Reviewers love both because they’re easy to set up (saving you a lot of stress).
Tip: Make sure you check the weather beforehand and bring appropriate rain guard accessories! Also, never store your food in the tent with you; hungry bears are known to be quite rude when waking up campers.
Grilling is a staple of the camping experience; there isn’t anything quite like throwing pieces of meat on an open flame and cooking them to barbecued perfection (that’s just my opinion). You’ll want to have a grill you can trust, since going hungry would put a damper on your vacation.
Camp Chef makes a simple, sturdy metal grill that’s great for cooking directly over a campfire. Of those who prefer propane, many love the Coleman Fold N Go Instastart Grill for its ease of use and even flame.
Tip: When choosing between charcoal and gas, consider the fact that while gas is instant and consistent, charcoal burns hotter and is more flavorful. Check what types of grills are allowed on the campground you’ll be staying at. You’d hate to get there and not be able to cook!
Depending on how heavily you have packed, you might have an ample supply of bottled water for your family camping trip. That being said, there are those particularly adventurous readers who I’m sure want the experience of finding water themselves.
Kudos to you, adventurous ones! For your health, make sure you bring a water filter! The Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L Filter System is an expensive but highly effective piece of equipment for filtering 4.0 liters of water in 2.5 minutes. As an alternative, the much cheaper and incredibly unique LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is quite literally a straw that lets you drink from almost any water supply.
Tip: Regardless of what you buy, play it safe – never assume that campground water is potable, even if it comes from a spigot. Purchase a drinking water tester to assess the quality of any water supply.
While we’re on the topic of safety, let’s talk about first aid kits. These are vital, especially for those families camping with little ones (who always invent new ways to fall and scrape themselves).
When it comes to this sort of thing, it pays to get the best. Highly-acclaimed first aid kits include the Trail Light Dayhiker by Lifeline and the Ultra-Light 100 piece kit by Always, both of which contain the essentials (bandages, alcohol pads, tweezers, etc.) If you are camping close to civilization, you may opt for the lighter and cheaper Dayhiker. However, choose the 100 piece kit for anything remotely far from a hospital, as an ambulance will take longer to arrive.
Tip: L. L. Bean recommends that you learn how to use everything in your first aid kit before you camp, as a situation where somebody is injured is not the time to be figuring things out.
The mighty cooler is known for storing hot dogs, beer, and any other classic camping essentials. That means it’s important to get one you can trust.
The Pelican ProGear 65 Quart cooler is appreciated for its sheer durability and propensity for keeping things cold. Seriously, this thing looks like it could survive a nuclear meltdown. As an alternative, look for the YETI Tundra 65 Chest Cooler; in the words of one reviewer, it “Kept ice for 7 days in the Texas heat!”
Tip: Try and plan your meals ahead of time; this will let you measure your ingredients and separate them in the cooler to make things significantly easier.
Let’s face it: we live in an age where technology is everywhere. Even though camping is all about returning to our roots in the wilderness, we need phones. If something were to go wrong, you’d want the ability to call 911.
Solar chargers can be expensive, but they might save your life. The Solar Joos Orange charger can charge anything from GPS and cellular devices to portable game systems. Moreover, it’s waterproof. The Instaspark Mercury 10M Solar Panel is a cheaper alternative, and is foldable, making it very convenient for packing.
Tip: As I’m sure you’re all aware, sometimes the weather forecast is wrong. Bring lots of plastic bags to put your electronic devices in for the chance that it rains heavily during your vacation.
Besides the essentials, there are some extras you might want to pack for your trip.
If this seems like a lot to consider, that’s because it is. Camping is beautiful and extremely fulfilling, but for the unprepared family it can be dangerous. Don’t let the preparation stop you from going though. If you arrange everything responsibly and are open to different experiences, I can guarantee your family will have a good time.
Nick Kania Nick is our summer editorial intern who attends St. John’s University and lives in Brooklyn, New York. You’ll likely find him drinking his third cup of coffee somewhere, thinking about faraway places and how to get there.