I grew up camping so maybe I am just biased and find camping relaxing and there is something magical about getting back to basics that really hits home to relax my soul. Over the years I have learnt to make camping easy, fun and as mentioned relaxing. It is such a great feeling getting away with my kids learning about nature and of course each other, leaving the gadgets (well sometimes) behind and getting back to basic interaction with each other.
There is a time and place for everything and some trips I love to rough it while others I want nothing more than the comfort of my caravan, but the basics of camping still ring true. I don’t think it matter how you camp, what matters is that you get out, enjoy yourself, make new friends and most of all enjoy your surroundings.
Age is no barrier nor is finances as even I don’t camp like a king, but I feel like a king when I camp and what makes me feel rich is the company I chose to share my camping with, my kids.
Camping is so great for kids for building a sense of adventure and confidence, and it’s great for adults for learning to let go of some of the things in daily life that really don’t matter. I thought I’d share a few of the Camping Tips, Tricks, Hacks I’ve learned that have really helped to convert me into a happy camper and helped me get over feeling kind of nervous about the whole experience.
Use the good stuff
People always seem to feel like the stuff they pack for camping needs to be second-rate. Like the stuff that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty or ruined in some way. It seems to make sense at first, until you realize that means that the entire time you’re camping, whether you’re cooking, or tidying up, or sleeping, you’re subjecting yourself to being just a little bit frustrated because every little job seems just a bit more difficult than what you’re used to and you can sometimes project that frustration onto the whole camping experience when really it’s just that dull knife that you’re using, or the frying pan that’s a little warped and doesn’t conduct heat evenly.
The reason we like to use certain items at home is because they work really well for us, even during difficult situations, so camping is the perfect time to use them! I like to bring my favorite knife, cookware, and super absorbent tea towels with me camping. These things get dirty in the regular kitchen at home anyway and they clean up just as well outdoors as they do indoors!
Equipment does make a big difference
Along those same lines, the actual camping-specific equipment that you have available to use really does make a big difference. Sure, you can survive with just basic, low-quality equipment, but it will definitely make your life more difficult. I think a lot of people feel like if this is stuff that they’ll only be using once or twice a year, then it doesn’t need to be anything fancy.
I always feel like these are some of the most high-quality family time moments that we get to spend together, so having the gear to help us make our camping time extra special just makes sense. Plus, you really do gain a little bit more of a sense of confidence in yourself as a camper when you have stuff around you that actually works. It gives you a few more of those “Hey, I can actually do this!” moments each day and that really makes a difference
Camping gear can get expensive, but the good news is that most of the best items are classics that will last you a really long time, so you can build your collection up slowly over time and end up with some really great gear after a few years.
Get creative (or steal other people’s creative ideas)
There seem to be a million “camping hacks” posts online. Honestly, a lot of the ideas I see there are really fun to look at but don’t necessarily really apply to me, but every once in awhile I do find a trick out there that really will be useful to the way we camp.
So then I use it! I mostly look for camping info online that’s a little more in depth and a little more applicable to the real challenges of camping than another way to store cooking spices in small containers. Seriously, there are so many tips on how to store spices for camping! (BTW, I just usually make one or two universal spice blends and bring those.)
So don’t be afraid to come up with your own solution if you find there’s some little thing about camping that annoys you. Building your own little temporary home just the way you like it is a big part of the fun!
See the light
Oh boy is this ever a big one for me. Or rather, it was! I find that I still used to greatly underestimate the need for light on the campsite at night to make me feel comfortable.
When you’re camping, you’re already in unfamiliar surroundings, doing everything a little differently than you would at home. Once you add pitch black darkness into the mix, you just can’t find anything that you’re looking for and that can be anywhere from kind of annoying to super stressful and can be scary for the kids.I always like to bring a lot of different lighting options to the campsite from small kid-sized flashlights, to a big propane lantern for the middle of the table, to smaller battery-powered lanterns for each room in the tents.
This year, we were walking through the grocery store to get our camp food when I saw a bunch of little solar-powered garden lights on sale! Perfecto! We put them near the entrances to the tents and also right near the entrance to our campsite so we could easily spot our site on our way back from the washroom in the dark. At $2 each and with no batteries needed, you can’t really beat them for making your campsite feel a little more comfortable at night!
Plan your meals really well
Cooking can be one of the most fun parts of camping, but it can also be a huge challenge. There can be so many things to pack for a single recipe when you don’t have your usual fridge or pantry to rely on and necessary ingredients can get misplaced or forgotten pretty easily.
I like to plan all of our meals and snacks out each day on a spreadsheet, and then we print that sheet out and bring it with us. Knowing what we’ll eat and on what day allows us to pack things in order and also to plan for which food items will last the longest in the cooler and which ones are best to be used up when they’re super fresh.
Find a great campsite with lots of amenities and go back year after year
Camping is just like anything in life. The more practice you get at it, the better you get. If you’re really nervous, find a great campsite that you love and that offers a lot of amenities that will be fun and helpful to you, and then go back to the same place year after year until you get really good at it. You’ll know when your sense of adventure starts to tell you to try new places, but for nervous campers, the familiarity can make it so much easier to enjoy the whole experience.
We go back to the same place every year and it makes it a lot easier to navigate things like a 2-year-old who can’t nap in a tent, or keeping kids happy and busy on that third day when everyone is starting to get tired. The place we go has canoe and kayak rentals, a great sandy beach, lots of bike trails, an ice cream shop, a camp store for things like ice and milk, and even a little restaurant if something goes wrong with one of our well-planned meals.
Don’t be afraid to bring as little or as much stuff as you need
I hereby give you permission to pack exactly what you want to pack. Don’t feel like you absolutely need to adhere to someone else’s camping list if you know that your family does better when you pack light. If bringing everything but the kitchen sink makes you feel more comfortable, then do it.
The point of camping is not to do it right, but to just get out there and do it. Load yourselves and the kids in the car (or 2 cars) and go make some memories and do something challenging together that you can all be proud of! So don’t be afraid to do it your way, whatever way that may be!
Don’t expect to love it all right away
Let me tell you this: The things that you think you’re supposed to love about camping, probably won’t be the first things that you’ll actually start to love about camping. It will probably be some random moment, like the walk to the store to buy ice cream, that you’ll find yourself enjoying the most at first and that’s kind of the great thing about camping.
It puts you in a place and in a mind frame that most of us never really get to experience in our everyday lives. Slowly over time, you might start to appreciate all those things that you hear other people (like me!) talking about, but don’t worry if you don’t. When you’re camping there’s time for each member of your family to find their favorite thing, and to make space for it in your day’s not-so-busy schedule.
I’m always working at being a better, more relaxed, and more prepared camper, and I definitely get better at it every time we go.