Family Camping Tips

Last Update: February 21, 2020

With my wishful thinking that spring will come soon, my mind is drawn to camping. I love camping! If I could camp every weekend of the summer, I would be a happy girl. There is something about the fresh, crisp mountain air in the morning and the fire light at night under the stars, that just settles your mind and your heart. Being in nature is perhaps my best way to de-stress, and decompress after working hard all week. And spending camping time with the family is THE BEST thing on Earth, as far as I'm concerned.

I have been a camping junky all of my 55 years of life. My parents before me camped, and my adult kids are avid campers as well. We have camped in all kinds of weather, in all kinds of conditions. I've done primitive camping with no outhouse and luxury resort camping with a pool and shower house. I've camped in tents and RVs. I've slept on the ground. I've slept in a car. I've backpacked. I have even camped using ATVs to haul our camping supplies up to places a car could not go. I have done nearly every type of camping, and I will certainly do more as my life goes on.

So I have gained a lot of knowledge in how to make camping easier and perhaps more fun. Here's a few of my family camping tips that can perhaps help you have a better camping trip next time you go:

Cooler Real Estate:

When packing your cooler for camping, here's a few things to increase cooler space and efficiency:

Freeze foods that can be frozen. This acts as additional ice. Just take out frozen food 24 hours before you will need to cook it, and put it in another collapsible cooler without ice, that you have brought just for this purpose. Keep an eye on the food and make sure it goes back into the ice cooler when thawed, so it's not sitting out at room temp for any length of time.

Re-package food: Breakfast sausages come in a box, with the sausages wrapped in plastic inside. When you are packing the cooler, get rid of the boxes. Get rid of all extra packaging, and repackage if you have to.

Use Ziploc bags. Cheese slices and lunch meats sometimes come in various forms of inconvenient or unsturdy packaging. Remove the packaging and put the items in Ziploc bags. Once the ice in the cooler has started to melt, you will be glad not to see your cheese slices floating in the cooler water.

Put commercially packaged tubs in a Ziploc. You know, stuff like your chip dip or your deli potato salad. This keeps the melted cooler water out of your food. Always gross when it happens!

Bring only the portion you will need to cook the meal. That way, you don't have leftover raw materials that need ice to stay cold.

Bring squeeze containers: All kinds of condiments come in squeeze bottles. You can get buttery spread, jams and jellies, sour cream, maple syrup, and all the usual ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, AND pickle relishes in squeeze bottles. And if your favorite doesn't come in squeeze variety, repackage into a washed out ketchup or ranch dressing bottle or other recycled container. (A large ketchup bottle also makes a great container for pancake batter, and will squeeze out uniform pancakes!) Squeeze bottles seal up well, and don't leak inward cooler water, or outward food into your cooler.

Eggs: Perhaps the easiest way to transport eggs in a cooler, is to crack them and put them into a quart bottle, like the shaker bottles you get from Rubbermaid. You don't have to worry about broken eggs in your cooler water, or a soggy cardboard cartoon that won't hold the eggs safely anymore.

Pringles: Why wrestle with potato chip bags when you can get Pringles in a perfectly good, crushproof package? We learned this when we were snowmobilers, to bring Pringles instead of bags of chips. Bags of chips get wet, crushed, and bumped around, and are not worth eating when you get to your picnic site. Pringles survive all of those ordeals.

Bring leftover containers: I know I can't bring myself to throw away perfectly good food. I guess I've been hungry too often. Anyway, be sure to bring a variety of plastic containers, and several sizes of Ziploc bags to put extra food in. Be sure to package well, so the cooler water doesn't get to it.

Use your cooler water: If you are in an area where you have to carry water for long distances, or there is no water spigot at all, keep the water you drain off your cooler when the ice melts. Drain into a bucket or jug. Use it to put out your campfire, or boil it to wash dishes in. In a survival situation, God forbid, you can even drink it if you have to.

Preserve your ice. When it's hot out, your cooler ice will melt quicker. Try to keep the coolers in the shade, outside, and not in a hot car or tent.

Bring Extra Ice: On extended trips where you won't be able to buy more ice, it may be advantageous to bring an extra cooler full of ice. The Coleman Xtreme 5 cooler will keep ice for up to five days as long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions. Fill it with ice and your frozen foods. This will give you an extended period of cooler ice.

Pop and beer cooler: If you camp anything like we do, you will be opening your cooler to get drinks all day long. Put drinks in a separate cooler full of ice. As the ice melts, just add a couple handfuls of ice from your other coolers. The cold ice melt water will keep your drinks cold for long after the ice runs out. And it doesn't matter if your drinks float around in cooler water, like it matters with food. This keeps you from opening the food coolers too often and letting the heat in.

Save a drink: When you get home and have to unpack the car in hot weather, you will be glad you saved a can or bottle of pop from that ice-cold cooler water. The pop will be ridiculously cold, better than any refrigerated pop, and will be a welcome drink while you work in the heat.

Other Camp Cooking Hints:

Ziploc Again!: Bags of chips will stay fresher if you seal them in a Ziploc. Put dry ingredients and spices for each meal in a Ziploc, and label it with the name of the meal, like, "Sunday Supper Sloppy Joes". You can find things easier, and it will be all together.

Do all your slicing and dicing at home before the trip. Of course, you will want a sharp knife around for emergencies, but with your veggies all cut up, you don't have to have an exposed knife lying around camp, especially if you camp with little kids. This also speeds up your meal prep so you can enjoy more time with the family.

Lots of burners: I don't think I have ever managed a camping meal with just a two-burner stove. Especially breakfast, when you have several pans cooking and need to keep the coffee hot. We do a Coleman camp stove, a home-made rocket stove, and our campfire. With all, you can keep coffee hot, keep the tortillas warm, and get your burrito fillings cooked all at once.

Pay attention to fire restrictions BEFORE you go. Imagine getting to your camp site, and finding out you can't cook on your charcoal grill, or you can't use your rocket stove, or you can't have a camp fire. (I used to cook exclusively on a camp fire, and it would have been disastrous!) Here you are with all this food that needs to be cooked. If there's strict fire danger, you may want to rethink your menu, and have yogurt and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of the cowboy meal from your dutch oven.

Other Camping Hints:

Pack last in, first out: The things you need when you get there will be what you want packed on top near the surface. You don't want to completely unload the car to find the tent stake hammer. The same thing goes for your coolers and dry ingredients. Pack the first meal you're going to cook on top. Also, pack your suitcases this way with your pajamas on top, so you aren't rooting around in the dark when it's time to go to bed.

Keep flashlights and lanterns handy: Have several placed in areas where they might be needed. Put one at the head of your airbed in the tent. Leave one out on the picnic table. Have everyone keep a mini key chain flash light with them. Lights are easier to find before you need them! So do this when you are setting up camp, when it is still light out!

Keys!: We are in the habit of shouting out "Keys!" every time we go to lock up a vehicle. It prompts the other person to make sure they have their keys on them, and also puts the driver in the habit of checking to make sure keys are out of the car before locking the door. Nothing worse than having to call a locksmith out to your campsite, except for maybe breaking a window. Experience talking here. Also, this is a good time to have a hide-a-key for the RV and the tow vehicle.

Establish a dry place: As soon as your tent is up, make a tarped area for firewood, fuel, lawn chairs, or anything else that you want to keep dry. Where we live, you don't get much warning when it decides to rain.

Establish trash: One of the first things we do is tie up a trash bag to a tree or a truck mirror, anywhere handy. Then there is always a place to put trash. And perhaps the last thing we take down is our trash bag, because when you're packing up, you will always find thing s that need to be thrown away.

Establish hand washing and water station: Put up a water jug, hand soup, and a towel, so people can easily wash hands anytime they want without digging through camping gear every time. If water is in short supply, put a bucket under the spigot of your water jug to catch the rinse water, and save it for putting out your camp fire.

Keep a bucket of water handy. Even if you don't have a camp fire, other people camping around you might, and the embers like to fly everywhere in the wind. There is always a danger of fire, even if the restrictions are low. So be ready and you can prevent all kinds of disasters.

Create a paper products tote. Pack your Ziplocs, some trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper, and paper plates, cups, bowls, and plastic silverware. Keep it all in a sealable container, like a large plastic tote, to keep dry in case it rains.

Keep camp picked up: It's so much easier to find things when you're camping, if you keep things picked up and put away. You never know when it will rain and douse your only warm coat you left out. Or your library book. And I cannot get ready in the morning with the contents of my suitcase everywhere, and dirty clothes all over.

Dirty laundry sack: Put a trash bag or a pillow case in the tent in which to collect dirty clothes. This helps keep things packed up and out of the way. Just empty it into the washer when you get home.

Never leave trash lying around. Always put trash in a container or a trash bag. Wind blows trash all over. And besides, you're probably camping to enjoy nature, not to look at a bunch of trash.

Take way only pictures. Leave the pretty rocks and flowers where they are. Imagine if you went on a camping trip, and someone had picked all the flowers from your camp site. Or took all the pretty rocks. Don't take things out of nature. Leave them for everyone to enjoy.

Be ready to improvise. Some of our funnest camping trips were from things going wrong beyond our control. Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate. Sometimes you forget the tent poles. The food gets burnt or stolen by bears. The air mattress leaks. One time it was windy and cold, too cold to be outside. So we moved a card table and the lawn chairs into the tent, and had a marathon Gin Rummy game all day. It was a blast. So do what you can to MacGyver a solution. Improvise and overcome.

In Conclusion

Once again, I could go on and on with my camping hints. It's fun to sit here and write about them! Hopefully I gave you a few that you had not heard of before, and you can take those ideas with you on your next excursion. If you have any great camping hints, please put them below. Also, put your comments and questions below, and thanks for reading!

NOTE: I've done a few of these keyworded articles because:

#1. Kyle says they "count." It's content put out in my name.

#2. The creative process in writing these helps my niche writing, but also gives me a break from niche writing, which is more work than I imagined.

#3. These are subjects I love, but I don't currently have a niche for, and I just want to write them. So.....on the WA blog they go. Hope you like them!

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roxydog1312 Premium
Thanks for all the lovely complements guys! At some point I will do a blog on camping. But for right now, I am concentrating on my plus size capsule wardrobe blog and my affiliate marketing for grandparents blog, which are a LOT of work! Thank you all again, I appreciate you reading my stuff.
gnoose Premium
Camping!! My brother and I used to go deep into the Anza-Borrego desert and spend days and weeks out there. I miss him so. Like you, I am/was an avid camper and you know what? I learned something new today reading your article. Eggs and a quart bottle. That would have saved us some grief.

Thank you for sharing.

Mick18 Premium
Great advice, thanks for sharing. You may want to start a camping website.
Have a wonderful weekend,
JeffreyBrown Premium
This is fantastic, Rhonda! I can't believe you don't have a camping niche site or something--You'd be a natural!
Stanleycmng Premium Plus
Great camping article. I enjoy it. Today, I believe the biggest deterrent to camping is you will be unplug for days and In this time and age, some of us have developed fear of being disconnected!