Top tips for family camping

Camping with kids for the first time is a leap into the unknown, but it is great fun and an inexpensive way to have a holiday or weekend break. Once you’ve worked out what to pack and where to go it doesn’t have to be a trauma either. We’ve put together our top tips to help you plan your camping trip with kids:

Where to go? Pick a campsite where there is room for your children to roam safely and that allows you to relax. Avoid campsites too close to rivers, roads or with cliff top views! If you are taking you children camping for the first time, pick a campsite you are already familiar with.
Setting your expectations: Remember children will probably find that the most exciting part of the trip is the novelty of sleeping in a tent, cooking outside and exploring the campsite. Make the most of it as you don’t necessarily have to cram their days full with other activities to keep them amused as you might have to at home.
Timing: Arrive at your campsite early so you have plenty of time to set up. Pitching a tent in the dark with kids can be hard work! Remember the first hour at a campsite is the one you need to be extra cautious about. While you are concentrating on pitching the tent, excited kids might wander off to explore before they or you have got your bearings of the campsite. The answer is to give them jobs; passing the tent pegs, assembling the poles and unpacking their sleeping bags, afterwards you can explore together.

Where to pitch: The all important distance to the toilet block is key; try and get a pitch not to close – you don’t want to be woken in the night by others, but not too far away so you avoid a full on trek to the loo. Also if possible pitch next to or near a marker of some sort to help your kids locate your tent from a distance e.g.a tree, telephone pole or fly a flag from the top of your tent (scull and cross bones might help avoid any neighbours pitching too close).

What clothing do they need: Waterproofs jacket and trousers/all-in-ones + wellies/ walking boots are really essential for camping in the UK. If it starts to rain you don’t want to be cooped up in the tent for hours with hyperactive children. Bring comfortable preferably quick drying clothing, fleece jumpers and trousers are brilliant. Also a head torch is a really good idea, helps them go to the loo in the dark, is harder for them to drop than a torch and can double up as a Harry Potter/Star Wars prop! We stock the Petzl Tikka headtorch...it's small, light and ideal for children.
How do I keep them warm at night: Two things are key, choice of sleeping bag and sleeping mat. Make sure their sleeping back is suitable for camping, not just sleepovers at their friend’s house, but remember that down sleeping bags and babies/toddlers can be tricky. 
One leaky nappy and it might be time for a new bag! In general stick to good quality “mummy shaped” synthetic bags and give them an extra layer of fleece clothing if it is cold. Take a look at our Deuter and Vaude sleeping bags: they are all synthetic bags and designed specifically for little ones
A good sleeping mat is what really helps keep warmth in when camping, air beds are often used but actually they offer very little insulation when compared to foam roll mats or more technical self inflating sleeping mats (Thermarest etc). If you are taking your child camping regularly is it worth investing in a one of the more durable self-inflating sleeping mats as they do offer the best insulation and comfort. A price worth paying to prevent being woken in the night by “mummy I’m cold”. Finally if you are camping with small children it is a good idea to put them in between two adults to avoid them rolling off the sleeping mat on to the side of the tent and getting cold.
Cleaning: Take kids camping and one thing is guaranteed….they will get dirty. Firstly this is no big deal especially if you are only away for a couple of nights. If you are away for longer choose a site with shower facilities. Wherever you are babies and toddlers can be bathed in a plastic box with water heated from your stove. Alternatively, take a look at our Ortlieb folding bowl; it folds incredibly small and can be used for everything from washing up to baby's bath time!

Organising the tent: Organise the tent as much as possible and try to only bring what you need. If you are camping with a car plastic boxes are fabulous for keeping order and stopping things getting lost. They can also double up as washing up bowls and baby baths! Stuff bags are great storage solutions, they can be scrunched up when not in use and can be filled with clothing, sleeping bags and just about anything you can think of. We have a wide range of Exped storage and dry bags in the shop.
Cooking: keep it simple, easy to prepare food for the hungry family and plenty of snacks to keep energy levels up. If you are only going for a couple of nights, why not prepare some food in advance (bolognese, chilli etc) which you can chill or freeze: Then all you need to do is boil up some pasta or rice and everyone will think you are a master camping chef!
Relax and enjoy it! The unexpected will always happen, or you'll forget something and you'll find yourself improvising or changing your plans: that's half the fun of camping. Lastly, don’t forget a bottle of wine.....or the loo roll!