AndrewAndrew has backpacked throughout the world, from the European Alps, to the deserts of the American West, to the mountains of Great Britain and Ireland, and of course, the forests of Appalachia. From his current base camp in Southern Pennsylvania, Andrew spends his free time camping, hiking and blogging about his adventures through the wilderness.

Now and during upcoming online instruction days, Andrew Clark offers up everything you need to know to help you get your family out of the house and into the great outdoors. He writes…

If you have a family and love nature, then the thought of taking a weekend camping trip has probably crossed your mind, but you’re not alone if you don’t know where to start! To help you out, I’ve written this post to give you some tips for camping with kids (whether they are babies, toddlers, or teens), as well as to give you some great camping ideas for how to have fun and be safe.

Getting Ready Stay Local While you might have your mind set on driving cross-country to see Yellowstone with your family, if this is your first camping trip, I would recommend staying local. Camping near to your home gives you the advantage of being familiar with the area. Since it will feel like you are taking your home with you, being close to familiar conveniences will add a level of comfort to your trip, especially if you forget something (like the extra diapers…).

You might even consider doing your first trip in your backyard. Your kids will love this, and it will help them adjust to the idea of sleeping outside. If it rains or gets too cold, it would be easy to move back indoors for the night, and you eliminate the chore of packing and moving all your gear.

I would also suggest that you choose a campsite with adjacent parking. Remember: whatever you pack, you will have to carry to the campsite, and it may be hard to watch them and take several trips from the car to the tent and back.

Organizing Your ability to stay organized could become the limiting factor on your trip, so it’s worth taking a little extra time to put your supplies and gear in order.

I have found that clear, plastic storage bins work the best for keeping items organized. They are large enough that you can keep things like sleeping bags and blankets separate from other things, such as dirty shoes and wet pants. If you don’t have access to bins, try laundry baskets instead. You can flip bins and baskets over and use them as small tables. Or, you might use one as a makeshift bathtub for small children, or a wash tub for muddy clothes.  For smaller items, such as playing cards, cell phones, matches, or toiletries, use gallon-sized freezer bags. Freezer bags will also help to keep things dry.

Lights At Night Your children will sometimes find camping to be a little scary at night, and of course, you want to make sure everyone stays safe after the sun goes down. You should invest in a couple of extra flashlights or lanterns at the very least, but you might also like to have a headlamp or two.

Children love to have their own headlamps for exploring around the campsite, but they are great tools for adults as well. They become especially useful when cleaning up food items or making beds inside the tent. And if you have an infant or toddler in diapers, try changing a diaper at night with one hand. A headlamp is a worthwhile expense!

The Pragmatic Parent had the great idea of putting glow sticks in water bottles for use as night lights. Kids usually have a lot of fun with glow sticks anyway, and the glowing bottles could also be used for a game of campfire bowling.

The Campfire One of the most cherished parts of camping is the campfire, so it is important that you plan ahead and bring what you need for starting and maintaining a successful fire.  Campfires take practice. Depending on the conditions, you will want to take some essential items for lighting the fires:

  • Matches. Lighters can be used as well, but sometimes it’s not possible to hold a lighter close to the kindling, and matches will be more practical. Waterproof matches are also available, or you could use a fero rod.
  • Old newspaper. Both dry and cheap, newspaper is excellent for fire-starting. It works best when ripped into small pieces.
  • Used Car Oil or Kerosene. A word to the wise: do not use gasoline. Gas is extremely flammable and can be dangerous to start a fire with. Kerosene is safer, but I’d recommend used oil since it burns slower. (For a more environmentally friendly solution, keep reading.)
  • Dry Kindling. Unless you are the first camper of the season, dry kindling may be hard to find. Keep a bucket or box in your garage, and as you pick up sticks in your yard, save them for the next time you go camping.
  • Firewood. State parks will sometimes sell firewood, or you can find bundles of wood at gas stations or garden centers such as Lowe’s or Walmart. Most campgrounds have rules against cutting up fallen trees, so you shouldn’t plan on scavenging for wood to burn.
  • Fire starters. Take some fire starters from home. These are super easy to make, and you use three items that you would normally throw away: toilet paper roll, lint, and candle wax (or wax paper).

To read Andrew’s entire article, please go to