Growing up in Florida, we never went camping. Sure, people go camping in the Sunshine State, but the humidity and bugs are a pretty big deterrent most of the year! My parents were never into it, so we just never camped as a family. It was only recently that I acquired these sanity-saving family camping hacks!
I married a man who grew up camping in one of the most beautiful areas of the country—the Pacific Northwest. With cool nights and warm sunny days, the summer weather is perfect for camping here. Plus, there are beautiful campgrounds all over western Washington and Oregon!
Camping Wakes Up Your Soul
Benj wanted us to try camping for the first time as a family last year when Jack was 5 months old. I was feeling a bit intimidated, having never camped without a baby—let alone with one!
So we borrowed most of the equipment we needed from family, purchased a few things ourselves, and hoped for the best. We decided to go for just one night to test the waters, and we had a blast!
(I’m going to unashamedly admit that we hauled our giant battery-powered baby swing into the woods for Jack to sleep in. Consequently, he only woke up once during the night! It was magical.)
We had so much fun that we camped 2 more times that summer!
While I wouldn’t call camping a “relaxing vacation” (especially with young children—that’s where these family camping hacks come in!), there’s definitely something rejuvenating about it. You’ll start to wake up to the world around you in a new way when you put away your phone and focus on simply being present with the people you love.
Most of the work is done before you even leave home. So once you’re out under the stars, it’s easier to unplug, relax, and break from the busyness of life. That alone is worth the experience of camping with your family!
(Find a campground without cell service! You won’t regret it.)
10 Family Camping Hacks
Through our various camping trips the past two summers, we’ve learned a thing or two. So I want to share a few of the family camping hacks that have helped us have more fun in case they help you, too!
1. Set Up a Play Space
We discovered this one by accident when Jack most recently broke his leg. He got his cast on the day we drove out to our campground on the coast, so it was incredibly important that we kept it clean and dry! That meant no crawling around in the dirt.
But what do you do when there’s dirt everywhere? Blow up a kiddie swimming pool and put some toys inside, of course!
If you have an extra small tent, you could also use it as a playtime tent and stock it with toys and books.
This gives very young children a place to play on the ground without being covered in dirt. I mean, there’s going to be plenty of dirt anyway, but this helps to minimize the damage. :)
2. Collect Free Firewood
Collecting leftover firewood from abandoned campsites is a great way to save money!
Once nearby campers had packed up and left, we would take a family walk—empty garbage bag in hand—and collect partially used firewood. Sometimes, we’d even score new pieces of wood! This hack kept us from having to buy lots of wood, and it was fun walking around and seeing what we could find.
Late morning and early afternoon are usually good times to go. Beware of smoldering wood—make sure it isn’t too hot before you try picking it up.
3. Invest in Comfy Bedding
If there’s one thing I’d recommend investing in to make your camping experience more enjoyable, it’s comfy bedding.
If you have several nights of miserable sleep, you’ll never want to go camping again. Sleeping well is already
The sleeping setup Benj and I have come to love is as follows…
- Bottom later: 2 comfy sleeping pads, laid side by side
- Middle layer: a memory foam mattress topper
- Top layer: a warm double sleeping bag
And of course we bring our pillows, because we can’t sleep anywhere without them!
4. Make a $20 Dollar Tree Kitchen + Dining Kit
I recently did a post on how to make your very own $20 Dollar Tree Kitchen and Dining Kit! There’s even a checklist of everything we used in ours to make your life a little easier.
5. Tie Up a Clothesline
In case of wet clothing, swimsuits, towels, or dish rags, we like to bring a clothesline and some clothespins. They don’t take up much room, and they really come in handy!
Just look for two nearby trees to tie your clothesline to, like you would a hammock.
PRO TIP: Paracord makes an awesome clothesline!
6. Make the Ultimate Camping Dinner
Cooking dinner in your campfire’s hot coals is about as idyllic as it gets with camping. Foil packs are the best! We’ve brought them every time we’ve camped as a family, so foil packs are as synonymous with camping as s’mores for me now!
We like to make ours up before we leave home so they’re all ready to go. Once we arrive at our campsite and start setting up, we get the fire going. Then, we move the bigger logs out of the way and tuck our foil packs into the hot coals to cook away. By the time we’re finished setting up camp, our dinners are cooked and ready to enjoy! It’s perfect.
Chicken thighs or sausages with thinly sliced potatoes, whole mushrooms, and fresh green beans is a favorite combo of ours. Add in some stems of fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, and you might as well call yourself a gourmet!
Here are a few delicious foil pack ideas we’ve loved:
- Grilled Herbed Chicken and Potato Foil Packs
- Sausage, Potato, and Green Bean Foil Packs
- Easy Sausage and Veggie Foil Packs
PRO TIP: Double-wrap each person’s meal in foil to ensure there’s no leakage. This foil pack wrapping tutorial will guide you every step of the way!
7. Breakfast Sandwich of Champions
Waking up early in your tent on a cold morning makes you want two things: a cup of hot tea or coffee between your hands, and a warm breakfast in your belly.
If you’re looking for an easy, hearty breakfast, try making a large batch of breakfast sandwiches before you leave home! Wrap each one in foil, and reheat over the campfire grate.
We like using paleo pancakes in lieu of English muffins, and filling the sandwiches with slices of bacon or ham, eggs, spinach, and cheese.
The work of making the sandwiches is all on the front end, but they make for an easy, super filling breakfast that you’re incredibly grateful for on those chilly mornings!
8. Keep Your Tent Tidy
This is one of the simplest family camping hacks, but it’s a great one that my husband taught me.
Keep a small carpet sample or door mat (you can buy these at Dollar Tree!) outside your tent door. You’ll be able to wipe your feet on it and take your shoes off easily. In addition, bringing a mini broom and dustpan will allow you to easily clean up dirt and leaves inside of your tent.
9. Mirror, Mirror
Instead of applying makeup in the (usually grungy) campground bathroom, just sit in the front seat of your car and use the mirror attached to your sun visor.
This is a nice little morning ritual for me. Benj takes care of Jack, and I enjoy a few quiet moments to myself.
You might not plan on wearing any makeup at all while camping, but I like to put on just a little. It makes me feel better about the fact that I haven’t showered in a couple of days, and helps me like our family photos a lot more.
10. Bring as Little as Possible
I know this may seem counterintuitive when the Boy Scout motto is, “Be prepared,” but stick with me. The more stuff you bring, the more stuff you have to pack into your vehicle, manage, move around, clean the dust off of, pack up, and put away.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be prepared, but I would recommend thinking twice about bringing too many “just in case” items.
Simplify where you can, and try to bring multi-use items.
Share Your Family Camping Hacks
I’d love to hear some of your family camping hacks down in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas to make our camping trips even more enjoyable.
Also, have you tried any of these ideas, and which one is your favorite? :)