Trial Run Camping for Kids: Ready for the Great Outdoors?

Ever been camping with the family? It’s a must! I mean, if you’re already spending the day in the great outdoors – exploring, hiking, climbing things, swimming, fishing, running away from bears, and all that jazz – why not take it a step further and stay the night? Sure, you can book a cozy hotel room with A/C and room service… but will you be able to burn logs and make S’mores in the middle of the night? I don’t think so. Here’s a guide for you camping virgins:

Trial Run

If you’ve wanted to introduce your family to camping but aren’t sure if it will be a good fit, a trial run is a great way to experience it first-hand without spending too much.

First up: Borrow or rent a tent. Renting a tent can be helpful in identifying what features you may want when you buy your own later. If you’re not that confident about your camping skills, try it in your own backyard, or choose a campground that is close to home. Worst-case scenario, you can drive home to sleep and come back to eat breakfast and enjoy outdoor activities.

Tidy Tent

If your family is opposed to mosquitoes buzzing near their ears + sand in their sleeping bags at bedtime, then keep a tidy tent. The tent is a fun novelty and the kids will want to spend time exploring it, but save that for bedtime and enjoy outdoor fun. Set it up, then zip it up. Keep shoes outside the tent and don’t get inside unless you’re napping or sleeping.

Fire Starter

This is the quintessential centerpiece of your campsite, so don’t forget the essentials to make a fire. Most campgrounds have stores that offer campfire starters, but you’ll usually pay a premium.

When we arrived at our camping site, it had been raining and we were hoping for a cozy fire later that night. The Zippo Cedar Puck breaks off into 4 pieces for 4 fires. For first time campers, this is especially helpful. It quickly ignites your kindling and firewood so you can spend more time making S’mores with the kids instead of searching for dry leaves and twigs.

Quilted Comfort

There are some aspects to camping, like the bathrooms that can make you squeamish, but a little comfort from home can make it more pleasant. Bathroom aesthetics vary from campground to campground. Some are pretty posh, while others are very basic. A bathroom backpack is easy to throw on when you head up to the bathroom and showers. Pack your own soft toilet paper, flushable wipes, and disposable toilet seat covers.


The romantic glow of the fire is welcoming, but it’s not enough to light the picnic table area or inside the tent. Flashlights are inexpensive and useful for nighttime potty runs to the restrooms, but you’ll want something brighter to play cards at the picnic table or settling the children in for the night.

We got a lot of use out of the versatile Zippo Rugged Lantern™, which is extra-bright (LED!), lithium-ion battery-operated, and super tough – it can withstand a 5-foot drop and still shine bright in pouring rain. Love the handy brightness settings – you can set it to 100% of the brightness or use just 10% , which is perfect for children who need a little light at night to fall asleep. In addition, you can use it at home for indoor tents, patio lighting, or when your power goes out during a storm.

Camp Grub

For a single day trial run, you won’t have to pack a lot, but preparation is always key. Jot down a menu and think about the items including condiments, cookware, and utensils you’ll need.

Pack disposable plates, utensils, and cups. Freeze water bottles for your cooler. Since you’re probably not starting out with a camping stove, consider purchasing inexpensive campfire forks to cook simple food like hot dogs. Pack things that won’t spoil – canned tuna, beef jerky, and peanut butter. For breakfast, pack no-fuss options like cereal, muffins, and fruit. Stick with easy sandwiches and wraps for meals, and bring healthy snacks like nuts, raw veggies, fruit, and of course, the fixin’s for S’mores!

Discovery Notes

After our first camping trip, I decided to take notes on what would enhance our future camping trips. Some things to consider: Was the campsite location too close or too far from the bathrooms, playground, electric hook-ups, water, etc.? Did we pack too much or wish we had included an item to make it more enjoyable? What camping gear would make meal prep and cooking easier and sleeping more enjoyable? Once you get the basics nailed down, all you have to do is enjoy nature and make happy memories that will last a lifetime.

First time camping with the kids? Share your fun plans – and what you’ll be packing! – in the comments below.

Tags : travel   camping   milestones   

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