My family of five loves to go camping every summer. We generally camp close to home because we have a backyard pool and pets, so if we camp close to home, it’s easy to pop home and care for the pets and the pool. We seriously camp five minutes from our house. Laugh if you will, but it works so well we’ve done it for ten years in a row. We feel like we get away because it’s so wooded and serene yet we don’t have to drive. I’m sharing some Family Camping Ideas to Improve your Camping Experience since I’ve had years and years of practice.
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I have a camping checklist I created to use when I’m packing up for camping. If you’d like to see it and/or print it, click here. I usually print it out and add in the things I need for that particular trip. It’s nice to have a guide so essentials don’t get missed.
Bringing the right items can make or break your camping experience. I’m going to share some items I bring to enhance my family’s camping experience.
Family Camping Ideas to Improve Your Camping Experience
Use a Good Roasting Stick
Through the years, I’ve tried several different types of roasting sticks. We’ve tried straight ones, sticks that extend, shorter sticks that are hardy and thick, plus, some sticks that are thin and pliable as a metal hanger. However, I’ve finally found my favorite. It’s by far the best roasting stick ever; it’s the Fire Buggz Fire Fishing Pole stick. This food roasting stick is pure genius. I love how my kids can stand back from the fire at a further distance than with other roasting sticks, and they like this too. I think it’s a more comfortable stick to hold also since you hold it up like a fishing pole handle rather than having to point your stick downward.
It’s perfect for four marshmallows or two hot dogs. The design is ideal because you can give it a quick jerk to flip the food so it gets done on both sides. This design is ideal for kids too, my youngest was able to flip the marshmallows all on his own and get a more even roasting of the food as a result.
I love the wood handle so the roaster’s hand will stay safe and not be burned. I also love these because they are from my home state of Minnesota. We bought these awesome roasters at the Minnesota State Fair.
Roasting Marshmallows over the fire:
Fire Buggz Fishing Pole Campfire Roaster (Orange)
Cooking Hot Dogs over the Fire:
Bring a Water Dispenser Jug
When you camp with a tent, you don’t have the luxury of having a sink like in a camper, so getting a cup of water is more of a challenge. Of course, water bottles work, but to reduce waste, I like to use a water jug with a spout filled with water from home for quick, convenient drinking water. Our jug will keep water cold for hours, so if I add some ice and cold water at home before we leave, we are set for water for the day. Then it’s easy to refill the jug from the spigot and simply add ice.
This works great for lemonade too.
Beverage Cooler, Insulated, Yellow / Red, 3 Gallons
Ziplocks/Resealable Plastic Bags
Eating out of a cooler filled with ice that melts can wreak havoc on some foods like cheeses and butter sticks, so I always pop them into sealed bags to keep the water out. This usually works great, although occasionally some water seeps in and ruins the food, it works great for the majority of the time.
I also like to bring sealed bags to store any leftovers we end up having. Containers can work well too, but they tend to be bulkier and, obviously, rigid in shape, whereas bags are pliable to shape and more compact, so they work better for storage of leftovers in the cooler.
Sealed bags are also great for storage of sunscreen bottles and bug sprays. This also protects them from unexpected rainstorms.
I also use resealable bags to store plastic silverware and napkins, so they stay dry and clean.
The bags work great too for treasures found by your kids, such as fun rocks, sticks, or other nature treasures.
The bottom line is: I always bring bags because I end up using them in so many ways, so they really are essential for camping.
Bring a Cooler that Keeps ice and food cold for days
Living out a cooler can be a challenge, especially when it’s ninety degrees out, so to prevent constantly restocking ice, bring a cooler that keeps ice cold for days. I love the cooler below because it keeps food cold and perfect even in the heat. This large cooler is awesome because it keeps food cold for five days even when it’s as hot as 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
A large cooler like this is essential for a large family to store and keep cold all the food, beverages, and milk we need for several days of camping.
Igloo Polar Cooler (120-Quart, White)
Homemade Instant Fire-starters
Make some homemade instant fire-starters for ease of lighting bonfires and starting charcoal in grills. My husband and sons like to make these fire-starters and we actually use them at home as well as while camping.
These little fire-starter cups are easy to make and they have several benefits.
- They burn longer than newspaper so they make starting a fire easier. Newspaper lasts only a few minutes, but these little fire-starters last for 10-12 minutes so it’s easier to get a fire going.
- They help you ignite the wood easier so there is less babysitting the fire, more time to enjoy family and the outdoors.
- They are small and easily stored in a small sealed container for ease during camping
How to make the Instant Fire-starters:
- Purchase paper portion cups (ketchup containers) from Amazon. **see below**
- Purchase litter (paper small pet litter) or use sawdust.
- Purchase a candle.
- Pack the ketchup cup with the paper, then light a candle and drip wax into the cup until the wax is visible. There is no science or exactness needed here, just drip it in until it is visible and piles up a bit. I will also sink to the bottom of the cup.
- Store the instant fire-starters in a sealed container to keep them dry.
How to use the Instant Fire-starters:
Light the paper cup and drop it into the bonfire/campfire or into your charcoal mound when starting up a grill. This will help you start your flame.
Genpak F200 2 Ounce Paper Portion Cups. Pack of 250
Pack a Garden Hose and Spray Nozzle
Bring a garden hose and a spray nozzle that can be turned to off. We got tired of the imprecise spray from the spigot, so we started to bring a garden hose and spray nozzle attachment from home. This way we could control the spray and also lengthen it across the campsite if needed. Now. we never drank from it, we would remove the hose for drinking water, but it worked great to have a hose with a spray nozzle for washing dishes and spraying things off. It has worked great so now we bring a hose and adjustable spray nozzle along each time we camp.
Bring a Crockpot or Other Oven
We like to cook over the fire and grill while camping, but sometimes it’s nice to have another way to cook foods such as potatoes, biscuits, beans, or chili, so we bring another portable appliance to cook with like a crockpot, Dutch Oven, or roaster oven. We always bring an extension cord so we can easily cook with one of these small cookers anywhere on the campsite. It can be nice just to have another means to cook with when making a meal for our family of five. We either set our Dutch oven up with hash brown or cubed potatoes, or cook baked potatoes or biscuits in our roaster oven, or cook beans in a crockpot. Or, we wrap veggies or marinated mushrooms in tinfoil and cook them over the grate of the bonfire.
Another fave recipe we love to cook is marinated large Portabella mushroom caps on the grill grate for veggie burgers as in this recipe.
Lodge L12DCO3 Deep Camp Dutch Oven, 8 Quart
Spray Bottle with Dish Soap and Water
Washing dishes can be a pain while camping, so to make
it easier, I bring along a big spray bottle with water and dish soap in it so I can just spray dishes instead of needing a big bin for some soapy water to wash in. This is just easy and it doubles as a way to clean things off such as picnic tables, coolers, or just about anything. I also like to bring along those soap fill-able scrubbers for easy scrubbing. Then with the spray nozzle on the hose to rinse, getting the soap off is easy.
Scotch-Brite (2 Dishwands and 6 Refill Replacement Heads) Non-Scratch Heavy Duty Dish Wand Sponge For Kitchen Sink Cleaning Brush, Non-Scratch + Heavy Duty,
Bring Portable Hammocks for Lounging
Another fun family camping idea involves lightweight but strong hammocks. Our three boys each have a portable hammock and this is a great thing to bring along camping because they can lounge about in, read, nap, or listen to music comfortably. We always have lawn chairs, but sometimes lying down is the best most restful way to spend a lazy afternoon while camping. So, our boys always bring their hammocks and string them up. We happen to have the style below and our boys have been very happy with them. While camping, they tie them up between trees. They love to use them at home too between the playset posts or deck posts.
This hammock makes a great Christmas gift or holiday present at a very reasonable cost.
Forbidden Road Hammock Single Double Camping Portable Parachute Hammock for Outdoor Hiking Travel Backpacking – 210D Nylon Taffeta Hammock Swing – Support 400lbs – 660lbs Ropes Carabiners Included
I hope you find these hacks for family camping helpful. Thank you for visiting my blog!
For more family camping ideas, please check out these posts:
Portable Kids Hammocks for the house, backyard, and camping
Campfire Cooking Cinnamon Breadsticks Recipe for Camping and Backyard bonfires
Camping Weekend trip packing list for fun frugal easy family time
20 Things to Making Camping with a Family Easier
Printable family camping packing checklist
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Sam @ The Haunted Housewife says
I love your camping hacks! I’ve gone camping once (in Girl Scouts, but I got sent home because I kept scaring the other girls with a werewolf mask) I definitely want to try again as an adult!
Julie Hoag says
It’s super fun! That’s pretty funny you wore a mask:) If you go I hope you enjoy it!
Quintan Johnson says
I have never been camping but it looks like it could be a fun experience! That roasting stick is really nice!
Julie Hoag says
It’s fun! I love this roasting stick, it’s literally perfect. It works so great for my kids too because they can stand back from the hot flame and comfortably hold it. Thank you!
Julie Hoag says
It’s really fun and the roasting stick is perfect:) Thanks!!
Ooh this makes me want to make smores right away! Great post!
Julie Hoag says
Thank you! Yes this is the best roasting stick I’ve found. We love it!!