Ten Top Tips for Camping with Kids

Ten Top Tips for Camping with Kids

Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Caught up in the enthusiastic, we’re-stuck-in-New-Zealand-so-let’s-go-experience-our-stunning-great-outdoors vibe, you’ve booked a camping holiday with your kids this summer.

Now, as the time approaches, the fiery pit of Mount Doom is looking more appealing than the idea of being cooped up in a small tent with your nearest and dearest.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some handy tips on how to survive a camping holiday with your kids, while keeping your sanity (mostly) intact.


1. Have a packing list and let the kids help you pack

We get it, your life is generally full of to-do lists and you think holidays should be exempt from this. But the saying a little bit of planning goes a long way is worth triple when it comes to camping holidays. Because, surprising as it may seem, camping top spots are generally not chosen for how easy it is to get to shops so you can buy the things you’ve forgotten to bring.

Depending on the age of your kids, involving them in packing their own gear might be a good idea (it goes without saying that double-checking their packing is an essential part of the process though!).


2. Choose your tent wisely and check it out before you go

A tent is obviously your most essential item for camping, and there is a wide range to choose from depending on your needs. Tents are like most things – you get what you pay for.

Even if you have bought a new tent, you still need to check it before you go. We advise pitching it in your backyard if possible – this will give you some experience in putting it up (which may come in handy if you end up having to pitch your tent in sub-par conditions).

You also might want to consider waterproofing and protecting it against UV rays at the same time with a product like Nikwax’s Tent & Gear SolarProof, which can double the effective fabric life of your tent.

Checking out your tent before you leave home is even more important if you are borrowing gear from someone or if it’s an old tent that’s been stashed at the back of the garage for ages – we’ve heard far too many horror stories of people arriving at their campsite after a long drive only to discover they are missing tent pegs or poles.


3. Ensure everyone will get a good night sleep

After your tent, what you need for sleeping is your most important gear consideration. Nothing is worse than a bad night’s sleep, especially when you’re on holiday.

The stretcher vs airbed vs sleeping mat is a fraught issue with devotees on all sides swearing that their choice will give you the superior/ more authentic experience.

Luckily sleeping bags aren’t quite as contentious – after all, Domex sleeping bags have been producing sleeping bags designed by Kiwis for New Zealand conditions for over 40 years, so if you’re looking for a bag with a proven history of keeping kiwis snug on their camping holidays, look no further.

The main choice you have to make in sleeping bags is between down or synthetic filling. To help you, you can check out this quick comparison here.

Top tip – if you air your sleeping bag during the day or use a sleeping bag liner, you can dramatically increase the time between needing to wash your sleeping bag.


4. Plan your menu well

Sorry, another planning thing, but a full stomach is pretty much essential for a peaceful existence with kids. Nothing spoils any experience faster than the soundtrack of a whiny ‘I’m hungry’ on repeat.

The KISS principle (Keep it Simple Stupid) really applies when it comes to choosing what meals are best for kids while camping. If you’re a parent, you will already know the heartbreak of having your child screw their nose up at your lovingly prepared and slaved-over meals. So imagine how much worse it is when you’ve made the effort with limited facilities.

Now is not the time for experimental cooking. If you can, limit the amount of cooking you actually have to do and go for simplicity (we’re thinking of hamburgers and sausages) wherever possible.


5. Think out some wet day scenarios

You’re in New Zealand, and let’s not forget there is a reason why Crowded House wrote ‘Four Seasons in One Day’. Our weather changes quicker than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends, so even if you’re camping in mid-summer, you need to be prepared for spending time inside your tent.

A really good idea is to have some new games/activities up your sleeve that your kids have never seen that you can whip out if the need arises. And make sure you take good wet weather gear so you can still get outside and do things even if the weather is iffy.


6. Organise your gear well

We love clear plastic bins as they are a great way to store gear while also finding it fast when you need to.  We recommend using separate bins for kitchen stuff and sleeping stuff to make it easier for you, especially if you arrive at your camp site with hungry and tired kids.

7. Have good sources of light

If you are having the true camping experience off the grid, one of the revelations that will occur is how reliant we normally are on the wonders of electricity. It’s a simple formula we often forget: Night = no light.

Luckily there are torches, headlamps and camping lanterns to provide for your personal lighting needs when you’re away from civilisation. Kids love having their own headlamps, and hey, now you’ve got an idea for a Christmas present when all those rellies ask you what the kids need. For kids, we recommend the NEO4 headlamp.


8. Educate your kids on campground etiquette.

Nothing is more irritating than other people’s badly behaved kids. If camping is new to your kids, you need to spend some time talking through correct camping etiquette. Don’t assume they know the basics, for example, they may need to be told that walking through other people’s camping areas is a big no-no.

The basic rule is – would it annoy you if someone else’s kids were doing this? If so, make sure your own kids know not to do it.

And the most important thing to teach your kids (and for adults to also remember) – tent walls and your walls at home are very different in their sound-insulation properties.


9. Keep your kids engaged with hands-on learning about nature.

Camping gets us closer to nature than most of us normally experience, and it is a great chance to foster a love for our outdoors and the things that live in it with your kids.

If you’re near a beach, there is lots of fun to be had poking around in rock pools or trying your hand at fishing.

If you’re near bush, rivers and streams, you’ll find a whole ecosystem of creatures awaiting your discovery.

There are some great identification guides available for kids – check out here for some recommendations.


10. Set common-sense safety rules

Lots of camping grounds are near water, and even if you’re away from water, you should still always set boundaries of where your kids are allowed to go. Depending on their ages, you might also want to set a rule that they need to be in a pair or group when going anywhere. Camping is a great chance for your kids to learn some degree of independence, but obviously it’s important to make sure they stay safe too.

Overall the most important rule for camping with kids is to make sure you pack your sense of humour as there is a good chance you will need to use it often.

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