5 Tips for Camping with a Toddler

Camping with a kiddo can be an amazing experience for everyone involved, but make sure you are prepared for the unexpected, open to new challenges, and bring a big smile :)

By: Nick Garcia + Save to a List

When I decided my little family of three might be ready to experience the beauty of camping in the great outdoors, my wife looked at me questioningly and asked..."Are you sure we are ready?" My wife had actually never been camping before so not only did I have to get her comfortable with the idea, but I also had to prove to her we could do it with our 2 year old daughter. After tons of research, multiple successful attempts, and one failed attempt, we now have a rock solid game plan that has proven affective for us time and time again. 

Here are 5 tips we recommend for tent camping with a toddler:


Tip 1. Proper Prep is Vital

This may be the most important tip of all. Proper prep includes everything from researching the campground and specific campsite that works best for your family to pre trip meal prep which can make campfire cooking a breeze. We always try and find as much information on the campground as possible to figure out what supplies we need to bring or leave at home. 

Choosing the right campsite is also important so you can have enough "safe space" for your child to have fun but be clear of any potential hazards. Our family has also started to adhere to a rule of 2. We bring 2 of everything for her. Double the socks, clothes, diapers, etc. Kids are prone to getting filthy as it is, and camping is definitely no exception. It is great to be prepared with extra clothes for your trip, especially on colder nights so you can add them on for extra layers. When it comes to meal prep, simple is best. I'll go into more specifics about food later on, but trust me when I say a well planned meal and snack list will go a long way to happy campers (pun intended).

Tip 2. Gear Up

Here is where we struggled the most on our first trip. Bringing the right gear can make a huge difference in the quality of your camping experience. 

Some of the items we found to be essential were:

  • Extra large tent: Our 3 person family has an 8 person tent, seems excessive, but its plenty of space for games on bad weather days.
  • Extra warm blankets for the cold nights
  • Kid shoes you can afford to toss out
  • Travel carrier with extra storage: We purchased the Thule Sapling Elite last Christmas and love it.
  • Port-a-crib or small air mattress: Good sleep is important for EVERYONE.
  • Kids camp chair
  • Water diapers 
  • Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray

These items, while some are considered luxuries, have proven to be very beneficial to our family in having successful camping trip.

Tip 3. Let Them Help 

We are truly blessed to have an amazingly smart and thoughtful two and a half year old who loves to help her mom and dad whenever she can. Camping trips are no different! One of our daughter's favorite things to do is, as soon as we get to our site, she clears the tent area of rocks and other debris. Other ways she likes to help is by gathering kindling from around the site for our nightly campfires and assembling the tent poles for the tent. It's easy to find small tasks for them to do around the campsite to make them feel important while also assisting you in getting organized.

Tip 4. Skip the Technology 

This is actually a philosophy we have in our everyday lives, but it definitely should be applied while camping as well. Toddlers benefit tremendously from outdoor physical activity and most campgrounds have an abundance of activities to keep them busy. Don't let the iPhone or iPad be a distraction on the trip. There is no motor skill being practiced while swiping left or right on the iPhone, but there is plenty of developmental milestones to be reached in jumping, running, crawling, and climbing around the campsite, so let them do it! Enough Said.

Tip 5. Simple Camp Meals and Snacks 

Cooking around a fire pit or grill can be tricky for first timers to begin with, so there's no sense in making things harder on yourself by trying to make a delicious 4 course meal when also trying to weather the elements that often when camping. Make a safe and simple meal plan that will keep everyone satisfied and doesn't take 100 ingredients to prepare. We always premake breakfast burritos and wrap them in aluminum foil so come morning, we pop them on the fire to heat and they are good to go. Same goes for lunch, sandwiches are easily stored and can be premade before you hit the road. Dinner, grilled burgers or brats and beans are the way to go! Simple, easy to cook and kid friendly. We also like to throw some corn on the cob on the grill too! And if I really need to state the obvious for dessert, SMORES! SMORES! SMORES! 

Here is our go to snack list:

  • Apple Sauce pouches
  • Veggie chips
  • Assorted nuts and fruits in ziplock bags
  • Granola bars
  • Kettle corn (Yum)

 Happy Camping!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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