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How We Prepared for Our Very First Family Camping Trip

Taking your first family camping trip and not sure how to prepare? Read THIS!

So, on Friday afternoon, we did something we’d never done as a family before: we went on a three-day camping trip at a state park with our community group from church.

Yes, we stayed in a tent.

A tent. Not a hotel. Not even an RV. A TENT.

If you know me well, you know how this is not my normal deal. Not. at. all.

In fact, the last time I’d been tent camping was when I was something like 6 years old?? But I couldn’t say no to this family adventure since it’s my Year of Yes and all.



I was nervous and apprehensive, wondering whether or not this first camping trip would be our last camping trip.

But you guys: The whole trip was great — from start to finish. For years, I had convinced myself I didn’t like camping… but that was because I’ve never actually been camping since I was 6 years old!

Yes, it was a lot of work to plan and prep for. Yes, there were a lot of bugs. Yes, the bathrooms and showers weren’t as clean as a hotel. Yes, it’s not as comfortable to sleep in a tent as it is to sleep in my own bed.

However, I shocked myself by genuinely LOVING the camping experience!!

We stayed at a gorgeous state park (the Natchez Trace State Park). It was incredible to be out in nature and be serenaded to sleep by the frogs. It was so fun to see our kids having a blast without any sort of screen for entertai

nment. And I savored the opportunity to be unplugged, to soak up the sun, to sit around the campfire, to read in the hammock, and to laugh and talk and make so many memories with our community group.

I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but it’s true: I’m ready to go camping again very soon! (In fact, I already pitched the idea of us doing a three-week camping trip visiting various state parks!)

Many of you have asked me if I would write a post about what I learned from our first camping experience and what helped to make it a success. So, I’m going to take the next few days to share what I learned as a newbie camper and some of the ways we prepared/things we brought that allowed us to enjoy our camping trip so much more…

1. Do Your Research

Since we were so inexperienced and I was nervous about “roughing it” like this, I did a LOT of research ahead of time. I have a fear of the unknown, so I’ve found the best way to combat that fear is to over-research and over-prepare.

First off, I asked you all for advice. Once again, you proved that I have the best readers on t

he planet. You SHOWED UP with advice. Loads of it. And it was good stuff.

I pored over your comments and suggestions and made a long list of ideas. I specifically looked for things that experienced campers suggested over and over again.

I want to say a huge thank you to you all for your camping advice and suggestions of what we should bring. I may have gotten teased for being over-prepared, but we couldn’t believe that there wasn’t anything we wished we would have brought that we didn’t. And I owe it to you all for sharing your experience and wise advice.

I would have never thought to bring some of the items you suggested or to pack like you

advised, but it really made a difference and made the trip so much smoother and more enjoyable. And next time, it will be so much easier to pack and prepare since I have my trusty To Bring On A Camping Trip list now (I’ll be sharing that list on Friday!).

2. Make a Plan

Not only did I make a big list of what to bring, I also researched the best way to store everything and have everything set up while we were camping. Someone suggested this post on tent camping organization and it inspired us to buy plastic bins to pack our camping supplies in.

This proved to be a fantastic idea. Not only did it keep everything really organized when packing and at the campsite, but it also made packing up our campsite and unloading the vehicle at home so much easier.

Plus, everything was protected from rain, bugs, and wind — and we ended up having some rain, some wind, and LOTS of bugs!

In the spirit of being prepared, we also practiced setting up the tent the day before we left to make sure it would be big enough to fit all five of us. We ended up deciding that it was a little too small and we went out and go

a second tent that night from Walmart, just to be safe.

The kids slept in one tent and Jesse and I slept in the other tent, and we were glad we ended up going with two tents. It gave everyone more space, it gave us more privacy, and I think everyone got better sleep since we weren’t all stacked on top of each other in one tent.

…To be continued! (Tomorrow I’ll be sharing 5 important lessons we learned on our first camping trip and then on Friday, I’ll share my Master Camping Packing List). Stay tuned!

Have you been camping before? What are your best tips to prepare for a great camping trip?

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  • This is awesome! Kudos to you for going the tent camping route! I haven’t been tent camping in about 15 years and we now have a camper, so I guess I’m really an RVer rather than a camper. 🙂 But we’ve found there’s some overlap in how to prepare and plan for a great camping trip. One of my top tips is to prep as much of the food ahead of time that you can. So rather than taking a bunch of ingredient containers, a day or two before the trip I will measure out spices and other pantry items into small containers or little zipper baggies. I’ll also pre-wash any fresh fruits or vegetables, cutting things up as needed for our meals. The same with meat: If we are having burgers, for example, we’ll even make those into patties ahead of time and freeze them.

    Also baby wipes: It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a baby anymore–add them to your camping stash. Baby wipes are useful for so many things while camping–from freshening up and wiping down tables to cleaning up s’mores from adorable but gooey kiddo faces and hands. 🙂 Happy camping!

  • Sarah in Alaska says:

    So glad to see that you had a successful and fun camping trip and am looking forward to hearing more about what you did and learned.

    We love camping at our house and try to get out backpacking or tent camping each year.

    One question: What kind of tent platforms did your campground have. Is that sand or something that the tent is on? I’m thinking that’s a pleasant alternative to just dirt.

  • Kudos to you for trying tent camping! I haven’t been tent camping in about 15 years and now we have a camper, so I guess I’m more of an RVer these days rather than a camper. But we’ve found there’s a lot of overlap in how you prepare for either kind of camping experience.

    My favorite camping tip is to prep as much of the food at home before you even leave. Rather than taking lots of different ingredients (like spices and other pantry items) with us, I will measure off the amount we need for our meals into little containers or zippered baggies. I prewash fresh fruits or vegetables and then cut them up if needed. The same with meat: If we are having burgers one night, we’ll even pre-make the patties and then freeze them.

    And baby wipes: Even if you don’t have a baby anymore, baby wipes should make it into your camping stash. They are handy for many things, from freshening up, wiping things down, and getting s’mores off kiddos’ gooey faces and hands. 🙂 Happy camping!

  • Sophie says:

    Aw I am SO glad you had such a good time! Camping is so great. We did it a lot as a kid. Google Crested Butte. It’s amazing. We learned to do really hard long hikes and I think it was such a fantastic lesson for me as a teenager. I remember going back to it in college and thinking about how endurance and slow but steady work pays off! Ha I am not sure my parents thought that was what they were teaching me at the time.

  • Kelley K says:

    I’m glad you found my packing list and organizational tips helpful! That list is a few years old now, and we’ve upgraded to a popup camper now, but we still use a lot of the same systems and bins. I’m glad you enjoyed your camping trip!

  • ebene says:

    Awesome. I am glad you had a great time. I need to do this. I say the same things that I don’t like it either and I have never taken my kids. My oldest is almost a teen. I need to do it right?

    A 3 week camping trip? Amazing. Camping the whole time? Ok this is the summer that I have to say yes to it.
    You gave me the push

  • Ashley says:

    Good for you! If you can, keep your camping stuff packed in your tubs and store them. It will make the next trip so much easier when you can just load tubs and go.

  • Lindsay says:

    Me and my husband took a 5 day backpacking trip (like everything we had we carried in a pack) this last fall. Out plan is to take the kids on the John Muir trail in the next few years. It is about a 4 week trip. Life-long memories!

  • Jane says:

    My 3 kids and I have been going camping regularly and we love it!! Every camping trip it gets easier with packing and working out what to bring and what to leave behind. I camp as a single parent so it’s extra important to be organised. My latest thing is to cook all the dinners ahead of time and freeze them. That way I get a whole week of camping without cooking. Great memories for you and your family!

  • How fun! I’m glad you all had a good time! We’ve been camping with our little ones, and my family did a ton of camping when I was growing up. A couple of things that have helped us:

    -My mom made each of the kids a little drawstring bag that became our “shower bag” and was filled with our own toiletries. Then whenever we needed to go take showers, we could just grab the bags and have all that we needed.

    -If you are going to be in a place for more than a couple of days, take along some string to make a clothesline. We would always hang up our wet towels, swimsuits,etc. Plus, some campgrounds even have laundry facilities.

    -Purchase a small broom and dustpan in order to clean out the tent from the inevitable dust, sand, dirt, etc. that will invade.

    I look forward to the rest of this series!

  • Katie says:

    The last time we went camping I was pregnant with our 6th child and on partial bedrest so everyone else had to do everything to set up camp. That was super lousy. But, then, since I was so inexperienced I packed raw chicken breasts not as carefully as I should have in a bag ready to barbeque and it leaked all over everything else in the ice chest. That was the worst. It really was. But, since then we’ve bought an RV and I’ve learned not to be quite as casual about how I pack the food and we are trying it again this month. I’m nervous.?

  • Julia says:

    YEAH! Love that your are doing this little mini-series. My boys and husband would love to camp more, so I’m trying to be willing to get outside my comfort zone. Like you, I haven’t been camping since I was much much younger and while I don’t feel like I’m against camping, I do like my modern conveniences of a toilet and shower… Thanks again for writing about your experience!

  • Tiffany says:

    We are a family of 6 that loves to camp!! Another idea-we use 2 tents, except we use one tent to house all of our clothes and shoes and miscellaneous camping stuff, and we all sleep together in the bigger tent. It saves room in the sleeping tent. We also bought an outdoor rug (Amazon!) to place between the two tents. It collects dirt and acts as a great place to put on shoes and socks.

  • Jessica says:

    We went camping about a month ago. It was a family affair with all of my husband’s cousins. They go deep in the woods, no water, no electricity, 35 minute rough dirt road to get to the camp site – kind of camping. We have a 5 year old and an 8 month old and 2 dogs. The weather did not cooperate 45 degrees and rainy for 2 days. In previous years, we camped in a tent. But with the 2 kids and 2 dogs, we used my husband’s enclosed utility trailer this year. It was so much easier, more room, and protected us better from the rain than a tent. I agree to research as may “hacks” a you can to make it easier and more enjoyable.

    Glad you got some good unplugged time. You’re brave to think about camping for 3 weeks straight…oh the laundry. lol.

  • I loved seeing in my email feed that you went camping! Then to read that you landed up really enjoying it was awesome! In my opinion, camping truly improves family bonds and creates amazing childhood memories. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. I just finished up writing posts on camping on my blog last week. Here are my 5 best tips for when you take children camping (based on 15 years of experience of camping with our 6 kids) –

    And here is a FREE I love Camping printable which you can now hang proudly on your fridge after your trip (haha!)

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