It's the season for camping, which has been my favorite summer activity since I was a little kid. My family had a popup, and every summer we’d load things up and travel to various state parks. We’d visit Letchworth, Lake George, Watertown and other areas across New York, making memories together.
My husband did the same with his parents and we’ve now passed our love for the outdoors on to our own children.
Each was just a couple weeks-old the first time they went camping, and they’ve been fans ever since. Every summer, they look forward to excursions with extended family on both sides. They’re making the same memories with their cousins and camp friends that their father and I made when we were kids. It makes my heart happy to know they may be doing the same with their own children someday.
We’re gearing up for our first camping trip of the season. As with any family vacation, there’s a lot of prep work. Being prepared is key, so I thought I’d share some camping tips that have helped us over the years.
1. Store gear in clear plastic bins
Label them accordingly. We have a bin for kitchen supplies. We have a bin for extension cords, clotheslines and lanterns. We have another for bedding and towels. Everything has a home and can be found at a moment’s notice. This helps while camping and also in storing things in the off-season.
2. Use hand-washing station
We don’t always have the convenience of a sink nearby. To avoid some hassle, we put a hand-washing station right at our campsite. We place a two-gallon jug of water, with a spout, on a small folding table next to our tent along with a bottle of hand soap. Then we secure a plastic hook to the side of the jug and place a hand towel on it, so the kids can get washed up easily.
3. Think beach hacks
Beaching it can become a bit messy with kids in tow. There’s sand absolutely everywhere. Maintaining sanity amid the sand can be trickier than starting a campfire with wet matches. Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years:
► Use a large, fitted sheet to keep your items sand-free. Place the sheet on the sand and put heavier things in the corners, like your beach bags and coolers. Pull the fitted corners up over the items, creating a pseudo-box. This keeps the sand off your things and can double as a makeshift playpen for young children.
► Use a quart-size Ziploc bag to store your phone. If you’re like me, you’re constantly using your phone to take pictures of the kids. The downside to that is the potential for the sand and water to ruin your phone. If you place it in a Ziploc bag, though, it stays clean and functional.
► Use mesh laundry bags to store sand toys. You can grab a drawstring one at a dollar store. After the kids are done playing with the toys at the beach, put them all in the bag. Give things a good shake. When dry, the sand will fall off the toys and right out the bag.
► Baby powder is your friend. Throw a bottle in your beach bag and sprinkle it on everyone’s legs and feet after they’re done at the beach. The powder will help the sand come off a lot easier, leaving less mess elsewhere.
4. Use foam tiles for flooring
I tent camp, but that doesn’t mean I’m sleeping on the ground. We have air mattresses for everyone, but even still that ground can do some damage. For a little added protection, and comfort, we lay down interlocking foam flooring tiles inside our tent. This helps with rocks or uneven ground, too.