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Camping with kids

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Camping with kids

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Camping with kids can be a wonderfully cheap way to have a family holiday, especially if you’re ok with doing without some mod cons for a few days!

I wouldn’t say I’m a keen camper (I do like my comfy bed!) but I go camping with kids regularly, and had years of experience before we had kids too. We tend to go camping several times a year as a family, so we have lots of experience thinking about how to adapt to make camping with our kids work for us. What works for us might not be quite right for you; however, this article helps you think about the main considerations when planning to camp with children.

As with any endeavour, your camping trip can be more or less successful, and with camping being prepared really helps! The age of your children and how ‘wild’ you are going will determine a lot of the planning you need to do.

Picking a camp site

What kind of camping trip do you want to go on?

First things first. You need to work out what you mean by camping, and make sure everyone in the family is on the same page. You may be imagining a bivvy bag on a mountain side, whilst the rest of the family are expecting, at the very least, a toilet and shower block!

family camping picnic

Do you want to go glamping where your tent and other equipment is provided for you?

  • No issues pitching a tent; it is done for you
  • More expensive than taking your own tent, and limits location somewhat

Are you camping at a festival or event?

  • Check for rules about tent size,
  • Can you drive up to the pitches to drop tent/luggage?
  • Do they have a family friendly camping area?

Do you fancy wild camping wherever you can pitch your tent?

  • Know the rules; check where wild camping is allowed
  • How old are your children? Plan how to manage lack of toilet/changing facilities in advance!

Or are you just going to a small local campsite?

‘Camping’ covers a wide range of experiences!

Oh, and if you are planning to take pets don’t forget to check whether your campsite allows dogs.

And where do you want to go?

Is there a particular area you want to visit? Are there particular activities you want to include in a family camping holiday? Do you want to camp near family or friends’ homes to visit them? Are you planning to camp with other families with kids, in which case you may need somewhere that accepts multiple pitches per booking to ensure tents can be together?

You can use sites such as Pitchup or campsites.co.uk to find campsites that fit your specification anywhere in the UK or even further afield.

Tents

family tent camping trip

There is a HUGE range of tents available now. If you want to buy new then go and look around in a few if you can so you can see how the sleeping arrangements might work.

The most common tents available are polyester tents; these are quick drying, light-weight and generally quite easy to put up. The bigger the tent, the more people you will often need! Canvas tents are often a little warmer, but if they get wet they can be a nightmare to dry and are much heavier.

Second hand tents are easy to come by; check out facebook marketplace and local selling sites and groups. You might have a friend who can lend you a tent. If you’re glamping the pod, or yurt, or super fancy bell tent is provided, of course!

Whatever option you choose, you can make it as homely as you like, and as expensive as you like – you can go all out with a top of the line bell tent with a stove and a wooden raised bed which will be wonderfully snug and warm – but a lot of expense, weight and room to store!

Cooking

Do you want to cook on a fire? Then you need to be certain that your campsite allows open fires – all sites have different rules, so do check! Otherwise do you need to bring all your cooking equipment or is there a shared kitchen? Will you eat out? How will you store your food?

If you’re on a large site with a shared kitchen check the rules about access, especially if there is shared fridge space. And label your food! Be kind to your fellow campers too.

If you are cooking with your own equipment think about:

  • a stove,
  • fuel,
  • pans,
  • utensils,
  • crockery
  • cutlery
  • the actual food

You need to find space to transport and store this safely. Some campsites have a shop and most will be within a short drive of a supermarket so you can always go and get supplies.

How old are your children?

The younger your children, the more planning you will need to do!

Milk

If you are formula feeding you will need to consider your access to boiling water and sterilisation facilities. If you are at a campsite with lots of communal facilities you might be fine. On the other hand, if you’re pitched on a tiny site in the middle of nowhere you might have limited water access, and boiling water for formula will mean lighting a stove and waiting, and waiting, and waiting! Consequently, for many families, ready-made formula might be a practical option for a short camping trip.

If you are chestfeeding/ breastfeeding then consider your clothing choices. You want it to be easy to feed but remember that staying warm overnight an be an issue. Think about layers and access!

Camping with kids in nappies

If your children are in nappies you need to ensure you have enough supplies for you trip, or be sure how far you are from shops/washing facilities. You will want to consider how you will store/dispose of dirty nappies too!

Camping with kids: considering sleeping arrangements

What kind of tent you have will affect your options for sleeping arrangements.

What are your sleeping arrangements at home? When camping with young kids, it can be particularly helpful to keep sleeping arrangements familiar. For example, if you usually bedshare with your baby or child, you are likely to find that everyone gets more sleep whilst camping if you can bedshare whilst camping too. How will you do this safely in a tent?

Young babies and children under the age of 15 months are not considered to be safe to sleep on airbeds because of the suffocation risk. You need to consider your alternatives, such as camp beds, or self inflating mats. You could take a camping travel cot; we used to put this on foam mats. Nowadays the kids share a double airbed!

Staying warm whilst camping

Younger children are less able to maintain their own temperature, and when you are outside at night it can be significantly colder than during the day even in summer. You need to make sure you have plenty of layers for little ones to match any weather conditions, and be sure that their sleeping arrangements are warm too!

When camping if your bed is on the floor of a tent you will find that it is colder than if you can sleep on a raised surface too – so camp beds, deep air mattresses or putting a foam mat beneath a mattress will all help keep everyone warm.

Make sure that you have decent sleeping bags and plenty of blankets. The drop in temperature between daytime and nighttime temperatures can be quite surprising and it is much harder to warm up if you get cold. We suggest putting layers on before you are really chilly. Once you are lying in bed and not moving about you are more likely to be too cold than too hot!

Making your tent a home

Camping can be quite a surreal experience; it is very different from sleeping at home. It is lighter later when camping in summer, and there are lots of unusual sounds. This can be very exciting, or unsettling for kids, and getting them to sleep can take longer. Consider making the tent as homey as possible with things like favourite toys and books, take their favourite PJs, and jumpers, and consider making bedtime later – if you can hang on til its darker it will probably be easier for everyone! It is not unusual for everyone to have pretty much the same bedtime, adults and kids alike, when camping.

Entertaining the kids whilst camping

camping with the kids woven wrap sling

This depends on the type of trip you’re taking and the age of your kids. You might find that whilst camping, the kids mostly entertain themselves! There are often other kids especially if camping with other families. Simply being with other children, outside is often enough to keep them busy. They often enjoy exploring the site, climbing, getting muddy and wet and enjoying the British countryside, and depending on your location and the campsite this can keep adults busy too!

If you’re planning any long off-road exploration adventures, then packing a sling is a good plan. Buggies may be fine if your tent has a big vestibule, you’re sticking to paths, or you can pack it up into a car, but they can be more hassle than they’re worth whilst camping, take it from us! If you don’t have a sling then you may want to hire one from us. We can help you work out what you need, if you check out the carrying section of our knowledge hub, or get in touch.

You might want to consider some books or games for evenings, or in case of seriously wet weather. Have a look at our post on games you can play with a pen and paper just in case you get totally stuck for things to do!

Packing for days out and activities

You may be spending your days out and about exploring local attractions, or seeing bands at a festival. Think about these plans when packing for camping too. If you need ear defenders for seeing bands, or swimming gear for visiting the water park, pack these too. It sounds obvious, but honestly, it can be very easy to get into ‘planning for camping’ and forget the other things. We suggest you consider where and how you will charge any electronic devices. Unless you’re going totally off grid, you probably want to have phone battery for the duration of your trip!

Enjoy your adventure camping with kids!

Camping can be a wonderful adventure! Camping with kids in particular can be really magical – be prepared for weather, insects and cold – they are all part of the adventure, but the adventure is better when you’re prepared! And, if you’ve never camped before then maybe try somewhere close to home first!

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