I am a very indoorsy girl who married into a very outdoorsy family! It’s been 16 years of learning, not only to survive camping, but to actually enjoy it. Justin‘s family has camped in the same campground for over 50 years. It’s on the southeast border of Yellowstone, surrounded by forests and waterfalls, and is truly a piece of heaven on earth.
But spoiler alert: camping trips trigger major anxiety for me! Because of this, I’m constantly looking for ideas/supplies to make our outdoor experiences safer, simpler, and more functional. Although my camping anxiety may never fully go away, it has definitely decreased over time as we’ve made the adjustments that best serve our family (and having my kids get a little older and more independent definitely hasn’t hurt).
For starters, I wanted to share the ultimate camping packing list that we use every year–I made it into a nice checklist for you, divided into categories! Download it HERE. It’s almost embarrassing how much stuff we pack for these adventures. But when you’re off the grid and an hour away from any stores, you gotta be prepared. Even though we have a larger SUV for our family of six, we want to make sure everyone can sit comfortably. These Thule rooftop cargo boxes are awesome for giving you that extra space.
The single best decision we ever made was to stop cramming all six of us into a tent, where organization was nearly impossible, and we would roast during the day and freeze at night. Instead, we started using Outdoorsy! It’s basically the AirBNB of trailer rentals. When you book a trailer, you are given the option to have the owner deliver, set-up, and then pick-up the trailer at the end of your trip. It takes zero effort on our part, and we get the benefit of a comfortable, stress-free sleeping arrangement. The trailer we reserved this year was from Austin RV Rentals, and was amazing! You can use this link and save $50 off your rental!
DESIGNATED KID AREA
A few years ago, my genius mother-in-law realized we needed a designated “kid zone”. So each year they set up one of these large screen houses, throw down some tarps, and set up chairs so the parents can relax and visit while the kids play in the dirt, do crafts, braid hair, etc. It’s seriously been revolutionary.
As our boys have gotten older, and aged out of the kid area, they have loved having their own space to hang out, joke around, read, and bond. We just locate a good cluster of trees in the campsites and set up all of the hammocks in one spot. They seriously have a BLAST, and it gives them that taste of independence, while still being close to the family. These hammocks have over 42k positive reviews on Amazon and have been perfect for us.
Hands down the hardest part of camping for me. I literally get eaten alive, and have crazy big allergic reactions to the bites. I have yet to find an effective solution for prevention, but as far as relief goes, the Bug Bite Thing has been a super helpful tool. You place the device on the bite and pull the tube up, which sucks out the saliva and venom that cause irritation. And yes, it actually has worked for me!
I’ve tried every repellent on the market, and while none really make a difference for me, I love using OFF! Family Care. It doesn’t have a strong scent, and is a dry spray instead of a greasy mess.
While most of our time is spent fishing, catching frogs, playing cards, and sitting around a campfire, each family also brings one group activity for all of the kids to do together. This year I secured a kids’ size Stanley cup for each kiddo, and bought these massive packs of water bottle stickers from Amazon. They had so much fun customizing their individual cups, and learning more about each other by what they chose. I would 10/10 recommend this activity for your next family gathering.
Seeing my children display endurance on big hikes, show their bravery climbing waterfalls, develop basic life skills, and just connect with nature on a deeper level is such a privilege. As hard as it can be at times, I am truly grateful to step out of my comfort zone and have these experiences as a family.
Happy camping ya’ll!