Let’s go camping! 

Yeah, right, you think as you imagine rainy hours stuck in a leaky tent with the family. But if you’re feeling adventurous, consider a summer camping expedition (hint: an expedition can be hours, not days) with the kids. To help you get started, we offer these tips we’ve gleaned from experts far wiser than us.

  1. Ease into It. Don’t start with a two-week tent camping trip to Yellowstone. Begin a little closer to home, maybe even in the backyard. Practice putting up a tent and sleeping next to the swing set. Build a fire and make smores around the fire pit or Solo stove. When you’re ready, try an overnight at a state park close to home.
  2. Plan together. Invite the kids into every part of the fun, including the planning. Talk about where they’d like to go, what they hope to see and do. Part of planning can be a visit to the library to check out books about camping and nature. It’s also fun to look at road and trail maps.
  3. Invest slowly. If you’re new to camping, don’t rush to the outdoor store and spend thousands on equipment. Borrow or rent when you first start. When you are ready to buy, consider gently used equipment you can find online or at garage sales.
  4. Leave the electronics behind. Even when you’re camping in the backyard, make it a screen-free adventure. Break out the Uno cards or tell stories around the campfire. Play nature bingo or I Spy.
  5. Include some regular routines. Keep some familiar structure to your days. If you ride bikes most days, pack the bikes. If you have quiet time in the afternoon, have quiet time while camping. Stick to regular bedtime and mealtime routines and rituals as much as possible, or incorporate new camping rituals your kids can look forward to.
  6. Keep it simple. Keep meals as simple as possible. Don’t overpack. Don’t stress. It’s okay to try camping and not make it through the planned weekend. You’ll likely learn some things and have some good stories to tell.
  7. Try, try again. Don’t let one rainy, or hot, or buggy night keep you off camping for good. You’ll find the level of camping that works for your family. It might be a cabin. It might be a tent with air mattresses. It might be sleeping bags on the ground under the stars. So pack your bug spray and your daring-do and embrace the adventure!