Washington Trails Association
Trails for everyone, forever
There’s no need to make your first few camping trips with your family multi-day extravaganzas. Instead, start with something simple, find your camping rhythm and enjoy the small break from your daily routine. Youth educator and mom Hilary L. Benson shared a few tips to help you get out with your family this camping season.
Youth educator and mom Hilary L. Benson shared a few tips with WTA to help you get out with your family this camping season.
As a family with two young sons, ages 3 and 7, we have made it a goal to get out into nature for a few weekends each summer. The number one tip we’ve learned from past adventures is to start small and not be overly ambitious.
There’s no need to make your first few camping trips with your family multi-day extravaganzas. Instead, start with something simple, find your camping rhythm and enjoy the small break from your daily routine.
Our first adventure of the year occurred on May 1 and we have plans to head out the last weekend of September as well. Take advantage of the Pacific Northwest summer! With such a mild spring, our family’s camping season will be nearly five months long!
If your weekends are busy with activities like most families these days, head out midday on Friday with a plan to return midday Saturday. It’s a great way to make your weekend feel extra-long.
Rainy and gray days in March are the perfect time to dream of summer evenings in the outdoors. Once school is out, summer can fill up quickly. If you put a few camping dates on the calendar in the spring, it won’t be as stressful trying to shoehorn a trip into an already crowded schedule. Plus, if you’re planning on car camping, advance reservations made in the spring often alleviate the stress of finding a site the day of.
It’s no fun to start off your adventure scrambling to gather all the items you’ll need. A few dedicated bins stocked with your camping equipment will expedite the packing process and help with pre-trip frustrations.
We have a bin for our kitchen items and another for sleeping pads, tarps, stove, fuel, and the tent. All of our camping items are stored in one area of the garage so it’s easy to grab and go.
> Read WTA's blog about organizing your gear inside your pack, too!
Our first trip this year was just 5 miles up the road from our house at a local campground. The stakes are lower when you can pop home if your littlest campers aren’t into the experience or if you forget some of the necessities. It’s also a great way to test out your equipment after a winter in the garage and a chance to make lists of items to be purchased or restocked in the camping bins.
> Check out WTA's favorite campgrounds in Washington.
Spending all day cooking a multi-course camp dinner can be a blast. However, if you’re just getting started, don’t set the bar too high. Our kids love cooking hot dogs on an open fire (just make sure there isn't a burn ban on when you head out). Combine that with a can of baked beans, some cut up vegetables, and s’mores for dessert and you’ve got a low-stress meal that will make everyone happy.
> Read WTA's camping food resource for tips, tricks and shortcuts to great meals
While we’re always tempted to bring a few toys on our trips, we’ve found that the kids quickly find their own fun once we start making camp. Often times they’re eager to help set up the tent, fill water jugs, or arrange the sleeping bags.
As the kids get older, sketch books, field guides, and binoculars are great ways to further engage them in the experience.
> Read more about how you can keep kids entertained on trail.
With a little pre-planning and up-front organization, you’ll be able to get out of town for a fun weekend away with your family!