For families, car camping is the perfect way to connect kids with the outdoors and launch a lifelong love of hiking. We encourage you to get out this summer and head to one of Washington's hundreds of campgrounds. Try spending at least two nights at a campground, using it as a springboard to discover a new area.
If camping is new to your family, or if camping with kids in tow is new to you, here are ten practical suggestions for making your trip successful and ensuring a good time for everyone.
Pick your campground
Look for areas you want to visit and research the campground options. Consider the amenities you need for your family: drinkable water, showers, flush toilets, etc.
Determine your group
Camping can be more fun when you do it with friends. And the more adults you have along, the easier it is to share the workload. Having pals for the kids to play with will also ensure some adult-time to relax.
Make a reservation
Camping on a summer weekend? Reservations are almost essential in state parks and many campgrounds on the west side of the Cascades. Walk-ups are sometimes available midweek, but plan ahead.
Involve the kids in planning
What might your little ones be most interested in doing? Find activities for the whole family: hiking biking, boating, clamming, wildlife viewing and quality campground time are all options.
Consider a dry run in the backyard
Before heading off into the woods, build a camp in your yard for a practice camp out. This helps you assess the gear you'll need and helps orient younger kids to the experience of sleeping outdoors.
Pack the right gear
Make sure to bring warm clothes, cozy sleeping bags and comfortable air mattresses on your trip. A rain fly for the tent or a tarp to hang over the picnic table can save the day if the trip turns rainy. Likewise, bring a well-stocked First-Aid kit, sunscreen and bug juice.
Bring lots of food
Fuel up with everyone's favorite snacks and drinks, and don't forget to bring fixings for s'mores. At night make sure you pack all of your food into the car -- and check the kids' pockets for leftover snacks before bed. You don't want to be awakened to critters in your kitchen.
Pack games, but leave the screens behind
Card games, Frisbees and bicycles are all great in-camp activities. Bring a nature field guide and try to identify wildflowers, berries or birds. For tent time, bring books instead of electronic devices.
Set ground-rules for the campground
Tour the campground together and determine together how far the kids can roam. Make sure they know the number of their camp space and what to do should they become lost. Practice fire safety around the campfire.
Embrace the experience
Enjoy! Play like a kid, breathe in the fresh air and have fun. Kids share in the excitement of those around them.