It might seem overwhelming to plan a camping trip for the whole family, but a group outing doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of tricks to make your trip easier.
Here’s how to simplify camping for even the youngest new adventurer:
What to Bring
Of course, the most important thing you’ll need is a tent. Keep in mind you don’t have to buy your own; try borrowing from a friend or renting from an outdoor goods store. Sleeping bags are important as well, but you can use pads and blankets for milder weather. A cooler of ice should also be on your list if you’re bringing perishable foods. Not all campsites sell or provide ice, so be sure to pack enough to last the weekend.
What to Eat
Plan your meals ahead of time; it’s a lot harder to make a quick run to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient when you’re in the wilderness. If you are cooking, bring pots, pans and cooking utensils you’re willing to use outside.
Don’t forget your own dishes and silverware, too — disposable or outdoor dishware is your best bet. A few large jugs of water come in handy for cooking and washing, but bring enough to drink as well. Paper towels help with cleaning and can act as napkins. And you’ll need flashlights or lanterns for cooking at night.
Find out more about camping in Tennessee.
What to Leave at Home
It’s easy to fill the car to capacity when camping, but try to pare down to just the necessities. Leave the pillow at home and pack just a pillowcase; you can stuff it with a sweater or extra clothes when you’re going to bed, meaning one less bulky item to pack.
Plan on everything getting dirty, though, and leave your nicer clothes and shoes at home. Pack toiletries with an eye to the basics. Leave the hairdryer and curling iron as well as the makeup in the bathroom.
What to Keep in the Cooler
Having fresh food while camping is not impossible. Some campgrounds, like Smoky’s Frontcountry, have ice available nearby. If not, pack your own coolers with ice, burying the most perishable items deeply. If you bring meat, consider cooking it the first night to make sure it’s at its best.
Cheese and other dairy products will also be fine when covered in ice, so pack the bread for sandwiches you can eat while hiking. Stow chocolate for making s’mores in the cooler as well. You don’t want it to melt in the heat of the sun before that night’s campfire.
What to Cook Over the Campfire
Learning how to simplify camping takes you to task when cooking over a campfire. Therefore, prep most of your food at home! There are plenty of easy meals you can make in your kitchen that transport well to the campsite for open-fire cooking.
Try kebobs, fish filets, sloppy joes, chili and fajitas. Of course, prepackaged burgers and sausages are easy and popular as well. Vegetarians will enjoy veggie burgers, pasta, grilled vegetables, baked potatoes and quesadillas with various fillings — all of which cook quickly.
Keeping the Kids Entertained Without Electronics
Kids may be nervous about spending time outdoors without their electronics or Wi-Fi, but they might be pleasantly surprised by how much fun they can have offline. Bring a Frisbee, football and other outdoor games you don’t get around to playing with during the week.
If you have the space, bikes are fun to ride around smoother campsites and through the flattest dirt trails. Books are great for downtime, as are cards and board games. If it’s windy or raining, however, game time in the tent is always a relaxing option.
Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.