Thursday, 10 March 2011

Camping with kids

A part of last Sunday's unhappiness was Little man L freaking out totally when we took down the tent on Sunday morning. We had it up on Sunday night to do some maintenance on it - the dome part that the kids sleep in and it is the oldest part of our set-up. You see, the kids just LOVE camping, and the tent. For them it is one huge adventure - a totally different world where they have lots of attention from mom and dad, but also the freedom (to an extent) of the camping ground. I love camping because it eases my soul, it speaks to me in many ways. The simplicity of living with just the basics really cleanses the brain from clutter. And to be honest, camping is cheap - way cheaper than other options. For instance, a whole weekend in the Pilansberg costs us R450,00 for the whole family. Getting equipped at the start can be costly though, but once you have the basics it is really great. Added BIG bonus - kids sleep so well while camping. Lots of exercise and fresh air works wonders.

So I though I will give you guys some tips on camping and what we have learned through our adventures:

  • Be well-set up, equipped with what you need. Some of the items we have found the most useful are a table that can be set up lower for the kids' height to eat on, a kitchen cupboard to pack out most utensils and food and a utensil hanger for knives etc, to be out of the way for little kids hands. The usual freezer, etc goes without saying. Our set-up is as follows: a big canvas dome tent (high enough to stand in) that we use as the kid's bedroom. In front of that is our extension part- a room that clips on the dome and is slightly bigger in size. Hunter and I sleep in it and we also keep our freezer and some general items in it like the laundry hamper etc. The extension has a little covered area in front of this and onto this we have a gazebo with sides that we use as the dining/ kitchen area and general living area.
Our home away from home set-up.

  • Take toys, but not too many. I take one crate of Duplo - they all play with it and a little backpack with  each child's specific favorites.including a drawing and colouring book and crayons.
  • Bikes are one of the most important items you will have at a camping site. And the older they get the more independent they become.

  • There are always bigger kids that play with the smaller ones at a camping site. A bonus, I tell you.
  • Choose your site and camping ground with care - you want to be close enough to an ablution block, but far enough from the pool. And close enough to a good playground but in a secured fenced camping ground
Wonderful playground in the coolest spot at Xaxaza resort in Mtunzini.

  • A potable DVD player is not only a bonus in the car but also in the tent for bad weather and tired kid moments.
  • We make one "bed" for the kids by placing their mattresses and sleeping bags right up against each other - they feel safer and happier that way.

  • After many options we are now sleeping on the new generation type stretchers and I add a thin mattress on top of mine. Those blow up mattresses - nope. No more inflating in the middle of the night for us.
  • I use crates to pack almost anything for camping - including our clothes. No bags or suitcases. Crates pack and unpack easily and if you have a rain issue especially while pitching or break up camp, everything stay dry inside.
  • I make one bag for bath time for me and the kids - a big back pack or gym bag in which I keep all the bath stuff, but can also pack new outfits and towels.You pick up one bag and off you go.
  • Always take a multi size bath plug along. Many places do not have bath plugs if you want to bath kids. If there is not bath, small kids fit into big Coleman cooler boxes ;-)
  • Teach your kids to shower asap - it will make your life so much easier.And to go to the toilet on their own.
  • Take enough cable ties in all sizes - they can tie almost anything to anything.
  • Buy the longest electrical lead you can find - we have a 25 meter one. A winner. Take enough multi plugs along to connect everything.
  • Ziplock bags and black garbage bags  are wonderful! They have a million uses.
So, hope to see you camping soon. Any questions?

Edited March 2014 :
Now that the kids are older we do somethings a bit different - I pack each kid their own bathroom bag - big enough for a change of clothes and a toiletry bag.
Also we choose our sites with different criteria - but that one you will figure out as you go along.


  1. Looks like you guys had a great time!! Remind me to email you before we take a camping have it mastered! Thanks for sharing the info and the pictures! Fabulous as usual!

  2. Please don't shoot me!!!
    I hate the *thought* of camping...have never done it and my hubby so wants me to give it a try...I want to go to a hotel rather.
    The thought of showering and going to toilets is what gets me to be honest...
    But do think it wonderful for kids to experience...something I never did as a child.

  3. Looks like you all had a good time - camping is not something our family likes to do. We prefer a bed above the hard ground.
    Cool pics

  4. Great tips for camping!
    The older I get, the more I love it too! Especially with children.
    Another point: You also can't have too many torches and lights (children love torches as well ;-) )
    But our teen hates camping, although she has her own tent. She likes to holiday in luxury... ;-)

  5. @MomAgain@40 - quite correct! And we have electric lights we fit in the tents too - those with the batteries for emergency light.

  6. "small kids fit into big Coleman cooler boxes " - I lol'd! haha

  7. Our family LOVE camping, we've been doing it since Megan was 7 months old and Kaylin went on her first camp at 3 months old.

    We do it often and all your advice is spot on!! The girls love it. The bikes are always a must and a bottle of sherry for when the girls have fallen on their mattresses

  8. Hmmm, I have yet to be convinced but I will try it a few more times before I throw in the proverbial towel. I find everything is such an effort - from cooking to bathing to washing etc.


    Great post though and I will definitely heed your advice.

  9. So, so, so with you on this. I love it...and agree with all your points. To enjoy camping you HAVE to be prepared and organised!

  10. Fantastic post Cat. Makes me actually *want* to camp - not!

    I hate camping! I did it ad nauseum when I was in my early twenties (it was all we could afford for holidays) and i'm completely over it. I feel sad that my kids are never going to experience it - but I am not going to fork out thousands on equipment when I know we aren't going to use it regularly. I suppose the fact we have in-laws with a house on the beach does influence our decision somewhat!

    But i can see what a ball you all have together!

  11. *If* we ever go camping - unlikely though we both dislike nature in its raw - this is a list I'd use, so thanks :)

  12. The swingball! Don't forget the swingball. Now that signifies camping to me. It was one of my favorite pastimes while camping as a kid.

  13. I LOVE camping - we did it all the time when I was a kid, but in a caravan. One of my ex boyfriends and I used to go camping all the time as well and it was great.

    I am trying very hard to get my husband to start camping and went to look at tents last weekend.

    I think I am going to have to print your list and pin to to our "camping" stuff when we start. Excellent tips.

  14. You make camping look like such fun!!

  15. I hate camping in SA and using ablution blocks. But the trips I did with my late hubby to Botswana were AWESOME! We had a "portable shower" Filled the bag with water and put it black side up on the roof of the car. By the time we got to camp nice hot water to hang in a tree and shower. Fabulous I tell you, just fabulous. And yes crates or ammo boxes work the best and you need to cable tie them closed because the baboons have now figured out how those monkey clips work!

  16. Camping with a DVD player is not the way I remember it LOL!

  17. so glad you had fun! we LOVE camping!!!

  18. I also like camping even though it has been years since I last went. I love the outdoors but I think it comes from growing up on a farm :)

  19. Such great ideas, I'll heed you advice next time!

  20. This is the first time I comment on your site, but I've been reading the articles for about a moth. I admire the passion with which you write the articles and hope someday I can do the same. Love

  21. Thanks pointing me to this great article, so much great advice. I think we're not so good on the first point "be well equipped", but our fellow campers are at least! Anyway, we're off this afternoon and looking forward to a great weekend away.


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