The word “camping” used to send me into such a panic… “Throw it all in!! What will we need in the middle of nowhere?! What will I forget?” It escalated when we decided to try camping with toddlers.
Not anymore. I spent last summer preparing for our biggest adventure yet. Cheap camping with toddlers. I wanted to make packing easy. My husband was working weekends so it was really nice to grab everything Monday morning, head out the door and then return on Thursday with minimal clean up. I have to say, in the past, the worst part of going was the clean up afterwards. Here are some essential camping tips that will allow you to have fun with your kids and not “panic” about the little things.
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First things first, the set up!
Before we started packing we had to decide what we were going to sleep in. Tent, cabin, van, Fifth Wheel, Motorhome, etc. We quickly decided to invest in a rooftop tent, because we figured the kids would view it as a tree house and something more fun than just sleeping on the ground. Not only did it help keep pests at bay but it also made us feel safer being up off the ground.
We shopped around and we ended up settling with the Yakima SkyRise 3. Why did we choose this tent? Well first of all the parts. Yakima is made in the US meaning if something goes wrong we don’t have to wait on parts to fix it. The second reason is that everything locks. The rack locks to your truck and the tent locks to your bed.
Where we live these tents are hot commodities and seems to be the thing to steal at the moment. I feel a lot better that it is locked on!! And last but not least, it is significantly lighter then most of the other rooftop tents. It was easy for my husband and I to lift on and off and store it in the garage over the winter. We recently purchased a waterproof rain cover which made camping in the rain so much easier!
Ok now onto the good stuff!! Here are a few products we had to invest in to make camping life the easy life.
A canopy - I LOVE our Coleman canopy. I connect it to the ladder of our tent and zip it up. The kids can’t get out. It keeps the bugs out and we are able to sit and play in there when we need some down time. We tend to sit and eat dinner in there when it's dark out. This was hands down my favorite purchase for camping but don't forget there is no floor. We throw down a large tarp and top it with mats.
Rugs & Mats
Which brings brings me to MATS!! Initially, I wanted one large outdoor rug, but I found a great deal at World Market and couldn’t turn it down. I ended up with two smaller mats. To make up for the space underneath I laid down a large tarp. This stopped all the dirt from getting in and made it so easy for the baby to crawl around. The mats are just a second layer and protect from rocks below.
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I have all the things we use over and over in an over the door hanging shoe organizer which I got on amazon for super cheap. We keep this rolled up in a crate all the time and simply refill it when needed. It includes things we want easily accessible and we hang it inside our Coleman canopy.
What do we put in it?
Bug Spray, Sunscreen, Matches, Candles, Flashlights, Batteries, Diapers/Wipes, Rags, Plastic Bags (Trash, lunch, gallon), Hand Sanitizer, All Keys, Carabiner (good for hanging keys, baby/toddler distraction toy, locking tent shut so baby can’t escape), Kitchen Utensils, Plates/bowls/cups, Napkins, Foil.
The list goes on and on, but for me it’s the essentials that I need to grab quickly. I have LOVED having these items on hand and feel as though it makes for a smoother trip. Don’t forget to put all the poisonous/messy/dangerous items in the top few slots so the kids can’t reach them! You could also slip a couple surprise toys in the bottom, we keep things that we are comfortable with the kids playing with in there (flashlights, carabiners, spoons).
CRATES - We have about 3-4 crates depending on our trip. Most stay packed year round so we just grab and go. One crate is for the hanging shoe rack, this crate gets turned into our “living room” table. Other crates contain - toys, kitchen essentials, food (this one we pack last minute), camping gear (lanterns, rope, extra supplies), sleeping stuff and clothes crate (we pack this last minute too). All of these crates sit on a shelf in our garage ready to go and like I said, after we unpack them we use them for other things. One becomes a table, another becomes our laundry basket. The nice thing about crates is they fit perfectly under the tent in the back of the truck and since the tent/truck bed locks, it is very difficult for someone to take them. They are also weather proof and can easily be stored.
Last year we were all about the pack n play. We could set up our campsite without our youngest getting into trouble. When the kids needed entertainment we would flip the pack n play on it on it's side and make a cave. This year they are over the pack n play.