Family Camping – More Tips and Tricks (+ Giveaways)

Camping with young kids always takes a bit more thought and planning.  We’ve accepted the fact that the sleepless nights, dirty kids, bringing along a little potty and working hard to keep the mosquitoes at bay for our (apparently sweet) 3-year-old are just part of the game (which will change with time.)

To be perfectly honest, I dread the sleeping part of camping right now.

Laying awake I certainly spend some time daydreaming about years down the road where sleeping through the night is a possibility, even in a tent.  While it won’t keep us from camping and getting out whenever we can, it certainly means built-in naps for Mama (because everyone else manages to sleep through the “struggles”) in the hammock are a must if we want to do anything productive the following day(s).  I certainly won’t claim to be an expert in everything, so this is my plea for anyone with tips to get a 1-year-old to be ok in a sleeping bag to send them on our way!

But, like I say often on here, the experiences are absolutely worth it and practice makes perfect.  While our summer adventures mean being open to the fact that they could be cancelled (very) last minute due to a wildfire (thanks to Mtn Papa’s job) we are working hard to cram everything in we can (while still remaining sane!)  It’s part of the “no excuses” motto we try to live by.

Yes, it takes more work.
Yes, it can be draining.
Yes, mistakes are made and lessons learned.
Yes, sometimes I want to bag it and head on home.
Yes, it brings us closer as a family.
Yes, it is getting easier as our kids get older.
Yes, every kid is different (which means different perks AND struggles).
Yes, we will continue doing it (the big AND the little adventures.)

This past weekend we spent some time talking about our current favorite bring-alongs for camping.  The things we miss when we don’t have them and may not have thought about previously.  This list is not comprehensive and is a bit random, but worth sharing.  It’s the little extras (so does not cover the basics like tent and sleeping bags!)  Plus, read to the end for your chance to win some of them!

Lightload Towels (24×12 inch): Two-pack $2.00
Sturdy towels that pack up to the size of a half dollar and can be used over and over?  Yes, please!  We use these all the time for cleaning up kids (they certainly can get messy), camp dishes, cleaning up spills and all-around general use.  Lightload also makes a beach towel-sized model that would be great for lake/ocean-side backpacking trips.  While they are thin (hence the reason they fold up as small as they do) they are sturdy, wash well (though I would recommend hand washing) and dry quickly.

Bug Repellent (we’re a fan of Avon’s Skin-So-Soft)

So far (fingers crossed) mosquitos/bugs have only been a problem for us while out camping and in the woods.  I am sure they are bound to be showing up soon, but for now, I’ll take it!  We’ve been working to test out a few different safe (for kids AND adults) repellents.  That testing is still in the works for some products, but I wanted to recommend Avon’s Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard line.  My Alaskan family (where mosquitos are aplenty, I assure you) has been using Skin-So-Soft to repel bugs for years now.  It’s good stuff.

When recently camping, we quickly grabbed for the Picaridin (strong repellency against mosquitos and deer ticks) for poor J after we realized the repellent we were testing for him was NOT working and he was getting eaten alive.  It seemed to solve the problem.

We also have been using the products that have SPF 30 in them (along with Bug Guard) playing down in the Yellowstone River.  I love that they are not greasy, safe for all of us (no DEET) and effective for guarding against the sun and bugs.  For the kids, especially, I prefer the spray sunscreen most of the time – it’s just easier to get on them quickly.

The Kicker:  Avon products are sold online and only through an Avon representative (find a rep near you through their site.)

Action Wipes (Full Body Wet Wipes): $1.25 single; $24 Travel Pack
We are not campers who bring along solar showers when we are out.  While the idea is tempting, I have done my share of bathing in cold lakes (it just adds to the experience, right?!?!)  While washing hair will not fall under this category, these wipes are an excellent alternative to lake-shore bathing.  All natural, plant-derived ingredients help avoid damaging chemicals and leave skin feeling soft (and not sticky).  They are large, strong, smell good and we use them all the time.  Stashes remain in our car, our camping tub and the “beach” bag (which goes many more places than just the “beach”.)  They also come with a spray bottle to refresh when they dry out.  Additionally, like the Lightload Towels, they can be reused numerous times and repurposed after that.

Better yet, the wipes are made with essential natural oils that are also antiseptic and antibacterial so they can be used to clean wounds and help remove poison oak and ivy oils (not an issue for us, but certainly others!)

And because I am sure someone will ask, yes, I use BOTH the Lightload Towels and the Action Wipes – they both serve their own purposes for our family and we use them equally and separately.  

Find them:  Online through their site, on and at boutique bike and outdoor shops.

KidCo Go-Pod: $49.95 at Amazon right now (on super sale)

This handy chair is perfect for camping with kids that are either not quite walking, or walking but could use a little containment around the campfire.  While it is advertised to work from around 4 months, we found that even the shortest setting didn’t work for P until about 8 months.  The chair is height-adjustable, cleans up easily (we hose it off), packs up like a camp chair, and has hooks for toys and holes for food/drinks.  P actually will stay in it quite content for a while because he can stand up.  While they do make high chairs that are a similar style for camping/traveling, this kid does not sit long enough to be happy in something like that.  Highly recommended by us!

JetBoil Flash: $99.95
The perfect solution for quick hot drinks for our entire family (camping or just out playing.)  We bring this with us everywhere (because living in the mountains, things tend to cool off quickly in the evening or with storms!)  When using a smaller fuel canister, everything fits nicely inside the mug for simplicity on the road.  Even better, water heats up quickly and efficiently so fuel lasts a long time!  While we aren’t coffee drinkers, you can purchase the Java version of the Flash too (for the same price).  We’ve used plenty of camp stoves and love how the entire system is contained and water heats up SUPER fast.

ENO Tent (go for the DoubleNest!): $64.95
I am a super big fan of hammocks, especially for camping.  They often serve the purpose of providing me a little place to relax away from everything else and take a few moments (when I wouldn’t otherwise.)   Because of that, I have tested quite a few.  This one takes the cake.  It is durable, folds up very small and holds our entire (small) family.  I would also highly recommend getting the Slap Straps to go along with it (straps that easily attach your hammock to trees, etc.)

A little something for you:
I contacted a few of the above-listed companies asking if they were willing to do a giveaway of their product so we could share the love a little.  Excited to announce that there will be a bunch of winners!  Because there is more than one giveaway today, we’re using Rafflecopter again.  Please make sure to do the task listed and then click “done” in the widget so I know you did!  If you are commenting on more than one topic (see Rafflecopter widgets for the questions) feel free to comment once and do the whole shabang.  However, extra discussion is always welcome and encouraged!  Winners will be chosen randomly and contacted to claim their prizes after July 12th.  Good luck!

Giveaway Winners! Please contact me at mountainmamatales(at)gmail(dot)com to claim your prizes!
Kid-Co Go-Pod: Sarah Knechtel

Avon’s Bug Guard Collection: Rebecca Roland, Sarah Austin, Kathie Mayer

ENO DoubleNest Hammock: Jennifer Logan

Action Wipes: Lala Ramos, Jessica Cardwell

Lightload Towels: Tabea Bruce, Kristin Hutchinson, Hilary and Maggie Canady 

These products (minus the Go-Pod) were generously given to us by the company for the purpose of this review (most per our request.)  However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own.  Additionally, some of these links are affiliates which means that a (very) small percentage of the profit comes back to us to help us offset the cost of this blog and the information we help provide.  See our full disclosure here.
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95 thoughts on “Family Camping – More Tips and Tricks (+ Giveaways)”

  1. My “Relaxing” is getting up early in the morning before everyone else and enjoy the peace and quiet.

    Sometimes that means a hut cuppa, other times that’s a fishing rod in the hands.

    Oh and for the 1 year old our habit was to zip two bags together and just plonk her between us. That way we could make sure she was close and didn’t get too cold!

  2. I recently went on my first backpack trip and although no children accompanied us, I could surely lighten my load..a LOT. The towels that fold to a size of a half dollar are a lovely idea. Keep the hints coming!

  3. The Rafflecoptor link didn’t work for me, but that’s ok, because we already have the hammock–that was my husband’s father’s day gift this year. Now we just have to get him out camping! The towels look nice, though 😉

    One of the things we loved when the boys were small was a dog bed. It’s weird, but a (new) dog bed is perfect for little ones that roll all over the place. We couldn’t keep my younger son on a sleeping mat, but the square dog bed worked perfectly. When he got a little older we passed the bed on to our actual dogs.

    When I think back (not very long ago) to all the camping we did with itty-bitties, it seems a little crazy. It was so much work. But we plowed through and now our boys (3.5 and 5) are awesome campers.

  4. What could I not go without when camping? Probably bug spray, as my kids get eating alive. Bugs never bothered me though, so it’s hard to remember it a lot.

  5. Loving all of the tips! Still haven’t taken Pio on his first camping trip yet, but he got dirty enough yesterday celebrating the 4th that I could have used something handy to clean him.

  6. Thinking the go pod will be a must. It’s quite helpful while I nanny either outside or in the kitchen. I gave it to my sister to take camping today. 🙂

  7. I was always the kid who got eaten by bugs….even if there was only enough repellent left for me and no one else. Everyone would wake with a couple of bites and my sister would enjoy counting mine up at each morning. Boo! Definitely glad to have a recommendation on good stuff for kiddos!

  8. Getting our boys to go to sleep is probably the most challenging thing about camping.. Most of the sites we camp at have concrete slabs where the tents go- so have an air mattress or some kind of foam mat is a must!

  9. As for what our family can’t do with out: the Jet Boil. It makes meals so much easier that we can spend time enjoying the outdoors. We take it on longer hikes for hot beverages in the colder months and it works great!

    We discovered that baby wipes don’t always cut it for cleaning, and having something with antibacterial properties is a must! 🙂 We’ve used a car chamois cloth to help clean up excess moisture in the tent or outside the tent, which helps a lot when it comes time to pack up.

    As for relaxing – a cup of coffee and a book by the camp fire. This is a great list of tips. Especially the comment about a new dog bed. What an innovative idea!

  10. Sleeping in our tent with 2 kids is a challenge for us. Being kicked and elbowed all night makes for crabby parents. We are determined to find a good system this summer.

  11. Both of our children are small (under 3) so camping can get a little crazy, but we always have a great time. One thing I would never go without is our cribbage board and our small propane stove. Nothing like a hot cup of coffee on a cold, beautiful morning in the woods!

  12. We just got back from a week-long 4th of July camping trip to Lake Pearrygin in Winthrop, Wa with our family. With an 18 month old and an almost 4 month old the sleeping and keeping the boys entertained was probably the most difficult part. While we bring what we can to entertain them at the campsite our car is just not big enough to pack the Einstein jumper for our 4 month old. I think having the Kidco Go Pod would be a life saver! What not a better way for the little one to be outside with everyone else in a perfect-for-camping/traveling play seat! What a great idea!

  13. Christopher Sorel

    Just came back from the UP of Michigan and nothing keep the biting flies off of us. Drove us crazy. Deet, natural, tons of bugs sprays tried and none worked.

  14. Rebecca Roland

    I relax while camping wit kids by getting up before them and taking a quick hike. Or enjoy my morning cup of coffee and a book while they sleep.

    We use bar towels while camping for clean up. They do take up a bit of room, but they are rather inexpensive and work VERY well. I WISH I would have had something like the KidCo Go Pod last time we were camping! If someone else wins this one in the giveaway.. I’m going to buy one. I never knew it existed and it would be a life saver for my 18 month old. It’s hard to keep him in one place so I can cook, or even change clothes lol

    We have the hardest time keeping the bugs at bay! I’ve tried so many things, but bug live to eat me and our eldest daughter. They leave my husband, middle child and toddler alone.

  15. The GoPod looks amazing! I could contain my funny-stage toddler or my giant 6 month old! I also like that towel! These tips definitely apply to us at the beach in FL!

  16. Also! The sleeping situation is our biggest obstacle regarding camping! We love the outdoors, but camping with three under three is a bit ominous for now. Our outdoor cleaning supplies at the beach and in the outdoors in general are baby wipes and hand sanitizer.

  17. The one year-old: we would put her in a fleece sleeper, in a down snowsuit–and, if it was really cold, inside a Nano bag– and put her between us. Also, she co-slept with us at home so sleeping next to us in a tent wasn’t very different. We are planning a 5 day backpacking/llama trip with our almost 3 year old and 9 month old. Yeeha!

    (And, you *just* showed up in my reader. Apparently, I’ve missed the last 25 posts. And here I thought you just fell off the face of the earth or something. I guess I should have checked your website!)

    1. AH! So sorry about that google reader! I knew it was broken, but didn’t know how to fix it. Now I have “people” to fix it for me. 🙂 Glad to “see” you again! 🙂

  18. We love camping, but one of our challenges living in Alaska is the length of daylight in the summer and having the kids go to bed and also not wake up too early.

    What we love most about camping is being able to spend quality time as a family and exploring new places!

    1. Oh yes….totally remember that light issue growing up there. We would often play SUPER late into the night and then wonder why we were SO hungry (dinner was at like 9 or later…) BUT, the good news is you can hike later in the night too!

  19. My relaxing time when camping is sitting around the campfire in the evening talking with friends prior to going to bed.

  20. Bug/Kids/Camping … I don’t know the answer either, other than deet seems like the only sure-fire, but is too harsh for wee ones. 🙁 And I hate how ugly/red/swollen bites get on babies and toddlers – so aweful! I’ve been meaning to try all the advanced Avon SSS stuff – sounds promising, really like that they’ve included SPF – that never hurts!

  21. Clean up on the trail? ummm….we usually don’t – lol! Streams and sometimes baby wet wipes, I guess.

    I had never heard of “Action Wipes”, or seen these towels before – they both look like great options! Thanks 🙂

  22. We have never been camping as a family, just as a young, pre-children married couple. We would like to test the waters this fall and would love a good bug spray. Nothing worse than being eaten alive by mosquitos while you sleep.

  23. I have not been camping with children yet, but I imagine have planned activities and plenty of snacks are required!

  24. I have not had to do much on the trail cleaning, but I am sure some wipes are moistened cloth wipes in a wet bag would be nice.

  25. I relaxed around camp when I didn’t have 3 kids, now I run around camp. 🙂 haha. Just kidding. My favorite way to relax is reading a book around the campfire with a gorgeous view to look at and hearing the laughter of my kids playing in the forest.

  26. I’ve never tried the Avon bug products – though not much nned for them in the Colorado Mts. The hammock looks like a great place to rest! If I would ever get a chance!

  27. mmm, I love relaxing with a warm cup of coffee in the morning so I can wake up sooooo slow! later, after a fun day hiking or exploring, I’ll reverse with some hot apple cider or cocoa. 🙂 mmmm, love relaxing outside!

  28. cleaning? good grief–I use my hydration pack when there’s plenty of drinking water. tie it to a tree, wash my hair, and rinse. to wash my body, I use a technique I call swimming! 🙂

  29. Jessica Harvey

    For bugs – we rely on citronella – but now that you mention it – I do remember using Skin So Soft (straight) as a child. We should go back to that because my kids have super sensitive skin.

  30. We haven’t used any of those products, but they look great! We have done a fair amount of camping and backpacking with our kids. They are 3 and 5 now, and great fun to hike and camp with. We have a bike-camping trip coming up this weekend. We’re also kind of starting over, as we have a new baby due in November, so it would be great to have some new tricks up our sleeves. We camp primarily in the spring and fall, in order to avoid the heat and bugs, but the pregnancy has put somewhat of a damper on that this year.

  31. I like to have my husband take the kids off for an adventure, while I set up camp or prepare a meal. Some quiet time is nice; camping can be intense. A friend highly recommended those hammocks recently!

  32. Something that we didn’t expect that we’ve found very useful while camping with kids is a “kitchen sink”. It folds up small enough to take even on a backpacking trip, and we use it for dish washing, and also when necessary for washing small children. It’s great.

  33. Wow, this is very timely, I am about to pack our family for our first camping/road trip of the season! I found you by googling “Camping with kids little potty” haha.

    Love the hammock, I’ve been wanting one like that! We broke down and bought an air mattress for the grownups (and I bet at least one kid will join us at some point, probably 3!) which is kind of posh but also quite relaxing. Ahhh.

    1. HA! Thank you, that made my night. 🙂 I sort of left out the potty pictures I took on this trip for the sake of my son in his later years…..but repellent on the bum was essential! 🙂

  34. As for bug care I have some bug repellant bands with all natural ingredients I picked up at the natural food store, along with some natural-type spray. I also have Deet but hopefully won’t need it for any of us. We are lucky out here in the Pacific Northwest that we have a fairly light bug situation to deal with!

  35. Laura Ellingson

    I love camping and grew up camping – however my husband on the other hand didn’t! So camping with my 3 children and 1 hubby is always an adventure! We always pack more than we need but find that nature entertains everyone so much better! One thing I have always done since the kids were little is place an id in the bottom of their shoe of my cell phone number and our site number. I put this in there and tell them they are to show it to the ranger should they get lost! We are always together but found that the older they get the more they want to explore safely on their own! 2 years ago it worked great for a time when the boys (then 8 and 7) went just up to the bathrooms and back to our site…only the 7 year old came back. The 8 year old found the camp hosts and showed them our secret card in his shoe and came back just as fast! The camp host was so impressed!

  36. Laura Ellingson

    We take turns relaxing when camping on time the hubby takes the kids all on a walk, sometimes I however most of the time taking a walk or hike together is MORE relaxing! I would LOVE to get my hands on the cool hammock! Oh my wouldn’t that be nice even to put the kids in while I am prepping dinner!

  37. Laura Ellingson

    I am not sure why I never thought about the thickness of the towels in the past but when we took the boys to Cub Scout Camp in MN a few weeks ago, it rained then was hot, then rained some more…
    It would have been great to have a thinner towel that would have dried faster for the hot moments for us to use when getting out of the water to dry off. Good news is the camp now has 2 nice towels (that we left there) bad news is I am in need of 2 news ones to add to the camping gear – going to look for these (if I don’t win!)!

  38. Laura Ellingson

    I am really interested in this KidCo pack as my babe is only 19 pounds but a huge walker… Do you think it would keep her contained? I love the idea of using it as a highchair!

  39. It wasn’t too long ago that we were camping with a potty training two year old and 6 month old. I can remember my mantra that I repeated over and over…”This will get better. This will get better.”, and guess what- it totally did. Our now 8, 6 and 4 year olds LOVE our camping trips and the really hard work is done. Now I can relax by the fire with my coffee! I wouldn’t have traded starting early for the way they enjoy the outdoors now. Keep it up!

  40. I relax by trying to always find a site close to a stream. Cooking over a campfire with the sound of a mountain stream – go ahead and TRY to be stressed! 🙂

  41. entry for bugs repellant- mosquitoes love my husband’s and kid’s so much. not so much for me. good for me bad for them
    amramazon280 at yahoo dot com

  42. entry for kidco- i couldnt live without kidco travel pod. small sleeping tent for baby
    amramazon280 at yahoo dot com

  43. Camping and bugs…I try to use all nartural repellents the most. Sometimes theres even bugs when sleeping and I dont want my kids sleeping with the Deet products on.

    I require a good sleeping surface when camping as a family. If mama doesnt get good sleep nobody will be happy. Love air mattresses. I do always take a refridge too when at a campground. Not a fan of everything in ice.

    Relaxing during camping is easy, sometimes its fishing, others times hanging at the beach, and sometimes its reading a book while the kids ridde bikes around the very quiet campground.

    Im a fussy camper and require a few utilities while camping so cleanup is easy with some dishsoap and a bucket, everything stays picked up and clean.

  44. Jessica Harvey

    I also think that a hammock is a must for camping or for anyone’s backyard. When I even think about my hammock, I get relaxed 🙂

  45. I am a Dad to 4 wonderful kids, and have camped all over with them, and just love it when they find interest in picking a new spot or place to visit. It’s great to get the kids involved in the planning and process, of what it takes to head out into the back country and survive for a week or two. I wish more parents would get involved and take there kids Camping/Backpacking.

  46. So we pretty much could use all of the cool things you have here. Bug Spray? Yes! Owen got bug bites last July on a camping trip and after a year of using a heavy duty steroid cream prescribed by a dermatologist they finally went away. Towels/ wipes. Yes! The 4 boys are always dirty when we are camping. Right now we clean the boys with Baby wipes or Johnson and Johnson makes disposable washcloths w/ the soap already in them. The hammock for naps would have been nice on our week long camping trip. Our 6 month old went from awesome sleeper ( 8pm-8am, nursing once at 6am) to only either crying or sleeping and nursing the whole night long. He was literally attached to me through the whole night for 6 nights. Not a fan of camping I guess. The kid play thing would be nice to have another option to keep a little guy safe from the fire or tripping on rocks or tree roots. As for relaxing on a camping trip…. Ha! Not with 4 boys 6 and under! Maybe in a few years we’ll relax :). As for the one thing we can’t live w/o on a camping trip… We pretty much take 1/2 the stuff we own when we go camping so there is no way I could limit it to 1 thing.

  47. Those towels sounds great! theyw oudl come in handy in day bags, tackle bags and the motor home! I recently bought the Avon spray for when you forget your bugspray and have to deal with the itchy bite. I LOVE it!!! Way better than those Bug Pen things that burn when you put them on a bug bite.

  48. My favorite ways to relax while camping… early morning walks, my camp chair and a good book, fresh air naps, listening to my kids explore the campsite. I can not wait to get back out there!

  49. Bugs? They love me. I look diseased half the summer for all the bug bites. My kids seem to have inherited this trait. We need all the help we can get!

  50. Camping as a family before Dinah was never really that big of a challenge. I suppose the biggest challenge was packing the vehicle for a week long camping trip and fitting three of us and a dog as well. With Dinah, I’m sure there are going to be plenty of challenges. Hopefully come the Autumn season, we will get to experience what those challenges will be. I love almost all aspects of camping, except the one bad headache I always seem to get at least one day out of the trip. The one thing I can’t go without is my hatchet for chopping wood.

  51. My relaxing is spent watching the boys play, but that would be even better from a hammock : ) I also prefer the Avon products they seem to do a good job and are not to harsh. Most of our clean up is done with baby wipes. I put the boys together in a large bag for sleeping, they are way more content together.

  52. Jessi Oakland

    we are going on weekend #2 this coming weekend, could have used some of this stuff. The skin so soft is a must, catherine is covered in bites. Hope I did it right this time 😉

  53. Pingback: Family Camping- Camping Kids Love Bedtime | A Little Campy

  54. Pingback: JetBoil Flash and Coffee Press Giveaway | Tales of a Mountain Mama

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