Family Camping for Beginners
- by Felicia Wong
Are you interested in camping, but worried about “roughing it”, and being uncomfortable? Have you thought about camping with kids, but then get overwhelmed at the thought of all the preparation it can take to go on a camping trip?
I’m writing this post for those who have never camped before, or who might be hesitant to try again - for this or that reason. I recognize that there are many individuals and families who are seasoned campers in the Turtle Fur community, but for this blog post I’m sharing how my family made the transition from hotel/vacation rentals to glamping to tent camping and even backpacking!
Growing up in New England raised by immigrant Chinese parents, my exposure to camping was fairly limited during childhood. My parents brought my brother and me tent camping a couple of times when we were little. That abruptly stopped after we were caught, unprepared, in torrential downpour which soaked our tent, us and our belongings. It was so cold and uncomfortable that my parents packed us up and we drove home that night.
Nearly three decades later I decided to give camping another go. I figured glamping was a good way to ease back in, and I planned a trip with my husband, toddler, 3-month-old infant, and my parents. We stayed in one of the cabins at El Capitan Canyon, where we had access to potable water, electricity, flush toilet, and a shower! We grilled tri tip over an open flame and enjoyed S’mores and hot chocolate around the campfire. We not only survived this wilderness experience, but we also had a great time.
We have since continued to enjoy glamping as a way to enjoy the outdoors but still have many amenities available to us. Over the years, we have stayed at The Holidays in San Clemente, Under Canvas in Zion and Grand Canyon, the Getaway House Big Bear and Huttopia Paradise Springs. I’m looking forward to heading to Autocamp Russian River Valley later this fall.
5 years ago, after a few glamping trips, we decided we were ready for our family’s inaugural tent camping trip. We researched and purchased our tent and other camp essentials. We booked an ocean view campsite at the Crystal Cove Moro Campground, 20 minutes from home. We braced ourselves and managed our expectations. I figured, if anything were to go wrong, it was just one night, and we could even go home early if we had to. When morning came we didn’t want to leave!
Fast forward to 2020-2021. We have done a LOT of camping during the pandemic, as it is a great way to get away safely, bond with family, and enjoy nature. We tried car camping - sleeping in the back of our VW atlas, as well as went on our first backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras.
We’ve become camping / glamping enthusiasts and it's one our family’s favorite activities to do together. We have encouraged and convinced several other friends and families to join us over the years. We hope this post inspires some more people to give camping a try as well!
Tips to get started camping
1. Try glamping first
If you’ve never camped before and/or do not own any camping gear, try easing into the camping experience with glamping. There are many great options available these days throughout the United States. We have had wonderful experiences with smaller local options, as well as with larger companies like Under Canvas, Getaway House, Autocamp and Huttopia, which have several locations throughout the country.
2. Figure out what gear you'll need
It’s important to prepare and worthwhile to invest in the gear that you need to be comfortable. For some, this means a tarp and sleeping bag. For others, it means packing an air mattress. There is no right or wrong way to camp. I’ve shared our camping setup here. Figure out and do what works for you!
3. Research booking times and book early
Campsites with views (i.e., those near beaches, or in national or state parks) tend to be in high demand. Research the booking window, and make sure you are ready to book when those dates open (for many places, it can be 6 months to 1 year out). Yes, you read correctly, it’s already time to start thinking about making camping reservations for Summer 2022!
4. Book your first trip close to home or amenities
If possible, it might be a good idea to try booking your first tent camping trip close to home, and/ or close to some amenities and civilization. This will reduce your “what if I forgot this, what will I eat, or what if the baby can’t sleep in the tent?” anxiety. We’ve never actually gone home to get anything while camping, but it is reassuring to know that we could, especially when our kids were infant/ toddlers.
5. Grab some takeout for the first night!
Don’t feel the need to “do it all”. While we enjoy camp cooking, we’ve found it much less stressful to bring take out on the first night so we can focus on setting up camp and don’t have to cook in the dark. When camping near civilization, and especially if we’re camping with a group of other families, it’s nice to order pizza for one of the meals.
There is no right or wrong way to camp. There is no right or wrong way to be outdoorsy. What’s important is that you give it a try if you’re interested! If you’re comfortable and prepared, you’ll enjoy it more. Happy Camping!
Looking for more camping tips? Check out my blog post on family camping for beginners.