Is all your family camping gear ready? If not, read on because I am putting together a short primer to get you ready. Okay, you chose the civilized route of car camping, not going on a jungle safari, so let's be smart with your family camping gear. The less stuff that you bring, the easier that your trip will be. On the other hand, you do need the basic creature comforts, so let's get going.
I like to start with sleeping accommodations. Just because you are not staying in a hotel does not mean that you have to give up comfort. In fact, I sleep better camping than I ever do in a hotel because of my comfortable equipment. It's true that we sleep better in our own beds than a hotel bed.
I like to start with the family camping tent. A tent in it's basic form must not be heavy. It needs to be easy to put up with just 1 person, and it must be water proof. This is not rocket science. I always prefer a 3 season tent because they meet all the requirements that I just listed. Unless you plan on climbing Kilimanjaro, stay away from technical expedition equipment. For my family camping gear, I prefer the basic dome style tents offered by Eureka, REI, and other high quality manufactures. They are large enough that you do not claustrophobic!
Since we are talking about sleeping, I always use either a self inflating type of sleeping pad such as the Therm-A-Rest or an inflatable air mattress. Both are super comfortable. Do not try to be a John Wayne type and sleep on the ground because you will never be comfortable. I carry an electric air mattress pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter. It will pump up the mattress in a few minutes. The Therm-A-Rest's are self inflating and require no pump. They are luxurious!
Choosing the right sleeping bag for you is really a matter of personal choice. I shy away from the heavy cotton / flannel bags of the 1960's. I like a nice light weight rectangular down bag for comfort and compactness. In 40 years of camping I have never slept in a wet bag, so do not get me started about synthetic bags being warmer when wet. Just do not sleep outside in the rain! Just remember that you will be spending 30% of your camping trip in your sleeping bag. Get a good one. My all time favorite bag is the down bag sold at LL Bean. It will last you for the rest of your life and it's guaranteed to do just that!
Okay, we got the sleeping stuff all covered. What about all the other family camping gear? Try to think in terms of comfort and ease of accessibility. We store most of our gear in see through plastic storage boxes. All of dry food goes in 1 box, utensils in another box. I keep flashlights, rope, pumps, hatchet, and other utility stuff in 1 box. The boxes can be pulled out almost instantly when ever you need them and you do not have be digging around to find your stuff! The family camping gear that you will be bring will be unique to your family. Be basic!
Your camping kitchen is an area that is as important as your sleeping equipment. We all love to eat and will be spending hours making delicious gourmet camping meals. I like pots and pans that can fit inside of each other. We bring a large pressure cooker that doubles as our pots and pans storage. It can cook almost as fast as microwave too. If you like soups and cowboy chili, this is an item that is a must! Our wok is our secret weapon for cooking gourmet meals. It works as a frying pan, soup pot, and toaster. We cook all of our meals on a 2 burner Coleman stove and a 1 burner MSR Simmerlite. Both burn white gas and unleaded fuel. Smart's!
When it comes to clothing, we travel light. We all wear super light weight camping pants that can be washed and worn immediately because they air dry on your body in less than 10 minutes. We only bring a few t-shirts, a couple pairs of socks, and a down jacket to stay warm in at night. Down again? Yep! It's light weight, warm, but never hot, and is so compact. Remember that you are camping and not in a style show. You can wash clothes every day if you have to either by hand or at a laundry mat.
Thinks smart when choosing your camping gear. Bring only what you will use. If you forgot something, you can always purchase it on the road. I could write a book about family camping gear and will do so this winter. I have a lot resources that you can check out below. Many are free. Feel to contact me with any questions via the links below.