Camping Trips!

Explain to me like I am 5 and have never been outside what I need to know about going camping. Since this is parenting thread, please make this toddler edition. We are located in northeast US and the hope is that we make a late summer/early fall weekend trip.

What gear do I absolutely need? What would make life easier?
What should I look for in a park/camping site?
What discomforts/dangers do I need to watch out for?
Is this a terrible fucking idea?


Tent or RV camping? Some people even use camping to mean staying in a cabin. What kind of camping are you planning?


Tent camping!

So far, we are going to start with backyard camping and then work our way up to things to help prep our toddler. :slight_smile:


I can’t speak to RVing and I guess I have never taken kids camping but I also think people are more scared than they have to be.


  • Start with developed campground with picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, water spigots. Avoid pit toilets. for federal lands and your state parks website are good resources for research and booking A Spot.
  • Start somewhere you can bail out VERY fast (30 mins from home or a motel). Have a backup plan.
  • Procure gear (buy, borrow or steal… I mean rent!) Set up and try out all your gear at home first. Backyard campout if possible, do your best if not.
  • Check the weather forecast and bring spare warm clothes. Have a plan for rain (eg hiding in the tent if short showers, or bailing out).

Gear: call your nearest REI store to see what they rent!

  • Tent: You want one that sleeps 4, probably.
  • Sleeping pads or air mattress: keeps you off the ground and WARM. And it’s softer obviously.
  • Sleeping bags OR sheets and blankets are OK too. Some kind of bedding. In fall it will probably get colder at night than at home.
  • Cooking/kitchen: you can shortcut this by getting a pizza if you aren’t too far out. If you do want to cook, I recommend a camp stove. Everything else (pots, pans, dishes, utensils can be selected from home). Don’t plan elaborate meals to start (eg Mac and Cheese is fine), and have lots of snacks.
  • Kitchen 2: a paper or vinyl tablecloth and a lantern really make a picnic table home. Highly recommend this upgrade even for pizza. It will be destroyed so don’t bring one you treasure.
  • Misc: flashlights/lanterns, matches, pocket knife, paracord/cord. All come in useful unexpectedly.
  • Recommend: camp chairs or beach chairs.

Obviously you need clothes (bring extra changes and layers!), toiletries, towels/swim gear, etc as for any trip, depending what’s available in your area


  • go for a walk/hike, look at bugs, birds
  • play with sticks, rocks
  • play in a creek
  • hang at a lake/beach
  • picnic away from campsite
  • bike or scooter if campground has nice roads
  • read
  • bring washable toys (action figures, not plushies)

Specifics of going with a kiddo: chances are one person will have to watch him while the other does camp tasks. Avoid gear/tasks that requires 2 people for more than 37 seconds.


This is an excellent plan. For backyard camping I think you just need a tent, and bedding (pads or mattress recommended), and flashlights. I would definitely see what you can rent and try out.

OH! If you don’t have one, get a nice big portable battery pack/charger for your phone. Put it on airplane mode to save battery and use as an alarm and camera :grin:


Thank you for the help galliver! This is perfect. I was looking at all the camping gear stuff and getting very overwhelmed. We have a small two-person tent right now, but no sleeping pads, so might invest in that soon.


Oooh thanks for starting this thread. I’ve camped before but never been the one planning it, and Duckling of course very much wants to try it.

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wanna come camp in NE us?

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:joy:. It’s a little further from home than we’re comfortable with


Toys! We found that medium sized trucks and shovels were enjoyed when my boys were small. Not dinky cars, they get lost on the site, but like sandbox sized toys?

A clothesline. There will always be wet things.

An emergency sleeping bag in case of a wet bed.

Some kind of dining shelter or tarp, for shelter on rainy days and shade on sunny days. Nothing sucks more than being stuck in the tent.

We are small tent people, but that’s because we are back country campers now that the kids are bigger. Most people like a ten they can stand up in, that was never important to us and bigger tents are colder of the weather is cool.


2 person might be a squish with a kiddo, but you can def try it in the backyard and see how goes!

A lot of the camping gear makes camping easier and more comfortable or more compact, but you don’t NEED it. We have a set of pots and dishes, because we go often enough I like having a separate, compact set just for that.

I think the best way to decide what you need is to imagine your day camping (we need to sit we need to eat, we need to wash up, we need to sleep) and think what you need to do that outside. And then doing the backyard test run you can be like “oops, I need a lighter” get it from the kitchen and add it to the" dont forget" list.

ETA: we still forget things! My mom and I went backpacking for 5 days 3 years ago and forgot FORKS. I ended up asking around the campground our first night and someone gave us disposables… They were down to 2 teeth each by meal 10 :rofl::sweat_smile: It’s part of the adventure.

Photos from backcountry


Do you have a Pack and Play? When our kids were tiny that was always the first thing we set up, and then we could mess with the tent.

Do you have an air mattress? You can use that instead of pads/sleeping bags.

I think state parks are usually nicer than national parks in terms of facilities, but read the descriptions carefully. I demand showers.

If the campground is in any way not close to a store, take all the food you’ll want. In our recent trip, it turned out to be a 90 minute drive to anything resembling a full service grocery store.


We make do with baby wipes and dry shampoo. I’ve also bathed in a steam and washed hair from a pot! But these are advanced skills :grimacing:

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In the Olden Days, I was more rugged. There was backpacking. Those days are gone for me. We are even pondering buying a tiny trailer.

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I love camping but haven’t attempted it yet with kids. It all seems a lot. Too much? Like take your usual bedtime battles then transpose them to a tent, the hard ground or a crappy air mattress, hot/cold, noisy etc.

I know others do it and love it but that’s a no from me dawg. I’d recommend a cabin or some such equivalent near nice nature.

I have all the camping gear but it hasn’t gone past the front yard.


Who knows, maybe I’ll be sending you selfies if my great backyard adventure and calling myself some kind of wilderness expert.

Or you’ll all hear about that lady somewhere in new england who was devoured by a hoard of turkeys in her own backyard.


If your tent has an optional waterproof tarp to go on top of it— always put it on. There’s nothing worse than a surprise rain shower and coming back to find all your blankets wet. Also, if it’s a campground with shared showers, bring shower shoes so you don’t have to barefoot it on campsite shower floor. Easy to slip on/slip off shoes are also great for nighttime errands or just getting in/out of the tent quick. Flashlights are also important.


Oh we are contemplating this with Puglet as well. Planning to do backyard camping first. Being from the same area I can tell you I liked camping at mount monadnock and I was recently at pawtuckaway state park which had a nice beach and play ground area. Having a small child I would definitely need a place with a play ground. Also it will get colder at night than you think. Pack winter hats and warm clothes for sleeping. I have a big flashlight that turns into a lantern that’s amazing. It gets sooo dark in the woods. When you pick a place study the campsite map to get a good spot. Whatever that may mean for you, I like being kind of close to the bathroom so I don’t have to walk to far in the middle of the night.


All of these suggestions are solid gold and I thank you all :heart: