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Camping With Kids – Part 1 – Where to Start?

Camping With Kids – Part 1 – Where to Start?
Written by
Guest Author

So here's the deal. The school holidays are looming. The kids will drive you crazy. You can't afford to go on holiday. You can't remember the last time you went on holiday. Was it before the kids? It might have been before you were married. There was always something else going on, but now there's nothing else going on and you need to do something. 

You'd like nothing more than to chill on the beach sipping cocktails but there's no way that is going to happen. Then your eldest came home from school saying Billy and his sister are going camping at the weekend and it's like the time they wanted a rabbit. Maybe it's not such a bad idea but you don't know the first thing about it.  Maybe you could go with them?

The rules of camping

1. Kids love camping.

That's it. That's all you need to know. Get them out in to the fresh air, away from the TV, the internet, the Xbox... Camping is also a great social pastime. Let the kids blow off steam while you relax with old friends or friends newly made.

Where to start?  What do I need?

Here is the first lesson - don't blow a fortune getting your first set up.  Camping is great fun but it’s not for everyone.  First of all check your friends & family to see if you can borrow some kit.  If you can't borrow what you need, eBay is full of shattered dreams and opportunities for you to score some great stuff at bargain prices.

Shopping or borrowing list:



Mummy bear sized*. Not too small and not too big.  How many of you?  You need enough room in the sleeping bit to take all the airbeds.  Anything free is good.


Sleeping bags

1 each. They have a season rating; make sure you will be warm enough.

Top tip: take your own bedding-  sheets and duvet



Essential for a good night's sleep. If your kids are small, can they share a double which takes up less room than 2 singles? Take proper pillows or use a rolled up coat.



To blow up the airbeds.  The ones that run off the cigarette lighter in the car are great.


Folding Chairs

Something to sit on.


Folding Table

Mummy bear sized again.  The plastic type that combine table and chairs are OK but best to keep them separate if anyone is generously proportioned.



You can live on butties but you need a cup of tea for sure. The little single burners that come in a mini case are perfect. Don't forget the gas.


Rubber Mallet

You need this to bang in the tent pegs.



Not intended in a gender specific way simply that this is the one that is just right and that depends on you and what you are comfortable with.  Too small and you won't all fit in.  Too big and you won't fit anything else in the car.

Don't I need anything else?

Yes you do but you've probably got it already.  Pots and pans, cutlery, crockery, mugs, etc.; they can all come out of the kitchen.  Yes you can buy special camping gear but let's wait until you are hooked or there could be more stuff on eBay.  I much prefer proper plates to that plastic crockery that isn't unbreakable and is impossible to clean after a few uses.  Even worse is the old boy scout style enameled metal - burnt legs and scalded lips are guaranteed.

Towels, tea towels, dishcloth, washing up bowl, washing up liquid and wet wipes

And that's it.  All you need for a first foray into the wilderness

Don't forget!

  • Corkscrew - yes most wine seems to have screw tops these days but when you need one you need one!

  • Bottle opener - likely to be combined with the corkscrew.

  • Tin opener.

  • Matches, torches and spare batteries.

  • Indoor games: cards, colouring book, a board game.  It rains occasionally.

  • A good book.

  • Your clothes.

  • Toilet bag.

  • Toilet paper – just in case.

Recommended but not essential:

  • Picnic blankets.

  • outdoor games: bat & ball, frisbee, etc. Kids could just as easily play with a few sticks, hide and seek, cowboys and indians or whatever the PC equivalent is these days.

  • Cool box. Fill it with a bag of ice to keep your butter, bacon, beer or wine chilled.  Wrapping in a damp tea towel is also effective.

  • A bucket; fire extinguisher, washing up bowl and emergency toilet in one.

  • Wellies!

Don’t bother with:

Pyramid toaster.  They don't. Looks neat and because it’s cheap it seems like a bargain. It’s worth every penny.

Collapsible water container - they leak and spill.  The 5 litre spring water bottles you get in the supermarket are cheaper, more effective and come with free water.   Of course you can fill the kettle straight from the tap


Don’t be too ambitious for your first time out. A loaf of bread or two, tins of ham, eggs, ketchup, beans, tuna, tinned spuds & veg. Tins are your friend – you don’t need to keep them cool. Corned beef is good for a chuck-it-all-in stew but messy for butties unless it’s chilled. Tea, coffee, long-life milk, sugar… This will see through a weekend.

What do I put it all in?

The big stuff goes straight into the car. The smaller bits can be packed into smaller boxes or bags. Shoe boxes are good. It’s a good idea to put the tent in last if you can because it needs to come out first!

You've got it all into the car.  There is still room for the kids.  Now where shall we go? 

Written by Arnold Rimmer, Arnold is the divorced father of a DS addict son. His mission is to prove that there are alternatives in life to Super Mario.  Look out for Camping with Kids Part 2.

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