The idea of camping with the family sounds great: unplugging, setting up camp, and exploring nature. But first comes the part where you must organize, pack, and prepare for time in the great outdoors with the kids in tow. It can be an overwhelming prospect. To help get you more organized, we asked two Colorado camping experts, Heather Balogh Rochfort, founder of the Just A Colorado Gal blog and author of Backpacking 101 (Simon & Schuster, 2017), and Helen Olsson, author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids (Roost Books, 2012), for their best camping-with-kids hacks.
- Pack everything for your kids in clear dry bags, similar to the kind you would take paddling, suggests Rochfort. It will make it easier to find all of their stuff. It also means you don’t have to worry about the bags getting left out in the rain or around water since they’ll keep everything dry.
- Use a shoe organizer to stash all the kitchen and food supplies. When you are ready to prep meals, unroll it and hang it from your cook tent or awning so everything is easily accessible, says Rochfort.
- Bring homemade fire starters so you don’t have to worry about getting a fire going while a kid is screaming for s’mores, suggests Rochfort. Grab some dryer lint, rub petroleum jelly all over it, and pack it into an empty toilet-paper or paper-towel roll. It makes the best-ever fire starter, and it’s pretty darn cheap.
- If you’re planning to make scrambled eggs in camp, don’t stuff the cardboard container of eggs into your cooler, says Olsson. The carton is sure to get soggy, and the eggs are sure to get crushed. Instead, crack eggs into a sturdy water bottle before your trip, add a little salt and pepper, shake, and you’re ready go.
- If you’re in the middle of potty training, pack along a potty chair to avoid multiple trips to the porta potty or bathroom, Olsson recommends. For all other ages (adults included), pack flip-flops for bathroom trips. They’re terrible for hiking, but supremely helpful when you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you don’t want to fumble with tying laces.
- Pack a plastic or canvas grocery bag, a cotton laundry bag, or a taffeta bag with a drawstring to stuff dirty laundry as you camp, says Olsson. It keeps the dirty laundry separate from the clean clothes.