How to Plan Your Family Camping Trips


Family camping trips are some of the greatest times ever for a family to experience.  As a young boy growing up in Minnesota, some of my best memories were the simple camping trips sleeping in a canvass tent at primitive state parks.  As our family progressed to more modern methods such as a camping trailer and RV, it became more of a chore.  We carried more junk.  The set up seemed to take forever.  We spent more time looking for things that were packed so far out of reach.

I try to make our family camping trips as simple as possible.  We pack everything into our small Subaru station wagon.  I have a Thule cargo carrier for the roof.  Everything is totally organized. 

I start my planning by developing a simple list of must have items:

Sleeping bags
Air mattresses
Camp stove
Camp lantern
Basic cook kit
Pressure cooker
Hot mitts/pot holders
Basic eating utensils
Plates, bowls, cups
Toilet paper
5 gallon water jug
Wash basin
Manual coffee grinder
Coffee drip cones and or French presses
Large insulated cooler

The more stuff that you take, the more of a hassle the trip becomes.  Keep it simple.


Every item that we carry is stored in rectangular Sterilite plastic storage boxes.  We pack 4 of them into the back of our station wagon.  It makes it so easy to set up camp.  We just pull the storage boxes out and grab what we need when we need them.  At night, we place them securely in the back of our station wagon.  All of our sleeping gear goes in the cargo box on the roof.

Cooking Kit

Our cooking kit is our pressure cooker.  We store our bowls, utensils, cups, and anything that is loose inside the pressure cooker.  Pressure cookers are awesome for car camping because things like beans and rice can be cooked extremely fast.  My wife adds a gourmet Kitchen wok for all stir fry delicacies.


You don’t need special camping food.  We tend to eat about the same way that we eat at home.  We buy lots of fresh fruits and veggies at local markets.  We bring a various assortment of whole grain pastas, dried beans, brown rice, and our famous super porridge breakfast grains.  My wife calls this our pantry.  We have sea salt, whole pepper corns, soy sauce, hot sauce, and lots of our favorite things that we may not be able to buy on the road.

Cooler For Perishables

My wife found this great Coleman 70 quart cooler that keeps food cold for up to 4 days (honest!).  We buy fresh chicken, fish, beef, fruits, and vegetables on the road and store them in the cooler with a block of ice or dried ice.

When you have the right equipment, your family camping trips will be so much more enjoyable!

However, even if you have the greatest equipment available, your trip will not be fun if you don’t plan on doing things that your family enjoys.  The trip is not a race!  Take your time and slow down.

We have 2 young boys.  We bring bug catchers for them to play with.  My wife packs lots of small toys and books for them.  They watch DVD’s when we are traveling for extended periods of time.  We do all the junior ranger program for our boys.  They love them!  I take them for moon walks at night.  Even if there is not a full moon, the boys want the adventure of walking at night with flashlights.

We like to stay at each campground for at least 2 days.  It makes the experience fantastic when you are not setting up camp every day.  We bring some light weight lounge chairs for my wife and me.  Just kicking back, drinking coffee, and reading books is good enough entertainment for us.

Camping for our family is a time bonding and resting from the normal day to day routines at home.  This summer we will be going on a 3 week family camping trip to northern California and the Oregon coast.


We tend to favor the primitive National Forest, National Park, and State Park campgrounds.  They offer great value for the money.  Some even have showers!

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