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A Family Camping Guide: How I Learned to Love Camping

Updated on February 28, 2012

How I've learned to SURVIVE family camping

As a very young bride, I had the opportunity to go on an awesome honeymoon. We drove up the East Coast to explore New York City, Niagara Falls, and the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of Upper State New York. On the way to the Big Apple we stopped also stopped in in D.C. Then, once in the New York City we went to Broadway Musicals, restaurants, and Macy's. The Falls were beautiful at Niagara and we ate at a delicious steak restaurant that could give my home state of Texas a run for their money. On the way back down to the Lone Star State, we stopped in Hot Springs Arkansas to relax in spring fed Jacuzzis. Then we strolled in and out of charming antique stores and gift shops. Through out the trip we stayed in hotels and luxurious Bed and Breakfasts. I was pretty much in heaven.

Let's fast forward to a year and a few short months later. Now a family of three, we started to think about our first family vacation. I had visions in my head of the West Coast or maybe making in all the way up the East coast to Maine. These fantasies quickly evaporated when my sweet and loving husband mentioned a word that I recognized, but didn't quite grasp the full meaning of. Camping. Camping to me meant overnight......or for an extended stay, two nights. However, my in-laws had found a great deal on a tent at Sears and now we too had to purchase the same. Together we would all go on a fun filled trip...camping.

This first trip was definitely an adventure. We went to Big Bend National Park and camped, then we drove up to the Davis Mountains State Park. (I bet you thought there were no mountains in Texas. I'll admit I was sceptical.) We even hopped over to Carlsbad Caverns for a not so quick day trip.

Well, on this trip there was the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good things included the weather in Big Bend (perfect), the camp store in Big Bend (awesome), Carlsbad (it's a MUST see), and some of the wildlife that meandered innocently around the two camp grounds. I hate being negative, but let's move unto the bad..... namely the size of our tent (barley big enough to squeeze a queen sized air mattress into), the weather in the Davis Mountains (freezing rain/sleet), and scrubbing dishes over a pooling puddle of mud (not fun). You're wondering about the ugly? That would be the not so innocent looking Havalina, a wild Mexican pig with TUSKS that roams freely in Southwest Texas. I can remember the camp ranger approaching us now, (....cue dream sequence music.)

"Oh, I see you have a baby. Just be sure to keep him close. The Havalina have been known to carry off small children."

I believe the next words out of my mouth had to do with "leaving" and "now" in a very..uh....resonant tone.

I guess I survived and lived to tell the tale though. I also began my mental camping guide check list. It grows every time we have family camp-outs which (because of said list) I have begun to love....nine years later. Its my hope that if you or your loved one struggles with camping-phobia, or if you want to try it with your family, this camping guide will prove somewhat helpful. Let's call it......

MissE's Camping Guide and Must Haves

1. Tent- Being a slight bit claustrophobic, I found I am a much "happier camper" when I can stand up and walk around inside my tent. This is also very helpful should the weather turn not so perfect. I think our tent now is supposed to sleep 10 - 12 adults. We can fit a king sized air mattress, a queen sized air mattress, and we have room to walk around WITH room for our bags. much better.

2. air mattress - OK you die hard campers (I can hear you groaning already) if you are trying to convince someone to try this camping thing, you're going to have to offer some form of luxury. I even bring sheets and blankets and make it up like a real bed.

3. cooking - We cook most of our dinners while we camp, but we have also learned to camp in family friendly camp grounds near a town or city with at least a few restaurants. An occasional night out (even while camping) is a definite mood booster! When we do cook, we have a double burner camp stove. It runs on propane, and you can basically cook what you would cook at home on your stove top.

4. campground - As I mentioned above, we like to find a camping site near a point of interest, where we can have some family fun. We've gone to the McDonald Observatory, Carlsbad Caverns, movies, ice cream parlors, mini golf, arcades, and more as added bonuses to our camping trips.

5. apparel - Now, on my first camping trip I only brought old, ugly clothes which (for me personally) made me very grumpy. I don't walk around in heels, but even when I'm camping I put on enough make up to help me feel feminine, and I wear clothes that are comfy but not frumpy. It just makes me happier. Guys - If your wife, mother, sister, or girlfriend wants to do this... LET HER. It will make everyone feel better in the long run. Nothing ruins camping like a crabby female. Even I'll admit that!


6. dishes and cutlery - I have already alluded to the horrible chore of scrubbing dishes over a puddle under your campsite tap. Not cool! It's great to lighten the dish load by buying paper plates and utensils. Go to the Dollar Store if you're super frugal. Believe me, it's worth it! (See crabby female comment above!)

7. bathrooms - I like to research the bathrooms before I go camping. We get a site that is close to the restrooms and (if it's longer than one night) it must have a shower! Another thing that makes all the difference to me is soap. I have to bring my own hand soap because usually there is none! That just bugs me like nothing else y'all!!!

8. snacks - I mean really, one of the awesome parts of camping is pigging out on yummy snacks! I stock up on the fun stuff I don't always buy at home, and we always have smores!!! That leads me to my next must have...

9. camp fire- Some places do not let you have ground fires and really, that is one of the things that camping is all about. When you're camping, staying up late, eating smores, and popping popcorn over the fire while looking at millions of stars is a must. It just doesn't get better than that!

10. routine - I have a nightly and morning routine. It's nothing special just normal stuff that everyone does everyday. I brush my teeth, take out my contacts, and wash my face. NO ONE messes with the routine. It is yet another thing that makes me feel like I am enjoying nature, not becoming a gnarly part of it.

This is the camping guide that keep me sane, and I have really come to love it. I sometimes wonder why more families don't give it a shot. It's fun and definitely affordable. Now, some of you may like to strap a pack on your back with some trail mix and a sling shot then go hike survival style out into the wild. Happy trails! I'm going to stick with my camping guide!


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    • MissE profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for your comment! I hope she has a great experience! Camping can be tons of fun when you learn what works for you. :)

    • livewithrichard profile image

      Richard Bivins 

      9 years ago from Charleston, SC

      MissE this is a great recall of your camping experience and great tips for beginners. I've been camping since I was a kid but my fiance has never been. We had too much going on this year but we're planning on an early spring camping trip to one of my favorite camping destinations, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge TN. I'll have to remember your tips to keep her happy on her first camping experience.

      Thanks for the hub.


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