There's no doubt about it, camping is hard work. Organizing gear, getting a reservation, preparing food for several days ahead, packing the car, and making sure there is enough to do to entertain the whole family—it can overwhelm. But it's worth it! You're guaranteed to make lasting family memories, enjoy lots of laughs with the family, and get plenty of outdoor time for the kids.
To help you get out under the stars, we've put together some tips for camping with the family and a checklist of what to take.
First, get a camping date on your calendar. Campgrounds can fill up quickly so plan ahead to get a spot. And try to leave early in the day on Friday (or head out during the work week) to avoid commuter traffic and have a better chance of setting up camp before it gets dark.
Invite friends. Camping with kids alone is great. But camping with another family or bringing your kids' friends along helps keep everyone happy and occupied.
Prepare the gear. Use the camping checklist from REI to make sure you take what you need, but not much more. Check the tent, stove, matches/lighters, and lanterns beforehand for damage and working condition. If you forget anything, our local friends at Mahoney's Outfitters, just 30 minutes away in Johnson City, will be happy to hook you up.
Bring campfire goodies. Sweet s'more ingredients plus an acoustic guitar by the bonfire - can it get any better? We have local pre-chopped firewood available and you can pick-your-own kindling in the national forest (anything already down and on the ground is fair game), but we discourage bringing in firewood from outside the area.
Prepare the food. The checklist doesn't include food—you'll have to create that yourself. Here's a tip: Write down what you plan to eat for each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner.) Then prepare what you can at home—marinate the meats, cut the vegetables, wrap the potatoes in foil. You'll be thankful once you get to camp. Grocery stores are nearby, but limited on specialty items.
When you pack the cooler, set out the foods meal by meal, thinking about how you'll serve each meal so you don't forget condiments and necessary utensils, can opener, etc.