Camping With Multiples
Updated: Jun 27
In the June 2021 Chat ‘N Sip we asked members to share their best camping advice for families with multiples. These were the results!
Watch this space for more answers and updates; and feel free to make use of the comments section to ask your own questions. Happy camping POM’s!
Q. Are there any tips on getting reservations? It seems like you need to reserve well in advance. How do you choose campsites?
It’s hard to get reservations at the last minute. Aiming for a couple of months in advance, looking for weeknights (or single night Fridays) will often turn up more results. Also, there are a lot of wonderful lesser-known campsites and state parks to explore, so don’t be put off if you can’t get a spot at Yosemite. As usual, trusted parenting websites are a great resource for choosing your campsite in advance, and you can even use Google Maps (satellite mode) to look closely at your chosen campground to work out which spots have trees nearby for your sunsail. Start browsing websites like HipCamp to get your trip ideas rolling. Reserve California is also great for local bookings.
Q. What about BEARS?
Luckily in Southern California you’re unlikely to come across bears. However, if camping in Northern California (or elsewhere) you should check your campground in advance for advice on where to store your food; and whether bear-proof storage lockers are provided onsite. Do your research too; bears are smart - and covering up your ice chests and car seats (they know about all those tasty crumbs) are among some of the necessary tips for avoiding bears breaking into your car. Knowledge on the subject will be your biggest comfort (and you can always talk it through with a park ranger).
Q. How do you keep the kids warm overnight?
It’s best to be over-prepared for dealing with the cold. As a last resort, the kids can always crawl into your sleeping bags with you for body heat - but it’s going to be a tight fit. You can invest in a ‘woolino’ sleep sack, thermal/fleece pajamas, find sleeping bags rated down to 20°, and bring an extra down blanket to lay on top (just in case). You can also get adhesive body warmers (e.g. “HotHands”) which last up to 12 hours, and can be kept inside socks or between layers. One general rule is that the more space you have between your body and the ground, the better for keeping warm (e.g. add a foam layer underneath you). Do some research on the area you’re staying too - to avoid surprises (e.g. coastal sites can get much colder overnight). On the flip side; if you’re camping during a heatwave - you can keep your wet rash guards/swimsuits on to get you through the heat of the day (or just wear a cotton t-shirt and keep it wet).
Q. When is a good time to do your first big camping trip (e.g. more challenging/off trail location)?
If you’re considering off trail camping with your kids, it’s probably best to wait until they are capable of doing some hiking themselves. Even then, you’re probably not going to want to push them to go too far. Start off with mini-camping trips (the drive-up kind) and then move on to more challenging trips in stages once they’re comfortable with the format. Remember this is something totally new to them - and a simple camping trip will still be really exciting. You can gather advice and inspiration from other camping families online (e.g. Outdoor Boys), local blogs and by following subreddits on the topic as you get more adventurous. You can also look into hike-in resorts such as Sturtevant Camp in the San Gabriel Mountains before you commit to really going off-trail.
"We’ve tried to set expectations really low for the hikes and camping; then set them even lower after that, meaning we claim little victories like getting out of the house within 1.5 hrs of our target; successfully pitching the tent; getting the fire started—and marked all of these with the kiddos as if they were the most awesome thing since sliced bread!"
WLAPOM member Ana Martinez
Things To Get:
A 2-person pop-up tent (or larger). Costco often has great family tents.
A sun-sail/canopy to create shade during midday sun.
Two camp chairs.
Fire pit (“No fire, no fun!”).
Propane stove (e.g. Jetboil).
Sleeping bags for the kids (appropriately sized).
Practice your camping in advance; either in your yard or in your living room. The kids will love the tent - and it won’t be unfamiliar to them when you take it on your trip.
When preparing for the trip; sell the adventure to the kids. Maybe you think it will be a chance to relax, but that’s the last thing the kids will want to do.
Wether hiking or not; book a drive-up campground for your first trip. Running water and toilets are VERY useful for camping with young kids.
If your goal is to hike and camp with the kids; slowly inch your way out. Start out with just some short day hikes; then try some drives out and sleep in a hotel and take a short hike. Then you can transition to hiking with a tent (at a site with water and electricity) and it won't be too much of a shock.
Creating a Google Doc with a checklist for packing is going to help you remember everything, and you can update/improve on it each time you go (“we forgot the ketchup!”).
Call the park ranger in advance to get tips about your campsite, or make contact with them as soon as you arrive.
"We’ve slowly inched toward camping with them, meaning
we started out with short day hikes at Kenneth Hahn and
Topanga Canyon; then we did a couple of drives out toward
Chino Hills and the like, slept in hotels then went for short
hikes, before trying to hike with a tent (at an RV site with
water and electricity)."
WLAPOM Member Ana Martinez
Now is not the time to push your culinary skills; choose hot dogs, quesadillas, fruit, veggies, snacks, treats, juice boxes.
If you are cooking; serve food in stages to allow you time to prepare the next item (i.e. don’t worry about presenting everything at once).
You don’t need any fancy camping pots/pans; just bring some old ones from your cupboard (all metal) and accept the fact that they’ll get dirty.
If you have a small cast-iron pot/pan (and don’t mind it getting dirty), those can go directly into your fire for cooking.
Camping with friends/family is always easier - as you’ll have extra help and company.
Keep trips short (e.g. single nights) until all your kids are out of diapers.
Consider getting two tents (if possible) with one adult and one kid per tent. This helps with calming down at bedtime (instead of having two kids getting hyperactive together).
Pack your car the night before your trip.
Use a furniture dolly/cart to transport everything to/from your vehicle.
Make a meal plan and pack MORE than they usually eat.
Use that old foam ‘puzzle’ flooring as your camping mat.
Use adhesive velcro to help anchor your kids sleeping bags to the foam matting.
If you want to avoid bringing a pack-n-play for younger kids to sleep in, you can consider inflating the outer ring of a small kiddie pool (like the one from your yard!) to keep them from rolling around. This works for inside larger (5 person) tents.
Having standing room for getting changed inside your tent is a real bonus (i.e. don’t get a tiny tent).
Getting your kids to “help” will keep them under control while you set-up camp, or cook (they can collect sticks for the fire, etc).
Establish basic rules for the kids to follow (e.g. Don’t get close to the fire; Stay in sight; Don’t run into the road) and relax some other rules (e.g. let them have a later bedtime).
Perform body checks at the end of each day to check for ticks, and be prepared to remove them (with tweezers/tick removal tool).
Take a telescope and enjoy the stars…..
Clouds Rest (Yosemite).
Table Mountain usually has availability (avoid the 100’s ring).
"Carpinteria is the best campground ever! I took my twins camping when they were only 23 months old. Still our favorite!"
WLAPOM Member Gina Rapo