Summer is just around the corner, which is the perfect time to get out into the great outdoors! I love to camp with my family, but having the right gear does make the trip easier and the campers happier.
Your gear will undoubtedly vary a bit based on the type of camping you’re doing (car, tent, van, open air), the age of your children and the conditions you tend to camp in (summer sun, spring winds, fall chill, winter snow), but here are a few of my family’s must-have camping gear for kids.
No one likes being cold at night and if you have young kids, it can keep parents up wondering if their little one is warm enough. Ensure your kids are as snug as a bug in the Kelty Big Dipper 30 Sleeping Bag for Boys and the Kelty Big Dinner 30 Sleeping Bag for Girls ($80 each). This sleeping bag packs-down small, weighs just 3 lbs., and is rated down to 30-degrees Fahrenheit. But, here’s why it’s one of my favorites — this sleeping bag grows with your child! As your child gets taller, you can unzip the bottom of the sleeping bag to reveal an additional 12-inches of foot space! So smart! The price is an investment, but my son has used this sleeping bag since he was 3-years-old and he’s now 8-years-old with still more space to grow into it.
Keep it light
The best light is campfire light, but that doesn’t always extend all the way to the path to the bath(room). To keep your kids safe (and easy to see at night), outfit them with a kid-sized headlamp like the new Gizmo Headlamp ($20) from Black Diamond. This headlamp has an impressive 60-Lumens and three functions (full strength, dimmed and strobe), is reasonably priced, and best of all, powers-off after two-hours if it’s accidentally been left on, which if your kids are using it, most likely will happen at some point.
It’s never too early to train your kids to carry their own stuff. We’ve become big fans of the Deuter backpacks. My kids all started out the Deuter Junior ($39), a lightweight 1,100-in³ pack that my kids carried from the age of 4+ (also a great backpack for preschool and kindy!). If you want something even smaller, Deuter offers both the Schmusebär ($39) and the Kikki ($45). Once kids are ready for bigger explorations and maybe some overnight backpacking trips, they can move up to the Climber, Fox 30 or Fox 40, which are kid-sized while still providing the support, features and durability you’ll find on Deuter’s adult packs, like back adjustments, compression straps, sternum straps and hydration compartments.
Speaking of hydration, kids expend a lot of energy — my kids seemingly do all the time, but even more so when they’re rock-hopping, squirrel-chasing and stick-finding out in nature. Fortunately, we can keep our kids hydrated — even on the go — with Camelbak hydration packs. Choose the lightweight Skeeter ($40) for hydration only or the upgraded Trailblazer 15 ($75) which is designed to fit kids ages 9 to 13 and comes with both a 1.5-L hydration bladder and backpack storage for long-sleeves and snacks. Camelbak also has other packs designed for different activities and conditions.
Fun food tools
For my kids, camping allows for lots of special opportunities — past-bedtime star-gazing and knife-carving on found sticks to name a couple — but many of these special moments also seems to center around food. When camping with kids, I love having a few special kid-suitable cooking and eating tools that help create those special moments. First up is a good cup that is suitable for hot chocolate on a crisp morning, milk and cookies after dinner, or even a rare ice cream float. Before you buy the first fancy cup you see at REI, keep in mind these important rules: The cup must be stackable and easy to wash, as well as ideally insulated and multi-function. I love these Stanley eCycle Infinite Mug/Bowl Set ($10), which are stackable, lidded and can be used for hot chocolate, juice, soup or as a measuring cup. I also like these GSI Outdoors Glacier Pint Set ($30/set of four), which are color-coded so everyone know whose cup is whose and can be doubled-up if a beverage is too cold or hot. We also like to include some hot dog/s’mores skewers ($15) or, in the summer, a fun gadget like this ice cream ball ($27) — activity and treat in one! Plus we’re also sure to bring at least one of these (cheaper at your local grocery store).