Colorado life | lifestyle

Our Favorite Family Camping Gear & Hacks

August 14, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you know our family really loves to camp. I get asked all the time what I pack for a weekend camping trip, so I thought I would share with you our favorite family camping gear and a couple camp hacks we have learned over the years.

I recently started my Amazon shop and some of my favorite gear is right there for you to easily see prices and product details.

This post contains affiliate links. To read my full disclosure click here. 

Lets first talk about cooking gear. This is typically the longest list of items to bring for us because I really enjoy cooking while camping. If you don’t love to cook and you just want the easiest quickest meals, I highly recommend the freeze-dried pouches. We buy ours from Sierra Trading Post because the prices are a bit lower. Amazon has some great options too. Our favorites are the chili mac, chili, anything pasta, and the chicken fried rice. I DO NOT recommend buying anything with eggs in it. I have tried a few brands, and they are all awful! The huge convince of these pouches are how Quick the prep is. Just add boiling water to the pouch and it’s usually ready in less than 10 minutes. And you can eat it right out of the bag, eliminating the need for bowls or plates.

This past weekend we used a camping stove for the first time. (Most of CO is still under a fire ban). At first I was bummed, because cooking over an open fire is half the fun! But now I am in love and will definitely be using a camp stove more often. It takes time to start the fire, get it hot enough to cook on, try not to burn yourself while cooking and then having to put the fire out when you are done. Doing this three times a day is kind of a hassle and though I do enjoy to cook, I don’t want to spend my whole weekend doing it. The stove was on with a click and there was no drowning a fire out. I had dinner ready in 20 minutes ! Not too shabby. We also were able to see the meteor shower and the milky way because we didn’t have a fire that night, and it was glorious!

Cooking Basics

I usually only bring bowls and not plates because it is much easier to eat. If I do bring plates, I will bring paper.

A dutch oven is heavy and kind of a pain, but so versatile ! I use this to make a big thing of chili over an open fire. SO GOOD.

If it is just us three, I will only bring the french press so I can easily make two cups of coffee in the morning. If we are with a group, I bring my percolator which can make several cups.

TIP: Buy different colored enamel camp mugs. Thats way each person gets a different color and you don’t have to guess which cup is yours.

 

Cleaning/ Organizing Your Camp Site

TIP: Buy the travel size dish soap and keep refilling it over and over. I bring two rags- one to scrub the dishes in and one to dry.

This collapsable kitchen sink is what I use to wash all the dishes in.

We put Toilet paper in a gallon size ziplock bag and our paper towel in an old plastic grocery bag.

Always bring a garbage bag and a couple extra plastic grocery bags.

 

Gear

These camp chairs are heavy and not very compact. But we usually are camping at a place that has no tables so we love having these pop up trays to eat on.

This lamp is awesome because it has three different settings of brightness and you can even charge your phone!

Ok I know Yeti’s are crazy expensive but oh are they worth it! Our food and drinks will stay cold ALL weekend.

We use this large garage mat in front of our tent to wipe our shoes on before entering our tent.

We use to have a lighter collapsable water jug, but after a couple years it got small punctures in it and we found out the hard way when our back seat was soaked! This durable water jug holds six gallons of water and has not leaked yet.

Always bring paracode rope! This is something my cousin (who was in the military) always told me . It comes in handy and it doesn’t take up much room in your backpack. We use this rope to hang our hammocks up because we still haven’t bought straps.

Having a tarp to put down under your tent will help your tent last longer and avoid rips and tears.

 

We keep our mallet in our tent bag so we don’t ever forget it. When camping in the rocky mountains, it can be a real pain to get your stakes in the ground.

Our tent is and old one from Gander Mountain and is a Guide Series Jack Rabbit First Up.  Plenty of room for us three plus our dog.

TIP: This solar powered kids lantern is perfect for Liam’s nightlight. He charges it during the day and turns it on at night in the tent. The glow is soft and low so he still sleeps great.

My Clothing & Accessories

Boots – they don’t make my exact style of boots anymore but these are the closest

Sandals – THE most comfortable sandals I have ever owned. The bottoms are made of yoga mats!

Rain Jacket– Mine is an OLD Patagonia my Dad’s cousin gave to me. Over 20 years old and still going strong.

Beanie– For those chilly nights around the fire. I also usually wear one to bed if it’s really cold.

Sunglasses

A soft and warm pullover hoodie

Headband- to push back your hair on day three. Don’t forget dry shampoo too!

Sports bra– because there is no reason to have an uncomfortable wire when camping

Underwear– I always pack extras just in case, and these Pact organic cotton undies are my favorite. (And local to Boulder, CO!)

Socks– I really love my Wigwam socks because they are super warm yet breathable and very affordable. Always pack an extra pair or two.

T-shirts– Pack your most comfortable and loose tees

Joggers/sweats– to sleep in or just hang around the fire in.

Button Down Plaid shirt– I use to steal Nate’s all the time until I finally bought a couple myself. These are perfect for layering and if you get too warm you can easily tie it around your waist. Target has a new line called Wild Fable that has some really awesome and warm plaid shirts. What is camping without some plaid?

Jean shorts

Leggings– I want to be as comfortable as possible when camping, so leggings is a staple for me!

 

Our Camping Hacks/ Tips

  • Keep meals SIMPLE. As tempting as it is to make some extravagant Pinterest-worthy camping meal, the more ingredients you need the more space the food is taking up and the more you will have to clean up afterwards.
  • Prep as much of your food as you can before you leave home. I wash and chop everything I need to at home to save time and eliminate the need for a kitchen knife and cutting board.

 

  • If you have something that takes a long time to cook, cook it before you go and reheat it. When I use tortellini in a skillet I cook it at home and just heat it up once we are there. If I am cooking potatoes, Ill boil them a bit before putting them chopped up in a plastic baggie so cooking them is quicker.
  • When I plan to cook eggs for breakfast, I buy the container of whole liquid eggs so I can just pour it in the skillet. I don’t have to worry about eggs cracking or the shells everywhere. Easy-peasy.
  • Baby wipes are AMAZING when camping. You can use them to clean up, wipe your hands, and even when you have to… ehem… have a bowel movement.
  • We use to use large plastic totes to haul our camping gear from truck to campsite. What we found has been easier for us is actually using reusable shopping tote bags! Much easier to carry and sort everything out. I have one bag for non perishable food and snacks. One bag for cooking utensils (skillet, bowls, sporks etc) Another bag that has the lantern, flashlights, bug spray, sunscreen, extra rope, tarp, hatchet, lighters etc.
  • Though it seems to be an expensive hobby, camping can be SO cheap. In the beginning, we only bought things from thrift stores and off Craigslist. You can find Lodge brand cast iron skillets at Goodwill and even lanterns. Tents are on Craigslist ALL the time and even heading to Sierra Trading Post if you have one near you can save you big bucks. (it’s like a Ross for outdoor enthusiasts)
  • We keep all our camping gear in two large plastic totes in the garage. Everything stays together so if we want to spontaneously load up the car on a Friday night and head up to the mountains it doesn’t take us three hours to find everything. The longest part is shopping for food and packing our clothes and personal items.
  • As much as I LOVE the smell of bacon when camping, it can take a bit of time to cook and you have to worry about handling raw meat and not cross contaminating anything. If you still want some protein while camping but are in a rush, try Canadian bacon. We cooked this and made breakfast sandwiches last weekend and it was delicious. Canadian bacon is precooked so you are just heating it up and crisping the edges.
Do you and your family enjoy camping? What else would you like to read about camping? Recipes? Locations around CO? Let me know in the comments below !

    1. haha Yea it’s not for everyone. I love snuggling up in the tent as a family at the end of a long day. It can be really fun!

  1. I have always loved camping, but recently took the kids (three including one of my own and two step kids) camping, and it was a nightmare! I’ll have to use some of your tips, maybe that will make it better.

  2. Great tips and tricks! We love to camp, but it feels overwhelming since we had kiddos. Your advice and gear recommendations makes me feel like it’s doable! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thank you so much Diane! My advice for if you have younger kids is to bring a pack and play! That saved our sanity when camping with our baby 🙂

  3. This is such an amazing post! We’ve been really wanting to do some beach camping but I don’t even know where to start. This is such a good list, and that hammock in the first picture is amazing!

  4. My husband wants to take my daughter and I camping for the very first time ever, in our lives. He loves camping and used to do it all the time as a child, I on the other hand never did it. I am going to have to share this list with him, and I think the most important thing you’ve listed here for us will be the cooking stove. I do NOT want to mess with an open fire cooking station, lol. I do all the cooking in the family, except for when it comes to grilling. That’s my husband’s area of expertise.

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