I love camping. I have loved it ever since I was a little girl and I’d spend at least one week every summer camping with my Aunties at Shaver Lake. I love the forest, I love the smell of the campfire and the sounds of wild life. Of course, I also love the conveniences of running water, hot showers and flushing toilets. So when I “rough it” I make sure we find a camp ground that has all the necessary amenities.
We recently spent a week up in South Lake Tahoe and I’m excited to share some tips and tricks for “not so roughing it” for a fun family experience.
Reserving Your Campsite
Whether you’re looking for a place to camp for your vacation, or you already know where you’d like to go. Look up the campsite online at ReserveAmerica.com. Many State Parks and Campsites are listed there and you can check availability easily.
TIP: Reserve America does a great job of describing the campsites and even have maps so you can visualize where you’d be camping out. If you are camping in a tent, be sure to look up the Tent Only sites and pay close attention to the Tent Pad size listed. You will want to know if there is shade, a driveway for an RV, maximum people allowed etc.
As you can see, we had a very large tent and luckily our site was 16×16 so our 16×12 tent fit perfectly! Had we selected another site without looking at the size, we would have been in a pickle for sure, since lots of the other campsites had much smaller pads.
We would have loved to have a few more trees for shade on our site, looks like they had been removed. But overall we were very happy with our location. There was plenty of room!
Family Camping Must Haves
With just a quick internet search, you’ll be able to find a large array of camping checklists. So, I’m just gonna list a few things that I think are most important in addition to the normal gear, either for convenience or necessity. Mind you, we are not backpackers or minimalists. So, we packed for comfort since were were gonna be “not so roughing it” for almost a week. (affiliate links included)
- Ice Chest or Cooler – Be sure to invest in a cooler that will keep your food cool for at least as long as you plan to be camping. Many coolers list how many days it will keep your food cool, which is very helpful. I recommend one with long handles and wheels for easy hauling. Especially if you will be utilizing a bear box.
TIP: Instead of buying lots of ice for your cooler, freeze water bottles! Not only will they keep your food cooler longer, you can drink them as they melt. Also be sure to check the measurements of your cooler if you will be camping in bear country. You want to make sure it will fit in the bear box. Reserve America also lists the size of the bear boxes which is super convenient.
- Tarps – Pack at least two tarps. Especially if you have a large family tent like we do. One to lay under the tent and one to lay inside the tent. The more barriers between you and the bugs and dirt the better for your camping experience. Not to mention when it comes to pack up the tent, it will be relatively clean for your next excursion. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.
- Iron Skillet and/or Dutch Oven – If you haven’t invested in an Iron Skillet and/or a Dutch Oven. Seriously look into it. I love my Iron Skillet and used it for all of my camp cooking (see below)
- Collapsible Water Carrier – This little gem was a life saver and huge space saver! Much easier to haul and refill than the large water jugs.
TIP: Don’t forget a basin! A dish-washing and hand-washing station is definitely a must have.
- Inflatable Mattress and Pump – For goodness sake’s don’t forget the pump!
- Two Burner Stove and Propane – A two burner propane stove just makes cooking so much easier. I was able to cook three course meals on my stove during our trip. It’s definitely a must have!
Of course you’ll want to take all the traditional camping items for S’mores! The secret for amazing camping S’mores is to lay down foil on the fire pit grate and then place the graham crackers and chocolate on top. The chocolate will melt while you roast the marshmallows. So be sure to pack foil!
Oh and did you happen to notice my nifty Survival Bracelet? My son bought one for each of us to wear. It has a built in fire starter, para chord in case we got in a pinch, a compass and even a whistle if we get lost. They are awesome! The boys had a blast starting our nightly campfires with the fire starters.
Easy Camping Menu Ideas & Tips
When planning my menu for the week, I knew I didn’t want to take a lot of food that could spoil just in case our cooler let us down. I also knew that the only “meat” I wanted to fuss with was the fresh fish we caught so I kept to a mostly vegetarian menu. We also ended up eating only two meals a day since we were off adventuring midday. But we made sure we packed snacks and water for our day trips.
Easy Camping Breakfast Ideas
Breakfast/Brunch: Soyrizo and Potato Burritos – super easy to make and all you need is one pan/iron skillet to cook the soyrizo and a handful of red potatoes.
TIP: If you wash your potatoes really well before you pack up for your trip, you don’t even have to fuss with peeling them! No one wants to peel potatoes while camping. Plus you won’t have to pack a vegetable peeler. 🙂
Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins, nuts and shredded coconut.
TIP: Chances are you will be packing some kind of trail-mix for your trip. Save some to add to your oatmeal! It’s delish! And if you have the Coffee Percolator and Mug Set, like most campers do. Just serve your oatmeal in the mugs. No need to pack bowls!
Easy Camping Dinner Ideas
Dinner: Enchilada Casserole – This is a family favorite at home. So I modified it to be cooked in an iron skillet over a flame instead of baked in an oven. And used camp friendly canned ingredients instead of homemade. If you like onions and olives, you can also dice a few and add them in. I didn’t want to fuss so I omitted them on our trip.
- Corn Tortillas
- Shredded Cheese
- 1 can Re-fried Beans
- Large can of your favorite Enchilada Sauce
- Cut the tortillas into triangles
- Grease the Skillet with Vegetable Oil
- Add some sauce to cover the bottom of the skillet.
- Add tortillas
- Spread a layer of beans
- Sprinkle Cheese
- Add Sauce
- End with sauce and cheese and cover the skillet with foil.
- Cook on a low flame until the top layer of cheese melts and the sauce bubbles.
TIP: Cook the pasta before your trip and store it in a ziploc bag or food container in the cooler. This will save you loads of time waiting for the water to boil at camp. And if you are like us and spend the day on excursions, you’ll want to get dinner on the picnic table ASAP before the sun goes down and the bears come out!
Dinner: Fresh Fish, Rice and Vegetables
If you are lucky enough to catch your dinner, you can whip up dinner in no time at all. I seasoned the fish and added a couple of dabs of butter and placed them in little foil wraps. I cooked them on medium heat on the skillet. They came out perfect and the best part there wasn’t any fish mess in the pan to clean up! While they were cooking I steamed some rice and warmed up canned veggies. Super simple and nothing tastes better than dinner you caught yourself!
Camping Activities & Games
Of course you’ll want to pack the usual camping games like dominoes, playing cards or even horseshoes. But be sure to pack your fishing poles if you plan on catching dinner. You will also want to pack something for the kids to do while you cook dinner or when there is a little bit of down time. I’m sharing a fun Camp Activity HERE, so be sure to check it out!
I hope you find these few tips and ideas useful for your next camping trip!
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