The Truth About Family Camping

By Holly Giles | Florida


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How do I plan a Family Camping Trip?

 The anticipation of cooler days is approaching.  Our annual fall family camping trips come to mind.  This past spring, we seemed to hit a camping marathon, three trips in five weeks, that left me pondering the ideal versus the reality of family camping trips!
Just the word “camp” sounds fun doesn’t it?  Nature hikes, trail mix, campfire stories, and smores. The fresh air and new places to explore.  I have never seen an advertisement for family camping that didn’t make me want to crawl into that photograph! It brings up thoughts of cozy nights in a warm sleeping bag. The family laughing late into the night.

 My sleeping bag is a beautiful brown flannel with happy whitetail deer prancing around an enchanted forest.  It beckons me to get inside it!

What family camping means

The reality is, that the tag does not bear a warning label that 40ish-year-old women, who have birthed children, will find a pinecone and rock-laden ground to be quite offensive to their back muscles. 

Then there is the tent. We had to discard our tent from college days a few years ago, after a disastrous trip that involved raining inside the tent and the sticky goo of disintegration. That is all I’ll say about that trip. 

What is the best camping tent for a family?

 So we now have the tent-mahal that will fit the whole clan of kids, cousins, and grandpas if necessary for the family camping trips.  You can see us a mile away.  We have gotten it down to a science, and it isn’t really that bad putting up or down now, it is just the teasing from fellow campers that brings the shame.  Although, once we blow up our airbeds and our Rubbermaid bins with necessities, I’m not sure it would fit any more than four!

What gear is essential for camping?

Next are the necessities to survive 3 or 4 days in the wilderness.  Let me give you a visual. Picture the Clampett’s truck (The Beverly Hillbillies) but a dodge diesel, pulling a trailer with a canoe, kayak, four bicycles, five lawn chairs, seven plastic bins, two garbage bags, three fishing poles, a Coleman stove, fire logs, and possibly inner tubes. Two adults and two children squeeze in there somewhere, and sometimes a large dog. Trust me, if you have passed us on the highway, you would remember!

family camping

What should you not bring camping?

We are simple people, and three-fourths of us are boys, so we don’t need much. Yet somehow, we end up with a ridiculous load. Usually, there IS civilization within a few miles of our camps, but for some reason, we think we must bring every morsel of food and “just in case” items.  And by “we” I really mean me. 

This usually stems from the item we needed on the last family camping trip but didn’t have.  A mutiny would run rampant through camp if we did not have marshmallows and graham crackers. Not every convenience store has them!

Florida family camping

Why is camping good for families?

Memories that is indeed the reason that brings me back to continue family camping. I want to give my kids lasting memories to share with their children. Campfire songs, wilderness sounds, family togetherness, canoeing stories with good friends.

 My memory has a way of forgetting almost losing my clothes bin on the Sunshine Parkway Bridge in Tampa, FL. Once, we had to rescue my niece as her airbed was floating inside the tent (the disastrous trip I mentioned earlier).  Then there was the tropical storm and a 30-degree drop in temperature six hours later.

Sorry, I am digressing here. Those are the memories we live to tell year after year. 

Juniper Springs
Yes, looking ahead to the idea of family camping season, I am gearing up for the marathon. Pondering the adventures that lay ahead.  It makes me long for a nap.  Although I am curious to find out what we will get into next…
I better start packing.

family camping


Check out our “day camping” recipes on YOUTUBE.

family camping


About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.

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