Camping Tips

Family Camping Tips

Family camping is a popular recreational activity that is enjoyed by millions each year. Before you start off on your family's next camping adventure, you'll need to decide what to bring. Here's a list to help you get started.

Essential gear

  1. Three-season tent
  2. Sleeping bags
  3. Sleeping pads
  4. Pillows
  5. Flashlights with spare batteries
  6. Lantern, spare mantles
  7. Two-burner stove
  8. Matches
  9. Cookset:
     Fry pan
     Small boiling pot
     Medium boiling pot
     Plates, bowls and cups
     Eating utensils
     Cooking utensils
  10. Camp sink (for washing)
  11. First-aid kit
  12. Folding shovel, camp knife, ax
  13. Rain tarp for cooking & eating area
  14. Insulated cooler for food storage
  15. Insect repellent
  16. Sunscreen

Good-to-have gear

  1. Favorite stuffed animals, books
  2. Whiffle bat & ball
  3. Playing cards & games
  4. Camera
  5. Extra water containers
  6. Plastic garbage bags
  7. Duct tape, rope, bungee cords
  8. Extra toilet paper
  9. Extra fuel
  10. Camp sink (for washing dishes)
  11. Fishing gear
  12. Broom
  13. Portable shower
  14. Folding chairs, camp table

Campground Camping

  1. This is a great way to set up camp once, head out on hikes or day excursions and enjoy the convenience of coming back to the same campsite each night.
  2. Because you drive to your campsite, you can bring along camp conveniences and recreational equipment that is heavier (like canoes, an inflatable kayak or raft with PFDs) than hike-in campers can manage.
  3. When transporting a canoe, raft or kayak, make sure your roof rack is the industrial-strength type (many factory-installed roof racks are not). The annoying wind hum that a tie-down strap sometimes generates can be quieted by putting a few twists in the strap.

Camp Kitchen

  1. Keep it simple to get as much versatility as possible from the items you pack.
  2. Cooking over an open fire should only be done in designated areas. Camp stoves are more practical and easy to use, cook food faster and have less impact on the environment.
  3. A two-burner stove offers families the most efficient use of cooking time. You can choose from a variety of stoves that burn different kinds of fuel (white gasoline, propane, butane or kerosene). Base your choice on the availability of fuel in areas where you intend to camp.
  4. When available, block ice will generally last longer in your cooler than cube ice. But count on any ice to leak water into the bottom of your cooler – always store perishable foods in watertight bags or containers.
  5. Always have plenty of water. For clean-up after meals and general use you will find extra water containers nearly indispensable. For consumption, three quarts per person per day is a good rule of thumb. Purify water from natural sources.
  6. Resist the impulse to feed the animals. Early instruction in the wisdom of low-impact camping will reward future generations with sightings of wildlife in a healthy environment.

Fall (and winter) camping conditions require additional gear and clothing, especially when children are part of the adventure. Please call our Outdoor Hotline at 800-226-7552) for cold-weather camping suggestions. The hotline is open every day between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. EST.

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Camping Tips

Food and Water

  1. Pack your water bottle deep inside your backpack so it will not freeze. Make sure the lid is screwed on tight and pack it upside-down. Water freezes from the top, so if it is stored upside down, the mouth of the bottle remains free of ice. Water bottle insulators also help to keep water from freezing. If possible, fill your bottles with hot water.
  2. Eat often and carry plenty of food. You can burn up to 8,000 calories per day when winter camping.
  3. Drink plenty of hot soup and beverages during your winter camping trip. You need to replace water lost both through physical exertion and also from the dry, cold air drawing moisture from your face and skin. Try instant cocoa, decaffeinated coffee or tea, fruit-flavored drinks and instant breakfast drinks. Caffeinated drinks are not recommended. They contain diuretics that cause you to lose fluids.
  4. As you gain altitude, food takes longer to cook. Plan meals that do not require a lot of boiling.
  5. Consider taking an extra stove and plenty of stove fuel, up to one-half cup per person per day. It takes a lot of fuel to melt snow for drinking water.

Tents and Sleeping Bags

  1. If you have room to carry them, take two sleeping bag pads, a self-inflating one and a lightweight closed-cell foam pad, for additional insulation when camping in cold climates.
  2. Before you get into your sleeping bag at night, fill your water bottle with hot water for use as a hot-water bottle.
  3. Take a metal tube that is a bit wider than your tent pole with you. If a tent pole breaks, slide the tube over the broken area to act as a splint and secure the tube to the poles with duct tape. Store your duct tape around your ski pole or water bottle.

Staying Warm

  1. If you stop to take a water or snack break, store the outer shell of your mittens or gloves in your pack or attach them to your jacket with a clip. Sticking them under your arm makes it easier to have them blow away with a gust of wind. If you lose a mitten, use a spare sock as a substitute.


  1. Winter is not the time to go solo, always camp with others. Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member and check in with them on your return.
  2. Watch for signs of hypothermia among your camping group: uncontrolled shivering, poor motor coordination, mental confusion and mumbling. If someone exhibits these symptoms, get him or her into dry clothes or a sleeping bag. Have him or her huddle close to a warm, dry person and give him or her a warm beverage.
  3. Check for signs of frostbite and pay attention to cold feet. Protected skin, as well as exposed skin, are all susceptible to freezing and toes are the most vulnerable. The first sign of frostbite is white patches on the skin surface. If the skin does not return to its normal color after applying gentle pressure, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  4. Pack a colorful bandana in your pack. In the rare event you need to signal rescue workers, you can attach the bandana to your ski pole and use it as a flag.


  1. If you are backcountry skiing in hilly terrain, climbing skins help you ascend hills with less effort. Skins are slightly narrower than the width of a ski. They attach to a ski by straps or an adhesive backing. The skins have synthetic hairs or scales that flow from front to back so they grip snow and keep you from sliding backwards on hills.

If you would like any additional information about winter camping, or have questions about any of the procedures or terminology used here, please call our Outdoor Hotline at 800-226-7552, any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.

Terms of your use of this information.