How to Camp (and Actually Enjoy It)

Guide To Camping

Speaking of bears, I’m a big wuss when it comes to sleeping outdoors. But Liz Stanley from Say Yes raves about camping everywhere from Maine to Wyoming. Here are her genius tips for making camping awesome (including fancy pancakes and blow-up mattresses, no joke)…



Skip the campground. Campgrounds feel like cities, only you’re closer together. The only thing between you and a bunch of drunk college kids is a thin sheet of nylon. If you’re scared of bears, campgrounds are the worst place because they know that’s where food is. In Yosemite, we saw a couple a day!

Get off the beaten path. You are allowed to camp in any national forest or wilderness area surrounding a national park.

Go car camping. Set up your tent within several feet of your car. You can pull out a fancy-pants air mattress. You can bring a full grill. You can bring a baguette and cheese. For a long time, my husband Jared, who is super outdoorsy, treated car camping like backpacking — pack very minimally, still eat dehydrated meal packets. But then he went on a boys’ camping trip with an expert scout master, who pulls up in a huge truck just full of crap — huge canopies, La-Z-Boy camping chairs, the most comfortable accommodations. And Jared was like, of course! There’s no reason to torture yourself.

Find the perfect spot. You can Google national forests or wilderness areas near you. Then, to pick your exact camping spot, you’ll need to drive down dirt roads and explore a little. We look for water nearby (it’s so much fun to play in a swimming hole or stream, and water makes the best noise machine at night); flat, soft ground; not a lot of mosquitoes (the higher up you go, the better it is, since mosquitoes can’t deal with wind); and pretty views, if possible.



  • A larger tent than you think you need. There’s no reason to be cramped in a two-person backpacking tent. We’ve gone camping with families that have luxury tents with separate zippered rooms for the kids!
  • An air mattress. Every time we car camp, we bring an air mattress for the adults, plus a little pump. Our seven-year-old sleeps on a mattress pad. Our toddler sleeps between us. We bring Marmot 20-degree synthetic sleeping bags. We’ll often zip two together to create one huge luxury bag.
  • Our real pillows from our bed at home!
  • I always bring beanies no matter what, even in summer. There’s nothing worse than having a cold head in the middle of the night.
  • Flashlights and glowsticks are so much fun for kids. And a soccer ball. We often bring our camera and take pictures of the stars at night.
  • Folding chairs to sit around the campfire.
  • A camping stove, especially if you’re a new camper and don’t want to rely on a fire.
  • A cooler.
  • Basic tools, like a big spoon, scissors, a knife, a measuring cup and a can opener. We have a set of enamel plates and cups that we take on every trip.
  • We usually rinse our cooking stuff with water, but you could bring Dr. Bronner’s soap if you’re going for more nights.
  • We bring a roll of toilet paper and paper towels. You need to pack up all your trash. Solid waste needs to be 100′ or more from a body of water, buried at least 6” deep.



We don’t try to prepare food at home beforehand; it’s too much work when you’re already packing. We just stop at a grocery store on the way. We buy a bunch of ice for the cooler, plus groceries.

For breakfast, we’ll make pancakes, eggs, sausages and potatoes. At the grocery store, I’ll crack the eggs, put them in a ziplock bag, and pop them into our cooler. We’ll buy pancake mix — all mixes nowadays say “just add water,” even the fancy ones — and pour the mix into a zip-lock bag with water; later, we’ll just clip the end with scissors to make pancakes. You want breakfast to be quick; kids always wake up hungry!

For dinner, we grill hot dogs or kabobs. You can bring an old pot and make meatballs and mac and cheese. We also love Mountain House backpacking meals. You just add boiling water. They have cobblers, brownies, pudding pies, beef stew, Mexican rice with chicken… And since they’re dehydrated in small pieces, they’re all baby/kid friendly.

The smartest thing we’ve EVER done is get a Jetboil. It boils two cups of water in like thirty seconds. If you’re hungry and want your backpacking meal, or a cup of tea or hot chocolate, it’s a godsend.



It’s so nice to wake up in the morning when it’s chilly, and have a long hot breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate.

I love feeling like we’re doing our parental duty of “letting them run wild in nature.” Let them pick up bugs, get dirty, throw huge rocks in the water, scream “echo” up the canyon 10 bazillion times. Remember that just yesterday you wouldn’t let them throw a soft pillow in the living room too close to your face so this is their chance to be a real kid!

Sitting around the campfire at night — drinking a mug of wine, talking, making s’mores — is amazing. Since it gets dark at 8pm, we’ll often hang out for a while yet still go to bed early, which feels so good, too.

My husband and I once took a kayaking trip and ended up on a gorgeous lake under the Grand Tetons. We went skinny dipping at midnight. I loved that combination of paddling and camping. It was magical.



Thank you so much, Liz (who is currently on a ladies’ canoe trip in Maine)! These tips make me really want to go camping, something I never thought I’d say.

What camping tips do you have? Where do you guys camp? Any campsites you actually love? I am so curious to hear…

P.S. 10 tips for traveling with a baby, and the weird thing we do on trips.

(Photos courtesy of Liz Stanley; graphic design at top by Rachel Ball.)

  1. ellabee says...

    Bring decent coffee when you camp, not instant. A French press works well if you’re car camping, or just a single-cup drip filter. It makes an amazing difference to have nice coffee if you’ve slept badly. Don’t categorically write off campsites — they vary widely. We’ve had some fantastic experiences in campsites at California state parks. Going with a group of friends (or with another family whose kids are the same age as your family’s if you have kids) can make camping much easier since you can split up meal prep and clean-up responsibilities. Waking up in a tent and hearing the birds singing in the quiet makes the craziness of camping seem worth it every time.

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  3. Emily says...

    I love car camping – really, most any kind of camping. I agree that it’s really fun to get out away from campgrounds and explore old fire roads for camp sites. We’ve spent some of our most favorite camping trips that way. Newfoundland was particularly good for it – there’s a lot of big open wilderness to explore, and not a lot of people in it (similar to northern Maine but with more water). We spent one memorable night finding ourselves lucky enough to be camped next to a bed of ripe wild strawberries!

    We’re camping in Baxter State Park this weekend for an annual trip with friends, and this post is reminding me I need to start making up some lists and pulling everything together! One thing we added to our car camping stash was a small plastic cutting board – much easier to use than an enamel plate!

  4. The first time I went camping was when my host family in Japan took me along for the ride and I absolutely loved it. I want to go camping again, but this time I want to set up everything myself. ;) Thanks for sharing this post, it was super informative!

  5. Clare says...

    I really want to try car camping after this. We’ve always essentially done it, but at a camp-site. But I love the idea of getting further away from other people – it always annoys me to hear someone’s TV blaring from an RV when I’m trying to relax and enjoy the stars.

    I have one question though – if you’re camping somewhere that isn’t a designated camp site, and you want to be very close to your car, doesn’t that put you essentially camping on the side of the road, with your car pulled off on the shoulder? I’m just wondering about the logistics… where do you park your car? Wouldn’t it be destructive to drive it off the road?

    • Most of the spots we end up finding are off fire service roads, so, yes, it’s right off the road but it’s rare there are any cars driving through. And sometimes we do walk a bit from the car to the spot we’re eyeing. But not too far since we’re lugging gear! Even in dispersed camping, we almost always find spots that have clearly been used as a campsite before, we look for a fire ring or other flattened spots where people have camped.

  6. Jessi says...

    This post was lovely, and the photos are beautiful, but it’s the total opposite of how I camp. At home, I’m groomed and I like my clothing fresh and my shoes clean, but when I camp, I’m more of a mountain woman. My boyfriend and I are going to start backpacking, and we pack like backpackers. We don’t feel cramped in our Big Agnes 2-person tent, and we like carrying a light load. We enjoy meal prep, so this past weekend I brought homemade marshmallows for s’mores, and while we did have some convenience items like hot dogs and trail mix (yum!), we also packed shredded chicken and pre-made breakfast wraps. We don’t feel we need much to enjoy camping, we just love being outdoors. As long as trails are nearby and we’re together, I’m a happy camper. Thanks for sharing, Liz and Joanna!

  7. This is a great way to camp in Oregon’s largest wilderness area- the Wallowa Mountains. Healthy food prepared and provided for every meal. Unique experience with

  8. We are huge campers in our family, and we try to go every couple of months! We’ve camped throughout the Rift Valley in Kenya, but we have yet to go camping in the US – it’s a big goal for us! :)

  9. I went camping in Utah once, and it started snowing at night. And I only brought a blanket from home instead of getting a proper sleeping bag. I was freezing my butt off. But luckily there was a shower on the site, and I basically just went into the shower, turned on the hot water, and soaked in there for a few hours. Didn’t get any rest that night, and I was miserable. Never again. Next time I have a itch for the outdoors, I will just get a warm cabin with a bed.

  10. Good to Go, a Maine company, also makes dehydrated food that’s especially great when backpacking. Delicious stuff like Herb Risotto and Thai curry. Seriously amazing and makes you feel like you’re not being punished. Also, with dehydrated food, always add a little less water then recommended. Nothing’s worse than your chocolate mousse turning into chocolate soup.

    Best campground : Thakgil (Þakgil) in Iceland.

  11. These are such great recommendations. As I get older, my camping needs have changed. An air mattress or a pad makes camping a much better experience. Sometimes we just roll out a mattress pad and fold down the back seats of our Subaru wagon and sleep in the car. Late nights around a camp fire under the stars is magical. As is snuggling early morning in the cool dawn light.

  12. Melliebay says...

    BRING A PILLOW! I have a compressible camping pillow, and it is probably the most helpful item in my pack.

    We just finished a week in Yosemite where we didn’t see a single bear. Booo. But we did use the backpacking campsites 2 of the nights and I found everyone there to be very respectful and quiet. I think the closer you are to civilization, the more crowded and obnoxious your campground is likely to be.

    Always bring bug spray and a headlamp. And have fun.

  13. magoo says...

    Thanks for sharing your tips, I love camping and some of these are new to me! Do you use a plugin to add the Pinterest link to your photos? If so, which one? I like how it disappears when you’re not hovering over the photo.

  14. My husband and I have camped in several National Park campsites and they’re absolutely terrific! Amenities, bathrooms, clean, and quiet – highly recommend. One ENORMOUSLY helpful investment Over the years was this camp mattress I SWEAR that it is exactly like sleeping on your bed at home. No leaking, no moving when your partner gets up. GET ONE!!! Also, second an earlier comment about roasting Starbrusts, delicious and less messy than s’mores.

  15. Hollie says...

    Where is that beautiful camp spot with the view of the Golden Gate bridge?? !! I must go there!

    • It’s called Kirby Cove, such a great one!

  16. Do not forget to carry a “Fisrt Aid Kit”!

  17. Caz says...

    My family love camping! My tips would be:
    1) If you’re going with a group, assign meals to each person or couple (e.g. you’ve got Friday lunch, I’ll do dinner etc) so that you don’t have to haul more food than necessary.
    2) Bring a bulk packet of baby wipes! We don’t usually camp in camp grounds, so there are no shower blocks, and a wipe down with baby wipes at the end of a day is a decent alternative. The good thing about not showering for 3 days is that when you get home and have one, it feels heavenly!
    3) Bring a sleep mask (like the ones you get on an airplane). As soon as the sun comes up your tent is going to light up!
    4) Head lamps are awesome – two hands are better than one when you’re trying to figure out the sleeping bag zipper in the middle of the night!

    Also, one trip my brother and his wife had a wee baby that was just about getting to the crawling stage and my sister in law was worried about the baby crawling off the rug and getting hurt on a sharp stick or something when she had her back turned. So she took a baby harness and sewed it onto a kids size camping chair. She was strapped in but could wriggle her little legs about safely while sitting around the campfire with the rest of us.

  18. eg says...

    Pack a first aid kit!

  19. emanuella says...

    I love all of this! Thank you!

    If you’re in southern California and want an incredible place to camp, I recommend the Santa Cruz islands.

  20. Shoshana says...

    Love this post! I love camping. Makes me want to go camping.

  21. This post has been my favorite in a long while – my sister and I grew up camping (both car camping and backpacking) with our parents and they are some of my favorite childhood memories. I showed this post to my husband and we’re both inspired to get back out on the trail. Thanks for thinking of this!

    P.S. Your bear story was absolutely hilarious and familiar – a forest ranger once told our Girl Scout troop the same thing! Luckily it was a no boys allowed situation and a little less mortifying (also sans bear cage).

    Happy Weekend!

  22. Mimi Gabino says...

    speaking about camping, yesterday (funnily enough) I found this website which is like the air bnb for camping/glamping.

    It looks so perfect, they cover like 250k camp grounds across the U.S. Of A!! And also private land and cool huts and cabins for those who don’t fancy tents.

    Check this beauty out for example:

    Maybe you know it already but I thought I should share my amazing discovery. I can’t stop browsing through it haha! You can search for waterfalls! Lakes! Rivers! I only wish this existed in Europe (where I live)…

    Ps: I adore your blog and have been reading since pre-Alex days. This is my first comment! :-)

  23. Julianna says...

    Growing up in MN, our family vacations every year consisted of two weeks camping up on some lake property my family owned in northern MN. Rain or shine. I hated it at the time, because that was ll we did, I went on a plane for the first time when I was 18 years old. I now look back on it very fondly though.

    A few years ago we went camping w/ friends on the Kern River here in CA. It was so much fun! It was so hot, so we spent 90% of the time floating in the river. At night we cooked over the fire and went hunting for crawdads with salami on a string.

    You can also roast starbursts, and stuff rolos into marshmallows for a little change up. Make chili a few days before hand, freeze it, and then you can have it for dinner the first or second night there.

    • valerie says...

      wait a sec. roast starbursts!? tell me more!

  24. lauren says...

    A group of my friends went backpacking and camping recently and had a clever breakfast hack- they cracked a bunch of eggs into someone’s nalgene bottle, kept it cool all night, and made scrambled eggs in the morning!

  25. Jessica says...

    Assateague State Park in MD is the bee’s knees. You camp and walk 20 feet to a beautiful beach with wild horses. Amazing and cheap.

  26. I LOVE camping. and i have to say, my husband and i are now expert campers because of one memorable summer. the family home (on my husband’s side) was destroyed by hurricane sandy. we came back from our honeymoon to salvage old family photographs and whatever else we could from the wreck. it was heartbreaking, the beach bungalow had been there for almost a century and meant so much, especially to my husband and his mom. she kept asking if we had rescued the answering machine and i didn’t know why, until she said it was the only thing with her mother’s voice on it. we spent months packing what we could from the home, and throwing out everything that had been ruined. my husband did not want to miss a summer at the beach (it took three years to have a new house), so every weekend the following summer, we camped in the yard. it felt like we roughing it more so than traditional camping because we had no shower or toilet! we relied on neighbors, the bar on the corner, and the ocean. we had a whole setup that packed into a bin and hung our American Peace Flag. by a few weeks in, we could pitch the tent and have our setup ready within minutes. we joked we could kill it on some sort of camping reality show. on some nights when it was too hot to sleep, so we would go into the car and drink wine and listen to the radio. it the most memorable, gross, romantic summer of my life. we now have a big, beautiful family home on the beach, but every once in while i flash back to giggling in the tent as we would hear “yeah those are the people who camp,” as they walked by.

  27. Rosie says...

    I grew up camping with my family in California, New Mexico, Utah etc about once a year for usually several days at a time. To this day, it is some of my fondest memories from childhood. The smell of the outdoors can’t be beat and there is nothing more refreshing than waking up to completely fresh air. I credit those early experiences for my deep appreciation of nature and my ability to roll with the punches in situations that take you out of your comfort zone. Camping is exhilarating and fun and really brings you back to Earth. I am newly engaged and we are definitely registering for basic camping necessities – it is definitely an experience I want to impart on my future children someday!

  28. I’ve always really wanted to be into camping, ever since growing up in a non-camping family and with a best friend who came from a camping family. But, as my dad always said, “Baby, Jews don’t camp.” Anyway, as much as I want to like camping, I just can’t get into it. There are too many unknowns, and the bathroom situation really stresses me out. I can’t enjoy sitting by the fire in the evenings because I’m thinking about that one last trip to the yucky bathroom (or hole in the ground) before bed, and trying to dehydrate myself so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night having to pee! Ugh, now I sound neurotic!

  29. GoldenMoon says...

    Great post! This is a total aside suggestion but I’m in need and your team of stylish hunters are right for the job. Can you highlight a handful of cute & functional weekend tote bags for weekend getaways? I’d love to have some handpicked options with various price ranges to chose from. Thanks!

    • Kim says...

      Seconded! After scouring online and brick and mortar stores, I bought one from Target last week because it was cute and not exorbitantly expensive. I don’t think it’s going to last forever, though, so I’d love to see a list of weekender bags.

    • Alison says...

      Hey goldenmoon…Joanna just did a post recently on a weekend tote bag from Lo & Sons Mine just came and I’m IN LOVE with it. It’s perfect for like 3 days away (and I’m not what you’d call a light packer). Also on sale and in 5 colors!

  30. Kate says...

    This is exactly how we camp! Another suggestion: buy quality cots from REI. I like being comfortable! The kids love being outside all day and running wild! Don’t forget adult beverages for the evenings around the fire!

  31. What’s wrong with campsites? I’ve never had any negative experiences there, and they’re designed for people to use–places to put your trash so animals don’t get to it, a place to make your fire, usually at least an outhouse. We used to camp all the time up in Lake George, where you can get campsites on islands in the middle of the lake. To avoid crowds, you go in September. It’s lovely. My cousins and I now camp at a place in North Jersey that’s a girl scout camp most of the year, so this one is complete with wooden platform tents, showers and toilets. It still feels like real camping though, I swear!

    • Beth says...

      I only read the comments to see if someone mentioned Lake George.It is my favorite place. We went in Sept many years ago for 8 days, it was awesome. We are waiting till our kids are strong swimmers before we go back, but I am always looking to see if our favorite islands are available. The girl scout camp sounds cool. We now go to the summer camp I went to as a kid for a weekend each year during family camp. It is not camping, but awesome since they make our meals and there are activities.
      I highly recommend anyone who wants to try camping to find a YMCA family weekend (usually during Memorial weekend or Labor day) and give it a try.

  32. Beth says...

    Now that we have a child, our backpacking trips have been sidelined for car camping for a while. We invested in a set of the Exped Mega Mats and they are AMAZING. Worth the investment, not just for car camping, but also as a spare bed(s) for guests. They are that comfortable.

  33. Jen says...

    we camp 2-3 times every year. it’s a big event with 3-5 families involved. some of our favorite locations are the russian river, tahoe and big sur. with young kids, we do the car camping. and yes, we have a giant 2 bedroom tent, air mattresses and we eat very well! i love the fact that my kids started camping at 6 months and now we bring bikes and scooters and they are free to explore and take off on their own. plus no internet, no iPads, no tvs, that’s one of my favorite parts :)

  34. Sadie says...

    I love camping, but… I have loved it less with our toddler. Keeping him from rolling in poison ivy, falling into the fire, throwing things into the fire, falling off of a cliff or over a stream bank, and worrying constantly about bears, snakes, mountain lions was pretty much the opposite of the relaxing fireside time and gentle strolls through the woods I have enjoyed. And carrying him in an Ergo in 80-degree weather up a steep trail… nope.

  35. Katie says...

    instead of putting eggs in a ziplock, we put them in a big water bottle so you can just shake and pour to make scrambled eggs.

  36. Mary says...

    I would like to point out a few things as a life long camper and I am 51. No, one cannot always just camp wherever you want. Many public lands want you to camp in already established camp sites when doing what is called dispersed camping. These are just campsites that it is obvious people have been camping, usually there will just be a rock fire ring. Some National Forests still say have polices that allow dispersed camping where ever but the truth of the manner is finding a proper pullout and such on many forest service roads can be a challenge. I think it is a bit off the cuff to just tell people to camp wherever. For some, especially, those new to camping , what’s wrong with a campground? They come in many levels of offerings. Some are very primitive and some have showers.
    Also, there is the issue of leave no trace ethics. No where in this article is this mentioned. I camp a lot in desert environments and the soil and landscape is very fragile. One just doesn’t trample willy nilly wherever. One has to pack out everything and I mean everything.

    • Hey Mary! We did mention that everything needs to be packed out. You’re right, there are a lot of things we didn’t go over here- it was meant to be focused more on tips not a comprehensive guide. With dispersed camping we’ve always had success but for novice campers a campground works well too- we just always hate feeling so crammed next to people, I’ve never been to a campground where there wasn’t another party just a stones throw a way. Kind of defeats the purpose of getting out in the great outdoors but to each their own! xoxo, L

  37. We are guilty of probably every camping faux pas you mentioned!! Friends of ours go all the time and once, when I was heavily pregnant and hormonal, I had a crying fit one weekend about how they always went and never invited me. Husband quite rightly pointed out that I hate camping, always have, and was suffering from quite bad pelvic pain that sleeping on an airbed wouldn’t help… but I wouldn’t listen. So off we set to join them with a tiny 2man tent, no extra layers, a tiny airbed and crappy sleeping bags that were far too thin.
    Honestly, I managed 25mins before I started crying and he packed up and brought me home again!! Our friends are seasoned professionals so they had huge tents, stoves, chairs, plates, blow up mattresses, duvets…the whole shebang. It was like they’d packed their entire bedroom into their car, driven it to the campsite and unpacked it.
    Gutted. Never again. Horrific!!

  38. Awads says...

    We camp twice a year, and we DO go to campgrounds! We just happen to go with our gang of 5-8 other families. It’s totally fun, kids run feral all day. And yes, bring that larger tent and an air mattress. One thing we are sure to do is rent an extra campsite as The Kitchen/Dining Hall. Keeps our own campsites clean and it’s great to have a gathering spot. Also, be sure to bring your discreet cups b/c alcohol is usually prohibited at national or state parks.

  39. Melissa Beer says...

    This is so timely! We are heading out on Sunday for our first family camping trip. We have three boys-5, 3, and 11 months. We only reserved 2 nights at a park 30 minutes from our house incase we need to abort! We also chose the park because they have a pool, fishing, hking, and canoeing. We have a babysitter coming TO the campsite so we don’t have to wrangle the poor 11 month old while canoeing.

    I am hoping everyone enjoys it, there is the potential for so many memories to be made, and much cheaper family vacations. My favorite memories as a kid were camping with youth groups and cabins with my family. Our dream would be to do a cross country trip while camping 5-6 days of the week.

    I haven’t seen anyone mention making sure to use a tarp under your tent to stay dry. We purchased these for my older kids: and have a pack n play for the babe. That’s more for having a place to put him when we set up the tent, or need to corral him for a few minutes, he’ll probably just sleep with us. Also, bringing my Tula for hiking.

    Even though I hate purchasing “kid” stuff, we bought two themed fishing rods that came with a rubber fish to practice casting. They are a hit without even having to get to the river. We also picked up some kid’s safety hooks-genius!

    Fun post!

  40. Love this, love camping. As someone who attempted to register for nothing but REI goods, I can totally get behind this! We did a 5 week cross country road trip awhile back and spent half the time camping- there’s so much beauty out there I just wished we had more time.

  41. We have been camping but we havent tried putting our food like that in a ziplock! I learn a lot in here!

  42. We run a campsite in England and have just begun our season, We also go camping ourselves – so it is a way of life for us. We love it – the fresh air, the nature and scenery and especially the escape from the chaotic life many of us lead. Our teenagers are enjoying it less so now, but we find as long as we have a bbq and toast some marshmallows over a fire then they can be won over. To enjoy camping the most though you have to embrace the good outdoors and not be concerned about what nature throws at you. I do like a comfy sleep though, so, if like me, I would recommend a good airbed, fluffy pillows and a duvet – I can’t do sleeping bags, unless its a double one and curled up with my man!

  43. annie g says...

    I love camping. We did it quite a bit when our children were small but a few years ago we went by ourselves, still in the big family tent. Luxury! Plus we took all our bedding, not just a blow up mattress. So very cosy to have a duvet, pillows and extra blankets…we took a small radio too and big flashlights. Reading in bed was bliss. Best.Sleeps.Ever.

  44. I haven’t been camping in a very long time. So your photos make me really really want to go agian. Thanks for share !


  45. Briana says...

    My husband and I spent the July 4 weekend camping in Sequoia National Forest with our 3.5 year old and our 3 month old, and we are heading to Big Sur next week for our next outing. We started our family-camping by staying in a rustic cabin with our oldest daughter when she was 5 months old, and again the next year. The next year we went on a 1 night tent trip, knowing that we could pull the plug at any time, then a few weeks later a 2 night trip, and then the big 3 night trip to Big Sur. She camped like a champ, and loved (almost) every minute of it. With #2, we’ve skipped the cabins and gone straight for the tents (of course, every baby is different, and we definitely have a contingency plan in place in case we have a crying baby at 3am).

    My tips, for what they are worth:
    1. Definitely car camp at a well-researched campground if you are novices with kids. Review the site rules in advance and understand where you are going before you go (rules are different for National Parks and National Forests, which can be confusing in places like Sequoia where there are both). In SoCal, William Heise County Park (near Julian, CA) is a great starter campground. There’s a rustic town nearby, the campground has clean facilities (including flush toilets and hot showers), and the rangers enthusiastically enforce quiet hours. It also has rustic cabins if you aren’t quite ready for a tent experience yet.
    2. Learn some basic rules and courtesies of camping. Don’t do your dishes with Dawn, and learn how to put out your campfire properly. People probably don’t want to hear your music, and they definitely don’t want to hear your kids’ iPads or video games.
    3. Team up, preferably with people with kids, and preferably people who’ve gone camping before. Their knowledge can make your life much easier (hello, camp stove) and their kids can keep yours entertained while you set up your tent (and vice versa).
    4. Make a list, and check it repeatedly. I have one in Google Docs that I update for each trip, and during each trip, I note what we are missing or could do better next time.
    5. Figure out your coffee strategy, and bring twice as much as you think you will need. We’ve used our French press in the past, but this year moved to an Aeropress, which is fantastic.
    6. If you are just starting out, you can rent basic gear (for example, from REI) to try it out without a huge financial commitment. Make sure to rent pads or cots – in my experience, sleeping on the ground pretty much ensures a miserable night.
    7. Bring enough warm gear for your kids. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than cold kids. Here in SoCal, even if it’s in the 80s or 90s during the day, it usually cools down at night, and 50 degrees in a tent is a whole different kind of cold. Also make sure that each kid has his or her own flashlight or headlamp.
    8. Have fun!

  46. I’ve never gone camping before! It seems like a pretty awesome experience, but I wonder how I’d handle it because I’ve always needed clean bathrooms and stuff like that. But this post makes me feel like, you know what? You can do it! Just follow these tips and maybe read up on a few more and then go for it! :) -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  47. Meagen says...

    my husband and I keep our air mattress inside our tent, rolled up all together and ready to go in our jeep @ all times! We have “our” spot up a beautiful red rock canyon next to a river about 30 minutes from the small town where we live in Utah. Camping is a way of life here-everyone goes “up on the mountain” every weekend. Camping is amazing, especially when your phones don’t have service!! Get out there and recharge with your loved ones!

  48. Kelsey says...

    inwas a hardcore backpacker in my younger years. Ultralight everything, fancy gear, and no less than 10 miles a day. My husband likes to stay at KOAs. I do actually find I like car camping now, for many of the reasons listed here… Plus i’ve really become a wuss when it comes to wildlife (i had one bad moose experience) and i have a helluva time sleeping on the ground. But one of my biggest issues with car camping is the seeming lack of purpose. Yes, yes.. Nature visiting. But backpacking? you wake up, eat that breakfast, then carry all your shit a million miles with blistered feet to arrive at your next spot and feel AMAZING. Car camping in one spot doesn’t give me the same sense of acheivement… But the new lazy in me says thank GOD im not walking anywhere.

  49. This is a fun set of ideas for camping!

    I have to echo some other commenters and caution everyone to check rules before camping in a non campground site. In neither Colorado nor Ohio can you “drive down a dirt road” and simply choose a spot. There are designated backcountry camping areas that require permits, and those areas do not allow cars. I’m jealous that such freedom is apparently allowed in wherever Liz has been! I haven’t been to a place that allows so much freedom but it sounds lovely.

  50. Suzanne says...

    Being Canadian, I’m supposed to sterotypically love camping, but I think it’s TERRIBLE! I wish I liked it, but everything about it is just the worst. Except s’mores….but I can have those in the backyard.

  51. Prudence Yeo says...

    I have never gone camping with family before as living in the wilderness is quite an intimidating thought to me! But I may do it one day as the experience does sound quite attractive in its own unique ways! Thanks for sharing!


  52. I haven’t been camping in a very long time, but the tips and photos make me really want to go! I would also add bugspray to your list… because mosquitoes are the worst, and instead of bulky camp chairs, I have found that Crazy Creek chairs do the job without being awkward to carry along! I just clip mine to my backpack or fold it in half and store it in my car!:

  53. I can’t wait to use your tips, Joanna! My fave is cracking the eggs and the grocery store and adding water to the pancake mix and popping it all into the cooler ahead of time! I haven’t been camping since I was a child and you make it look so easy and fun…can’t wait to try again! I want to sleep under the stars so badly/how romantic! xo

    adorn la femme

  54. We always take a read aloud book to settle everyone at the end of a big day – favourites are Michael Morpurgo’s anthology “Singing for Mrs Pettigrew” and Kirsty Murray’s book of true stories “Tough Stuff” – just as good for adults as for kids.

  55. Sara says...

    Camping is one of my favorite activities and something we would do for vacation when I was growing up. All the tips are great ones, I’d add bringing clothesline, especially if you’ll be swimming, and firestarters might feel like campfire cheating- but can be a big help if you are struggling with damp wood. If you are new to camping and not sure it’s your thing there are tons of “glamping” options popping up with primitive cabin options- think camping with a bed and walls!

  56. Lisa says...

    I grew up going camping as “vacation” with my family and other families with whom we were friends. I have the best memories from those trips! And I always remember being envious of our friends in a family of four kids who had the big tent, or the circus tent, as we called it. I camped all through college and have been with my parents and my son. I’ve tried to get my husband into it, but having been raised in a city, he says he’ll go when I agree to carry a gun (which will be never.) He cannot get past the idea of not being behind a locked door. Thus we will go as a family this summer for the first time…to a cabin in a gorgeous state park. I cannot wait! Baby steps…

  57. I am so into this! I was hoping that camping in national forests or wilderness areas was our little secret, but I suppose there is enough room for others! Now I really want to go camping.

  58. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so camping comes second nature to me. I still don’t love it, though! I’d rather go glamping, for sure.

  59. Gabrielle says...

    We love car camping! We have some action packers that we have all our gear in, so its so easy to just throw it in the car and go. One has our stove and all our enamel dishes, pots, food prep and cleaning stuff. For car camping we have a whole set of extras, like a proper can opener, a good knife, a chopping board, etc for food prep as it makes it so much nicer and easier to do stuff. We got some great plastic + silicone bowls from Target that pop up and fold down. Another action packer has our tent, mats and sleeping bags. The third action packer has a few little extras but we keep it mostly empty so we can chuck the non-perishable food items in it. Perishables go in the cooler. We take a little brush and shovel to sweep the tent out. Try to get wood for the camp fire, water, and ice from as close to the camping area as possible, then you don’t have to try fit in in the car to bring from home. After many camping trips we have invested in insulated blow up camping mattresses, so much warmer than the regular blow up mattresses. We had many freezing nights on a regular blow up mattress (they don’t insulate you from the cold ground at all) before we commmitted to the more expensive insulated ones. They are thinner, but just as comfy and so good to be sleeping on a warmer surface! We have Exped synmats but there are other types and brands.

  60. Grace says...

    I second the Jetboil! AMAZING

  61. Nina says...

    My camping advice. Always take extra money to go stay in a hotel when the tent sleeping isn’t cutting it. ive stayed in four camp grounds in my life and all had loud, inconsiderate people. Reading the posts from people who disagree and exhort me to do this or that makes me think YOU are why I don’t camp. Rabid, unpleasant folks are just as unpleasant as wildlife, bugs, and figuring out the bathroom situation when camping. Ive hiked, white water rafted, fished, and explored mountains and national parks….all without having to camp.

  62. Debbie says...

    Bring a French press! Best cup of coffee. Ever.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      fancy!!! i love it. :)

    • Caroline says...

      We have travel mugs with the French press built in, that we always take with us when we camp.

  63. Stephanie says...

    YES! I was not even remotely a “camper” until I moved to California. The plethora of great campgrounds (Thornhill in Malibu is right ON the beach, and several others in that area, as well as Big Sur, have campgrounds within walking distance to a beach) plus my discovery of car camping, really converted me. You can really pack as much comfort as you want…I like to include lanterns to hang around the site, an air mattress and a rug for the tent, and lots and lots of food and games. Bring tinfoil…you can wrap up any sort of food and just toss it on the fire, or grill, to cook. Sausages, veggies, even a whole chicken! It’s become one of my favorite activities…I’ve spent two New Years Eves there with a group of friends and it’s a wonderful way to spend quality time with people out in nature. Enjoy!

  64. Okay, Liz, can I be your kid? Such a great post.

    • Joanna Goddard says...


  65. Laura says...

    I loved this post! I agree although some of the tips are a bit advanced though. I live in Newfoundland, Canada and love camping in our provincial and national parks. Gros Morne has amazing mountain and ocean views and is my favourite! One tip that wasn’t mentioned is to pack a rope to tie between two trees to make a makeshift clothesline, and to pack clothes pins as well. That way you can dry your dish cloths and towels and anything that gets wet easily. I don’t like to rough it by staying in a place with no hot showers or bathrooms… peeing outside is not my idea of fun. I’ll even bring a hairdryer. We bring a fly tent that provides shelter for your picnic table as well as a tarp to hang up in the trees above your tent like a canopy (we get a lot of rain here in Newfoundland!) I also pack a few huge Tupperware containers for dry food and a cooler with ice for anything that needs to be kept cold. If you bring along a camping stove, you can cook anything you’d otherwise be able to cook in a frying pan or pot – like stir fried vegetables, oatmeal, pasta and soup. No need for dehydrated camping food!
    There is nothing like being outdoors in the fresh air and away from electronics and the internet. I love spending the evening under the stars next to a warm camp fire with a bottle of wine. It’s a great reminder to know you can get by without all of our modern conveniences and still have fun.

    • Gabrielle says...

      Great point about the rope for a clothesline – we do this where we live currently too (NZ), but we found when we lived in Southern CA and went camping there that lots of the camp areas had signposted rules against this – we never figured out quite why but maybe it was something to do with the general lack of water and big strong trees to tie things to, so with the number of campers that go through, branches would get broken?

  66. Sarah says...

    This is the first post where I feel compelled to disagree. Campgrounds can be fantastic, and this comes from a backpacker. The sense of community, especially with other parents and children, allows you to relax and respect one another and avoid the loud neighbors. Do those happen? Sure, but they’re the rarity, and the trick is to go somewhere with good park rangers. By staying in state parks you are supporting the park system as a whole which has taken a HUGE hit.

    As for Yosemite? Yes, you’re in the woods, and yes, there are bears. There are also about 1,000 signs about bears, people educating you about how to be safe (no food in cars!) and anything else you would like to know. Please don’t scare people away from one of the MOST AMAZING hiking, nature experiences OK the west coast due to misplaced ignorance and magnifying a controlled issue. That is where you scare people away from nature, instead of embracing all that hiking, camping, nature, community, preservstion and the pure joy that come with them.

    It might be better to consult an actual camper who has done both backcountry and Cadillac camping (car camping line you describe) that can provide a truly experienced opinion.

    • Gabrielle says...

      I agree re. the campgrounds. We stayed at many forestry, state and national park campgrounds in Southern and Central CA and we maybe once had an issue with noisy people, but that was at a campground just on the outskirts of LA on a holiday weekend (so kind of to be expected). Elsewhere, we loved the campground ammenities and layout. There are many beautiful ones around where the campsites are as separated and private from each other as possible, with trees/other geographical features in between. I loved how each usually had a camp fire area and picnic table. The bathroom amenities were always great, and it was fun to be near other families for the kids to play with. The rangers were always super friendly and helpful, and there were sometimes great programs on for the kids to go to. We LOVE these campgrounds. We are originally from NZ, and are back living here now, and NZ campgrounds are so lacking in comparison. There is nothing similar. Most are either a blank field of grass (no features separating campsites, no camp fire area or picnic table at each site) with an amenities block at the edge, and you set up where you find a space, or commercial operations with hotel/motel units as well and more in or near a town. You can get better camping experiences if you go backpacking, which is harder with young children. So it is pretty hard here to go car camping and get a nice nature experience at the same time. We found the USA campgrounds we visited provided that lovely experience and we miss it!

  67. I went camping for the first time (and i’m 29yrs old) earlier this summer! And then I went a 2nd time just a couple weeks later haha. Both times were with a group of friends – no kids involved, just city folk wanting to get back to nature and be kids ourselves. They were just weekend trips so while it required some planning of supplies and food, knowing we had a limited time (& number of meals to prepare) made it so easy. The meals we all made ended up being really tasty!

    I agree with the hammocks suggestion from another reader – you can get one that weighs 1lb when rolled up – so easy and totally worth it!

  68. May says...

    Nice post that makes camping sound like a lot of fun. And it can be IF your put safety first. Know where it is Safe to camp. Near water? Think flash floods. Nice old tree. Think tall trees, pine and oak trees attract lightening. And so on. Food. Think hanging it high up in a tree away from your campsite.
    READ about safety and know the area before you go camping.

  69. Anita says...

    We are in Canada, with kids grown and our first grandchild arrived this year! We have camped every summer for more than 30 years, in tents. We used an air mattress for years, but have graduated to cots now, with cotton/down sleeping bags…so comfy and perfect! Love camping cooking, since that is literally the only thing I have to think about is our great meals. We eat late breakfast, big delicious breakfasts (although have fruit and cereal for those who can’t wait til 10:30 or 11 for big breakfast :)) We don’t do lunch, save for some junk food if you need something mid afternoon, then great dinners later on, before campfire. Always played board games by lamplight, always treated to ‘campfire theater’ where the kids made up skits and stories and songs to entertain us, always read ghost stories just the right amount of ‘scary’ according to their ages at the time. Took hammocks along, best story times ever in the hammocks, our big kids still talk about it! Some of our favourite times spent in Ontario’s Provincial Parks, Canada’s National Parks and the US State Parks as well. A very reasonable way to visit new and different places…loved every moment of those trips…these days of little ones can be long, but I promise you, the years are fast! Camping slows time down and lets you enjoy the moments…

    • Anita says...

      Ahhhh, I should have added! Only car camping for us…I need a bathroom nearby!

  70. Monica says...

    I’ve gone camping since I was a kid. But for the past 5 years I’ve gone with cousins that are more my age (21-33). It is SO MUCH FUN. Usually, we go to Big Sur. I always make Ina Garten’s roasted tomato soup the week before and freeze it. By the time we’re ready to pack the cooler, the soup acts as an ice pack to keep food cool and it melts just in time for me to reheat it. Then I make some grilled cheese sandwiches to dip into the soup. It’s heavenly. I look forward to the trip every year :)

    • Jamie says...

      Brilliant! I love the soup as ice pack idea. I am so doing that the next time I camp. Thanks for sharing :)

  71. Tory says...

    Great post! And loved the one from this morning (going to the bathroom or having lady business fall while out in the wilderness is an interesting learning experience, but a good challenge!). And for just a friendly endorsement – if ladies want to get out and learn more about camping, I’d highly recommend Trail Mavens (based out of San Francisco) for amazingly supportive all-lady camping and backpacking trips in Northern California. A great experience regardless of your experience, where you live, or just an interest in experiencing some ‘Wild’ times.

    • Allegra says...

      Second the recommendation of Trail Mavens if you’re in or near SF! I went on a trip last year and loved it. Camping, hiking, supportive group of women, delicious food…it’s a great way to get outside if you haven’t done much camping before (or even if you have, it’s nice to have everything organized and know you’ll be with a group of cool people)!

  72. Laura says...

    I’ve been twice now to the Saranac Lake Island campground in the Adirondacks. It’s definitely a hike from NYC but if you have a few days to devote, it’s completely worth it. The only way to reach the campsites is by boat. We rented canoes on our last trip and took a leisurely 45 minute paddle to our site. It’s tent-only (obviously) so you don’t get that feeling of being in a trailer park that you get at other campgrounds. We were there July 4th weekend last year and didn’t see/hear another soul during our whole trip. Because it’s so far North, the summer days are extremely long. The sun didn’t fully set until around 10 PM. This was something we didn’t anticipate and were like, “…why is it still light out?” ha. One of the beautiful things about camping was that we had to FIGURE IT OUT because we had no Internet. It sparked hours of conversation (we may have been drinking). I can’t say enough good things about this place… Just a tip though, try not to get a site that’s up on a hill. The wind was furious, but a least it kept the bugs away. For those of you ladies who are squeamish about popping a squat, you might find this handy device helpful:

    • I’ve been to Middle Saranac almost every year of my life (except the last few, because I have two very small kids, but in a few years, I’ll take them again!) Which site did you stay at? I’ve camped on them all multiple times! I think I know which one you’re talking about with the hill… did it have a lean-to? My family’s name is carved in every lean-to on that lake :) Glad you loved it! It’s a glorious place!

    • Laura says...

      we were at site #31, have been meaning to get back but can’t find a long enough stretch of days to warrant the 6hr car ride!

  73. Sarah R says...

    As an avid camper, hiker, Outward Bound graduate – I have to strongly encourage everyone to read and understand Leave No Trace Ethics. It’s so important for nature to be left just as you found it, in order for the next person to have that special feeling in the outdoors.

    • Erin says...

      Thank you for bringing this up. I cringed at the glaring omission of Leave No Trace ethics in this piece. It’s important to know how far to set up camp from water or to know if the wilderness area you’re camping in has fragile tundra, plants, etc before deciding that it’s “your” perfect place. And if everybody skips the campgrounds (of which there are so many incredible and peaceful options in this country), the wilderness is going to be a lot less wild.

  74. I think it is misleading to say that campgrounds are full of drunk college kids. We have camped at some excellent state campgrounds where we felt fully immersed in nature with enough space between campsites to enjoy the experience. When camping with small children, it is nice to have outhouses or flush toilets, and it can be challenging to hike into a site with children because they can only carry so much weight and hike so far. My advice would be to do some research, read the reviews and ask around before writing off state campgrounds (not to be confused with private campgrounds which tend to cater to RVs).
    That said, in the name of comfort, I have brought along a pack’n’play for an infant (we once went camping with a five month old!), and I do it find it useful and cheaper to prep some meals at home, like veggies and meat wrapped in aluminum foil, ready to throw on the grill.

  75. My husband & I camp for the sake of climbing, so for us prepping food ahead of time is important to us since the majority of our day is spent maximizing our climbing time. We like to have big breakfasts & dinners and rely on snacks throughout the day at the crag. I actually highly recommend prepping food ahead of time. I will pre-make breakfast burritos at some earlier time at home and freeze them, so if we are packing a cooler they are their own ice pack! Same goes for meats for dinners. I will pre-chop, bag, & freeze portions of chicken and pack it into the cooler when we camp for making butter chicken or panang curry (key is canned/packaged sauces!). If we’re camping with a cooler, we will cook the raw chicken within the first few days. I do recommend double-bagging raw meats though in case of leakage (or put it in an air-tight container). For snacks, I will freeze the individual guacamole servings you can buy and again: they act like little ice packs in your cooler. Another must-buy if you’re cooking with a camp stove is a camp oven: the one we have is by Coleman and it is basically a collapsible metal box with adjustable rack, a door and temperature gauge. So far we’ve cooked our breakfast burritos, garlic bread, cinnamon buns, and cookies in it. It collapses down to about a 12″ square and ~2″ thick. Caveat: you do need to watch closely and adjust the flame as you go so you don’t end up at 500F all of a sudden. We also have a box of “pantry essentials” for our camp cooking set-up that I always stock with coconut milk, curry sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, & brown sugar.

    As for where we go: since we’re camping to climb, we’re often camped in national forest or on BLM land eg. Ten Sleep in Wyoming, Shelf Road in southern Colorado. Those areas are remote so there’s no/very little light pollution, resulting in the most beautiful starry nights =)

    Ditto to Liz’s recommendation on the beanie: We’re often camping at high elevation (~8000ft) so nights are still cold and it’s not uncommon to want to pull on a puffy, even in July! As a result, we pack all layers for all seasons no matter the time of year because you just never know!

    And for the bathroom: there’s usually an outhouse available or else we pack a hand trowel. We’re considering getting one of the 5 gallon bucket camp “toilets” though ’cause squatting is tiring when you’ve hiked and climbed all day!

    I like to think with all the gear we have for camping, we could totally survive a zombie apocalypse =p

  76. Love these tips! My husband has been wanting to go camping for so long…we have NEVER gone as a family! I think I’m a little timid of the whole thing but these tips make it seem like it could actually be a good experience!

  77. Nanna says...

    Please note that those tips about where to camp do NOT apply everywhere in the world.

    Like someone pointed out before, campsites are better because park rangers can keep track and will notice if you don’t come back from your hike. Also campgrounds are organised for a reason and it’s not just because of wildlife, it’s also to protect nature.

    I’m pointing this out because I’m from Iceland, a country where you can easily get lost/fall into a crac/have a bad fall and not be able to get back to your camp, so always make sure someone there knows where you are heading, It’s also a country where nature is very sensitive and won’t always handle cars and tents etc. So don’t go too much off the beaten track because it may not be safe for you or for the landscape. And please please please never ever drive off road, anywhere!

  78. We started a tradition last summer where we’ll go camping once a summer, spontaneously, for however long we feel like! Last summer it ended up being five nights which was the longest time that I’d ever camped before (I wasn’t a huge camper until I had so much fun on this trip). The thing that saved my life was dry shampoo! Now I always bring it with me when we camp. I wrote a post on my blog about five camping essentials for the non-camper:

  79. Leah says...

    Love this camping themed day! I’m a huge summer camp person and my family and I are actually going to family camp (for Michigan alum) in a few weeks! I’m so excited!!

  80. Katharine says...

    I love the egg tip! Its not a credit to our ingenuity how many times the egg carton has become a soggy mess from the cooler ice. We have camped with our 2.5 year old and 7 month old 2.5 times this season and my big tip is have at least a 3:1 adult to small child/infant ratio. You have that ratio and it’s lovely! (You don’t and you get .5 a camping trip ;)

  81. These are wonderful tips, but I’m worried the first bit might be a little misleading! Many parks in the US require you to obtain a permit in order to camp outside of designated camping areas – especially at the most popular destinations like Yosemite and Yellowstone. It’s their way of keeping everyone safe and accounted for. Make sure to check the rules before you go. I’d hate to see anyone get fined because they didn’t know!

    That being said, this has me ready to break out my tent and hit the road!

  82. Hannah says...

    Growing up in Alaska, camping always involved hiking with a big pack to a location with amazing views. I was in college in California when I heard about car camping for the first time. I seriously could not understand how that qualified as camping! Haha. I’ve done all kinds of camping since, but I still prefer a long hike before camping at some gorgeous location only seen by the adventurous.

  83. One of our most memorable camping trips was on the Lost Coast in Northen CA. Spectacular!

  84. we love camping! We did our first camping + toddler trips recently and they were a huge success. Camping in the Pacific Northwest in summer is the best—we did the San Juan islands for one trip and Mt. Rainier for another. When we lived in DC our fave spot was Assateague Island—you camp on the beach and there are wild ponies walking around. It’s pretty idyllic.

    • Nina says...

      But the horse flies on assateaque are horrendous, at least dueing the day. Ive been up to the san juans but just for hours not overnight…thsey would be neat to explore.

  85. Emily says...

    I don’t usually comment but last summer I discovered the BEST thing to bring camping and I feel I must share… an oven mitt!! I’m kind of a weenie about fire so having an oven mitt gave me the confidence to be the best campfire cook/ fire attendant ever!

  86. Schylar says...

    Growing up, one of my favorite family traditions was taking a long weekends to camp around the Blue Ridge Mountain area. Around four or five close family friends would all park our tents near each other to create a temporary utopian community. Us kids would roam free in the mud and smoke “twig cigarettes” by the fire while the parents played Scrabble (an official dictionary always close by). At night we’d all gather together for a potluck, smores, and (scary) story time. Eventually we upgraded to a camper and since then have taken trips to numerous national parks (of which, the Grand Tetons have been the most magical). I must warn you though, eight people in a closed space for two weeks will lead to plenty of embarrassing material for toasts and parties.

    As an adult, my favorite camping spot has been Shi Shi Beach in the Neah Bay area of Washington state (Yes, exactly where Twilight was set…). While it is more difficult to reach (you must have a permit since it is on a reservation and you must backpack in order to reach the beach), nothing beats the misting rain forest, talking long hikes along the coast, crackling a fire by the crushing waves, and waking up with Canada across the Bay!

  87. Blaire says...

    That campsite with the view of the Golden Gate is one of the coolest places I’ve ever camped how cool to see someone else’s photo with that view of the bridge! I don’t think many people know about it, because there was no one else there during our two nights. I didn’t know you were allowed to camp in any national forest or wilderness area surrounding a national park – all this time I thought we were being sneaky. ;) Camping isn’t camping if you’re in a bustling campground.

  88. I’m with ya Stephanie!

    I was going to ask the same thing! I love to camp and have every summer of my life. But the lack of a ladies bathroom is so difficult! When we go camping near Lake Powell, my dad brings a one person tall tent and a small porta-potty for the ladies. It’s so much more comfortable than roughing it.

    Now that I’m older, I always make my husband choose a campground rather than a wilderness area so that I can make sure that camping really does stay fun the whole time for everyone!
    Any wisdom you can lend, Liz?

  89. Rachel says...

    I love camping! My husband and I are on our honeymoon right now- camping our way around Iceland. It’s so relaxing and a great way to just be together.

  90. Rose says...

    This post came at a perfect time. My husband and I are leaving tomorrow for a road trip down Hwy 101/Hwy 1 through Oregon and California and we are camping along the way. We love to be close to nature and especially close to the ocean. There’s nothing better than falling asleep and waking up to the sound of waves crashing.
    One thing I never forget to bring camping: coffee and a pour-over coffee maker!

  91. I grew up camping with my family, and they are some of my fondest, most special memories! As a kid in the wilderness, you feel like the world is all yours! I can’t wait to take our kids camping- though our first one is currently only 5 weeks old, so I guess we’ve got a while before that begins :)

    The campfire is a magical place when it comes to camping. It’s the focal point and brings everyone together- Meals, stories, late night chats, just poking around… I always thought it was fun when my mom would wrap potatoes in aluminum foil and throw them in the campfire to cook baked potatoes for dinner. Funny story- When I was in 8th grade, my dinner napkin got thrown in the fire and I didn’t realize until the next day that my retainer had been wrapped in it. Sure enough, we found what remained (pretty much only the metal wire) in the ashes the next morning. Classic middle school moment. Whoops :)

  92. caroline says...

    …crack eggs into a ziplock bag? Why not just leave them in their shells?

    and pancake mix in a bag? Why not just flour eggs and milk?

    these are the craziest cooking tips I’ve ever read on the internet.

    • Julie says...

      Seems like it’s because the eggs would be easier to use in the moment without having to crack them and dispose of the shells! Same with the pancake mix!

    • Less stuff to pack with less utensils needed makes camping much more simple.

    • When camping, the less items you can have with you, and the more simply packed, the better. An egg carton in an ice chest gets wet (from the ice) and starts to deteriorate, meaning eggs can fall out and crack all over your other food – yuck. I’m certainly not going to bring, and measure a whole thing of milk & flour when camping. Please remember these aren’t “cooking tips”, it’s just a real person sharing how they camp. My family does it the same way!

    • KM says...

      I’m with ya — that’s a lot of plastic ziploc bags. I know the gist of this piece is to encourage the ‘ease’ of camping, and definitely geared towards those with kids, but it’s nice to leave behind some of those modern crutches/amenities when you’re living outside. Isn’t the point to be more in tune with natural systems? Why create more waste?

    • Anne says...

      If you pack the flour, eggs, and milk separately, you need a bowl and spoon for mixing. That’s extra dishes to wash, and it’s a pain to wash dishes in the woods (not to mention not-great for the wildlife!).

      And you may not have access to a garbage can or dumpster. I’m a bit fuzzy on whether you can just discard eggshells in the woods – they’ll break down so maybe? But generally I think you’re supposed to carry out everything you carry in, and who wants to pack out all those eggshells. Does anybody know this one?

    • Christi says...

      Anne, “pack in pack out” is always the case. Yes, eggshells will decompose eventually but certainly not overnight. It may take over a year for the process to complete. Think if you found an awesome, scenic spot to camp, only to discover someone’s leftover eggshells (sub that for any other organic matter). Eww! You want to leave the place in exactly the same condition you found it in.

  93. This post is so timely! My husband and I are headed out of the city early Saturday morning for a wedding in New Hampshire. The bride & groom invited adventurous guests to camp on the property after the reception. So, of course, we’re camping! We borrowed a tent from friends, and we’re packing our queen size air mattress ($60 well spent at Target!). Can’t wait!

  94. Am I the only one who was wondering “How do you go to the bathroom?” while reading the article? I love the idea of cuddling with loved ones in the great outdoors but I’m not sure if I could handle doing my business in the woods… I have a hard enough time dealing with public restrooms in New York ha.

    See my adventures in Manhattan at

    • The way I look at it, the woods are so (SO) much cleaner than a public restroom. And life is too short for modesty!

    • Anne says...

      I’m totally with Katie, I would WAY rather go behind a tree than in a port-a-potty. There’s no stench, for starters, and you don’t have to touch any icky stall locks or faucets :p