Taking your children camping can be one of the most fun outings you can have as a family. It’s a way that all of you can be together where you’re really spending time together. With other vacations it’s too easy for your children to wander off on their own doing other things and you don’t really get to spend time together.
With camping however, you get the opportunity to really talk to each other, play games and just enjoy yourselves, but only if you get the right kids camping gear to get them started.
The best thing you can do for your children is to get them involved in camping. It’s going to give them a chance to learn some valuable life skills, ones that they can use in the future if they are ever stuck in the wilderness or even skills that will be transferrable throughout other areas of their life. If you’re diligent about teaching them when you go camping you’re going to have children who are self-reliant and capable of taking care of themselves even in difficult situations. It’s something you can’t really afford not to teach them. See our piece on parents’ guidelines on camping with kids.
First however, let’s talk about the different types of camping equipment that you can and should be getting for your child. There are several pieces of camping gear for kids that you can purchase.
Remember that you don’t want to get your smaller children full-sized camping gear because it’s going to be too large for them and could make it difficult for them to carry out the tasks that you want them to complete. Certain types of gear may be too bulky for them to carry if you get them a full size version as well, so keep it all in mind and make sure you’re getting your children the right size gear for their needs. Keep abreast with the latest information on kids’ camping gear to give you more options.
The first thing your kids are going to need is a sleeping bag. This is where they’re going to sleep but it’s also a piece of equipment that they’re going to need to carry so you want to make sure it’s the right size for them. A sleeping bag should be rated high enough that they can easily sleep in the weather that’s expected. Remember that there are different ratings and you don’t really want to use a bag in a temperature it’s not rated for because you could get cold and that’s going to cause illness (something you definitely don’t want for your child).
To go along with your child’s sleeping bag you may also want to get a sleeping pad or cot that gets them up off the ground. When you sleep on the ground you’re susceptible to cold and moisture that you aren’t when you are up off the ground. After all, the dirt and rock under your sleeping bag stay cold during the night and it can get damp if there is snow or rain nearby and your tent isn’t completely sealed. By putting your sleeping bag up on a coat or sleeping pad, you ensure that you don’t get that cold or dampness inside the bag.
Not everyone wants their child to sleep in a tent by themselves but you can choose to get them one of their own that they can carry. It doesn’t need to be very large unless you have multiple children sleeping in the same tent.
Remember that best case scenario they can carry all of their own gear and that means a small tent (though carrying everything in one trip is not necessary). The tent should be waterproof and sealed so moisture doesn’t get it. You may want one that has a rain shield as well so that any moisture that accumulates during the night will roll off instead of pooling on the top.
The specific tools you want your child to have for camping will depend on their age because you don’t want anything they could hurt themselves with. For little bit older children a Swiss army knife is a good idea because it’s one small tool that they can carry easily. Also, it will provide them with several tools they’ll be able to use in case of an emergency such as a pocket knife, corkscrew, scissors, openers and much more. There are also some that have utensils in them which can be great to throw in their pack just in case they need it for anything.
Another tool is a lantern. Smaller size lanterns are great because they help your child when they need to venture outside at night. Of course, you’re going to be keeping an eye on your child while you’re camping. Still, in a survival situation you’d want them to know how to use a lantern and definitely to have one so that they can get wherever they need to go without being hurt.
This is also going to help them in their own tent when they’re setting up or if they’re doing something before they fall asleep. Available in a variety of sizes, you’ll find plenty of reasons your child should have a lantern of their own but also a flashlight that can be more easily carried and directed instead of only brightening the space they’re in.
Walkie Talkie’s are going to let your child stay in contact with you or anyone else if they get separated during a survival situation. Because they can be changed to different frequencies, it’s possible that even though you have a specific set, you can chime into other sets and someone would be able to hear them. This is important for your camping trips as well because you can always stay in contact with one another and you don’t have to worry about if they decide to wander off a little on their own (as long as they’re older anyway).
If you’re going camping a lot another great thing to have is a pair of binoculars. Not only are they great if you need to scout for anything, they’re also great to look at all the fun things around you from birds and animals to the trees and bushes.
You’ll be able to get a better idea of your surroundings and you can teach your children how to watch their surroundings carefully, including how to watch for markers when they travel or signs of something nearby, like an animal, water or even another person.
A headlamp can be another great addition but it does not take the place of a regular lantern and/or flashlight. These lamps help your child to see where they are walking but without losing the use of their hands. In some instances this is going to be better than a flashlight but in others you may find you need that traditional flashlight.
There are several different strengths available for the headlamps out there with some bright enough that you can see anything and some that are going to be less vibrant but still easy to move around.
Traveling around outside it can be difficult to figure out where you are or what direction you’re heading in. Even though you want to try and teach your child more about how to find their way using the sun or trees, you should also get them prepared with their own compass which will help them make sure they are going the right direction. Make sure you teach them how to use it properly so they can always get where they need to go, even if something goes wrong.
Finally, a water bottle and snacks should always be in their bag. This ensures that, if something happens to them, they’re always going to have something to hold them over a little while on food and water, two of the most important things to their overall survival.
By packing a couple granola bars or other healthy snacks in their bag with a full bottle of water at all times their bag is going to be a little heavier, but it’s also going to be prepared to keep them alive just in case the unthinkable happens and you need to survive in the wilderness.
No matter what time of the year or where you are going camping you want your child to have warm clothes. Nights can get cold no matter where you are and you want your child to always be prepared for that. That means making sure they have long pants, a long sleeve shirt, socks, gloves and a jacket with them in case something happens.
If you’re going camping in the colder months you’ll want them to also have a sweatshirt, boots and thermal or insulated shirts and pants to wear under their regular clothes. The last thing you want is your child getting frostbite or hypothermia after all.
Whether you choose the generic hand warmers that you just have to break and they start heating up for a few hours or some of the electronic ones that are starting to become more popular, you’ll be able to find a number of different styles of hand warmers, body warmers, foot warmers and much more that will help your child keep at least a little bit warm when the weather gets cold and they’re hiking or wandering around outdoors.
Make sure whatever kind of warmers you have they know how to use them and they’ll be safe.
Available in several different styles and types, fire starters can be just handfuls of twigs and grass or they can be more complicated or even store-bought. You want to make sure they not only have some but know how to use them as well.
If you give them fire starters and they can’t make a fire with them it’s not going to do them any good. So teach them a few different methods of starting the fire and, if they’re old enough, make sure they have a lighter in their pack that will help.
It’s essential that you have a pack when you’re going camping and especially when you’re trying to teach your child about survival. A pack is the best way for them to carry all of their belongings and should be small and light enough for them to carry but still large enough to carry all the gear they might need.
Many packs now come with a water skin which attaches to the inside of the bag and allows you to drink the water without ever taking the bag off your back. This is great if you’re trying to travel long distances because you don’t need to keep digging a water bottle out of your bag and then stopping to put it back.
Just for fun
Now, if you and your children are going camping just for fun, there are some other tools and toys that you can take along with you so you can have a good time, but they won’t be much good if you are trying to survive in the wilderness. These are tools that are going to allow you to just experience being in the outdoors and making your own dinner over the fire or learning how to make sounds like the birds around you.
By having fun outdoors you’re going to teach your children to be more comfortable there and that will definitely help them if they find themselves in a survival situation. For a list of camping activities you can do with your kids, do read our useful article on this topic.
These are definitely fun and can teach your children about the different sounds that birds make.
Though the bird call itself isn’t really going to help them, knowing the different sounds of different birds might because they can identify the types of birds that live in different areas and understand a little more about where they are if there’s a dangerous situation around them or they find themselves in an unfamiliar area of the woods or wilderness.
Campfire cooking tools
Whether you’re looking to make pies, s’mores, grilled cheese or anything else there are plenty of cooking tools that will help you with the process. Of course, these are going to be too large and bulky to take with you if you find yourself in trouble but otherwise they’re going to be a lot of fun and your kids are definitely going to want to have them.
There are actually specially made ones for children that are a little bit smaller and lighter so your child can hold it and cook their own food rather than depending on you to do it for them.
Teaching your kids about the wilderness
There are all kinds of things you want to teach your children when you take them out camping. Sure it’s about having fun and spending time together, but it’s also about preparing them for situations when you don’t know what’s going to happen and that means teaching them some basic survival skills that are going to ensure they’re always prepared in the future whenever something may happen or even if they decide to really rough it when they get a little bit older.
Getting them starting with that camping gear for kids is going to get them excited for when they’re older and actually need the knowledge.
This is probably one of the most useful skills you can teach your children. By showing them how to tie different knots you’re preparing them for anything and everything. You use knots in your normal daily life for little things that you never even think about but you also use them for things like tying a fishing line, tying food up in a tree away from animals and setting up your tent. By teaching your child basics early on you’re going to give them something they’ll have fun with and also a practical skill.
Definitely something to save until they’re a little older, starting fires is a skill that will serve them well also, as long as you teach them the importance of fire safety and when and where they should start a fire. Show them a few different methods using a lighter and a fire starter and using flint and steel or any other method that you know of.
There are plenty of them out there and having a good basis of how to start them is going to be important.
Teaching your child basic first aid, either through your own course or through a Red Cross class is going to set them up for the future even if there never is an emergency situation where they need survival skills.
A lot of times they may find themselves in a situation where someone needs a little basic first aid and if they know what to do they could be a big help to someone that’s in need and who doesn’t like that? Your child could actually end up being a hero.
Cooking on a campfire
Start when your children are young teaching them how to respect a fire and then work your way up to teaching them how to actually make something on that fire.
You want them to be able to at least cook little things over the heat because first of all it’s something fun to do when you’re camping but also because, in a survival situation, it’s going to be essential that they can cook food easily and without concern for getting burned (or at least without too much concern).
Check out our article on delicious campfire recipes to make your trip memorable.
Why children’s camping gear?
You need to make sure you’re getting gear that’s specifically designed for children when you’re getting them started, especially if your children are younger. The smaller they are the more they’re going to need something that’s built for their hands and their strength. A teenager is probably able to carry a full-size pack, but a child is going to need a smaller one because anything too large could make them fall over or it could put too much strain on their back and hurt them. Child-sized gear is made specifically for a child to carry without too much difficulty.
The key is to watch for this type of gear that’s still real. A lot of places want to sell children’s versions of camping gear that aren’t very good quality. They sell cheap plastic utensils and tools when you want something that’s actually going to last or they sell you a sleeping bag made for sleepovers in someone’s house instead of something that’s going to last outside sleeping in a tent.
Don’t let yourself get sucked into something that you aren’t sure about. There are plenty of options available for your child’s camping gear, but make sure it’s from a good company and it’s going to hold up with them camping a lot.
Take your kids camping as much as you can. It’s going to teach them some great life skills and it’s going to help them have some fun with the family as well. There are too many families that just aren’t spending time together anymore and that’s not something you want for your family. So take some time out to go camping. The more you do it when your children are young the more they’re going to love doing it when they get older too. After all, camping is mostly about having some fun.
The more your children know how to do outside in the wilderness for themselves, the better off they’re going to be. They’ll know how to care for themselves just for the fun of it, but with the right kids camping gear they’re also going to know how to take care of themselves when a dangerous situation arises as well.
What’s going to start out as fun could very well turn into something essential somewhere down the road so make sure you have your children prepared. As they get older, just keep working with them on more and more advanced skills. They’ll be ready for anything that comes their way before you know it.