A few summers ago, my buddy and I took our kids camping. It wasn’t the first time we’d taken them, but each time is something of an adventure.

At one point, I was cooking dinner on my camp stove (that has two settings—”off,” or “burn your food in five seconds.”) He was starting the campfire.

Neither one of us was paying super close attention to our four-year-olds who were playing at the picnic table. But suddenly I heard a shout of glee and then one of them say, “Do it again!”

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Then, out of my periphery, I watched one of them shoot a citronella candle with an aerosol can of bug spray, creating a moderate-sized fireball that shot across our camp site, bringing that look of complete amazement to their faces.

This brings me to my first bit of advice when taking kids camping for the first time:

Give Yourself Some Space

Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

As I caught the two little pyromaniacs in their second act of butane combustion, a string of profanities escaped my lips.

Chances are, on your first camping-with-kids experience, you’re likely going to lose your cool at some point. Better that there isn’t a nice retired couple, honeymooners or another family 20 feet away.

We’re assuming that your first camp trip with kids isn’t into some remote outback. If you have that kind of confidence, good for you. But most likely, you’re at a family campground with other folks around.

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On a busy weekend, you’re probably not going to be able to find a private spot. But maybe ask for a site that isn’t right on top of other campers. You won’t have a bunch of college kids playing music and tossing beer cans in the fire a few feet from your family and no one else is going to hear your kids when they have a “lost-marshmallow meltdown.”


Concentrate on showing them all the things that made camping so cool when you were a kid. Photo: Coen.
Concentrate on showing them all the things that made camping so cool when you were a kid. Photo: Jon Coen

Your first camping trip with the kids might be something as simple as an RV park—On a clear night you can see the glowing lights of the Dairy Queen a quarter-mile away.

Doesn’t matter that you haven’t left actual civilization, you can still use this as a chance to unplug. Make a concerted effort with the other adults that you won’t be handing your kid your phone or tablet.