Family Camping: Tips & Stats

How many miles, and how heavy a pack, can your kid handle? Plus, big tents, first aid, and newbie adults.

By the Numbers

How much can your child handle?

*These numbers can vary greatly, depending on terrain and the child’s stamina and energy level.

The Big Top
Invest in a family-size tent

Bunkroom, portable playroom, dressing room, bug and rain refuge. It’s impossible to over-emphasize the beauty of a big, comfortable, weatherworthy tent. A good bet: the Big Agnes Big House 4. It’s roomy enough for two adults plus three little kids (or two big ones), yet light enough to haul into the backcountry (10 lbs. 8 oz) when split between two adults. Plenty of mesh keeps things cool, two doors ensure ample access, and a built-in welcome mat reminds kids to leave muddy boots at the door. The three-pole configuration is easy to set up and results in a palatial 5 3/4 feet of headroom.

First Aid
Augment your regular backpacking kit with these must-haves for kids:

  • children’s or infants’ acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Ask your pediatrician for sample packs.*
  • liquid antihistamine*
  • epinephrine pen (if your child has allergies)
  • lots of adhesive bandages (especially Batman/Dora the Explorer/insert favorite character here)
  • calamine lotion and an after-bug-bite treatment
  • tweezers to remove splinters, ticks, or cactus needles

*know age/weight-appropriate dosages before you go

Pack plenty of antibacterial baby wipes–the easiest way to wash hands before a meal or after playing with bugs.

Timeless advice for grown-up newbies

What if good old Uncle Norman decides to join the family camping trip? Follow these tips to ensure that his camping experience is comfortable and stress-free.

Go luxe A cushy sleeping pad, plump pillow, and camp chair are must-haves for virgin campers.

Jettison the jeans Check his personal gear–replacing his cotton tees and white sports socks–and make sure his boots are properly broken in.

Go gourmet Other meals can be simple, but make the adults’ supper memorable. Try a pesto-and-sun-dried tomato pizza, penne à la vodka, and something chocolatey for dessert.

Spread Cheer If he’s the type who likes a nip or two, bring along a flask of his favorite single malt or a bottle of Rioja.

Easy does it Even if he’s a tough guy, make sure his pack is light and the trail is mellow.

Build pre-trip excitement Find scenic, enticing images online or in this magazine to get him salivating. If he’s an avid angler, give him a topo with good fishing holes highlighted; if he’s a wildflower or wildlife nut, buy him a location-specific field guide.

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