Happy National Campout Day!

Summer has traditionally been camping season in my family and this year the Great American Campout will be Friday June 25th to Saturday, June 26th.  Growing up in National Parks we spent most of our summers backpacking and camping all over the Pacific Northwest, car camping, beach camping, backcountry camping and backyard camping.  I reached out to some friends who are Girl Scouts and some that are avid campers with their families for their favorite tips and tricks for making your next camping experience the best it can be, no matter where you will be setting up your sleeping bag.  

It is OK to stay Connected 

Depending on who you are camping with and what your goals for the trip are, many love the idea of no cell service or WiFi, and for others being connected is an important part of who they are, both ways are good.   

three girls taking a picture outside a tent

If you do decide to stay connected to technology for the camping experience there are many apps out there that can help you have a fun time while engaging with nature.  Apps for star gazing, frog songs, bird identification, really pretty much any natural history topic you can think of, these apps are a good way to integrate the knowledge you learn with the real world experiences you are having.  

#1 Rule: Have Fun!  

That’s it no other tips, having fun looks different for everyone whether you are tent camping, car camping, primitive camping or backcountry camping.  Being prepared and then being flexible will help you keep having fun and we have some tips and tricks below to help you do just that.   

Be Prepared, Keep it Simple:  

Pack what you need, no extra weight, you don’t need as much as you think, pack your first aid kit to your skill level.  

Keep organized:  

camping supplies packed in labeled totes
Photo from takingontoday.com

Organizing your supplies before you leave is a great start to staying organized when you are the campsite.  Using clear tubs and totes makes it easy to see when you need it and easy to pack in the car.  Some suggested themes from fellow Girl Scout campers. 

  • Kitchen Tote: Camping Stove, small tote with camp utensils, spices, Ziploc bags, foil, and dishwashing supplies, charcoal (if needed), matches and propane fuel, paper towels/kitchen towels, wet wipes.  
  • Sleeping Area Tote: Ground cloth or tarp (folded), mattresses for each family member, tent, camp pillows, sleeping bags.  
  • Camp Life Tote: Headlights/flashlights for each family member, cord for hanging wet clothes, games or playing cards, lanterns, chairs, axe, beach towels.  
  • Food/Snacks 
  • Toys/Crafts/Entertainment 

Wash Stations 

When camping with kids of all ages having a hand and foot washing station would be a great idea, a volunteer from York County suggested having a spot in camp where you can sent the dirty hands to get clean throughout the day.  You can use a water just that has an open/close spout or a collapsible water jug. Having a wash basin, a plastic pin that kids and adults alike can step into to wash dirty feet, you will also want to have some towels close by to dry off right away otherwise you will just keep tracking dirt and mud into you tents and sleeping bags.  

baby playing in a tub of water

Baby wipes are also a good alternative to a wash station if you are limited on space or water.  This option will make more trash, so make sure you have a place to keep the used wipes to dispose of appropriately.  Along this line of thought stock up on baby wipes and antibacterial wipes they will come in handy to wipe down kids, tools, hands, faces, etc.  

Food Plans 

two children eating smores
  • Preparing as much food as possible ahead of time 
  • Don’t store food in your car or tents.  
  • Do use bear lockers if provided, do use a lockable cooler, do hang food from a tree in a stuff sack at night at least 10 feet up and three feet out.  Do remember to hang any scented items as well, toothpaste, lotion, chap stick, and shampoo.  
  • Freeze Jugs of water ahead of time and they can act as coolers to keep your food safe, and when they melt you have more drinking water.  Make sure to not fill them up all the way to leave room for when they expand as the freeze.  

Bring Entertainment 

young girl blowing a large bubble

Yes you are going out into nature to explore and be one with the wonders of the wild, but kids tend to have a short attention span and you will only be able to tell them to go watch the clouds so many times. Being prepared with activities that will use the environment you are in and activities that are favorites from home will help keep everyone happy.   

Here are some suggestions from some seasoned campers:  

  • Squirt Guns 
  • Balls – Soccer, Football, baseball 
  • Bubbles 
  • Chalk 
  • Binoculars 
  • Exploring Camp tools 
  • Coloring Books 
  • Crafts (embroidery floss, beads, etc.) 
  • Magnifying Glass 
  • Bug catcher, identification book 
  • Card Games  

Various Tips and tricks from some experiences campers.  

  • Soap Your Pots and Pans, this provides a barrier for all the soot and makes it simple to clean the outside of the pots at the end of the trip.  
  • Always Hat or Bandana: protects from sun and ticks, also bandanas – slings, bandages, potholders, strainers, and more 
  • Plastic Bags, these can be use for everything, storing dirty wet close, keeping extra food safe, storing items you want to keep dry. 
  • Dry feet are happy feet. Have dry socks to change into, also a pair of sandals you could wear around camp to let your feet dry and air out.  Don’t put your wet shoes or boots too close to the fire to dry out.   
group of teenage girls sitting around a camp fire at night.

What other things have you found to be helpful with camping as a troop or family? Share your tips and tricks in the comments so we can all learn something new. 

Written by: Liz Bleacher, Program Coordinator, GSHPA

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