Family camping trips are, in theory, a lot of fun. However, after you’ve arrived, unpacked, got into the snacks, and set up your accommodations, that fateful question always arises. “What do we do now?”
Luckily, you’re old pal James is here with a list of fun gadgets, cool camping toys, tips, and camping hacks that will make the time away from phone-signal and WiFi breeze by.
Tip: Don’t bring your watch. You don’t need to know the time. You’ll start waking up early and go to bed when the sun goes down.
Gadget: I absolutely love my Leatherman Multitool. When I’m camping it’s always either on my belt or in my pocket. I use it for everything. The Signal is a multi-tool designed for adventure with a firestarter, hammer, one-handed blade, and an emergency whistle.
Tip: Pack layers – The weather might forecast the sun, but once the evening comes and the mosquitoes start to buzz around, you’ll wish you had some long-sleeved shirts.
Gadget: Pack bug repellent diffusers – I love Thermacell products for keeping the mosquitoes away. I love them so much, I’m giving away a Thermacell Summer Prize pack, worth $600+.
The coveted prize pack for one lucky winner will include key Thermacell products – such as the Radius Zone Rechargeable E55 Mosquito Repellent, Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repellent Lantern, Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repellent, refills, and more — as well as some cute and fun items such as a picnic blanket, basket, a disposable camera, and a game, to treat them to a memorable picnic for the whole family this summer.
Thermacell Summer Prize Pack
Tip: Download Netflix or Disney+ shows to your device ahead of time. Sometimes the kids (or us parents) just need some screen time.
Hack: Fire won’t start? A few Doritos make an amazing fire-starter.
Gadget: Solar powered garden stakes are awesome for marking out a play area or a path to the tent.
Gadget: Waterproof shoes – Pack a pair of Vessi shoes. They’re comfortable and will keep your feet dry through mud, puddles, and sandy shorelines.
Tip: If there’s even a slim chance of rain, bring some heavy-duty duct tape for sealing any leaky spots in your tent, and some garbage bags to throw your clothes into to keep them dry.
Gadget: A mini projector can plug into your phone or tablet and create a larger screen onto the side of your tent, a minivan, or a bedsheet hung from the trees.
Tip: Bring some rope for making a clothes line to dry your clothes and towels in the sun.
Gadget: For lighting a fire in any weather, pack a Fire Steel for creating a powerful spark.
- Compact fire starter designed to light fires in any conditions
- Provides 2,980-degrees C spark in any weather, at any altitude
- Durable lasts for approximately 12,000 strikes
- Army 2.0 model features improved stainless steel striker and ergonomic handle
- Bright spark – can be used as an emergency signal
- Lasts 12,000 strikes
- Built-in emergency whistle
Gadgets: An exploring kit – We found a little collection via Amazon like this one, which has everything your little explorers need for looking at bugs, looking for birds, and seeing what treasures they can find.
Gadget: S’more poles. Don’t use sticks from the ground or snap ones from a perfectly good tree. Grab a few reusable metal s’more poles from your local camping store. They’ll last forever and they’re long enough to keep your hands from cooking too.
Hack: Mosquitos still bothering you? Throw a bundle of sage into your fire. They hate it!
Tip: Bring a First Aid kit with plenty of waterproof Band-Aids and a saline spray for cleaning dirt out of wounds.
Gadget: Bug zapping tennis racket. While it’s not exactly ‘at one with nature’, it’s really fun to wave this around and zap those little blood-suckers into dust.
Hack: Use hollowed-out orange halves to cook canned cinnamon rolls.
Gadget: A Cart-Whirler. As well as being a soft yoga mat that can go under an air mattress or sleeping bag, it’s got directions to learn to do cartwheels. Bring it to the beach, play in the forest, put it under the bed, or roll it up for storage. It’s a multi-use boredom-buster!
Hack: Another great fire-starter is drier lint. The week before you go, start collecting it and store it in a water-tight bag or inside old toilet rolls.
Tip: Pack good quality cooking utensils and a cast iron pan, especially for cooking over a fire. BBQ tools are great because they usually have longer handles and let you keep your hands clear of the heat.
Tip: Bring sunscreen and plenty of it! I personally really like Sun Bum because they’re Reef-friendly and animal friendly. Less harmful chemicals, the better!
Tip: Bring a bottle of antibacterial spray and a cloth for wiping down kitchen tables. Handy wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer is good too, especially if the wash facilities are shared!
Tip: Matches and a spare lighter to start a fire. One will always go missing so have extras.
Hack: Bring pre-cracked eggs in your cooler instead of a big carton which can get soggy from the ice or worse, broken! The cartons from Burnbrae Farms are my go-to.
Gadget: Mark out those trip hazards! Use LED tent pegs so you don’t collapse the tent on the way back from a midnight trip to the bathroom.
Tip: Bring a storage box with all the toys. They’ll have a place to put them after playing and it’s much easier to pack them.
- Playing cards
- Card games
- Travel-sized games
- Frisbees, hackey-sacks, Nerf football, soccer ball
- Small trucks and cars
- Sand toys
- Camp-themed kid books
Tip: Bring enough seating. Camp chairs are always a hot commodity, especially if someone forgets theirs. Soft picnic blankets are always a good place for the kids to play safely too.
Hack: Use a belt around a tree to hang pots and pans!
Must-Buy: Bring handy wipes. After a few days without a shower, you’re going to need them. I like Combat Wipes. They’re 100% biodegradable, eco-friendly wipes, from a Veteran-owned company.
Tip: Don’t have your tent as your only shelter. Whether it’s a large tarp strung up with rope between the trees (make sure it’s sloped to allow rain run-off) or a foldable gazebo, you’ll need a shady spot or to get out of the rain.
Hack: The sun rises early and when you’re in a tent, you can get woken up at 4am. Bring sleep masks to help block out the light and get some extra rest.
Tip: BRING ALL THE SNACKS!
- Bake ahead of time and bring in tins/storage containers
- Make meals, portion up into freezer bags and freeze. They’ll keep other food cold and store nice and flat.
- Pack plenty of drinking water. Grab a few big water bottles and refill your reusable bottles to minimize plastic waste.
- Try to avoid anything too salty. You’ll dry yourself out and go through your water supply quicker than usual.
- Before leaving for your trip, pre-make breakfast wraps. Soft burritos with scrambled eggs, cooked bacon, and cheese. Roll up tightly and wrap in aluminum foil and freeze.
- Freeze bottles of water. They’ll double up as ice blocks that you can drink once they’ve melted.
Gadget: A good coffee mug is a must, but my new absolute favourites are these from Ecletticos that have an included coffee filter/tea diffuser. They look amazing too.
Tip: Use swimming noodles on the guy lines of your tent. Cut up a couple of swimming pool noodles and place them over the ropes to make them more visible.
Tip: Bring a few large plastic storage bins. As well as making it much easier to pack up, they’re great for washing dishes and for cooling off small kids (and grown-ups)
Gadget: Make pouring water easier with a USB water-pumping spout. It has a built-in rechargeable 1200mAh battery and can be used for 30-40 days or around 4-6 bottles of 5-gallon water once fully charged. The electric pumping device suitable for pure bottled drinking water, suitable for a variety of models of gallon barrels without pry the lid.
Tip: To loosen up a stuck zipper on a sleeping bag or tent, rub a little candlewax on it.
Tip: Put a headlamp around (light facing in) a full water jug. The light will refract and provide light for the whole tent
Tip: Pack extra toilet rolls and kitchen roll and keep them dry either in the car or in a coffee tin.
Tip: Bring plenty of spare socks and underwear. For camping, lake days, and rainy trips, I love the moisture-wicking BN3TH Entourage collection. They’re also the perfect undershort that keeps you chafe-free for going under your swim shorts.
Gadget: A solar-powered battery charger will help charge up your USB-powered devices like headlamps, phone, camera, and even a laptop.
Tip: Place dry firewood under your car to keep it try, especially overnight. There’s nothing worse than waking up on a cold morning and not having any dry wood to start a fire.
Gadget: Get a couple of tent fans to hang from the top of your shelter. We have a few and some have a built-in light for double-duty!
Tip: Bring a dustpan and brush. When it comes time to pack up, your tent will be full of sticks and mud. Clean it up before rolling up the tent so it’s clean for next time.
Tip: Have a good time. Camping with your family is all about switching off and getting back to nature. There’s no agenda, just let the time away from your routine help reset you.
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