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Who's Going?

This decision will affect many others: destination, trip length, and gear

There’s no greater bonding experience than delving into nature with friends and family. That’s the basis—and continuing sustenance—of many of our friendships.

That said, deciding whom to take on your camping trip is not something to rush into.

The most beautiful destination in the world can be soured if people aren’t getting along, or if one person in the group is having a miserable time.

Know the members of your group well, their abilities, fitness, threshold for “roughing it,” and personality quirks. That goes double for the family pet! First, be sure the campground allows pets, but also consider your dog’s temperament.

Ease first-time campers, whatever their age, into the outdoors by choosing a campground with lots of amenities, and perhaps starting with a quick overnight.

Young children are often delighted in the most basic aspects of nature—it’s all new to them! Be on the lookout for fun teaching moments at every turn.

Teens may require more excitement and structured activities. Schedule in a paintball game or whitewater rafting to keep them engaged. The rewards of a multi-generational trip are long-lasting memories.

Grandma and Grandpa may not mind sleeping in a tent if they have a good air mattress or cot. Or they may opt to bring their camper or stay in a cabin nearby. Everyone can come together for an evening barbecue and chat around the fire. A campground with varied options is a great location for a family vacation or reunion that will make everyone comfortable.

Scout and youth group trips come with a whole other level of challenges. You’ll need a boatload of patience and a big ”bag of tricks.” But such experiences can be something kids will remember for the rest of their lives.

Family Camping

  • How young is too young? Many doctors advise waiting until about six months of age, when baby can sit up on its own, but experienced camping families start in infancy.
  • Consider all you’ll need to bring: playpens, carriers, bikes, and games.
  • Engage children in all aspects of the trip: planning, camp set-up, and cooking.
  • A family camping vacation is a great opportunity to unplug. Consider leaving the handheld music and gaming devices at home, and listening to birds and gazing at stars instead.

  • Multi-Generational

  • Grandparents are often great storytellers. Encourage them to share their experiences around the fire.
  • Skills like fishing, birdwatching, and canoeing are skills that the older generation can pass along to youngsters.
  • Don’t forget the still camera or video camera. You might even consider a tape recorder to document family history.
  • Do take into account any mobility issues in the group, and be sure anyone on medications brings along those medications.

  • Bring the Dog?

  • Be sure to check ahead to find out if pets are allowed in the campground, how many are allowed, and if there’s a weight limit.
  • Wildlife refuges seldom allow dogs, but many state park campgrounds do.
  • Consider how your dog reacts to strangers, other dogs, and wildlife and plan accordingly.
  • Cats aren’t normally great travelers, but there are exceptions. Just be sure yours doesn’t get loose.

  • Scout and Youth Groups

  • Youth group camping areas, set apart from the main public area, often have their own rules and regulations. Check them in advance.
  • The recommended adultto- youth ratio is at least one adult per ten campers under eighteen years old.
  • You’ll need to get some important paperwork from the parents, including permission to get the kids medical treatment.
  • You should be trained in basic first aid, at the least. Scouting organizations require leaders to be trained and certified.


    From the book Knack Car Camping for Everyone, by Bill and Mary Burnham; photographs by Stephen Gorman. Copyright © 2009 by Morris Book Publishing, LLC. Used by permission of FalconGuides, a division of Globe Pequot Press. Visit
  • Pledge to camp


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