Our gear for family camping
February 10, 2014
We have been camping for over 20 years, and for 5 years with little children. I’d like to share what kind of camping gear we use and why.
For our family of two adults and two children under 6 we got a 6-person tent. It is a one room tent with a small foyer. The foyer is covered by the fly and it zips all the way down, and there is a little mat that you can roll out to put your shoes on, but it does not zip to the fly (and therefore is not fully enclosed). This tent fits our queen sized blow up mattress plus a single sized blow up mattress and still has some leg room for your bags and for getting dressed, etc. I don’t like getting some things bigger than necessary, but this is a really good fit for us.
We have a Coleman queen size mattress. It is about 8 inches thick when blown up. It is a pretty heavy duty mattress that comes with a dual action hand pump. This mattress is quite bulky when deflated, occupying the volume of approximately 20L. We sleep with our youngest on this mattress, and it’s rather cramped when our 5 year old joins us too. We also have a single size mattress for my daughter.
For car camping, we love our regular Coleman square sleeping bags with flannel lining. I do not like all the fancy new sleeping bags with artificial liners. We always zip our two bags together (unzip each bag, sandwich them flannel side to flannel side and zip the zipper of one to the zipper of the other) to help use combined body heat. When we were overseas and camping we were not able to get flannel lined sleeping bags. What we got instead were great, light weight synthetic fitted bags (which have a body shape and hood for your head. Since we were in tropical weather we did not need the hoods, which, would be very appreciated under our current camping conditions in Canada.) We hated them. We could not zip them together and I felt like I was sleeping in a shower curtain.
For bedding I also bring two flat sheets – 1 for our mattress, one for my 5 year old. It just makes me feel cleaner. Also essential is to bring 2 extra blankets. For camping, always bring a warm layer above and beyond what you pack for the coldest weather expected. For example, if you think that it might dip to 10°C / 50°F and that you would need a sweater for that, bring a sweater and a sweatshirt. If you think it might be cool at night and you may need extra socks, bring socks, hat and an extra blanket.
I have not brought myself to bringing pillows for camping, but I usually end up grabbing something, like a sweatshirt, to roll under. I should just bring the pillows.
We have a basic Coleman two burner stove which uses a 16.4 oz propane cylinder. We are conscious of how long we cook on it, but the cylinders last surprisingly long.
After years of eating out in the open (or under the tarp, if it was raining) we bought a basic food tent. Well, the model we bought is not something I’ll recommend. It has mesh only on all sides and the legs are free standing – meaning that you have to balance the tent just right for it to stand on its own. Eric has lots of experience setting it up now, but it was pretty difficult the first few times. We are particularly lucky with rain (we always get some or lots) and the mesh leaks water when the rain is heavy. We once camped on a peninsula and when the wind picked up, the food tent blew down. We would have been just fine, but our 1 and 3 year olds got quite terrified. In conclusions, all food tents are not created equal and yes, you do need one.
In summary, this is the basic camping equipment we use for our family. If you’d like to comment on gear you use and like (or not) we’d love to hear it!