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Tips for a Successful Family Camping Trip

Camping with your family can be a fantastic adventure. From roasting marshmallows under the stars to hiking through breathtaking scenery, family camping trips can bring everyone closer together while creating stories that will be told for years to come. 

But let’s be honest: Camping with your family can also be stressful, especially if it’s your first time. Luckily, Bryan Kuhn, PharmD, a pharmacist and clinical toxicologist with Banner Health, will share helpful tips for safety in the great outdoors. 

Before you hit the trails and pitch your tent, here are 10 tips to ensure your family camping experience is stress-free, safe and fun.

1. Plan and prepare

Planning and preparation before showing up at the campsite is likely your best bet at preventing unnecessary risks and injuries. 

“Camping sites are typically remote from resources we usually rely on, so understanding the area around your camping site and what available resources are or aren’t available can help you navigate possible challenges easily,” Dr. Kuhn said.

Some factors to consider and prepare for include:

  • Reserve your spot early. Many campgrounds at national and state parks fill up quickly. Try to book six to nine months in advance.
  • Check the campground’s rules and regulations. On their websites, many state and national campgrounds have guidance and suggestions (under Check the Conditions). 
  • Check the weather conditions at the campsite area.
  • Understand the road conditions to access the camp (do you need four-wheel drive/all-wheel drive versus two-wheel high-clearance vehicles versus regular sedan)
  • Find out the availability of essential resources like fuel, food, water and health care facilities.
  • Check about heat sources for colder trips. Are campfires allowed, or are there fire restrictions?
  • Practice setting up the tent in the backyard. If it will be your children’s first time, consider a test run at home to see how they do and what you may need.

2. Choose the right gear

Put together a gear list. Pack essentials like a sturdy tent, sleeping bags, cooking equipment and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Don’t forget first aid supplies, sunscreen and flashlights. 

Other essentials you should consider include:

  • Specific medication for family members, like inhalers, EpiPens, insulin, etc.
  • Toilet paper
  • Matches or lighters
  • Navigation tools like a compass and paper map of the area
  • Batteries
  • Insect repellent (bug spray), insect bite and anti-itch gel or cream
  • Safety kit items: bandages, ointments, disinfectants, gauze, tweezers, cold compress, aloe, diarrhea medicine, antacids
  • Scissors
  • Batteries
  • Garbage bags
  • Small shovel
  • Extra layers for nighttime
  • Rain gear like ponchos 
  • Games and activities for the kids – especially if you are cooped up in the tent during a rainstorm 
  • Emergency communication devices or two-way radios 

Check out REI’s camping checklist to make sure you’ve stocked up on the things you need.

3. Pack plenty of food and water

Pack plenty of food and water for the duration of your camping trip to keep your family fueled for the adventure. Opt for non-perishable and easy-to-prepare meals. Don’t forget snacks like granola bars and fruit for quick energy boosts throughout the day. 

4. Understand local wildlife and plants

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the local flora and fauna in the camping area. Knowing which plants are poisonous – like poison oak and poison ivy – and which animals to watch out for – like bears, spiders and snakes – can help you avoid possible dangers. 

Respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance and not feeding it. Stay on hiking paths. Don’t eat anything you find in the woods. 

If you have questions about treating stings, bites and allergic reactions, contact the Banner Poison & Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

5. Set up camp safely

Arrive at your chosen campsite before dark to ensure you have enough daylight to set up camp safely. Choose a level and stable area away from hazards like dead trees or rocky terrain. Ensure your tent is securely anchored and adequately ventilated. Be mindful of fire safety guidelines and establish a safe distance between your tent and campfires.

6. Keep food secure

Securely store food in airtight or bear-proof containers to prevent unwanted encounters with wildlife. Dispose of food scraps and avoid leaving food unattended, especially at night. Familiarize yourself with local wildlife habits and follow park regulations regarding food storage.

7. Practice “leave no trace” principles

Follow the “leave no trace” principles to minimize your environmental impact. Pack out all trash, including food scraps and biodegradable items like fruit peels. Leave natural objects undisturbed to preserve nature's beauty. 

8. Embrace unplugged bonding

Use camping as an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with your family. Leave the iPads at home and take advantage of the HD quality of your natural surroundings. Explore nearby trails, hike, fish, stargaze and share stories around the campfire. 

9. Keep children safe

Ensure each child has a whistle and knows how to use it if lost. Teach them to stay put and blow the whistle repeatedly if they become separated from the group.

Establish clear boundaries within the campsite and supervise young children. Remind them to always stay away from water sources, like lakes and rivers, when they are not with an adult to prevent accidental drownings

Teach them about campfire safety, like staying far away and never playing with matches or lighters. 

10. Be flexible

Despite careful planning, unexpected challenges may arise during your camping trip. Stay flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. Have alternative plans in case of rain or other conditions. Embrace the opportunity to adapt and create new experiences together as a family.


There is nothing better than escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to experience the great outdoors as a family. With these tips and precautions, you’ll be well-prepared to handle whatever nature throws your way.   

If you have questions about first aid or poisonous/venomous reaction, contact Banner Health’s Poison and Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

For more related blogs, check out:

Children's Health Parenting Poison Prevention Safety