I still remember the first time I took my kids camping. My (now) 4 year old was so excited to sleep in a tent and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He loved the novelty of sleeping in a tent, inside a sleeping bag. In fact, he slept so well in a tent we contemplated to make him sleep in a sleeping bag every night. (We didn’t end up letting him do that of course)
The kids loved it. In summer, we try to go every month or so to let the kids roam free in nature, play in the sand, make their own fun, all without an iPad or TV in sight.
I’m not exactly a bush camper by nature. I don’t like ‘roughing it’. In fact, I was quite traumatised by my first camping experience in high school I swore never to go camping EVER again….until my son begged me to go camping in a tent as a family.
But it doesn’t change the fact that I still choose to be comfortable. I want to focus on the fun stuff like playing and relaxing in the beach rather than focusing on the stress of not being able to shower after a sweaty hike.
Note: In this post, I’m going to share with you some tips to make camping in a tent as comfortable as possible. The post is geared towards car camping because my kids are too young to be able to bring their own day pack for 1km or so before they reach the camp ground.
#1. Book a site in camp ground that fits your need
Comfort level is very different to everyone, but the idea is for YOU to be comfortable. For me, ‘comfortable camping’ would mean the following (in order)
Clean bathroom and HOT shower
Bathroom is certainly one thing that separates comfortable camping with survival bush camping. And no, cold shower won’t do.
I don’t really mind shared amenities as long as they look more like high-end shopping centre modern bathroom rather than the scary park bathroom. If I get an ‘ensuite tent site’, which means I have my own bathroom and shower next to where I pitch my tent, even better. Basically, I want to be able to shower the kids when they finish playing with dirt or sand. I want to be able to have a long hot shower myself before I go to bed at night.
Extra tip: Most good caravan parks (RV campground), national and state parks are equipped with good bathroom facilities and other amenities in general so make sure you check. Try and book a site close to the amenities block, and make sure you bring a ‘laundry basket’, a small basket to take your toiletries and towel to the bathroom.
Facilities such as camp kitchen, public BBQ and Power
I normally book a ‘powered site’ so I can plug in my toaster and kettle in the morning for making breakfast, charge my phone, charge my laptop… Hey! I thought camping is supposed to be technology free!
Other shared facilities such as instant hot water, camp stove, microwave are also great because you can just bring food that’s pre-cooked and heat it up for dinner.
Playground, Water park, secluded beach…
The campground I went to had playground for the kids as well as heated indoor and outdoor pool. That was a great bonus! The kids won’t get bored and you can leave the board game at home.
#2 Get a family camping tent that is comfortable
You’ll need a tent big enough to cater for your family size. So if your last camping trip was when you were young where you sleep in a 2-man tent that’s meant for long-distance bush walking, you’ll need to upgrade. I hope you take your car with you so the weight and size of the tent wouldn’t matter (even in a small car like my Honda Jazz). For a family of four with 2 young kids, I suggest a 6-man tent or 4-man PLUS tent.
To be comfortable, you would need some place to put your gear without having to invade your sleep space, or just somewhere to put your portable chairs to relax during the day. Check out this post for best 6-man tent review.
Also, make sure you bring something comfortable to sleep on (obviously). I personally don’t like air mattress because I just find them cold. They are filled with air, so at night they just take the surrounding air temperature and feels very cold. I like my self-inflating air mat (half foam) like below:
This one is actually very comfortable. In my opinion it’s more comfortable than an inflatable air mattress because it has foam in it. This way, it has the insulation property so unlike air mattress, it’s warmer. Also, if (god forbids) the mattress has a hole in it, it will still protect you from the ground with its foam.
Sleeping mat like this comes in different sizes and thickness. Mine is 6cm and I like it. I have a double and two singles to fill the inside of my whole tent.
Extra tip: choose a sleeping bag that can caters for 0 degree even when you will be camping in the middle of summer. You can always unzip the bottom of the bag if you feel too hot, but it keeps you comfortable if the night becomes a little colder than expected. Also, make sure you bring extra socks, blanket and pillow (real pillow).
#3. Food, food,… FOOD!
My husband always laugh at me for having what he calls ‘food anxiety’. Basically, if I will be in any place where food is nowhere near, I would start having anxiety. I would then go to the nearest grocery store and buy lots and lots of food so I can be ‘prepared’. This includes fruit, meat, and food that would probably last us a week, for a weekend camping trip.
Despite the campground having amenities such as camp kitchen and public BBQ, I like to be able to cook my food just outside my tent while I watch the children play. So I bring my own ‘stove’. If your car is big enough, you can bring a nice Weber BBQ or kettle BBQ complete with a small propane or LPG gas bottle. If your car is small like mine, you’ll get away with a small cast-iron pan plus a one-burner portable gas stove (butane gas). You can also bring a whistling kettle instead of an electric one just because it’s cool.
I don’t like washing up, so I bring a 12-inch deep pot to cook a one-pot dish like pasta or some stove-top rice dish. I also bring lots of paper plates and plastic utensils to minimise my washing-up.
Of course, if the campground is somewhere close to a nice restaurant area by the beach, going out is always an option. Of course, this is only advisable if your kids are ‘restaurant friendly’. For me, cooking and preparing my own food in the campground beats any restaurant because dining out with my kids is akin to ‘surviving’.
Tip: NEVER leave your food in the tent. You don’t want to attract critters at night or just ducks and birds during the day while you are away from your tent.
#4 Other extra comforts
Generally once your most basic needs are met (food, water, sleeping and bathroom) you WOULD be comfortable camping in a tent. But you don’t have to stop there.
If your car fits, you can bring other things such as kids entertainment (actually, basic sand toys will do if you’re going to be around the beach). You can also bring camp furniture like portable table (you can have a read on portable picnic table review here) and portable chairs. (even the kid-size ones)
So… clean amenities, jumping pillow, playground, heated pool, camp kitchen, walk to the beach, electricity… you call that camping!?
Take away my comfort and it would be ‘surviving’. And I’m not about to go on a holiday ‘surviving’ nor pretend that we’re in a zombie apocalypse with the kids. I go on holidays to relax and to focus on the fun part.
It still counts as camping because we’re in a tent. Right?