Our family loves being out in nature. We go hiking just about every week. My husband and I spent most of our dating time out in nature (we were working at a camp at the time). Since that time we’ve come to learn that when things get topsy-turvy in our lives, it’s best we get outside. Something about being in nature helps us connect. This has proven true of our kids too. Anytime they get to be outside and especially in the woods, they are happier.

This past weekend we took our first solo (meaning not with any other family or friends, who usually are a big help) camping trip. Wade’s parents usually do all the food prep and cooking when we go with them, so we were a little apprehensive of how we would do on our own. We found a campsite about 10 minutes from our house in case anything went terribly wrong.

If you’ve never been camping, it can be overwhelming, that’s why I’ve included a printable checklist, meal planning worksheet, and meal planning tip sheet with this post. I made the checklist immediately after our trip, so I would know what we needed for next time. I hope you find it helpful.

Here are some other tips to get you started.

  • Plan for rain.

    Even if the weather doesn’t call for rain, plan for rain. Put your rain fly up when you’re setting up camp. Bring games, books, magazines, or even a downloaded movie, so you have something to do in the tent. Bring an umbrella, in case you end up cooking in the rain. Bring food that doesn’t require a fire to cook. Plan for rain. It’s gonna rain. Trust me.

  • Plan for the kids.

    Bring bubbles, balls, chalk, scavenger hunts, butterfly nets, etc. We thought our kids would be totally entertained just being outside with the few toys we brought, but that didn’t last long. Especially when we were setting everything up, we wished we had thought that through better. Check this article out for a list of kids outdoor activities.

  • Plan and prep your meals ahead of time.

    We eat mostly paleo, so cooking was inevitable, even on our overnight trip. But knowing what we were having and having it 90% prepared ahead of time made it super easy. For instance, I cut up and marinated chicken ahead of time and was able to just throw it in the cast iron skillet when it was time to eat. So do whatever you can before you leave the house. I highly recommend checking out thisthis, and this for ideas of what to cook over the fire. If you have an electric hookup, you could consider bringing your Crock Pot or Instant Pot for non-fire cooking.

  • Plan for emergencies.

    On our trip, my daughter woke up in the middle of the night hacking up a lung and was inconsolable. Because we were camping so close to home, I was able to just take her home and get some medicine in her. Had we been farther out of town, I’m not sure what we would have done.  Next time, I’ll have medicine packed and will have a plan in place in case anything out of the ordinary happens.

  • Know where you’re going.

    Know ahead of time, where you’re going and what to expect when you get there. Some campsites are set up with a water spout and electric hookup (these usually cost more) and some are primitive sites. A primitive site means what you bring with you, is all you have. If you don’t have a water hookup, plan to bring your own! When you make reservations, ask if there are any amenities (playground, pool, hiking trails etc). Ask about the bathhouses too, just so you have an idea. These can be all over the place. I’ve been to campgrounds with amazing bathhouses and ones where I’d just rather not shower than walk into that place. If you have no idea where to go check out this website, and this website for campsite recommendations.

  • And lastly, know what you’re bringing.

    I’ve included a printable checklist, so you can be fully prepared. But if you still need direction on what specifically to bring, here is a list of some things we own and wouldn’t camp without:



I hope this was helpful and that you will give camping a shot. We are already planning our next trip! Being out in nature has been such a blessing to our family. And for all the hard work that it takes to camp, it is totally worth it. Do you camp with your family? I’d love to know your favorite spots and what your tips for beginners are. Let me know in the comments below! Happy Camping!

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Tips for Beginner Campers. Plus Free Printables.