How to start


Camping is a great activity to do as a family, and can happen anywhere there’s room for sleeping bags.

Step 1

Do your research beforehand. Check out reviews (if there are any) of the area you’re planning on visiting. Keep an eye on the weather when you’re planning and right before you go.

Step 2

Pack smart. Choose clothes that you can layer, and check out REI’s collection of camping tips for more information on what to bring.

Step 3

Get the kids engaged by planning and assigning tasks that they can help you with. Younger kids can gather firewood or fill the water bottles, and older kids can help with meal prep and washing dishes.

Step 4
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Exploration Ideas

  • Go backyard camping

    If you and your kids aren’t quite ready to head off into the woods, try starting off with a night of camping in the backyard. Pitch a tent, and if you have a grill or fire pit, roast some marshmallows and hot dogs. Just like camping in the woods, be sure that you have plenty of bug spray, sunscreen, snacks, and water. You’ll also want to have a bucket of water handy whenever you have an open fire going.

  • Create a az

    A great campsite activity is creating a maze using long branches. Start by helping your kids draw out the maze on a piece of paper. Then nominate someone to direct the placement of the branches. Use the map to guide you — but it’s okay if you wind up adjusting the arrangement of the branches as you go.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Warm layers and a lightweight rain jacket
  • Travel size first aid kit
  • Map of the area you’ll be exploring and your emergency contact numbers
  • A small flashlight and batteries


Safety Tips

  • Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
  • Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
  • Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.