Beginner’s Guide to Camping Gear Essentials – What You Really Need

Beginner’s Guide to Camping Gear Essentials – What You Really Need

I’ve put together this list of Camping Gear Essentials after many trips growing up. You see, I’ve been camping since I was 3 months old!

Seriously, I have a picture of my dad holding me in the camping folding chair next to our tent when I was little.

Since then, we went camping multiple times every summer. It became a fun family tradition and a huge part of our summers as kids.

Maybe this is your first camping trip and you’re unsure what to pack. That’s okay! I got you! After all, we are all beginners at something!

Now as an adult, I love camping even more. It has a new meaning for me. Camping allows me to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. There have actually been many studies done on how “getting back to nature” is really good for your soul, brain, and overall emotional stability.

As you can tell, I’m a big advocate of getting back to nature, traveling, and of course, exploring! So here is what you need to get you started and enjoy your first camping trip.

Camping Gear Essentials for Sleeping

1. Tent

Unless you plan on sleeping on the ground with no cover, a Tent is a camping gear essential. A Tent will provide you with protection from the elements and critters.

2. Air Mattress and Pump

Having a Tent is essential, but if you want to get a decent night sleep then you will want to invest in an Air Mattress. From personal expereince, sleeping directly on the ground in the tent is not comfortable. You can even purchase a platform for your air mattress, so you will not only be sleeping comfortably but also off the ground.

3. Sleeping Bag and Pillow

If your wanting to get the best sleep, bringing a sleeping bag is a camping gear essential. The tempeture usually drops in the evenings, and being stuck without a warm sleeping bag is not fun. I would also bring a light blanket or sheet to cover the air matteress.

4. Extra Blankets

Unless you plan on backpacking and taking all your gear with you, I would bring some extra blankets. They are great to have on hand if you want to sit by the fire at night, but the breeze is just a bit too chilly. They are also great for laying across a log or laying on the ground to sit on.


Camping Gear Essentials: Cooking & Eating

 

1. Cooler

You will definitely want to bring a cooler! There are many types of coolers on the market but I highly recommend a Yeti. This cooler will keep your ice from melting and keep your food and drinks cold. Nothing is worse than waking up the next day and having to dig around in cold water for you breakfast items and hoping they are soggy and wet.

2. Cast Iron Skillet or Cooking Ware (Frying pan and Pot)

There are two ways to cook your meals while camping. One is over the Campfire and the other is with a camping stove. If you want to cook over the campfire, then bringing a cast iron skillet or a cast iron dutch oven is essntial. The material can withstand the heat tempeture from the fire.

If you plan on using a camping stove, then you can bring just your regular at home cooking ware like a frying pan and pot.

3. Camping Stove

There’s is nothing better than eggs, bacon, and potatoes for your morning meal while camping. Having a propane camping stove is essential if you want warm food and you don’t want to have to start a campfire every time you want to cook a meal. The great thing about camping stoves, is they last forever! They are great camping gear essentials that you won’t regret purchasing.

4. Utensils, Plates, Bowls, and Cups

When we camp, we always bring plastic ware, paper plates, plastic cups, and paper bowls. Bringing disposable items are time savers. Just be sure to throw your trash away properly. When camping it’s always good to remember to

“Leave No Trace Behind”.

You can also bring reusable items and wash them after use. Depending on where you are camping, some campgrounds provide a water spout, but some you have to bring your own water.


5. Water

Not every campsite will have a water spout to clean your dishes or wash your hands. Sometimes, you have to bring your own water gallons. We would always have the 5-gallon water tanks filled up for miscellaneous needs like brushing your teeth. You also don’t’ want to forget water bottles as well.

6. food (Smores and hot dogs)

You cant go camping without food, especially the classic campfire foods like marshmallows and hot dogs. Its also a great idea to bring easy foods like sandwich-making items and chips or crackers.

7. roasting sticks

If you choose to bring smores and hot dogs, then you will want to pick up some roasting sticks.

You can also use some old wire hangers and just bend them into roasting sticks. This was a trick we use to do as kids.

8. Folding Table

As a kid, we had this blue camping folding table that had four chairs attached to it. It was the coolest thing to take camping. Not only are folding tables needed for eating on, but also for food preparation. Not every campsite is going to have a picnic table.

9. Folding Chairs

These are a must-have when going camping. We would bring two types of folding chairs when we went camping. One type was the normal chair in a bag, and then we would also bring lounge chairs in case we wanted to lay out in the sun or take a nap. They worked great because you can adjust the level of lounging.


Camping Gear Essentials: Hygiene & Safety

 

1. Wet Wipes or Baby wipes

Nothing is worse then having ditry hands and feet, and not being able to take a shower. Many camp ground don’t have access to showers or bathrooms. So having wet wipes or baby wipes are great to wipe the dirt off. If you have kids, then these are extremely essential not only for messy hands and feet, but also faces.

2. Paper towels

Paper towels are great to have on hand as camping gear essential because you never know what you may need to wipe up. It’s as simple as that!

3. toilet paper

This one is actually more important than paper towels, because everyone goes to the bathroom. There are many campgrounds that don’t have restrooms readily available, and if they do, sometimes they are out of toilet paper. So, I highly suggest you bring your own!

4. Toothbrush and Paste

Hello, Morning Breath! This is just a hygiene essential and even if you’re camping, it’s a good idea to bring it along.

5. Emergency Kit

Outdoors can sometimes lead to minor cuts or even bug bites if you’re not careful. Having a general emergency kit on hand is alwasy super smart. You never know when you might need a bandaid or an ankle wrap. Plus, when most people are camping they have fire pits and that alone is easy for someone to accidentally get burned. Therfore, the emergency kit is needed.

6. Sunscreen/Shades/Hat

This really depends on the time of year you go camping, but usually, it’s in the summer months. So having a skin and eye protections is really important. Especially, if you plan to camp near a lake and go swimming. Having sunscreen is important to help prevent sever sun burns and damage.

7. Lotion

THis one may seem a bit odd, and you’re probably wondering “why, lotion?”. Well, after you wipe your feet, legs, arms, and hands with the wet wipes, soemtimes all the sand make your skin super dry and uncomfortable. So, after many camping trips, having lotion on me became essential.

8. Bug Spray

Camping outside means there will usually be a ton of bugs. Some bugs like misquitos, fleas, ticks, ect. are a nusiance. They can also be a danger and carry diseases, so you definitely want to bring some type of bug protection. Chek out our post “Best Deet-Free Bug Repellent for Outdoor Adventures”

10. Lanters and Flashlights

These are 100% an essential! You have to be able to see in the dark and the campfire in a dark wooded area just is not enough light. Having a lantern or flashlight is a MUST-HAVE!!

11. Trash Bags

There is nothing worse than going camping nd having to take care of the trash that someone else left behind. Having trash bags handy and available will further the ” Leave No Trace Behind” moto.


Camping Gear Essentials for Fire

 

1. Matches or Lighter

If you plan on having a campfire, then bringing either matches or a lighter is going to be essential to your camping trip. There are other ways you can start a fire, but who wants to rub a stick or stones together when we have modern technology with matches and lighters.

2. FireWood

Bringing your own firewood will depend on where you camp. Some campsites can prohibit you from gathering firewood from around the campsite. However, other campsites could be okay to gather wood from around the site. I would check this before choosing where to camp

But… just in case, I would bring some starter logs.

3. Lighter Fluid or Kindling

If you want to start a fire and get it going quickly, then having lighter fluid or kindling is essential to your camp fire. This is really a personal want, depending on how expereinced you are with starting and keeping a fire going.

BONus Camping Gear for a good time

 

1. Fan

This is a fantastic bonus essential because when it’s hot outside, having a battery-powered fan can be the difference of a good night’s sleep or not.

2. Mini Broom Brush and Dust Pan

This is one of my favorite bonuses because it’s something that will help you keep the dirt and leaves out of your tent. When you step inside your tent after walking around all day at the campsite, you’d be surprised as to how much dirt can accumulate on the floor of your tent. It’s also a great practice to sweep your tent out before you pack it up.

3. Outdoor Mat

This one is great and you will see this more with RVer’s, but it’s also great to have when you’re tent camping. Having an outdoor mat will lessen the amount of dirt that goes in your tent. You can also leave your shoes on the mat instead of bringing them inside. Another thing I enjoy about having a mat is it give you the ability to put your shoes on outside without stepping your bare feet on the dirt.

4. Card Games

This is great to have just in case. I always loved sitting around the table at the campground playing Phase Ten or some other card game. It’s a fun thing to do that helps social interaction during the trip.

Every camping trip you take, you’ll find something else you will want to take along with you. I hope this list of camping gear essentials help get you started.

Camping can be a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy getting back to nature.

Stay safe! Have fun and let me know how you liked your first trip in the comments!

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12 of the Best Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails in San Diego

12 of the Best Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails in San Diego

The Sunny City of San Diego has more to offer than just some gorgeous beaches. This city is home to beautiful natural hiking trails that will get you and your family outside and breathing that fresh air.

Hiking trails in San Diego are plentiful with the hill and mountainous terrain. The best hikes are those that get you close to nature and experiencing the beauty of the land. I also believe that hiking is a wonderful activity for kids to explore, learn, and exercise all at the same time.

So, get your hiking boots, camelbacks, and sunscreen ready, because the views while hiking in San Diego are spectacular!

 1. Cowles Mountain Trail (Mission Trails Regional Park) Best Hiking Trails In San Diego for Families

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3 Miles
Elevations: 908 Feet
Route: Out & Back 

This beautiful trail is one of the top scenic hiking routes in San Diego. The Cowles Mountain gives you spectacular 360 panoramic views of Downtown San Diego, Mexico, North County, and Orange County. 

The Cowles Mountain Trail is perfect for all ages! It is a moderate trail that is great for running, mountain biking, hiking, families, and dogs as long as they are on a leash. The trail is a bit rocky and little to no shade spots to rest, so maybe bring a hat and of course water!

2. Los Penasquitos Canyon TrailBest Hiking Trails In San Diego for Families

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 7.4 Miles
Elevation: 147 Feet
Route: Loop 

The Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail is wonderful for the whole family because it’s mainly flat. This is a great trail because you can choose to make your hike/walk/run as long or as short as you’d prefer. You may see many bikers, runners, and even horse-back riders along this trail. 

This hike is popular because of the gorgeous waterfall and beautiful bridges. There is one precaution, however, and that is to be careful during the wet season. The trail tends to have muddy areas but it’s nothing that can’t be walked around. 

3. Sunset Cliffs Park Trail (Sunset Cliffs National Park)

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Elevations: 150 Feet
Route: Out & Back

A very popular trail that is year-round and great for all skill levels to enjoy. This trail gives you an opportunity to see local wildlife and sandy beaches. Sunset Cliffs Park Trail is perfect for the whole family including dogs on leashes. 

This hike is considered to be one of San Diego’s best hikes to watch the sunset over the coast. It is also a beautiful place for a romantic stroll.

4. Lake Miramar Trail

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.9 Miles
Elevation: 98 Feet
Route: Loop

Lake Miramar Trail is the perfect place to enjoy nature and still have the luxury of modern paved walk-ways. The trail is great for families of all types and is stroller/wheelchair friendly. Dogs on leashes are also welcome to enjoy a stroll. 

Be cautious because it is a heavily tracked trail but it does provide bathrooms through the 4.9-mile loop. 

5. Oak Canyon to Grasslands (Mission Trails Regional Park)

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.7 Miles
Elevation: 344 feet
Route: Loop

Oak Canyon to grasslands is a heavily trafficked trail great for kids and dogs on leashes. If you enjoy hiking with great views, nature, birds, and more then this trail is for you. 

It’s considered a moderate trail because some places are a bit rocky and may require more solid shoes like hiking boots or tennis shoes with good traction. The Oak Canyon to Grasslands trail is a nice and peaceful hike but not much shade so bring a hat. 

6. Seven Bridge Walk (Balboa Park)

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.6 Miles
Elevation: 485 Feet
Route: Loop

The Seven Bridges Walk is wonderful for everyone of all ages. The best times to go is between April and September. There are plenty of open fields that you may want to rest, so bringing a towel or blanket to sit on is recommended. 

The trail is not shaded so a hat and water is a must to bring along. The trail does run through the city and it has stopping points with crossing streets, so keep the kids and pets close! 

7. Visitor Center Loop Trail (Mission Trails Regional Park)

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.4 Miles
Elevation: 160 Feet
Route: Loop

This looping trail is great for the kids and pets. It is another heavily trafficked trail that many enjoy running and even horseback riding along. This trail is located partly along a river so you and the kids can stop and skip rocks or relax by the water. 

The views are gorgeous and the walk is nice and peaceful. It’s a short loop to get out for a quick walk or run. 

8. Tecolote Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.7 Miles
Elevation: 538 Feet
Route: Out & Back

This trail is a long hike but you can turn back at any time. It has stunning features and is accessible year-round. The trail is pretty easy for children to walk along and is dog-friendly. 

You may want to avoid this trail, however, if it’s been raining as it can obtain mud and puddles during the wet season. 

9. Bayside Trail (Cabrillo National Monument)

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2 Miles
Elevation: 205 Feet
Route: Our & Back

If you’re looking for the perfect family-friendly trail that gives you spectacular views of the coast, this is the one! This trail is easy and has access for strollers and wheelchairs. 

This trail also located at the Historic Monument that commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo who was the first expedition to land at the San Diego Bay. Great historical learning site for the kiddos. 

10. Nighthawk Trail to Black Mountain Summit

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.9 Miles
Elevation: 846 Feet
Route: Out & Back

Nighthawk trail is a wonderful options for families who enjoy a little challenge as is can be quite rocky with a steady incline. However, the views and wildflowers along the trail are spectacular. This trail can also be made in to a loop if you desire to hike down Black Mountain Service Road.

The trail is also pet friendly with dogs allowed as long as they are leashed. You may even see some mountain bikers on this trail so keep an eye out. Shade is non-exsitent on the trail so you may want to wear a hat or sunglasses.

11. Point Loma Tidepools and Bluffs Trail (Cabrillo National Monument)

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 Mile
Elevation: 45 Feet
Route: Out & Back

This trail is wonderful for all skill level hikers looking for a quick outdoor adventure. It has beautiful beach and wildlife scenery and is open year-round.

If you plan on bringing the kids, watch them closey as it could become slippery.

12. Mission Bay Trail (Mission Bay Park)

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.3 Miles
Elevation: 52 Feet
Route: Out & Back

Mission Bay Trail is popular amongst the locals. It is used heavily for running, hiking, and biking. The trail is open year round and is pet and kid friendly. The path is paved the entire way which makes it great to bring along stollers or those in wheelchairs.

This trail also has great views of the Bay and you may even see ducks along the water. It is the perfect place for a morning or evening stroll.

I hope you enjoyed this great list of the best kid-friendky hiking trails in San Diego that you can explore with your whole family. Feel free to check out more options at alltrails.com. Thanks for stopping by!

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Tips on Making Your Camping Trip Fun with Your Dog!

Tips on Making Your Camping Trip Fun with Your Dog!

Camping with dogs can be either an extremely fun and enjoyable experience, or it can be a stressful disaster. We have 3 dogs that we love taking everywhere with us, especially on camping trips. However, when we take them into a new environment, they get curious. Their curiosity causes stress because the last thing I want is to lose one of my pets.

So, I searched for many ways of training dogs, so I can stop worrying about them in areas that are unknown. My goal was to trust my dogs that they aren’t going to run off, disturb any nearby neighbors, or become so distracted that they don’t listen when we call.

I wanted to know the best ways to keep a dog distracted and exhausted, so they don’t do something during a family camping trip that causes frustration or fear. Therefore, I’ve put together our favorite things we have tried that helps keep the family and the pets having a fun and adventurous camping vacation.

1. Give them a job

You’re probably wondering, “what, give your dog a job”? “How do I do that?”

Surprisingly, when you put a dog backpack on your pet, this stimulates that dogs’ brain that they are working. They are carrying their own water, food, or toys. Dogs love being useful, especially if you have a breed like a Labrador, Collie, or Shepherd to name a few. These breeds are working dogs and enjoy the brain stimulation a job gives them.

2. Bring the treats

If you have a pet that is food motivated, like our three pooches, then bringing the treats is the greatest idea. When we go on camping trips we bring not only small quick treats, but also larger chew toys like deer antlers or a stuffed Kong to keep them busy.


3. Go on a hike

This is great when camping because you’re going to be out in the wilderness anyways. Why not take a day and explore the area? Plus, your beloved pets will absolutely love it! This is a great time to put on that dog backpack for them as well. Not only are you giving them a job, but you’re also releasing all that energy most dogs have during the day so they can relax and sleep later by the fire. Plus, they are carrying their own water and food.

If you need any recommendations on dog leashes or harnesses check out my post on the Gentle Leaders here. We use them for all three of our dogs, it keeps them from pulling during walks/hikes.

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4. Take a swim

I only suggest this is you are by a lake or pond while camping. Our dogs love to get in the water and cool off. Taking a swim is a great way to exhaust them and keep them cool in the summer heat, depending on where you’re camping. Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings while your pets are swimming.

5. Play their favorite game or learn a new trick

Does your pet love to play fetch or frisbee? One of our dogs literally lives to play fetch. We can carry a ball with us anywhere and he will follow us until we throw it for him.

If fetch isn’t your pets ideal game but running around and playing with them is their favorite bonding time, go for it!  Camping trips are great to just play and have a good time. It’s is also a great time to also teach them a new trick or game as well.

I hope you enjoy your camping trip with your beloved dogs. I know we love taking them camping and they love it too. Plus, camping and hiking creates a stronger bond between you and your pets as well as builds your pets confidence levels.

If you have anything you enjoy doing on your camping trips with your dogs that keeps them having fun, please share! We would love to hear!

Don’t forget to share this your pet loving friends and family who also love to camp!


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