Unplug the Family and Go Camping!

Unplug the family and go camping!

Our family LOVES camping.  Growing up in Ohio, we spent summers outside slogging through the woods. 

At the age of 9, I'd just take off outside as soon as the sun came up and return when the sun went down.  Mom's rule was that if you couldn't read a book outside because it was too dark, it was time to come home.

Times have changed. Now that I have my own kids, living in Los Angeles, I just can't let my kids roam the streets. 

To combat the urban sprawl and to give our kids freedom to explore, we go camping!  This gives us an opportunity to leave all the gadgets at home, unplug and be in nature.

We usually plan a few trips over the summer and spring break.  Almost all the trips are planned with multiple families.  This is key for us.  It gives us an opportunity to become closer to families we have met through school and catch up with ones that we don't have time to see on a regular basis. 

Its so great to see roving gangs of kids dragging sticks they find, making rock piles, exploring streams, getting dirty and muddy.

Last year when went to Sequoia, we had an amazing muddy hike through a field.  The trail was a bit obscured and we all had fun sloshing though the mud to find out where the trail picked up. 

We've explored the Crystal Caves, hiked through forests, and have seen lots of wild life including bears, deer, lots of birds.  


It is important for my wife and I to give our kids memories and adventures that they will never forget.  We want our kids not to be afraid to get dirty and muddy. We give them a lot of freedom when we are camping to explore and figure things out for themselves.

They work together to start campfires, share inner tubes while exploring streams in Big Sur, and rely on other kids and parents to help them. We are building their independence as well as their community.

Camping with others is an amazing way to make that happen. We share group meals together, explore together, and help each other.

We'd love our kids to remember that one summer at Yosemite and not the summer that we played Fortnite for 6 straight weeks.


If this sounds like a fun idea, just know that you have to book campsites 6 months in advance, especially in some of the big parks.

To explore your local campsites and state parks, go to www.reserveamerica.com.

Grab a couple of campsites, a tent, some friends, and off you go!


One of the things we love to do on our trips is cook meals together.

I will use Sign Up Genius to send out to all of the families and each night we will have a themed meal for those who want to participate.

Some of our favorites are burgers and dogs, Italian, Mexican, etc. We will have families sign up to bring different parts of the meals in order to make it easier for everyone to cook together and so that we don't have 10 bags of tortillas and no taco filling.

We also use sign up genius to ask families to bring shared items such as garbage bags, grills, propane tanks, fun stuff for the kids to do, pots, pans, etc. It is a great tool that helps us plan for a lot of people.

Some of the fun, family activities that we do is bring nature scavenger hunts, stomp rockets, glow in the dark balls and bracelets, art projects, and paint your own rock to bring home.

We also will talk to the rangers to find kid friendly hikes, ranger talks, junior ranger programs (which the kids LOVE), water play, caves to explore, rocks to climb, etc. 


Over several years of camping, we have streamlined our packing for car camping in bins.

We have a bin with pots, pans, cooking utensils, plates, cups, silverware--all the kitchen stuff necessary for a camping trip.

We have a bin with sunscreen, lanterns, flashlights, wipes, all the things we need to grab quickly so we don't have to dig around in giant bins and never find these necessities.

We have a utility bin for set up with a mallet, hammer, extra tent poles, a small broom and dust pan for cleaning the tent, etc.

We also have a dry food bin. Once that is filled, that, in addition to the cooler, is all the food we will bring.

We keep all these bins pre-packed (except the food) and in the attic.  When we are ready to go camping, we just throw the bins in the car and go!


  • Tent (we love anything from REI)
  • tarp to go under the tent (very important)
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Pillows
  • boots ( or old shoes that are comfortable)
  • LED lantern for inside of the tent.
  • toiletry bag ( the basics, tooth brush, toothpaste etc)
  • any medication, we also bring kids tylenol, antacid)
  • ear plugs for those that snore around you!
  • bug spray
  • sunscreen
  • hammer or small sledge hammer for tent stakes
  • first aid kit (small needle nose tweezers for splinters)
  • hats (for sunny days)
  • beanies ( for cool nights )
  • LED head lamp for each kid + flash lights
  • camping chairs (one for each person)
  • water (we bring gallon containers and refill cups and water bottles)
  • water bottles (one for each person)

Optional Gear

  • small dust pan and brush - for cleaning out the inside of the tent.
  • clothes line and clothes pins
  • bamboo or rubber floor matte (for putting shoes on outside of the tent)
  • extendable forks for s'mores (or just sticks)
  • battery LED sting lights for the outside of the tent.
  • pocket knife or multi tool (always handy for camping)
  • compass
  • FRS walkie talkies
  • local maps (GPS might not work where you are at!  If  your lucky!)
  • camera and small tripod
    • a tripod is always good for taking the group pictures!  you don't want your camera balancing from a few stacked rocks!
  • fire starter (we prefer not to use lighter fluid)

Cooking Essentials

  • Propane Camping Stove and Propane
  • Good sized pan
  • Good sized pot with lid (for pasta)
  • Spaghetti strainer
  • Cooking Utensils
    • Knife
    • tongs
    • spatula
    • serving spoon
  • Camping plates
    • little kid trays work great!
  • silverware (hit up your local Army surplus store!)
  • cups
  • bowls
  • foldable food tents (keeps the bugs away from the family style dinners)
  • garbage bags
  • paper towls
  • aluminum foil
  • dish soap (natural)

Optional Cooking Supplies

  • Camping Grille (for areas that you can't have fires.  A life saver for cooking burgers and hot dogs)
  • Camping Cooking Station
  • Propane Lantern - good for having around the cooking station because of the amount of light that it throws.
  • Bins for dish washing (these can be the bins you pack the cooking gear in!)
  • small cutting board
  • citronella candles (to keep the bugs away)

Fun Stuff for the kids

  • S'mores! we love some dark chocolate and peanut butter cups for the adults.
  • glow sticks
  • glow in the dark balls
  • soccer ball
  • craft projects
    • crayon rubbings
    • glue sticks
  • scavenger hunt list (pre printed)
  • slack line
  • hammock
  • Stomp Rockets!

Time to go home!

Be mindful of how you leave the campsite.  We always take a group picture and we ask the kids to pick up garbage before everyone packs up and heads home. It's important to leave the campsite cleaner than how you found it!

Plan the next one before you leave.  Scout out the other camp sites to see if there are better ones for next time!  What are you waiting for?  Reserve your campsite now before its gone!