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When the snow melts and the trees start budding, a Canadian’s thoughts turn to camping. That’s not surprising considering we live in a country that’s perfect for camping, with forests, lakes, prairies, mountains, and ocean depending on where you live.

When you’re on your own with friends or just your significant other, camping is pretty easy. You can just grab your backpack, pitch a tent or park your trailer, and hang out for a weekend or an entire week. Off the grid and out of the city, you’ll watch the stars, enjoy water sports, or just catch up on your rest with the birds chirping in the trees.

It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Now add two or three kids to this scenario and suddenly things aren’t quite as easy or as restful.

I’m one of those people who always liked the idea of camping, but the execution was a bit too much for me. My husband and I first started to ponder the idea of camping with the kids when we had 3 little ones under the age of 5. The sheer volume of camping gear we forgot to take along that first trip was enough to send me scuttling back to civilization and the local Starbucks.

But I don’t give up easily, and over the past few years I’ve become a lot smarter about what to pack for a family camping weekend and what not to pack. It all comes down to planning. Take a look at some of the camping gear I bring along when I’m camping with the family.

Choose your tent wisely

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I’m not sure if anyone else has come across this issue when camping, but is a 4-man tent really the best size for 4 grown men? When my husband and I would camp we’d use a 4-man tent, and we’d hardly be able to fit our gear and us in it. They don’t really allow you for space for anything else, and if you’re taking the family along, I guarantee you’ll be in snug quarters.

Because getting a good sleep is the most important part of family camping, you’re going to want to strongly consider upgrading your own 4-man tent to something roomier, and I’m a huge fan of the Sportz SUV/Minivan Tents.

These tents wrap around the back of your mini van, SUV, or truck, and can sleep 5 to 6 people. They’re waterproof, have screens to keep the bugs out, and expand your tent space by giving you access to your car. We tried one out last summer and, with the backbench of the van rolled down, had a ‘loft’ in the van where two of the kids slept. They got a kick out of it, and we all slept great.

>goal-zero-nomad-solar-panels.jpgNot quite off the grid, but close

I admire people who take their kids camping and they go truly off-the-grid. Going without electronics for an entire weekend or week would be incredibly restful, but it’s not something my husband and I can do when we go camping. As people who are attached to our phones for work, we have to keep charged up and ready to go when we need to use them. That’s where Goal Zero Nomad 100 solar panels come in handy. They power up with sunshine and you can plug in via the integrated USB or 12V outlet. It doesn’t take long to charge them either: a smartphone will be at 100% in two hours or less.

The best way to store your food

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A cooler keeps your food cool, and when camping that comes in handy for bottles, sippy cups, baby food, or things like burgers and hot dogs. But I think the Koolatron P20 compact cooler goes one better than most coolers, and it’s the perfect accessory for a family camping trip.

With 12V of power, you can keep food cool or warm it up. It all depends on what you need it for. If you’ve got a baby along with you on your camping trip, it might come in handy to use to warm up a bottle when you’re nowhere near your microwave.

 

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There’s one thing I know about my kids, and that’s despite the fact their Mom has never caught a fish in her life, they’re wildly enthusiastic when it comes to fishing rods. We’ve bought them a lot of fishing rods over the years, and although they’ve never caught a thing, they’ve never cared. I think the idea of being able to catch something was enough.

But if you really do want to catch something while you’re on your family camping trip, you have to try the ReelSonar iBobber fish finder. It gives you a window into the water, and you can detect fish up to 135 feet down from where you’re floating or standing. If you’re looking for big fish, it can let you know if the fish you’ve spotted is over 15” or under, and can also GPS tag a spot where the fish are really biting.

iBobber works via Bluetooth, so you don’t have to be physically attached to it to use it. And if you want to share your fishing experiences with friends, you can log your trip through iBobber and share your spot with others.

Family camping trips are a lot of fun if you plan ahead and prepare for sleep, fun, and everything in between. Take a look at all of the camping equipment available on Bestbuy.ca and put your family camping plans into action.