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Camping Gear For Kids

When you take the whole family camping, sometimes little thought is given to kids camping gear, yet they have special needs that adults simply don't require. Some of the below listed items are safety issue items, and can prevent minor accidents from becoming major problems – other items are simply the modern equivalent of the outdoor T.V.

Yes, those of you who are parents know exactly what I'm talking about – sitting the kids in front of the T.V. as if the T.V. was some form of computerized babysitting. When you're at home, you can let the kids be entertained by sitting them in front of a T.V, but this little trick rarely works at the campground, for obvious reasons. Camping gear for kids is more about fun than anything else, but there's also a few safety related items you should definitely consider.

So, in no particular order, I'm going to suggest some kids camping gear items that you might want to take with you on your next camping trip. Quite obviously, I don't know your children; so their age and inclinations will play a role in picking some of these items – you will be the judge.

Camping Gear Items Your Kids Will Love

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Whistle

A Loud Whistle – One of those brightly florescent ones for the younger children, it might hold their attention better than the drab looking ones. Whichever whistle you chose (The 'Storm Safety Whistle' is reputed to be the loudest), be sure it's hung around their neck, and not stuffed in their backpack, or back at the tent among their belongings. A whistle is just about useless if you can't blow on it! Teach your kids that blowing it three times is the danger signal, only to be used when they're really scared or have serious trouble. You can arrange other signalling … such as one whistle means “Where are you?”, and they have to blow one whistle back… Two whistles means it's time for dinner, head back to camp, those sorts of things. Everyone will have their own ideas … just reserve the traditional 'three' whistles for actual danger.

Flashlights

flashlights.jpgDifferent colors, and one for every kid – this way, there's no arguments. You can sometimes find multi-packs of different colored flashlights – when you do, grab them… they'll be perfect for your next camping trip. The LED ones you see in the illustration are great for somewhat older kids, and the bright florescent plastic flashlights that run off of two 'D' cells are perfect for all ages. You can find 'em almost anywhere, and the prices are generally quite cheap. Go to the 99 cent store (if you have one locally) to buy the batteries, and be sure to buy extra batteries. Although I'm writing about kids camping gear, don't forget to get a good flashlight for yourself – about two years ago, I had to walk down the side of a hill, on an ill defined path, in total darkness… because I had brilliantly left my four cell Maglite back at the cabin – instead of carrying it with me as dark approached. Fell down several times, got quite dirty and muddy – and I'm never without my Maglite nowadays when dusk approaches while out camping!

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Binoculars

Kids have have hours of fun with a relatively inexpensive set of binoculars, sometimes the simplest of 'toys' will keep them occupied for the longest time. There's educational value here too – challenge them to pick out animals, such as birds in trees, or squirrels. If you have several children, you can have contests to see how many animals or objects they can see and identify. It's not always easy to see wildlife – even in the wilds – but a low-cost pair of binoculars can help your kids see creatures they could never get close to otherwise. At night, you can challenge them to pick out the moon's craters and other features. Download a map of the moon, and ask them how many objects they can see with their binoculars. Have them write down the names of all the craters, valleys, plains, and objects that they see. Give them extra marshmallows to burn on the fire if they can list more than 10 items. It doesn't take too much thought to come up with interesting and engaging things to do with an inexpensive set of binoculars – yet many parents never think of such an obviously fun and educational bit of kids camping gear.

Compass

Teaching children basic navigation – the basic directions and how to visualize themselves on a map is a skill that they can use for the rest of their lives, and you can buy a very inexpensive compass as part of your kids camping gear at Amazon, or any sporting goods store. If you're near a Boy Scouts store, they also carry an excellent selection. Be sure to bring a map showing the area you're camping in. I love my GPS – and wouldn't willingly trade it for a compass and a map – but sometimes you might be in a situation where you don't have a GPS, or it's not working… then the ability to find your way around using lower tech equipment will come in handy. Be sure to point out the the kids where the North Star is at night, they can check it with their compass!

Along with a compass, be sure to bring a map of the local area… camping is an excellent excuse to teach your kids how to read a map, and how to use their compass to figure out where things are - to orient themselves to the map. See if they can figure out where the nearest river or mountain is on the map.

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Kids Tent

For the youngest kids, they will need to sleep in the same tent with their parents, but as they get older, kick 'em out and give them their own tent! You can get small 1-2 person tents for about the same amount of money that you'll spend treating the family to McDonalds, so there's no reason not to get the kids their own tent. You can make them feel comfortable in their own tent by having them 'camp out' in the back yard prior to real camping trips, this also is a good chance to let them learn how to setup and take down their own tent. Having the kids 'practice' camping in the back yard is also a good way to figure out what camping gear items you'll need to take with you when you head out to the campground. Nothing spoils the fun of a good camping trip faster than realizing you left something essential at home!

Boy Scout Handbook

boyscouthandbook.jpgNo, they don't have to be Boy Scouts! Your boys will get good information and answers to all sorts of camping issues… Even your girls will get great camping information out of this handbook, so don't get confused by the title! Your local Boy Scout troop will be happy to point you in the right direction to get your own copy, or you could head over to Amazon to pick one up. Even if you're dead broke, you can head over to Project Gutenberg, and download the original 1911 Boy Scouts Handbook. As a parent, be sure to skim through the material first – you don't want your kids catching you making beginner's camping mistakes… :-)

You'll ignore this item and really regret it! You'll learn quite a bit about outdoor camping from the Boy Scout handbook - I've read tricks in there that the Marine Corps never taught me!

Another excellent book to read before your camping trip is On the Trail: An Outdoor Book for Girls, which, despite it's misleading title - is just as fascinating for us boys as well! It's free, so download it, print it out, and keep it handy for your next camping trip!

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Magnifying Glasses

Another one of those amazing toys that kids will find endless uses for. You can even show them how to start a campfire using a magnifying glass, and that's a great way to get the kids involved in the entire camping experience. Nothing tastes quite as good as something you've cooked on your own campfire! For really young children, a plastic magnifying glass is fun for them – but older children should get a bigger magnifying glass (4 or 5 inches in diameter) that are made out of glass.

One game you can play with younger kids is a simple one – and all you'll need is for each kid to have their own magnifying glass, a piece of paper, and a pencil. Take a piece of string about 3 or 4 feet in length, tie it to a stick, and use it to 'draw' a circle on the ground. Each kid gets their own circle. Now, whoever can produce the longest list of things they can see in their circle wins a prize. (They get the first campfire marshmallow, they get 'premium' sitting at the campfire dinner table, they get… well, you get the idea!)

While there are many items I've left off this list – my objective was to get you thinking about the unique requirements of kids, and how you should consider kids camping gear as well as your own camping gear.


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