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Single dad camping with son

Taking the kids camping can be daunting enough when you’ve got another adult on the trip to keep you sane. But as a single dad, camping with the kids by yourself can go downhill in a blink of an eye. 


When things go wrong while camping, it can get pretty miserable. If your tent is leaky, everyone is going to be pretty cranky after a cold and damp sleep. But it can also be a great opportunity for family bonding, leaving you with memories to laugh about for a lifetime. 


So what can you do to make sure you have a great time in the wilderness with your kids? Follow these single dad camping tips to make sure your adventure goes without a hitch!

Single Dad Camping Tip 1 – Prepare

The first tip is to prepare properly. If you’ve never heard of the 7 Ps of planning, it’s a motto that applies to a lot of situations in the great outdoors. They are: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. 


In other words, don’t be a dummy and head out there directionless. 


Set Expectations

There are a lot of things to consider when planning your family camping trip. What sort of camping are you going to do? Do you want a relaxed car camping trip where you can all chill out in the sunshine? Or do you want to adventure into the backcountry together and hike out to your campsite?


You might have different expectations for the trip than the kids and that can lead to conflict when you’re camping. It’s best that everyone is on the same page before you head out. You don’t want anyone to get blindsided by a vacation that doesn’t live up to what they hoped for. 


For example, some campsites don’t allow ball games. So if your kids are soccer crazy make sure you pick a campsite that will let them have a kickabout. 


Again, speak to your kids about what sort of campsite you’re planning to use! It’s better to talk to them when you’re planning the trip. That’s much better than finding out in the middle of a forest that they really aren’t up for roughing it for three days. 


Plan Their Food Ahead

Food is also important when you’re camping so speak to your kids beforehand. Make sure they understand the limitations of campfire cooking. Let them know what you plan to cook beforehand and reduce the likelihood of drama by the fireside. 


It’s a great idea to bring snacks. After all, it is vacation time. But you’re better off keeping these a secret rather than discussed with the committee of kids. Otherwise, you might spend your trip fighting off requests for more of that chocolate that they know is sitting at the bottom of your cool box!


Prepare for the Worst!

Whatever plan you settle on for your camping trip, there’s one final tip that’s important for family camping. Prepare for the worst. 


Make sure you have a waterproof tent if there’s a chance of rain. Have a film downloaded on a phone or tablet in case of a rainy day emergency. It’s a good idea to make sure your phone still has charge in case of a real emergency though! 


Bring any first aid or medical essentials you might need when camping, including items like tweezers in case of ticks. 


Prepare for the worst case scenario and you’ll be ready to handle whatever the wilderness has to throw at you, as long as you have a positive attitude which brings us to the next tip…

Camping Tip 2 – Keep Positive 

Okay, so you have prepared for the worst case scenario, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your whole trip waiting for something to go wrong. 


Whingeing is contagious. When you’re camping, it can spread like wildfire. All it takes is one person to go in a huff and the whole weekend can be ruined. The last person you want to ruin your camping trip is you! 


So if things do get stressful, take a deep breath and remember that you prepared. If you can’t get the tent set up straight away, plop the kids down on some camping chairs with some of the secret snacks you’ve got stashed away whilst you take your time to figure it out. 


Or if you want some inspiration for other ways to distract the kids and keep them entertained during setup, research some activities and camp games before you head out. 


If you’re worried about setting the tent up, there is a way to make things easier for yourself… 

Camping Tip 3 – Instant/Pop-Up tent

A lot of modern tents come with quick pitch technology which is a godsend for when you’re camping with kids. 


These tents can set up straight away by popping out of the carry bag and into shape. Others just need to be unfolded and the tent poles extended. 


They are fantastic for when you need a shelter that is quick and easy, particularly for single dads with younger children who can’t help in set up. 


So if your kids are still pretty young, are you going to left helpless at your campsite? 


Camping Tip 4 – Accept Help

This tip might be a little hard for some Dads to hear. It’s okay to ask for, or accept, help. Especially if you’re camping with kids by yourself. I’ll repeat that in case it wasn’t clear enough… 




A lot of folk who go camping are pretty welcoming and friendly people. Generally, you’ll find a communal atmosphere at campgrounds where neighbour helps neighbour. You might not even have to ask for help.


I’ve arrived at campsites after night fall (my lack of proper preparation had resulted in piss poor performance, I’m afraid) and strangers have offered to help me set up so I didn’t struggle alone in the dark. I’m really glad I accepted the help because it would have been a nightmare without my new friends giving me a hand. 


So if the kids are running riot and the tent just won’t go up properly, it’s okay to ask a fellow camper if they don’t mind giving you a helping hand with set up. Most people will be friendly and happy to help out. 


Single Dad Camping Tip 5 – Safety Whistle 

This tip is more important for camping with kids in the backcountry, away from as many people. 


Kids like to explore and it’s great to encourage them to do so in the great outdoors. Setting boundaries using natural demarcations (such as, you can’t go beyond that big gnarly tree) is a good way of letting them know what is and isn’t acceptable for adventures. 


But you should give your kids a whistle as well for emergencies. 


They could have lost their way coming back from the toilet or they might have just not listened to boring Dad when he said not to go beyond the tree. 


Having the whistle (and knowing how to use it – three sharp blasts and stay still!) means that you can find them again and get them back to safety. Super Dad to the rescue. 


So there you have it. Camping as a single Dad can be tricky. It’s usually easier to go camping with another pair of helping hands – and it definitely is when you’re camping with kids! But if you follow these single Dad camping tips, you’ll give yourself the best chance of having a great time and bonding with your kids in the great outdoors. 


Main photo credit: Daniel Nainggolan on Unsplash 

Special Guest Post

This Wilderdad story was supplied by a special guest. We hope you love it and find the information helpful. If you have any questions or comments about this content, we want to hear from you! Email steve@wilderdad.com and we'll get right back to you. Happy adventuring!

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