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First “major” car camping trip. Tips?

Good morning all!

Don’t worry, I’ll be scouring the forums over the next couple weeks as well as I know there is a lot of great info; but, I’m taking my daughter to Yellowstone in about 2 weeks. We’re pretty much set, but looking for last minute tips and advice. 

This is my first major trip. I did Mammoth cave years ago, but this is a bit of a different scale. While I am generally comfy in my skills, I can never learn too much. And, I’m quite anxious. I’d love to hear your feedback. I’ll be posting in the introduction section as well since I want to start getting to know a community to learn from. 

Finally finding time to have adventures instead of waiting for time.
16 Replies

Ill be taking my new Outback in to get an early oil change and a look over before we head out. I bought it in November specifically with this trip in mind. While I miss my Expedition, I do enjoy the fuel economy and safety of the Outback. 

Just wish it had just a tiny bit more room… alas. I needed to stay on a budget.

Finally finding time to have adventures instead of waiting for time.

It has been decades since I was there, IIRC, get fuel when you can. Gas was few and far between and from what I have heard it is better but not a lot.



Thanks for reaching out!

I just wanted to add on a couple of things to some of the good advice you've gotten here. As a dad of two kids (6 and 8 years old), I try to remember to view the camping experience through their eyes and perspective. Sometimes that means camp takes longer to set up because 'LOOK AT THESE COOL ROCKS!' or it means that we spend less time on the trail because they just made new friends with the campsite next door and they'd rather ride bikes. Whatever the case, I find that the less attached I am to a specific agenda in my mind, the more successful the trip seems to be for my kids (which means also for me). At the end of the day, my kids are engaging with nature and having fun and that's a big win, whether or not we saw a geyser or got stuck in a buffalo jam.

Secondly, I always try to make some part of camp feel like home when I'm out (particularly with my kids). If that's a favorite pillow or stuffed animal (again, kids), or a book or meal, it helps make our camp that more comfortable. We just got back from a camping trip where I somehow managed to cook spaghetti for dinner on an MSR Windburner stove (an achievement in and of itself!) and my kids both expressed how much they loved having one of their favorite meals while camping.

Hopefully this helps, please come back and share how your trip went!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thank you everyone for the advice. I appreciate the comments greatly. I look forward to sharing some photos and details of the trip with everyone, and hopefully can learn something myself that I may be able to help another person down the road.

Finally finding time to have adventures instead of waiting for time.

If you are planning to sleep in the vehicle, wanting added ventilation during the night, keep the mosquitoes out of your vehicle, and the vehicle is equipped with a sunroof or panoroof, obtain a roll of either No-See-Um screen (Light Duty) or Magzo Pet Resistant Door & Window Screen (Heavy Duty), and an abundant supply of Medium or Large Stationary Binder Clips.

Open the sunroof or panoroof, roll out the previously precut screen to roof opening size, (plus a couple of inches for wrap around the roof opening framework), and clip in place, along the roof opening. 

Set up and tear down only take a few minutes.

it works great!




If you're going to be hiking into the backcountry even for a few hours, I suggest getting your daughter a p-sty (sp?). It allows women to urinate while standing. My wife swears by it. Trees to hide behind are one thing... a comfortable seat is a bit harder to find!

Also, if you're cooking in camp, I recommend teaching your daughter how to operate the stove (assuming she's old enough) before you leave. Even her just knowing how to turn it off can be a big help!

Divide your food by meal category... breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks... and label the containers. No need to wade through hot cereal and pancake mix when you're looking for the pasta!

Take something to put on the ground and lay back and watch the stars, if the weather and bugs cooperate.

Make sure your daughter understands... NO food in the tent!  And nothing that an animal might think is food! That includes used sanitary products. Not even "sealed" in a plastic bag. It's not just bears you're worried about, but small rodents and the like that are attracted to all kinds of smells. Make sure she's comfortable disposing of anything she might need to.

Oh, and if you see a female ranger who isn't busy, if your daughter has any interest in such a career encourage her to talk to them about their career, education, etc. We never know what might inspire our kids!


@Kb9nbd Cooking/dishes will take longer than than you think, definitely longer than at home.  In fact, everything will take longer than it usually does.  My car camping setup & philosophy is 100% geared around keeping my wife happy so that she'll want to go again, which always means a flush bathroom & showers nearby.  Bring a small broom with you to sweep out the floor of your tent, as keeping the dirt out will go a long ways.  For meals, focus on simple & great dishes to eat:  Start simple and up your game the more you go out.  Build in some rest/relaxion time into your day as it's just more work to go camping.  Good luck!