Before we had kids, we loved to go camping. We'd hike/backpack just a short distance from our car to get away from everyone and pick a spot right next to the lake to camp. We'd hike and relish the fresh clean air, drift lazily on the lake in our inflatable boat, enjoy succulent sausages roasting in the campfire, and lounge on the boulders by the lake in our sleeping bags under the starry night sky.
After we had Oldest J, we waited until he was 1 year old to try camping. Backpacking would have been difficult as we'd have to haul both the 1 year old and all his stuff in addition to our own 50-lb packs, so we decided to try car camping. Boy, it was a disaster where neither Hubby nor I got any sleep that night, we were seriously considering packing up in the middle of the night to go home though we ended up staying until morning, and Hubby absolutely refused to attempt another camping trip, haha.
Fast forward 4 years when Oldest J was 5 years old and Middle J was 3 years old. My company had a Campout event at their facilities where employees' families were invited to pitch a tent and camp overnight on the company lawn areas. Since it was close to home, the kids were older, and we didn't have to pack as much stuff, we decided to give it a try. It wasn't a spectacular success, but at least it wasn't a complete disaster, LOL.
Well, Little J arrived shortly after, and we didn't return to the camping scene again until our sister-in-law's uncle invited us to a group camping trip at Mt. Madonna County Park. Since we didn't have to plan or coordinate anything, and the J's love playing with their cousins the E's, we decided to try it out. At that time Oldest J was 9, Middle J was 6, and Little J was 3. It was a ton of work to pack. We were joining a foodie group whose idea of camping cuisine consisted of outdoor cooking of lobster and garlic noodles, fresh-made waffles, beef stew, tons of other gourmet dishes, and lots of alcohol :P I felt like we were packing for camping, BBQ, and biking all in one, hahaha. The J's had a blast, though, and we all slept OK during the night, so that paved the way for future attempts :P
Following is a checklist of camping preparation and items that we've found useful:
Following is a list of camping trips we've done in the past. A favorite of ours is doing dispersed camping at Utica Reservoir in Stanlislaus National Forest.