camping with dad

5 Reasons You Need to Take Your Family Camping

Recently I had the privilege of previewing a movie called The Stray, which will be in select theaters this Friday. It is a true story about filmmaker Mitch Davis and his family’s adoption of a stray dog. Like many fathers, Mitch has a hard time balancing his career dreams with his family life. He finally makes the difficult decision to choose his family over his career. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when he attempts to bond with his son by taking him and his friends on a camping trip.

I loved taking my family away to hike and camp. Everything about camping can be a master class in dad proficiency. You don’t have to be a Boy Scout to pull this off (though it sure wouldn’t hurt), but you do have to be willing to do some legwork and planning. Either way, if you do this right, taking the kids camping with dad could make you a better father, and here’s why:

1. Planning together

Work together in this task. Location, gear, menu, games, and activities. Ask questions such as, “How do you think we should handle mosquitoes?” “What’s the best way to cook sausages?” Or, “It’s likely to get cold, how should we plan for that?” Ownership of the plan is step one to an awesome trip.

Everything about camping can be a master class in dad proficiency. Click To Tweet

2. Shared responsibility

Responsibilities you can pass off include organizing the snacks, building the fire, making sure the flashlights are in working order, finding and sharpening sticks for the marshmallows, and taking care of the trash. A lot depends on age and ability, but expecting help, relying on your child for a contribution, and sharing real responsibility is a milestone for both parent and child.

3. No electronic media

This means you too, dad. Hike, swim, gather firewood, organize a scavenger hunt, dust off the old ukulele, teach your kids to play the harmonica, play Go Fish by firelight, read an adventure book aloud, and bring a map of the constellations and learn about the stars.

4. The great outdoors

Camping puts families in touch with something primal, something that is often completely masked by our indoor modern lives. Being under the stars together, drinking in the natural world, connects us with what is essential as human beings and naturally opens our spirits to conversations about the deeper meaning of life.

5. Epic stories

Come equipped with great starter questions, such as “When you look into the night sky, what’s the first thing you think of?” “How do you think all this was created?” “What’s your best memory of your grandpa?” “Tell a story about a time you were really scared.” Or, “Tell us about someone you’ve always wanted to meet.”

Sound Off

What was your favorite camping memory from childhood?

Derek Maul

Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men’s resource, a committed encourager, and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.

  • Brent Hoover

    Of course it was hiking with dad up in Yosemite…on that trail that leads up to Half-Dome we went up Vernal Falls and then up to the top of Nevada Falls and sat down at a vista. There we were, just my dad and me, looking out on God’s grand creation. We were quiet for a long time. He asked, “Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” I don’t think I talked about too much, but I really enjoyed those kinds of times with Dad and we did many similar hikes. Today, one of the things I do is lead guys on long backpacking trips and I’m sure it was those experiences with my father that shaped my heart to do such things. Tip for any dads who try it, just be yourself, God will plant the memory deep in the heart of the boy and he will carry it with him throughout his adult years as a man.

    • Phil Knowles

      Love this!

  • Phil Knowles

    This is great! I enjoy camping, learning new things, and pushing myself to the limit. I love to explore, and I want my daughter to experience those things as well. This gives me inspiration to actually make it happen.

  • Paul_Sp

    Wish I liked to camp more. Have done some, more as an adult.
    Yes, I have some nice memories. Sooo much work though, and usually exhausted when it’s over.

  • Miguel Sandoval

    I never went camping as a kid however, I always wanted to. My parents were too busy working all of the time and were not the outdoor type whatsoever. Now that I have a family of my own I am planning to soon take my 2 children. It will be a first for all of us and that WILL BE something I will always remember doing with them. I can’t wait.

    • Perry

      Good for you, I grew up camping. I started to take my kids camping when they were 2 years old. In fact, we are going on a long weekend camping trip over New Years while Mom is working. I have promised my older daughter to take her backing in the spring for her first trip. She is 8 years old. Time flies. Some of my best memories were growing up camping. I hope you create those kind of memories.

  • This is such a cool post! We have a passion for fatherhood and particularly, motivating father to connect with their sons and daughters. For the first time in the Dominican Republic we will be starting a Father & Son camp this summer. Things like this are unheard of in this country because fathers leave most of the family life to the wives and they seldom take an active role in their children’s lives. I can’t generalize, but it’s a huge majority. I grew up here and never had a real father-son experience. Please pray for us as we strive to reach this generation and play our part in God turning the hearts of the fathers toward the children and the hearts of the children toward the fathers. God bless you guys! Love your posts and advice.

  • Paul Kelley

    I was an avid camper when I was in Scouting! I loved it and have so many GREAT memories growing up. It helped me prepare for life. These are great tools Derek…we recently went camping with other families. This was the first time for our children and first time my wife and I had been camping together even though we had been avid campers in our youth. Camping together was such a great experience! So much so much so…that our children wanted me to turn the car around and go back and take the next few days off so they could camp even longer. One of the best parts is #3 above – No electronics at all – just fun and engaging activities that we did together. During the trip we experienced the great outdoors by tent camping and learned shared planning and responsibilities that have made a huge impact on our family. Best of all we bonded with other families and let the kids play together and experience new things. Three boys from one family are experienced campers and they were teaching our kids the ropes. Connecting with them has developed into a great friendship. Our camping experience has now become a family get-a-way and we have planned to do both a spring and a fall camp-out and invite other families in our region to participate. We will be even more intentional on our next trips and use your conversation starter ideas… to learn even more about each other. Thanks for sharing these ideas… I encourage everyone to give it a try and allow yourself to connect to nature and each other…you won’t regret it.

  • Arden Ballard

    My son is 2.5, and my youngest will be 1 month tomorrow. I find this in keeping with Robert Lewis’ book “raising a Modern Day Knight”… I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to do stuff like this. I didn’t have a dad growing up, so I’ll be doing it for the first time–from both perspectives!

    • gonnahitcharide

      Congratulstions, Arden in your two kids! In a couple years, you will pave the way for them through camping together, ingraining in them a love for the outdoors AND their father who took them. I have a 5 1/2 year old son and a 2 1/2 year old daughter and my wife and I are taking them camping for the first time this weekend so the timing of this article is perfect.

      • Arden Ballard

        Enjoy the trip!

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Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If we went camping, what would you look forward to the most?”

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