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Looking to get out camping with your family, but you have a teen with a tough-to-deal-with attitude at times? If you’re up against the personality of teen rebellion but are committed to becoming a camping family, we have loads of tips to help make that camping trip amazing, even for the teen that refuses to believe so.
Listen, we all remember what it was like to be a teenager, and we all remember secretly enjoying certain activities. Teens just don’t want to show it. Teens camping can easily turn into one of those activities that they “reluctantly” sign on for over and over.
With just a couple of these tips, you can figure out how to make camping fun. It’s a lot easier than you think, and family camping trips will quickly become a staple.
Top things to pack when camping with teens
Teens camping can be really different than camping with younger kids. Plan on packing a few “extras” to get your teen engaged in the experience and having fun with the family. Here are our top picks:
Hammock: This hammock has plenty of room for your teen to hang out in or even sleep for the night. It includes everything you need to hang it and start relaxing. If you don’t have an area to hang a hammock, bring a camp chair at the very least.
Spike Ball: This game is perfect for getting your teens to loosen up and be active. Great for all ages, but especially fun with a few teens!
Conversation Cards: Want to have a deep conversation with your teen, but don’t know how to break the ice? These cards do the trick, and they’re perfect to bust out around the campfire!
1. Let your teens help plan the trip
Before you even set out into the woods, it’s important to have your teens be involved in the planning process. Teenagers at their core are just looking for control over the world that’s so quickly changing inside and outside of themselves. Give them that control back by letting them help plan the camping trip.
Obviously, you’ll need to lay down a few camp rules so they don’t weasel their way into sleeping underneath a cell tower with a TV plugged into the car’s battery. Setting easy limits will help them make decisions to feel empowered and enjoy the trip even more.
A couple of different things that you can trust your teen to handle appropriately in the planning process are:
These are just a few examples of ways that your kid is going to feel empowered. Plus, it takes more off your plate!
2. Choose your destination wisely
Location, location, location. It’s true in real estate and it’s true for camping with kids.
Finding a location that has fun built-in is going to be a huge key to your success to getting your kids to love camping. There’s a world of possibilities for exploration with waterfalls, hikes, lakes, ponds, and tall mountain peaks. Taking your teen somewhere that’s full of options makes your job that much easier.
Try looking at the forest as a playground rather than a camping site. See the different ways that you can create FUN with the areas available to you. Get ready for some serious adventures with teens.
3. Plan for ADVENTURE
Like I just mentioned, camping is meant to be fun and adventure-filled. That means not just resorting to RV camping with teens. It means getting out into a spot that has adrenaline-packed activities that will hook your teen.
Campsites along rivers open up the possibility of whitewater rafting during the day and ending in the tent at night. Setting up a basecamp at the base of a mountain to then climb to the peak the next day can make your teen feel like a true adventurer. There are rocks to climb, cliffs to dive into the water from, and primitive skills to be put to the test.
This part will take some more effort from your end, but the payoff is huge. The important part here is also to know your kid. If your teenager prefers reading books to playing sports, finding a campsite where they can escape to a rock by the lake and dive into a book is as much of an adventure as paddling class IV rapids. Trust me, I’m the book kid.
4. Splurge A Little
Teen camping can end up being an investment. If you can convince your teen that this is an activity they actually want to participate in, they’ll be asking to go.
If you already have a stash of camping gear, use the money you’re saving to do something awesome. Find a ropes course in a small mountain town, or rent mountain bikes on your way out. Getting a guide to paddle a river is a brilliant investment to make the smiles burst from your teen no matter how hard they try to hold it in.
Maybe you’re looking at camping to be a budget-friendly way to entertain the family. If that’s the case, splurge just a little less. Take a trip to the store and get a huge amount of food that you can cook around the fire as a family. Teenagers love food almost as much as they love their phones.
5. Talk about technology upfront
Twenty years ago this discussion wouldn’t even be a problem, but we don’t live in twenty-years-ago life today. Cell providers have extended their signals to a lot of deep backcountry spaces. Chances are good that your teen will be able to find cell service if they try hard enough, and they probably will.
That’s why it’s important to just talk about the limitations of tech use while on a family camping trip. If you’re going to allow it at all, talk about how often they can check their phones. Don’t let it become a full-blown distraction, but know that they WILL try to sneak around and get service no matter what.
This is fully up to you how much you want to allow a phone on the camping trip. In my household, phones stay away. In some others, they play a big role. Do what feels most comfortable for you, while remembering that you are the one who has to enforce those camp rules.
6. Chat about what to pack
Come up with a camping checklist for teens. This is a great way to help your kids be prepared for a camping trip out into the woods for one, two, or even more nights. Help them create the checklist by reminding them of the types of camping activities you’re going to be doing.
This is a great chance to teach responsibility through natural consequences. If your teenager makes the choice to only bring flip-flops and ends up with blisters from a five-mile hike, they’ll never forget boots again. Camping lets you take a step back from being a lecturer, as it does most of the teaching.
Prepare them by coming up with that camping list for kids, but that’s all you need to do. Let them take control and pack their own bag. Then see how it goes.
7. Remind them that this is FAMILY time
Do you remember wanting to be as far away from your family in your teenage years as much as I go? I feel like it was my sole purpose in life to just get away.
Then, the moments that I really remember and hold dear are those that were spent WITH my family.
Try to remind your kids that this trip is family time. It’s about getting together and having fun as a group, not as individuals. Better yet, find ways to convince them to join in by creating those fun and adventurous camping activities that they would choose to join in on. If you can get them to make the choice to join, you’re much more likely to find success than telling them they have to.
8. Give them some space of their own
To get more of that family time from your teen, you also need to give them time to themselves. It’s normal to want to have time for yourself! We all want it, and teenagers often want even more of it.
Accommodate this by creating a space where they can be on their own. A hammock is a perfect solution to this problem. Setting a hammock up a bit away from camp will let your kid go and hang out, or even sleep, to recharge their battery.
When they’re out in their own space, just leave them be. Let it be their space.
9. Pack FUN food
One of the most fun things to take camping with kids is food. My stomach gets excited whenever I think about the food I eat while camping. It’s a chance to be fun and creative with different ways of cooking, and it always tastes incredible. Packing fun foods is a sure-fire way to get your teen involved in camping activities.
You don’t have to only bring junk food, even though S’mores or S’moreos are a must-pack. There are ways to cook delicious veggie packs that you build together in foil and toss them into the coals of the fire. It’s fun to create your own food and everyone gets to enjoy their own creation at the end.
There are loads of cookbooks for camping food for teens. There are recipes for anything from pizza to enchiladas. If you bring fun foods, and a LOT of it, you’ll find dinner around the fire or a picnic spread a memorable occasion with your teenagers.
Here are some of our top camping meal resources:
35 Camping Dinners Kids Will LOVE
20+ Easy Camping Lunches
Simple Camping Breakfasts
Camping Desserts Kids Can Make ALONE
25 Creative S’Mores combinations for camping
10. Plan your time around the campfire
A campfire is just the television of the outdoors. It lets your brain relax while you just look into the flames. One of the best camping activities for you is just sitting there, staring at the fire.
As the best thing to do while camping at night, a campfire is a great time to share silence or start a meaningful conversation. This is a good time to have a chat you’ve been wanting to have, or strike up any other conversations.
It can be hard to plan a conversation, and if you need a little bit of help you can check out this great list of topics while on a family camping trip.
Incorporate fun activities around the fire as well. There are loads of fun camping games to be played and time to be shared. Camping leads to connection, and most of it is at the end of the day around a fire.
Camping with your teenager can be a difficult task, but it doesn’t need to be. When you know the fun things to take camping with kids, and the best adventures with teens to be found out there, you’ll find this being a camping trip that repeats itself for years to come. I hope you can get out and find some connection beneath the trees soon!