our first time camping with three kids

camping memories

I mentioned last week here and on my instagram that we were going camping for Ryan’s birthday, which was this past weekend. I grew up camping, and Ryan’s camped a good bit throughout his life, but this was going to be a completely different ballgame for us. This camping trip was our first time camping with three kids, and to be completely honest, I was as nervous as one can get. I wasn’t sure if the kids would sleep, we didn’t have all the equipment we needed, and Mieke was the real outlier here. How would she deal with a day, then a whole night in nature? I was prepared for the worst, but I was also determined to make the absolute best of it all – no matter what. And you know what? It was great! Sure, we left our little campsite tired and ready for a night in our own bed, but it was so much fun to spend that time as a family.

In case you missed it, we ventured out Saturday afternoon to spend the day hiking Spider Lake trail out in the Olympic National Forest. Afterwards, our little crew, as well as some of Ryan’s Army buddies and their wives went to find a campsite to spend the night. By the time we left the trail, it was pushing 5 PM, so our goal was to find a spot, set up camp, and start dinner before the sun set. We chose not to stay at an actual campground. Instead, we boondocked like a lot of people do out in the forests, and we drove about 15 minutes past the Spider Lake trailhead up the mountain to find a spot to set up our own camp. We scouted a few little plots, and we landed on one with a beautiful view and space for three tents, then we blocked the area with our cars.

our first time camping with kids

setting up the tent

best 8 person tent

camping olympic national forest

camping evenings

Sadly, the people who’d camped there previously didn’t clean up the site at all. From shell casings to beer bottles, cans, wipes, and trash, we all spent the first 15 minutes cleaning up the site to make it hospitable for our own campsite for the night. Thankfully, we knew enough to bring our own trash bags, as did Ryan’s buddies, and we packed out all their garbage before setting things up. As always, the boys thought it was an adventure, and they were more than happy to pick up, clean up, and pack out.

We set up our tents, and we cooked our first little camp meal on a borrowed stove (thanks Brownfield family for the loaner), and the kids enjoyed hot dogs under the beautiful sky, while Ryan and I (and Danny) had hamburgers. It was beautiful. We set up a campfire, Mieke rolled around in every dirt and charcoal patch she could find, and we slowly started winding down for our evening in the wild. I was a little worried that Mieke wouldn’t sleep well, but because we have such a large tent – this is the tent we have – we were able to set up her pack ‘n play to give her a sense of familiarity. We kept her up late and, despite a little bit of adjustment, she settled within five minutes and slept for 10 hours straight. The boys had s’mores with us, then went to bed late on their own full-size air mattress and didn’t wake up until 6 AM like their sister.

best tents for families

camping mornings

camping with kids

mornings in nature

camping near spider lake

learning to shoot

gun safety with kids

There’s something so beautiful about being able to sit under the stars in the middle of nowhere. The more we explore and the more we adventure, the more I realize that these wide open spaces give me life. We could see the whole sky, the milky way, zero light pollution, shooting stars, and more and, as we sat around the campfire, we just had a great time together with zero obligations ahead. Now, I feel like I should caveat things lest they seem perfect. Neither Ryan nor I slept well. Our air mattress deflated, Ryan had an allergy attack, and I woke up a few times when the kids’ noise machine turned off. But I maintain that it was 100% worth it, and I welcome all recommendations for camping cots and/or mattress pads 😉

I love that I have a family that’s willing to embrace a little extra chaos to do, see, explore, and experience more together. I think there’s a lot of trial and error, but for our first time camping with three kids, I’d call this an overall success. The boys had a blast, Mieke enjoyed it, and Danny even did well sleeping in the tent. Before we packed out in the morning, we spent the beginning of the day shooting Ryan’s buddies’ guns at an old broken log. This was my first time shooting, and it was kind of neat being able to do it surrounded by nature, taught by those who know the ins and outs of the guns, and teach our children the nature of gun safety and responsibility. To say that it was a memorable way to celebrate Ryan’s 41st birthday would be an understatement. So, was our first time camping with three kids a success? Yes! We’re getting the best gear we can for our next getaway, and can’t wait to see what’s next.

Tell me – have you gone camping lately, or have you gone camping with your kids?