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Camping With Teens: 10 Tips For An Awesome Trip

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Looking to get out camping, but you’re worried about whether or not your teen will enjoy a family camping trip? While teens get a bad reputation, we’ve found that more times than not, they absolutely come alive when you take them on an outdoor adventure. In fact, I’d argue that teens can be some of the most fun people to go camping with. We currently have 2 teens and a tween, and have been able to create so many fun memories on camping trips with them and I want to show you exactly how we make our teen camping trips so incredible.

teen camping trip

While it’s only May, we’ve already had 2 major camping trips this year that were entirely teen focused, yet still worked great for the family. After sharing about it so much on our Instagram, we were flooded with questions about how we make things work.

With just a couple of these teen camping tips, you can figure out how to make camping fun for everyone again. It’s a lot easier than you think, and family camping trips will quickly become something your teens are begging for.

Top things to pack when camping with teens

Teens camping can be really different than camping with younger kids. Gone are the days of convincing them to play for hours on end with a few sticks and rocks. 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 (or just a few parts of it)

hammock camping kids

Set some expectations for what you want the camping trip to look like and let your teen surprise you when they rise right to them!

A couple of different things that you can trust your teen to handle appropriately in the planning process are:

  • Meal planning – either the whole meal, or just dessert
  • Adventure activities during the day
  • What the sleeping arrangements look like
  • Fun campfire activities or games
  • Card games or other activities for down time

Not only will your teen feel empowered, it actually makes the planning easier for you!

2. Bring a Friend or Two

My teens have gone on enough family camping trips that they usually are happy to go. But throw in the possibility of a few friends coming and they are THRILLED. Best of all, they are more than happy to help plan things that their friends will enjoy.

On our last camping trip, we went with another family with teens and also invited 3 extra teens, and it was one of our best family camping trips EVER! In total, we had 7 teens and 4 younger kids and it was something I would do over and over again. We set the expectations that everyone help with gear, meal prep and clean-up in advance, and we had absolutely zero problems. Best of all, the extra teens were much more patient about playing with the younger kids than their teen siblings often are. It was the best experience ever!

teen camping trip
7 teens on a backcountry biking/camping trip in Canyonlands

A few months before that, I partnered with a few other moms and their daughters and we took all of our teen girls and a bunch of friends on a camping and bike riding trip. Truthfully, it was PURE MAGIC! If you’re nervous about getting the whole family out, consider making it a trip with just friends and a few parents.

teen camping trip
Our teen girl camping trip in the desert

3. Plan for ADVENTURE

Like I just mentioned, camping is meant to be fun and adventure-filled. That means not just hanging out at the campground all day long. Find somewhere to camp with adrenaline packed activities that will hook your teen on being outdoors.

camping rafting trip

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. Find a desert campsite near a mountain bike trail and let your teen test out their skills on some singletrack. There are rocks to climb, cliffs to dive into the water from, and survival skills to be put to the test. 

Even if you don’t consider yourself especially adventurous, sign up for a guided class and learn something new together. This part will take some more effort from your end, but the payoff is huge. When my husband was 14, he got obsessed with rock climbing, so his Dad decided that they should take a class together. Now 30 years later, they’ll still head out on canyoneering and climbing trips together and they have some of their best memories there. When I asked his dad about what got him into climbing, he told he that he doesn’t really love rock climbing, but he loves spending time with Andrew, so he always says yes when he’s asked to go! Adventure will bond you and your teens like nothing else!

4. Choose your destination wisely

Location, location, location. It’s true in real estate and it’s true for camping with kids. 

teen camping trip

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. 

In our family, our teens are pretty obsessed with biking, so we always look for camping sites that are close enough that they can ride to a local trail system. When they have something to look forward to during their downtime, you’ll hardly hear any complaining at all.

5. 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 begging to go. 

zip lining camping

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 friends!

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. 

Camping equipment teens

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. 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. 

teen camping trip

8. 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. 

mint oreo smores

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

9. 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. 

10. 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. 

teen camping trip

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. 

Conclusion

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!

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

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