Family Camping in Utah: How to Comfortably Sleep Under the Stars

Family Camping in Utah: How to Comfortably Sleep Under the Stars

By Adventure Mom \ July 18 2018

Now that summer is in full swing, we’re betting your kids are begging to sleep outside. With a little bit of forethought and intention, you'll be able to streamline the process of getting out the door and enjoy that easy summer living outside in our beautiful mountains. 

Because we all know the struggle of getting out the door with toddlers, below I've outlined everything from packing to finding the perfect camping spot and making sure your kiddos slumber is as comfortable as possible.  

1. Packing for Success:

We know that packing to take your family camping can feel overwhelming. Focus on FIVE essential categories and build your packing list from there:

Shelter and Sleep
Start by gathering your tent, rain fly, foot-print, sleeping bags, and pads. Not ready to invest in a tent? Rent one from a local outfitter! Check out REI or University of Utah Outdoor Recreation Program.  

Camp Kitchen 
Keeping a bin stored with your stove, camping dishes, salt/pepper/hot sauce makes packing simple. Want a bonus tip? Store a dedicated sponge and some biodegradable soap along with your kitchen supplies. Don’t forget a few garbage bags to pack everything out.

Food and Water 
Planning meals and prepping as much at home as possible will make dinner time much easier. Keep a few snacks handy to replenish the reserves after a hike or to munch on around the fire.

First aid and Toiletries (diapers if applicable) 
Keep a first aid kit dedicated for camping that you restock as you use supplies. If you still have a little one in diapers, try some biodegradable diapers.

Making a master list to pull out each time you go camping can really streamline your process. Want a pro tip? Store as much as you can in bins ready to go!

Weather appropriate clothing 
Always plan to bring a lightweight long sleeved shirt (not cotton), a puffy layer and a waterproof jacket for each member of the family. You will also want to bring 1-2 extra pairs of socks along with one more pair of clothes than you think you’ll need. Just trust us.

*BONUS CATEGORY* Campsite fun 
There is no reason to feel like you are contestants on Survivor when your family is camping. Bringing a few luxuries from home goes a long way! We recommend camping chairs for each person, a few campsite toys (frisbee, slack line, bocce ball, etc), hammocks, fishing poles, paddleboard or canoe, hiking packs/shoes, camera, etc. 

2. Finding Home Sweet Home (for the night)

Sometimes it can feel daunting to find the perfect campsite. Whether you choose to camp on BLM land, or reserve a maintained campsite with a firepit and outhouse, a little research before you leave will make everything much easier. Some of our favorite sites include Timpooneke campground (near Sundance Mountain Resort), Spruces (near Brighton and Solitude Mountain Resort), Tanners Flat (near Alta Ski Area and Snowbird), Maples campground (near Snowbasin Resort), Woodcamp (near Beaver Mountain). BONUS: If you're looking for a real treat, check out Snowbasin's John Paul Campout - taking camping to a whole new level. 

Being in the mountains with this tiny girl is one of my favorite things.

A post shared by Trevor Atwood (@trevatwood) on


3. Beyond S'mores

Look, we'll never turn down s'mores around the fire. But cooking outside over a fire opens up a world of kitchen creativity. Keeping a few tried and true recipes on hand is great, but trying one new meal each time you go camping can be fun. Want some recipe ideas? Fresh off the Grid has some of our favorites! 


4. Sleeping Solutions

All might seem fine and dandy while you’re around the fire (bellies full of food) tired after a long day of playing outside. But we know sleeping in tents with kids can introduce a challenge during different stages of life (ahem, we’re talking about your babies/ toddlers). Remember that the goal is to keep airway passages clear, to keep everybody warm throughout the night and to make sure curious babes are safely contained.

A few of our suggestions for camping with little ones include:

Under 18 months: At this stage, keeping airways clear and appendages warm is paramount. Instead of risking your little one rolling around in layers, many families swear by a down bunting (which doubles as the perfect suit in the winter).

1yr-2yrs: At this stage, you may find that your little one is asking to snuggle with mom or dad during the night, and is not quite ready for their own sleeping bag. If your mummy bag is not wide enough for two, you might try a double sleeping bag which is extra cozy when your little one graduates to their own bag and you can share the double bag with your significant other.

2-3yrs: At this stage, stories and bedtime routines are KEY. If you can sneak out of the tent after your little one falls asleep, enjoy a few bonus hours around the fire. Bring a favorite stuffed animal from home and try some twinkle lights strung up inside the tent for bedtime stories. 

3+yrs: Camping with a three-year-old is golden. They love the magic of sleeping outdoors, they’ve worn themselves ragged playing outside, they sleep well independently and they MIGHT be willing to fall back asleep after sunrise if bribed. This bag with a built-in pad pocket is perfect!   

At the end of the day (literally and figuratively), you have to do what works for your family- even if it seems a little unconventional. Maybe dad and the restless baby sleep in one tent, while mom and the older children sleep in another tent? Do what works for you!

5. Leave No Trace Principles

We all love enjoying the great outdoors, so let's all work together to keep it beautiful. Before your family heads home, look around the campsite. Have you left everything as pristine as it was when you arrived? Bonus tip, go one step further and challenge your family to find one extra bag worth of debris around the campground. Head here to learn more about Leave No Trace Principles.



Most importantly: Keep camping fun! Plan a fun hike, teach your older kids the art of night photography, spend the day on a nearby lake or have a cookoff to see who can make the most uniquely delicious s’mores.

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