Photo © Laura Martone.

Photo © Laura Martone.

Now that spring is here, it’s a good time for families to start planning their summer vacation, and for many, there’s nothing better than a good, old-fashioned camping trip. Besides its obvious economic advantages, camping offers a wonderful way for parents and their children to bond amid the great outdoors and develop a deeper appreciation for Mother Nature.

Luckily, America boasts a variety of landscapes – from mountains and forests to deserts and beaches – so there’s no shortage of camping possibilities. In addition to a slew of private RV campgrounds from coast to coast, the country also features a wide array of affordable campgrounds in national and state parks, most of which cater to tents as well as RVs. Given how large the United States is – and, therefore, how varied the climate can be – it’s possible to go camping in any season. California’s Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, for instance, can be excellent options during the summer months, while Bahia Honda State Park and other state-operated parks in the Florida Keys can be popular choices in the wintertime.

No matter where you go, though, it’s critical that you and your family members adhere to Leave No Trace (LNT) principles at all times. Such guidelines include, but are certainly not limited to, using established trails and campsites whenever possible, packing out all trash, and observing wildlife from a distance. So, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with these LNT principles ahead of time.

When planning a family camping trip, you should also make sure to gather all necessary gear beforehand, and fortunately, you’ll find several helpful resources for campers, including Coleman, Cabela’s, Camping World, REI, Bass Pro Shops, the Sierra Trading Post, and Campmor – all of which I’ve used in the past to procure necessary camping gear and supplies.

Another helpful outfitter is Coghlan’s, the self-proclaimed “outdoor accessory people.” Founded in 1959 and based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, this family-owned Canadian company doesn’t offer large items like tents and sleeping bags; rather, this is where you go for the little, inexpensive, but necessary stuff, from binoculars and survival ponchos to tent pegs and first aid kits. I’ve been relying on Coghlan’s camping gear for decades, but recently, I was given the opportunity to review several items (pictured above) that I’d never thought to purchase for myself, such as the durable Flint Striker, which can ignite tinder even when it’s wet and cold outside, and the Dynamo Flashlight, a compact LED flashlight that literally fits in the palm of your hand, needs no batteries, and requires only a minute of fast winding to achieve 30 minutes of bright light. Kids, too, will find some must-have items in Coghlan’s catalog, such as the Bug-Eye Headlight, a lightweight, battery-operated LED headlamp that’s mounted on an elastic head strap and ideal for both exploring the woods or reading in the tent at night.

Yet another fun option for your favorite little camper is the Camper’s S’mores Grill, made of chrome-plated steel, fitted with a 17-inch handle to keep small hands away from the campfire, and equipped to accommodate three S’mores at one time. True, there’s nothing quite like sticking a marshmallow over an open flame and hoping it doesn’t catch on fire before you’ve had a chance to squish it between some chocolate bars and two graham crackers, but the trouble with that method is that the marshmallow is usually the only thing that’s warm. So, I, for one, am excited to try the S’mores Grill this summer – after all, you’re never too old to savor a S’more with your family and friends around a campfire. As a bonus, Coghlan’s even includes some curious S’mores recipes with each grill. Who knows? I might just have to give peanut butter or banana S’mores a try.

So, what kind of camping gear must you always take when venturing into the great outdoors, and where have you had your favorite camping experiences with your family?