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The Best Type of Camping for Your Family

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There are many different types of camping.  For the Critterz, we tend to focus on the less extreme now because Tiny Critter is, well, tiny.

That means we’ve done some car camping (tent/cart in) and camper camping as our focus. Our Camping Critterz style may be your style or you may be looking for something more or less extreme.  

Tent without rain fly

Also, depending on your other hobbies, this may be a perfect way to combine camping with those hobbies. If you like to bike, fish, or perhaps you’re more into kayaking/canoeing all you need to do is pick a campground that is nearby to your hobby.

Whatever the case is, by pulling your current hobbies into camping, the result will be even more memorable!  

Regardless of if you’re a beginner camper or more experienced, hopefully the Critter Crew can provide some helpful tips. Along the way we’ll share our stories via Critter Cases!

Critter Case: If you’re trying to get started, don’t think you have to own all the equipment.  Maybe you have friends and/or family that will let you borrow some.

There are also many awesome options for purchasing awesome gear at great prices. Honestly, this is a great way to learn what you like and what you may want to focus on!

Types of Camping:

Indoor Camping

If you have little ones, like Tiny Critter, sometimes it’s best to start building the excitement inside. This could be with a Dragon tent like Tiny Critter, perhaps a sleeping bag, or a S’mores kit. Get the kids’ imagination going.  The more they enjoy being outside, the more you’ll enjoy it!

Felt smores kit for indoor camping, pretend fire, marshmallows and roasting sticks

Critter Case: Tiny Critter got a Dragon tent, sleeping bag, and campfire kit for his birthday from friends and family who know we like camping.

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As you can imagine, Tiny Critter was SOOOOO excited that we had to set up the tent, get the sleeping bag in and “start” the campfire so he could try it all out. He invited all his stuffed animals and we’re not sure that tent will ever come down.

Backyard Camping

Don’t dismiss the backyard camping. It may not feel adventurous but it’s a great way to try out equipment, understand how the kiddos react, all while being comfortably situated just a few yards away from all your normal amenities.

Tent in backyard for backyard camping

Perhaps you’re trying out a new tent, sleeping bag, different fire starters or even being a proud new owner of a camper. This trial run helps work out the kinks and ensures you have everything you need. This type of camping only needs what you want to try out.

As a first time out, we’d recommend you at least setting everything up as a dry run. Camping outside, regardless of the location, is a lot of fun! Don’t let the fact that you’re so close to home ruin the excitement.

Set out your camp chairs and enjoy nature! Start a campfire and enjoy roasting some marshmallows! Practice staying dry in the rain!

Now you’ve tried out your gear (or maybe you’ll be rolling the dice) and you’re ready to scurry out to a campsite!!!  

Critter Case: Daddy Critter found out the hard way that if it’s pouring rain outside, Grandpa’s old tent was NOT waterproof and made for a very soggy backyard camping experience. However, it was a fantastically fun night and everything got dried out the next day. Bottom line, Daddy Critter (really under 10 yrs old at the time) found out the tent needed to be replaced but it made for multiple backyard adventures anyhow!

Car Camping/Tent Camping

Maybe the family just wants to take it easy, perhaps you want to toss a line in the water and fish, or just do some hiking. Regardless, the Critterz have had some great tent camping experiences. 

We’d recommend state/national campgrounds to start. This way you can go it solo, or invite others to join in the fun (multiple sites or group sites).

Tent and camp chairs near fire pit with picnic table

Note: If you’re going to a state park, it’s best to book in advance to get a good site (or a site at all). Especially in MN, state parks can fill up fast as soon as the reservations go live.

When you’re camping at a campground of any kind, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles. Also read up on Campground Etiquette to know the Dos and Don’ts before you go.

We define “car camping” as driving your car to a site and pitching your tent next to your car. It’s the opposite of backpack camping where you’re hiking in to a location and not staying near your car. It seems recently that people are defining car camping as sleeping in your car.

After you figure out where you want to go and what you want to do, it’s time to create your list and get ready to pack. We’ve got a start for you: Critterz Car Camping Packing List

Cabin Camping 

Similar to tent camping, but, without the tent. Some locations, like state parks and KOAs, offer cabins you can rent for a weekend and essentially camp out. For example, MN has some beautiful camper cabins.

Camper Cabin, indoor camping, camping in cold weather

This also allows families who enjoy winter sports, like snowshoeing or cross country skiing, an option to have a base camp that isn’t quite so extreme as a tent! This is a great way to get a cabin feel and be a bit remote but also have a real bed.

They have beds, a table, chairs and a lamp. You’ll need to bring sleeping bags, pillows and all your other gear.

Cart-in Camping

So you’ve thought about roughing it, and car camping really isn’t quite rough enough but hiking in a distance is overwhelming. Try cart-in camping. It tends to only be a relatively short distance and state parks have carts on site for you to put your gear in and cart to the campsite.

This is a way to get out of the main campsites as well if you’re looking for a little more privacy. You can still keep most, if not all the gear, you’d use for Tent or Cabin Camping.

However, depending on the site itself, you may want to consider packing lighter. So be sure to understand the distance from the parking lot to the campsite. Use your best judgement on which list to lean more towards (Car Camping List or Backpack Camping Lists).

Remote Camping MN

Backpack Camping/Hike in Camping

While the Camping Critterz aren’t wild enough to do this as a trio, Momma and Daddy Critterz have done some backpack camping and they have been fantastic experiences! We’ve done anywhere from a mile to a bit over 10 miles.

There are so many locations for this you’d never run out of new places to explore. We’ve done this through state parks, Isle Royale (Daddy Critter) and Havasupai Falls (Momma and Daddy Critterz).  

Backpack camping food is the trickiest part. You can’t bring a cooler or a lot of cooking equipment, so most of your food needs to be made with boiling water.

This does take a bit of planning (or a lot if it includes a flight) and certainly should be recognized as something that requires a bit of experience. However, if you’re up for it, this is a great way to see some sites that most of the population aren’t going to see.

Our Favorites:

Isle Royale

Havasupai Falls

Remote Camping MN

Canoe/Kayak Camping

If you’re thinking of trying out Boundary Waters or Apostle Islands this may be your cup of tea. While Momma and Tiny Critterz haven’t gone there together, Daddy Critter thought it was great and looks forward to planning something here in the future.  

2 adults and one child wearing lifejackets in a kayak

Boundary Waters or the Apostle Islands can seem overwhelming but it’s not the only option in this camping category. There are remote island sites that people can paddle out to and try. For the Camping Critterz this is a goal in the next couple years!  

Honestly, a lot of the backpack camping can apply here. The reality is you’ll need generally the same equipment (or can get by) plus your floating vehicle. Some say this is a bit easier because you aren’t physically carrying all the stuff the full distance. There are certainly some different considerations depending on the camp plan (portages, length of stay, etc.) the basics are still covered in the backpacking section.

Like with reserving other campsites, some of these fill up extremely fast and you need to get on it early!  Plan in advance!

Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

There are other state parks that have canoe-in sites as well.

Camper/RV Camping

Yet another option for camping is the camper/RV method. If you own a vehicle that can tow a decent weight, this may be up your alley.

There are all sorts of businesses that will rent these out. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to know a friend or family member that has one and is willing to lend it to you and your critterz for a trip.  

The Camping Critterz primary experience in this arena is with pop-up trailers and ice houses. We’ve all spent nights in a pop-up trailer (most recently in Duluth area MN) and on lakes in MN winters (yes, on the ice, in a trailer…and it’s a whole different experience).  

Child reading in pop up camper

There are some similarities here to the car camping categories. However, if its early spring or late fall in MN and the nights are cold, this is a perfect way to extend the season. It’s also easier to weather a thunderstorm in a camper than a tent.

Because you’re in a basecamp with heat the fact that it’s cold out has much less impact on what you need to pack. If you were in a tent for the same weather, you’d be looking at a very different gear list.

Additionally, most campsite locations have campfire rings, electric and water hookups (depending on what your camper/RV can use) which makes it exceptionally easy to pull in, park and play!


Perhaps not traditionally thought of when you think “camping” but spending some time at a cabin on a lake or in the woods is a fantastic way to spend time. Daddy Critter was fortunate enough to have grandparents that owned a cabin and going to the cabin holds many fond memories.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a family cabin, Airbnb or VRBO are becoming more and more popular. Spending some time in this environment is another fabulous way to get outdoors.

We hope this helps you focus in on where you want to start and gives you ideas on what you want to strive for in your camping experience!  Keep those Critterz active! Go scurry around!

Happy Camping!

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