Camping In a GFC With Kids

With a couple additional adventurer partners, we are adapting to another type of adventure. This one involves more snack breaks, scenic potty stops, and quite a bit more gear!

I wanted to share some things we have learned and open up a discussion with other Go Fast Families.

A little bit of background… we have two kids, Eleanor two and a half and Felix ten months. This summer we logged quite a few nights under the stars, some more restful than others.

We travel in a Tundra which sports an XL camper. The XL has a 56" x 90" sleeping area. With the kids as young as they are we spent most nights sleeping all four in the top. This worked pretty well especially on those colder nights at high elevation. Preparation is key with kids, both in terms of gear and some parental (mental) fortitude! Making sure the kids are warm is the first step as you are still camping in a tent. I’ll link below to some key kids gear we have stumbled upon.

One logistical, slightly acrobatic step, worth mentioning is getting infants/toddlers into the tent. We use the trans-form-a floor (removable floor panels), where one of us crawls up top with one of the square panels removed and the other hands up the kids. We don’t really like climbing the ladder with kids in hand, but that is one of the key features of the GFC for our use case is the option for both. Kid handoffs through the pass through and adult access via the ladder.

Before we had Felix, and when we had a bigger truck bed (the Tundra Crewmax is pretty short) we were able to put a Lotus Travel Crib (pack and play style but with side access) below the GFC sleeping platform and side load a sleeping kid through the side panel. We still accessed the camper via ladder.

Kids gear worth looking into:
Sleeping bags/sacks: Morrison Outdoors
Compact bug free nap zone: Kidco Peapod
Infant activity seat (great for taking a breather): Kidco Gopod

What kind of setup, tips, or stories do you have?

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Kid-prepared menu.
Kid-controlled lights/lantern.
Movie night (on phone).
Kindle books.
Extra blankets.
Extra marshmallows.
Super loose agenda/deadlines.
Lots and lots of wetwipes.

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We camp with our 4 kids quite a bit. As long as they’re well fed and warm, all is good. So good bags and several extra wool saddle blankets.

Deck of cards, some other games and books. Once at camp we don’t allow electronics. Period. Our kiddos love to play games.

We let the kids help plan the menu so they have meals to look forward to. When we’re camping our days revolve around mountain biking and eating. It usually ends up being Mac n cheese (doctored up of course), hamburgers and hot dogs and pancakes. But it makes them happy and it’s ok when we’re camping. My wife and I usually prepare our own menu.

Hot chocolate. S’mores.

It also helps to have a private place for wives and daughters to use the bathroom. They’ll go either way and my daughter is used to digging a suitable hole and going outside but having a portable toilet and a place for them does make a difference.

Being flexible is key. If the weather isn’t cooperating I’ll usually pull the plug. Luckily in Idaho this usually doesn’t happen but I’m always tuned into it.

Evening constitutional. It helps settle everyone down. Nothing better than going for a slow walk in the woods at sunset…

Slow mornings. This isn’t always possible but letting the wife and kids have slow mornings always helps.

If no fire restrictions, have a fire going for them when they wake up. Not always possible, depending on the season. This always melts away morning grumpiness.

Hot chocolate. S’mores. Yeah it’s critical. The ingredients never leave our chuck box.

Most importantly have fun. We’re out there to make memories. Evenings are the best. Everyone’s fed, campfire is going, kids are playing charades and we’re enjoying an adult beverage (or three). Cheers.

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Thanks for starting the thread. We have 2 high energy young kiddos and our rig is a short bed tacoma so about as small as it gets, ha.

** locking carabiners are critical for tent zippers** still freaks me out when they bounce into tent walls and of course teaching them not to, but so far really impressed with tent strength and zipper durability.

We built a wood drawer system/platform bed downstairs for the kids and adults up top. It’s tight downstairs but they are little and don’t care, plus it’s warmer. Made some custom spacer panels upstairs to allow ventilation and communication through the floor as needed.

We use a ladder for adults once kids are asleep.

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This is such a great thread. I am picking my camper up in January and plan on taking the family. I am slowly trying to show my wife that this set up will be super fun when we go on our adventures here in the PNW. Ill post our adventures and things we do to have a great time. Thanks again!
J

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I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread. Just returned from Belgrade today and had snack with my 3.5 year old daughter and wife in the camper while parked in our driveway! Looking forward to adventures in the camper. Definitely liking the locking carabiner idea.

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Loving these responses. Family adventure stoke is high!

Kids planning the menu is a winning idea, once mine communicate a little better that will be a go!

The locking carabiners for the mesh doors is a good idea. While mine are little, I just zip mine up to the very top.

TearingOut55, do you have any pictures of your custom venting panels? Sounds rad.

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I’ll have to get some additional pictures, but this was the start- just a simple peice of plywood cut to 1/8 of a panel size, then shifted so there’s a a 4" gap on either side. We have since added memory foam and a flannel cover to this 1/8 panel. We tried just leaving the ~4" gaps on either side as-is, but the littlest still sleeps up top and I was worried he’d get stuck in it or fall through. We have since built 4" wide wood panels with 1" holes drilled throughout to fill those gaps, so kid can’t fall down but we can talk through it and it helps a ton with ventilation for downstairs (we have a little usb powered fan if needed).

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This is the bed downstairs- it’s a 3" double size pad turned sideways. I was going to cut to size…becauee this is not tidy and makes me nuts…but the parts folded up against the walls actually cover the aluminum extrusions that stick out where the GFC secures to the bed. My kids rough house a ton and so the padding is awesome protection- my youngest already slammed down onto it and probably would have had stitches without the pad…so the untidy set up stays

Edit: if you zoom in you can see our wood “vent panel” on the right

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Picture of vent panels

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This is brilliant! I’ll have to investigate this move as the kids get bigger.

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Thanks for sharing TearingOut! Thats pretty cool.

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We just picked up our GFC on Sunday. We’ve got a 14mo old so we want everyone’s tips and tricks. Kid was a champion on our long weekend rally out to Montana and back!!

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Another important and easy mod is adding some rubber stripping to the edges of the modular floor panels, so when they are set aside and kids are in bed bouncing around they don’t hurt their heads (as bad). Check out this thread for details:

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I’m glad it’s not just my kids that treat the camper like a jungle gym :joy:

Camper, tent, house, etc…it is my toddler’s domain. She’s bouncing off the walls in our normal tent most of the time, but loves camping. We definitely had the conversation with my daughter about not opening the doors on the camper since we’ll be 8’+ in the above the ground. Looking forward to our first family trip in the camper over Thanksgiving weekend.

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The camper has been such a sanity saver for us- both because we can be spontaneous again, and also that we can separate the kids (one upstairs one downstairs) when they get too crazy at bedtime. We did a ton of tent camping before the GFC and it was exhausting and stressful to find a good tent site, set-up, eat, and get them to settle down late. Hoping next year they are slightly more sane and can share the sleeping space downstairs :joy:

Next mod will be a RigD swing out kitchen and I think thats going to save even more set up time.

My other camping tip, especially for being spontaneous, is backpacking food. We keep a stash of Mountain House and kid non perishable food in the rig so we can go without having to think much about meals.

Hope I’m not over posting on this thread. I’ve been meaning to document our family build so it’s coming out here, lol. We’ve been campers together for 16 years and with kids, before the GFC, felt like we were losing the joy of our favorite activity and it was frankly pretty depressing. Getting the GFC has been a game changer in our lives and mental health. I’m stoked to share anything that will make it easier for other families to get out.

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@TearingOut55, this sounds very familiar to the situation my wife and I found ourselves in. While we only have one child, we’re really looking forward to getting out even more and enjoying the spontaneity once again in camping whenever and wherever we can.

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that never happens. I miss those days sometimes and you will too. Just enjoy them while you can because before you know it they are grown

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Thanks for sharing this - it is quite inspiring. I have come to find that my wife is the primary inhibitor to camping fun while my one year-old daughter loves it :slight_smile:

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