Warm weather is here in the South Sound. That means families are pondering the where, how, and what of family camping as a way to have vacations away from city life and conversations with their children that don’t involve little, scornful eyes peeking over game controllers.

And there are a growing number of them, according to reports on such matters. One recent study concluded that camping accounts for 40 percent of leisure trips and reached new records of 57 million households choosing tents over hotels in recent years. However, COVID-related stay-home orders fed that trend. Future years will show if the trend holds, but first-time family campers become frequent campers in relatively strong numbers.

South Sound Tacoma camping
Books become a go-to source of entertainment when electricity is not an option. Photo credit: Cassie Rickey Moore

Family Camping Near Tacoma

One Tacoman was well ahead of the camping trend by raising her daughter under the stars at a young age. Cassie Rickey Moore started taking her daughter RV camping as a toddler and then upgraded to tent camping at about six or seven years old. They’ve camped much of their summers ever since. Her daughter is now a teenager.

“It’s such a fun experience,” Moore said. “It gets us out of our four walls and into nature.”

She added that camping gives her daughter a sense of self-reliance, builds her navigation skills with paper maps and teaches her adaptability, since even well-laid plans go wrong.

Campgrounds are full, nearby campsites can be loud, or adventures lead the duo on side roads of wonder or to great roadside food locations that weren’t planned.

“We’ve been on some pretty long trips,” Moore said, noting trips to Oregon and California over their summer vacations or to their go-to spots of Penrose State Park or Fort Worden State Park for extended weekends. Each journey gets chronicled for future reference or calls for recommendations from friends or family. Trip notes include impressions of campsites, restaurants and activities that then go onto a Google map that Moore can use to plan another adventure based on years of gathering information along the way.

“I have this whole list,” Moore said. “I have everything on a spreadsheet.”

South Sound Tacoma camping
Word-of-mouth referrals, personal notations and point-of-interest information go into Google Maps and spreadsheets to help with the planning of future camping adventures. Photo credit: Cassie Rickey Moore

Tips and Tricks for South Sound Camping Adventures

Alongside the adventures, their camping trips also include little rituals over time. For example, their first meal at camp is the camper’s go-to dinner, Frito Pie and S’mores, which are easy and quick to make once tents are set up.

Planning a family trip might initially seem overwhelming, particularly for a noob, but as always, there’s an app for that. Moore’s recommendations include HipCamp, a filterable website of camping and cabin information, and Campendium, a resource for finding local camping amenities such as garages, RV tank pumping sites and localized park news. Other sites of note include an interactive state park map and the information and reservation site of campgrounds operated by Tacoma Power, such as Alder Lake and Rocky Point.

South Sound Tacoma camping
Food cooked outdoors always tastes better! Photo credit: Cassie Rickey Moore

Moore’s advice to parents pondering options about family camping with their children, particularly for the first timers, is to involve the children in as many of the decisions as their young brains can manage. Let them, for example, be part of the meal planning and the packing process. Even little things boost their buy-in during the process and ownership of their happiness during the trip. That was the case for Moore and her daughter, at least.

“All of that really gave her a sense of ownership,” she said.