Is it safe to camp as a single parent? – single mum

I have heard many single mums say that they would not attempt camping on their own with their children. They find that it a very daunting thought and do not feel they can cope or even keep their children safe.

It is the fear of trying something new and stepping out of your comfort zone.   

I put camping off for years as a single parent because of this fear. I soon realised after our first camping trip, these fears were unfounded. 

With these simple solutions, you can also take that step to camp as a single parent, pushing the fear aside.

Being prepared and well organised is essential when camping as a single mum. Ensuring that the camping area is child friendly, easy access to facilities and plenty of activities during the day. Assessing the campsite on arrival and setting boundaries with your children. Preparing a checklist before your trip so that you do not forget anything. A pre-run of setting your camp up either in your back garden or a park. This will help you to feel more confident and reduce fear.

Accepting fear as a single parent – mum

Whether you are camping for the first time or you are booking your holiday overseas, every single parent is afraid of the unknown.

As parents, we worry about everything and how we will cope as it pushes us out of our comfort zone and removes another adult’s support.

It is impossible to remove this fear as this will remain with you because you are a parent. But you can reduce this fear by being prepared. Otherwise, you will miss out on a fantastic camping trip with your kids. That will be filled with fun, laughter and some incredible memories.

Psychologically as parents we feel unsafe sleeping outside

We automatically feel safe within four concrete walls and being able to lock the doors. The thought of living for a few days in a canvas tent without this security can be very daunting.

To help make you feel safer and banish your fears, spend a few days camping outside in your back garden. You will be surprised how safe you feel. By closing and securing your tent entrance, is one step closer to feeling secure in your tent.

Sleeping outside in your back garden’s security will also help your children adjust, even though they will see this as a massively big adventure.

Keeping your children safe at night when camping for the first time

Every parent will be concerned about the safety of their child at night. 

When you are a parent, you say goodbye to deep sleeping. Suppose you are like me every time your child moves. In that case, you will wake up automatically, especially when sleeping in close quarters. 

You may find you do not get much sleep for the first few nights, but you will relax more and subconsciously be aware that your child is just fidgeting in their sleep.

Be clear on night time rules when camping with children

It is essential to set the rule that your child cannot leave the tent during the night. They have to wake you up. 

Be clear with your child and explain that they cannot leave the tent during the evening, nighttime or early hours without you being aware and going with them. Explain to them why, but not so that it scares them. As you do not want their dreams to be full of nightmares.

Removing sleeping compartment walls inside of your tent

Purchased a tent with separate sleeping sections, where you can remove the sleeping compartment walls. So when you open your eyes, you will be at ease as you can see your children sleeping near you.

Closing inner and outer doors at night when camping with kids

I always make sure the sleeping area compartment door is shut, fly mesh, and the tent door is securely closed from the side. 

If anybody tries to enter your tent or your kids try to leave your tent, you will hear the doors being unzipped. Remember it would be a total of 2 zips to enter your tent and 3 zips to open if leaving.

But with all of the different camping grips I have taken, this has never happened to me.

Purchase a tent door lock

If you are still not sure, you can purchase a tent door lock that can be secured inside. Locks are attached to the zips only.

The only benefit for me with using a tent lock is to stop Nicholas from leaving the tent during the night without me being aware.

Plus, increase the time for somebody to enter your tent. Which is a scary thought for any parent. As of yet, this has not happened to us whilst camping. 

I have found other campers to be very honest and helpful.

How to cope with toilet breaks during the night with more than one child

When camping with several children, it can be worrying if one child wants to go to the toilet during the night, which would mean you leave one child on their own.  

No parent wants to wake up a sleeping child or leave them on their own due to safety, or in case they wake up, and you are not there.

We are all aware that we will have problems getting them to settle back down to sleep.

  • Restrict drinking late at night to reduce the risk of going to the toilet during the night.
  • Make it a routine to have a toilet trip just before bedtime.
  • Keep a bucket inside of the tent only in case, but place it outside after use to reduce the risk of spillage or smells.
  • If toilet facilities are available, camp near the toilets if possible. You can request a pitch location on booking, or some campsites will allow you to choose your pitch on arrival.
  • Camp with a friend so you can leave your child with them whilst you take your other child to the toilet.
  • Purchase a separate facilities tent and toilet, so you do not need to leave your camping pitch area.

Joining single parent Facebook groups

Everybody at some point was a beginner camper and taking the first steps as you are. Many single-parent camping Facebook groups can offer your advice and support for your first trip.

There are many recommendations for the best campsites with brilliant activities for kids joining groups and interacting with everybody.

You will realise that many single parents will be camping simultaneously as yourself and even at the campsite. Arrange to just say hello; you will feel less isolated.

Don’t go it alone; join single parent camping trips

Several different companies provide single parent camping trips for all ages. They offer camping for families as a group, providing the perfect opportunity to mix with other families in the same position as yourself.

Campmates provide fun and games for children, and movie nights are all included in the price, so there are no hidden fees. You can even take time out for yourself with organised activities for children.

Many will offer you the chance to hire a tent, or you can book a pitch and take your own.

Sign up for the Campmates newsletter and find out more.

Ask a friend or another single parent to go camping with you

Ask a friend or another single-parent family friend to join you on your trip. Share the responsibility and help each other look after the children.

Not only will this give you some company, but it will also help to reduce the fear, and you will not feel like you are on your own.

Beginners camping pre-camp setup test run

Have a go pitching your tent in your back garden or a park if your garden is too small. If you are not confident in pitching your tent, check out some youtube videos as they are handy and can guide you through the process. Providing tips and the correct way to pitch your tent.

Pitching your tent prior will give you confidence, and not worry when you arrive at your campsite. Do you need help from your children, or are you okay setting up on your own?

Use this time to organise how you want the outside and inside of your tent to be. Also, consider how you will store everything during the day to maximise your space if limited. 

Put together your BBQ, have a go with your portable gas cooker and disperse those additional worries.

This is also an ideal time to decide if there is any additional equipment you may need.

Researching your ideal family-friendly campsite

Before you search for your campsite, have an idea of where you want to go and a clear idea of the facilities you want. This will reduce your search criteria.

Search for campsites that have toilet and shower facilities. Many will also have fresh water and washing up facilities for you.

Find a campsite that has a safe play area for children so that you can have 5 minutes knowing that they are safe and in visual range.

Ideally, an electrical hook up, so you put the kettle on, fan heater for those chilling evenings and recharge your mobile phone.

Camp close to home for your first trip

For our first trip, we camped about an hour’s car drive from home. Having that security of not being far from your home will help with your fears for your first camping trip as a single parent.

Being conscious of having the bonus of packing up and jumping into your car and driving home if you need to. Especially if you or your child falls ill during your camping holiday.

I have never had to do this, and gradually over time, we camped further away from home. This has allowed us to explore more of the UK.

Setting boundaries for your children when camping

Before we set up camp, we always wander around the campsite to confirm where the facilities are and to become familiar with our surroundings.

As we walk around, we talk about boundaries. The rules apply for home as well, but it reinforces them in a strange environment. Children will be excited and often will forget simple things.

  • Always have a focal point of your tent
  • Never go off and play without telling your parent first
  • Never go anywhere with another adult or approach strangers
  • Not allowed to go into another persons tent
  • General safety aspects of the surrounding areas
  • Being aware of their surroundings and other campers
  • Where they can or cannot walk
  • Due to Covid-19 restrictions, enforcing rules such as hygiene and mixing with others
  • Highlight fences, trees that they are not able to pass

Water safety when camping with children

Set boundaries with children when camping near water

We often camp near streams or rivers, which add additional safety concerns if you are camping with children. So it was necessary to stress safety boundaries. 

  • Include water playtime during the day. This will reduce the risk of your child deciding to visit the water on their own.
  • Have inflatable and water games.
  • Not allowed near water unless with a responsible adult.
  • Make sure there are boundaries in place for keeping away from the water alone.
  • If the stream has a ford, place boundaries explaining that this is for vehicles only. Explain that as cars drive through, they will create mini waves that can easily knock a young child from their feet.
  • Uneven stream surfaces can hurt a child’s foot, or they can easily fall over due to unstable footing. Ask them to wear wellies or water shoes when in the water as there may also be sharp objects which can cut their feet.

Stop children approaching unknown animals when camping

Camping is a family adventure, and many people will take their dogs with them, or you camp near farms or forests where there are animals.

  • Explain to your child that they cannot approach dogs on the campsite. 
  • Not pick up or approach wild animals.
  • Not to feed animals, although birds are okay.
  • Not to approach baby animals as their mother may be defensive around their young and bite or worse.
  • Explain that although animals may look cute, they must be left alone.

Every child is tempted to eat what they find when camping

Have fund foraging with your kids

Camping is an adventure for children. They must be aware of not eating food that they have foraged.

Instead of just saying no, do not eat or touch, why not make a game out of identifying edible foods. Although it is important to stress to your child that they cannot handle it unless you are with them and avoid the temptation to eat it.

There is an excellent book from Amazon that is aimed at foraging with your children. The book is called ‘Foraging with Kids‘ and shows you the types of food you can forage in the wild. 

It provides detailed descriptions and illustrations of mushrooms, berries, nettles. In total, over 52 different types of edible wild foods you can find.

Try and increase the fun and use the food you have foraged in your meals while camping.

Camping fire safety tips for kids

Set fire safety boundaries with your children when camping

One of my biggest fears while camping was fire safety. We have a portable gas cooker and BBQ; we also had a fire pit in the evenings.

It is essential to educate your child about safety near a fire and understand that fire is not a game. 

Setting boundaries around fire awareness is crucial.

  • Educating the importance of fire safety.
  • No running near any open fire or cooking facilities.
  • Create a do not cross the line.
  • Keeping the area clear of trip hazards so toys must not be placed within the cross safety line.
  • No throwing wood or any other items onto an open fire.
  • No roasting marshmallows, bread without adult supervision.
  • No touching or playing with fire lighting equipment, gas canisters or any other flammable items.
  • Aware of what they need to do if there is a fire.
  • Set a safe area in case of fire.

Why create a camping checklist for beginners

It is hard when you have over-excited children trying to remember everything. 

That is why creating a camping checklist that includes everything, even down to the minor items, is a great way to avoid forgetting something.

A few days before camping, find an area in your home where you can start getting everything together and tick off your listing.

A camping checklist will also stop you from taking unnecessary items.

Creating your own camping checklist

Although all of the main essentials are the same, it is great to create your own checklist.

Split your camping checklist into different sections. It is easier to tick off instead of having an endless list.

  • Campsite essentials
  • Camping cooking equipment
  • Everyday food
  • Safety and repair kit box
  • Clothing including waterproofs
  • Toiletries
  • Entertainment for evenings
  • Map of your area and details of things to do
  • List for your children

Worried you will forget something

Work through your checklist before your trip and find an area in the home you can store your camping equipment.

This will help you confirm you do not forget anything, plus it will reduce your stress levels when you leave for your camping trip.

Pack your car in the order will need first when camping

To make it easier for yourself when you pack your car, consider the order you will be setting up your camp. Have the first items within easy access, so you do not have to take everything out of your car first to find the one thing you need.

This will help if it is raining, or you are worried about rain. Plus, keep everything tidy for you, so you are not trying to pitch your tent in the middle of a mess and have to keep moving everything.

Keeping your kids entertained whilst you set up your camp

If you are setting up your campsite by yourself, there is nothing worse than pitching your tent and keeping an eye on your children, especially if they are youngsters.  

Have something to hand that they can easily entertain themselves with, which will keep them close to you. Ask your children to help and be involved by giving them small tasks. This will help pass the time for them.

Not only are your children helping you, but you are also keeping them safe from wandering. At least until you can all explore the campsite and set up rules and boundaries.

Don’t be scared to ask for help from other campers

When you arrive at your campsite, if you need help, do not be afraid to ask. Don’t feel like you will look silly in any way.

I still ask for help from other campers, especially when it’s windy.

Everybody starts at the beginning, and other campers are more than happy to help if needed.

Don’t stress over food when camping

I was always concerned about what I would feed Nicholas when camping. I did not want him to eat junk food all of the time.

But it is a holiday, and it is only for a week. So I decided not to worry, so long as Nicholas has a good breakfast and a filling evening meal, that was all that mattered.

Reduce the stress prepare meals before your camping trip

To save time, I pre-cook some meals and store them in plastic containers. So long as you can store it in an icebox or in a mini-fridge. Many campsites offer the facility to re-freeze your ice blocks which will help to keep your food cool.

When pre-cooking your food, consider how you will reheat it. I cook meals that will go into one saucepan on our portable gas stove. 

I also take a toaster so I can toast pita or flatbread. Plus, using the BBQ for baking potatoes makes them even tastier.

Appropriate clothing and bedding

Appropriate clothing when camping with children

Even if you go camping during the summer, take warm and waterproof clothes with you. It can get chilly in the evenings. There will always be a spot of rain with traditional British summers. Invest in some light foldable rain waterproof jackets that do not take up room in your bag.

I always keep wellies and additional blankets in the car just in case.

Take a bag of clothes pegs so that you can hang any wet or damp clothes in the sun to dry.

Heating for your tent during cold nights

Purchase a small fan heater, which can give a quick burst of heat. I prefer a fan heater as it warms the tent quickly but don’t leave it on for long periods. This will cause condensation in your tent.  

You can get oil radiators, but I do not find these very convenient, plus they are bulky.  

If you have additional blankets and can heat your tent, don’t worry about the cold. You will not notice it. The thought of you all coming home with bad colds will not happen.

Don’t stress about your kids getting dirty when camping

It’s a holiday with nature, so your kids will get dirty. Don’t stress when they are covered in mud. At the end of the day, I throw everything into a black sack and deal with it when I am home. Which is no different to when we have holidays overseas.

I do make sure everything is dry first, and if I can, I brush off any excess mud. What’s the point in having a nature holiday if you worry about getting dirty.

Packing warm clothes and blankets for those cold camp nights

Camping during the summer, it is advisable to take some extra warm clothes, not just summer clothes. Evenings can get chilly, and putting on a warm jumper or tracksuit bottoms is a must.

We also keep a couple of spare blankets in the car for those colder nights, especially early hours.

Plus, if you are camping by a stream, there is nothing worse than cold kids. Keeping them warm in warm clothing and thick socks and letting them snuggle in a warm blanket will give you 5 minutes of peace.

As a single parent, I love nothing more than at night tucking my son into bed and sitting outside with a glass of wine in a warm woolly jumper. As it is your holiday as well.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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