You would not be wrong if your first impression of me didn’t place camping high on my favorite things to do list. In fact, I can recall only one camping overnight in my adult life and that took place in my backyard.

But when my little 2nd grade Cub Scout was excited about two offered tent campouts, I signed us up. But when I signed us up, I believed my husband would be part of the outing and later learned he would have to work on both occasions. Some mild panic set in. Not only do I not know the first thing about camping or even setting up a tent, but as the campouts drew near, the forecast called for below freezing temperatures. That’s when the real panic began.

I actually googled “tent camping for dummies” because I knew I was in way over my head and needed to do some research. In addition to my worry about the dangerous cold, I wasn’t familiar with how far we would need to walk/hike to our campsite. So I knew everything I bought and packed needed to be compact and light enough that the boys and I could carry it all.

We don’t even own a tent so I knew I should start there. With zero working knowledge of what makes a good tent, I decided I needed one that was extremely easy to set up. Did that exist? After significant research, I landed on all of the gear I’ve detailed and linked below. I am so proud to say that we camped at Camp Naish in 29 degree weather and at the Kansas City Zoo in 28 degree weather and we had a great time at both. My boys loved the experience and I felt an extreme sense of pride and accomplishment at affording them this opportunity in spite of my discomfort and worry.

As we were leaving our first campout, the boys said thank you for giving them such a fun adventure. It brought tears to my eyes. They will never know how nervous I was or how outside my comfort zone it was. This was definitely an adventure in mom life that I will always remember!

Our Gear

The Gazelle T4 Pop-Up Portable Camping Tent exceeded my expectations. It advertises that you can set it up in 90 seconds. I didn’t believe that for a second but the reviews did indicate that it was very easy to set up and take down. And they were 100% right! My 5 and 7 year olds and I actually set this tent up in 90 seconds. It is a pop-up style tent. Once you remove it from the bag, you unfold it and then can immediately begin pull each side out to allow it to “pop” out. This gives you the basic structure of the tent. And there are no poles so this is super easy. You then place the rainfly (I had to google the term for what I called the top flap) with poles into each of the top four corners to create a lid or canopy. And from there you step into the tent and push up on the roof to pop that up. It’s that simple. My kids were able to stake down the bottom four corners using grommets. I’m still in disbelief at how simple this is. I had several Cub Scout dads who were asking me questions about the tent and totally impressed with the design and how quickly I set it up.

In addition to the tent, I read that we likely needed a tarp to go under the tent to keep moisture from getting into the tent. I ordered this tent footprint tarp for camping and it seemed to work out great.

I also read that we would want something under our sleeping bags for comfort and to serve as another barrier to the cold, wet ground. After considerable research, I ordered three of these sleeping pads. They are the size of a small roll of trash bags and even lighter. The product description indicated you could blow it up (no pump needed) with your own breath in about 10 breaths. That was absolutely accurate. I was easily able to throw these in our backpack and had them blown up in a matter of minutes.

We already owned these sleeping bags which the boys have had for several years. I’ve been extremely impressed with the wear and tear these bags can take. In fact, the boys often use them as sleds or bobsleds to slide down our carpeted stairs. They’ve used them countless times. I did place an unzipped old sleeping bag both under our sleeping bags and over the top of us for added warmth and this seemed to work well. I think if we ever camped in this type of cold again, I might opt for warmer sleeping bags but I think these worked well for us.

Here is my packing list:


Sleeping Bags

Sleeping Pads



Phone charging block

Leak proof water bottles

Hand sanitizer

Blankets (several)


Coats, gloves, hats/balaclavas

Change of clothes and shoes

Tooth brush/toothpaste

Hand warmers