Boating is fun. Camping is fun. Put them together and you get lots of fun!

Taking your family out on the boat for a night or two of “roughing it” can be a memorable experience. But like any experience on the water, a little planning always comes in handy.

First: carefully select your camping destination. If you’re boating in a state or national park or wildlife area, there are likely to be designated camping areas. You may need to reserve a campground space for your tent. There may be rules and regulations concerning where you can anchor or beach your boat.  Do the advance work to plan your camping trip and avoid disappointment or delays.

Second: pack carefully.  If you’re planning to include a tent of some kind, plus food and other supplies, plus take along a few members of the family, then space on board may be a premium. Make a list of all the things you’ll need, and decide what has to stay dry.

Third: think about the boat.  Ask yourself the important question: where am I going to leave the boat?  Does the camping area have a nice sandy beach? Or are there rocks and shoals? Can you anchor at the location? Beach the boat? Will you need a stern anchor, or can you tie up to a tree or something on the shore overnight? Does the water level in the lake or reservoir change overnight? Answers to all these (and many other) questions can mean the difference between an enjoyable camping trip, and disaster.

Fourth: Eats, drinks and “the other.”  Whether you’re planning to camp out for one night or a week, you need to plan for meals for everyone. How are you going to cook? Are camp fires allowed in the location, or will you need to bring a camp stove, which usually run on bottled gas. Is there fresh water available? Make sure you bring enough hydration for everyone on the trip…and don’t forget your pets.  And, finally, you and your family will need some place to go to the bathroom. If there are no facilities where you’re planning to camp, you may need a marine head.

Fifth: Give a little advance thought to health and safety. Nine times out of ten, of course, your trip will probably occur without any problems. But that last time… Have your first aid kit fully furnished and ready to go. If you’re likely to be out of cell phone range, make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you’re supposed to be back. Trouble can happen at any time, when you least expect it: bad weather, broken bones, animal attacks, sudden illness.  Fore-warned is fore-armed. Be smart, think ahead.

But once you’ve prepared, a camping trip by boat can be a wonderful family experience. The fresh air, the peace and quiet, the night sky ablaze with stars, the encounters with wildlife…all can make a camping trip memorable for all.