My wife and I were a wreck the first time we took our kids camping. She was worried about bears and venomous snakes. I was worried I was going to forget the marshmallows for the s’mores. And the fuel for the stove. There’s so much pressure to get that first camping trip right, because if you forget the marshmallows and the kids don’t have s’mores, they’ll hate camping forever and grow up to be mini-mall developers.
Thankfully, camping as a family just got easier thanks to Moonlight, a new iPhone app that lets you plan multiple facets of your impending camping trip—from the meals you plan to cook to the gear you need to sleep comfortably.
Begin by entering the dates and campground of your expedition (Moonlight can import your campsite reservations from ReserveAmerica) and start building a meal plan and gear checklist specific for your trip. The meal planner is particularly handy. You can enter a custom meal, like weenies and beans, or choose from one of the suggested recipes cached in the app, which each come with their own shopping lists.
Ditto with the gear checklist. Add gear specific to your trip (say you're going mountain biking), and then scroll through the pre-set gear list to see what you might be forgetting. Moonlight even has a section dedicated to campsite activities, with rules for games like Capture the Flag, plus an archive of ghost stories.
People new to camping will get the most out of the app, as the planner essentially walks you through every aspect of a trip, providing you with lists of essentials that are easy to forget, like hand sanitizer and dish soap. The rest of us will enjoy the social aspect of the app, particularly if you’re planning a large camping excursion with multiple families. You can invite other campers to join your trip and use Moonlight to coordinate meals, divvy up the shopping and gear lists, and make sure someone brings matches. Think of it as a Google Doc for your weekend vacation where everyone involved can shape and edit the itinerary.
Down the road, I’d like to see the app add more information. One suggestion: Instead of just telling us basic info about our campsite (like if it has power hook-ups or allows pets), it would be handy if Moonlight could suggest spots to visit around campground, like nearby trails or swimming holes.
Experienced car campers might not see the value in a trip-prepping app like Moonlight. You probably have a car camping “go box” pre-packed at all times (or you should) and a running checklist of gear and meals you’ll need in your head. But if you’re new to the sport, or even just a little rusty, and don’t want your kids to end up hating nature, it’s worth the $6.