good ol’ camping fun {CAMPING TIPS~PART ONE}

We love camping. We don’t get to do it as much as we would like but when we do it…we LOVE it! In fact, when Aaron and I got engaged we both agreed to make one of our wedding registries at REI for camping gear {and we got almost everything we needed}! Since then it’s been great to share that love with our kids. We have been taking them since they were just babies! I hope this inspires you to enjoy the great outdoors through camping as much as we do!::tips for a fun tent camping experience::

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare:
This is not a situation where you want to forget something. Many campgrounds do have general stores, but things can be very overpriced and you may not be able to get your hands on exactly what you want. We keep a large container with all of our camping necessities in our garage so that half of the trip is already prepped before we even begin. Also, I like to have a variety of things prepared for any change of weather. Extra tarps for rain {or snow} and battery operated fans for a heat wave. Plenty of batteries for flashlights and head lamps for everyone. Paper towels and large zip-locks tend to be very useful as well. I guess I cannot have something for every dilemma that could come up – but I certainly do try to!  The weather can really influence what you will need to pack as well. So check it regularly and be sure to check in with a ranger before you set up camp if there is even a chance it could get too crazy for your or your family {we typically do not want to camp in extreme heat or snow or too much rain}.

Back in 2007 {when I was pregnant with Paigey} we went camping in Yosemite {expecting rain} and woke up to snow. We were prepared in that Aaron had thought to put an extra tarp on top of the tent {thankfully}.  But we were not prepared for snow…we did not have snow chains with us or anything like that…so it was pretty crazy packing up and getting out of there that morning.  It was certainly beautiful and memorable {but at moments terrifying as I was certain we would be sliding off the road to our deaths at every turn…but I’m a tad dramatic at times}. So I’m telling you: please be prepared for ANYTHING!

Prep for your meals at home {if possible}:
Plan out your menu down to the snacks {see my menu ideas tomorrow}. Plan to cook your most perishable foods during the first part of your trip {so if you are having salmon…make it the first night and canned chili…make it the last night}. Be sure to chop, season, shred & all that good stuff at home. If you are making something that requires measuring dry ingredients {such as pancakes or cornbread}…do that at home and put in a zip-lock with the rest of the ingredients/directions written right on the bag {or in a mason jar with a label for the directions}. We include measuring cups in our bin but this just saves a few steps. Shred cheese. Chop peppers. Wash and thoroughly dry fruit. Grind coffee grounds {this one is VERY important unless you bring instant coffee}.  My goals is to make sure that whatever can be done ahead should be completed and zip-locked before it goes into the cooler/food bin. Although we tend to have more downtime on these trips than normal and prepping can be easy…the cooking time is usually not as efficient so prepping the food ahead makes up for that. And there are more interruptions if we are with our kids so doing some of the leg-work at home helps. Make sure to write out your menu & your shopping list down to the last detail and be sure to check your lists twice.

DON’T pack light:
You do not have to pack light {unless you have an itty-bity car}. This is not a plane flight. This is not backpacking. This is not a trailer trip. So make yourself at home. We like to be comfortable and relaxed since camping can be dirty and stinky! I pack a ton of clothes so that we can change a few times a day if we want. I pack a ton of towels so that we don’t have to wait for them to dry. I also bring some of my favorite comfort items like gadgets, my best pots and pans, UGGS, battery operated fans {when the kids were babies we brought sound machines and portable swings}! So take my advice and do the same thing. If you prefer your own comforter and sheets and pillows over sleeping bags {and you have room in your car} go for it.

Borrow or Rent:
When in doubt…borrow or rent things you may need. If you only camp once a year or every few years you do not need to go out an buy something just to store it year round. Don’t try and “rough-it” with a tent that’s too small or go without a lantern or stove because you don’t have the right things or yours broke.  Just borrow it. Most people who camp only go a few times a year and are happy to lend you their stuff. Just be courteous that if something happens to it while it’s in your possession you need to replace it for them {or at least offer if it was on it’s last leg and chances are they will say not to worry about it}! Or call your local camping supply stores and ask about what types of things they rent out {it’s at least worth considering}.

Make it KID friendly:
If you will be bringing your children you must prepare, prepare, prepare even more. Games, activities, crafts, scavenger hunts and favorite books may be the only key to your sanity and their enjoyment of the time. Kids are so connected to media that it can take them a day just to come down of the buzz of their normal TV/Phone/Video Game/Computer WORLD.  So cut them some slack. Give them every opportunity to think this is fun so that they will actually look forward to it and appreciate the unplugged life of camping and being outdoors. Depending on their age you can really tap into some of their interests and gifts in a way that is more difficult in the busy day to day life of home. One kid might want to fish while the other might want to help with dinner and yet another might be content to study leaves and ask questions about the treasures they found on their nature hike. See my list of preschool age activities to come soon!

Do what you have to do {with KIDS}:
Having said all that about disconnecting from media I must say that sometimes you just do what you have to do. When we went camping with our best friends a few years ago there were a lot of little kids in the group. It was getting tough to make dinner every night, so we decided to stick them all in the mini-van with a movie so we could get the grub going and not chase them down every two minutes. Sometimes you do what you have to do to make it work out there…no guilt…just have fun!

::Don’t forget to just HAVE FUN::
This is quality time with your loved ones that is irreplaceable. No cell phones or emails to interrupt your fun. No lists to be made or decisions about the calendar. Let go of the dirt and mess {and they will get really dirty} and enjoy the peace & quiet. We love the simple nature of camping and I hope you do too.
An ideal camping day for us looks like this: We love to wake up and cook a meal {pancakes just taste better out there} while it’s still cool in the morning. Then we try to go to the water for the day or go on some hikes or take a canoe somewhere unknown. We love to have an easy picnic lunch while out and about. It is just heavenly to take a long afternoon nap or play board games with the kids. We try to make an early dinner and clean up easily by throwing our paper plates away instead of slaving over a dishwasher all night. If possible we try to wear the kids out with a few more laps around the camp-sight and some s’mores. If they are tired enough we mop up those kids and get them in cozy jammies, sing them a few extra bedtime songs and put them down. The goal is to allow the grown-ups time to chat and play cards late into the night by lantern light! That is a perfect camping day for us!


::a few camping safety notes::

*We always let someone know where we are going and how long we will be there. Cell phones don’t usually work out there…so it’s nice to know that someone can track us down if we don’t get home when expected.
*Keep a decent first-aid kit with you. Our kit typically includes basic bandages, pain-meds, super-glue for cuts, tweezers for splinters and that sort of thing.
*Fire safety is so important. We keep a small fire extinguisher in our car that is perfect for camping as well. Fire pits are fun…but so dangerous. Keep sand or water or dirt near by the fire {we keep a shovel in our bin as well} so that you have something that will suppress the fire at night. Be sure there are not any hot coals ready to heat back up in that fire pit when you go to bed. Also, teach your kids about where the boundaries for the fire pit lie. Teach them the rules about fire. For us it is: No touching it. No wrestling near it. No putting things in the fire pit unless the grown-ups say it’s okay. We attempt to draw lines in the dirt and keep a grown-up by the fire while it is ablaze just in case the kids get curious. Even making those innocent roasted marshmallows can become an issue if you let the little’s try to do it themselves. In my opinion we can never be overly cautious about fire so I kind of make it a big deal…it’s just not worth it to risk someone getting burned.
*We also attempt to show the kids where they can and cannot wander when we arrive at our camp sight. I try using easy landmarks like: the big tree to the car to the tent. You get the idea, right? That is the first thing we go over and it is continually re-enforced throughout the trip. The thought of a toddler wandering off to another camp sight or the creek is never a good thing…so this is always one of my top safety priorities.

For a ton of other camping tips check out these blogs:
Inspired By Familia
I hope these tips help you all to try it some time if you have never been or simply learn a few more tips if you already like getting out there! Stay tuned for some fun camping activities {for preschoolers} to come soon! And tomorrow I will post more of my camping tips {PART TWO} including some menu ideas and how I set up my camping kitchen! See you then!
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3 Responses to good ol’ camping fun {CAMPING TIPS~PART ONE}

  1. Beth June 17, 2013 at 8:02 AM #

    I enjoyed reading your posts (one and two) about camping with kids. My husband and I have been camping since we’ve been married and have taken our children ever since our oldest (twins) were 9 months old. Now that we’re past most of the baby camping stage, I’m trying to plan for our first long trip as a family of five. We’ll be tent camping for 8 days this July. What are your suggestions for family/children activities? Our twins are 3 1/2 and our youngest is 1 1/2. Have you canoed with your children before? There is a little beach area for swimming, but I’m getting stumped on activities besides a walk scavenger hunt.

    Also, what are suggestions for staying cool in the tent on hot summer nights?

    Any other meal suggestions would be helpful as well!

    Thank you for your time!

    -Bethany (New Jersey)


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