Camping with kids. I liken it to running a marathon. There’s a lot of prep and a ton of work, but in the end you’re always glad you did it. We’ve been camping with the boys for years now and I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a seasoned veteran.
If you’ve never camped with your kids before but think you might want to give it a go, here are a few things that can help you along:
- Create a Camping Spreadsheet. There is so much stuff to bring when you camp. For me, it helps to create a camping checklist in an excel spread sheet. I break it out into different categories: Supplies, Clothing, Toiletries, Food and Other. Keep the spreadsheet on your computer and every time you head out camping and think of something else you wish you had, you can add it to the list so you remember to bring it the next time.
- Expect the Unexpected. When you’re camping, things almost never go completely as planned. For us, the kink in the armor is almost always the weather. It’s become a tradition for mother nature to whip up a thunderstorm for our first night of camping. Every.Single.Time. Go in with a flexible mindset and you’ll have a much better time.
- Keep the Meals Simple. Over the years of camping, I have learned that simpler is better. Roast hot dogs over the fire, whip up a simple salad and call it a day. Any left over space in your kids tummies can be filled with s’mores; a fireside necessity. Other simple meal ideas include build your own quesadillas or build your own grilled sandwiches. Simply wrap the finished product in tin foil and cook them over the fire. A super tasty meal with easy clean up.
- Research Activities Ahead of Time. Take the time to research the area you’re going to. Know not only what you can do inside the campground, but what activities there are just beyond your outdoor world. That way, if you find a hidden bike path in the neighboring town you’ll know to bring your bikes so you can try it out. This also comes in handy for that unexpected rainstorm. Indoor activities are a perfect escape if you know where to go ahead of time.
- Don’t be Afraid to Take your Kids on a Hike. Scott and I love to hike and it’s something we’ve always said we would share with our kids. Our oldest was hiking 4 mile trails with us when he was only four years old. Don’t let them talk you out of it. They can do it! Bring plenty of snacks and make ample stops to explore cool features or take a needed rest. Pick a hike that fits their level and has interesting sites, such as a waterfall at the end. Bring a carrier for the 4 and under crowd as a back up and let them set the pace.
And the final and most important bullet point:
- Have a Backup Plan. I never would have considered adding this bullet point until we were faced with the proposition this past weekend. Excitement was high and we were ready to have a good time. We drove the 3.5 hours to the campground and were there a mere 15 minutes when we were greeted to this:
Yes, that’s a massive puddle caused by a ridiculously large and heavy downpour right where the tent is supposed to be sitting. No matter. We’ve handled worse. We huddle under the tarp and wait for a reprieve.
We get our wish about 45 minutes later only to have another thunderstorm hit us with equal ferocity a short time later. But still, we’re sure we can handle it. We wake up the next morning with water in the tent and wet everywhere. Even that would have kept us in the game. After all, if the sun had decided to make an appearance, we simply would have laid everything out to dry in the sun.
Alas, it was not meant to be. The forecast called for rain all day and into the night. It’s at this point that you look at your situation and make the decision to cash it in. Thankfully, we had the back up of my parents house to fall on. So the decision was made to pack up and head for higher ground.
Despite our first ever “thrown in towel”, I know we’ll be back again for another outdoor adventure. In this busy, electronics connected world we live in, nothing can match the magic of uninterrupted, memory making, worth every minute of it, family time.