With spring in full bloom and summer quickly approaching some dads will be hitting the great outdoors with their little ones for camping. Many will be all gung-ho, while others (perhaps those who refer to themselves as Indoor Enthusiasts) may be more apprehensive going into the woods, particularly with kids. But if you follow a few simple steps for camping success, you will be OK.
There is a reason the Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared.” Because going into the wilderness is not something you should just go and do. You need to be ready. First, you need to find a campground and make reservations. You should make your reservations as far in advance as you can because on peak weekends some campsites sell out quickly. You should find out any regulations about the camp that you can, are you allowed to start a fire at your site, or if you need to cook over a camp stove? Is cut wood available for purchase, or will you have to get your own? Is alcohol permitted? How close can you park your car to the campsite? Make sure all of the activities you plan are age appropriate for your kids. Part of the preparation includes letting people know where you will be. Doing your homework will make a world of difference.
If you are an experienced camper/hiker, you should have all the equipment that you need. But it may be old and in desperate need of repair. Or perhaps your tent which is perfect for you when you hit the trial is now going to seem way too small for you and your kids all to fit. Maybe all your old gear from your Boy Scout days is packed away in your parents’ garage or storage space, or you are completely starting from scratch, in either case, you need stuff. Remember you are not climbing Everest; you are going to spend a day or two in the woods with a person who will be impressed with cooking hot dogs with a stick. So don’t go too crazy. Some pieces of equipment that you will need are:
- A tent
- Sleeping bags
- Eating and cooking utensils
- Flashlights (back up batteries)
- A large container for water (unless the camp doesn’t have a water source then jugs of water)
- Toilet paper
- Camp stove
- Axe or saw
- First Aid kit
- Rain Gear
- Work gloves
- Extra Clothes
- Bug Spray
Most of these items can be found at Target or Wal-Mart pretty inexpensively, alternatively, there are many great deals for used equipment on eBay. You could also go to a specialty shop like REI or EMS, which in some locations have gear (tents, stoves, lanterns) to rent for a fee. Rentals or inexpensive items are the way to go until you find out if you or your young ones want to make going into the outdoors more of a permanent hobby, at that point you should invest in higher-priced items. An eight-year-old doesn’t need a $300 -15 degrees rated sleeping bag for a quick overnighter over the summer. A simple 40-degree bag, which you should be able to pick up for under thirty dollars, is all she will need to have a good time.
In addition to the above-listed items, I would recommend bringing some toys, books or games. You could have bad weather and find yourselves stuck inside your tent, having a soft ball which you can all play hot potato with will be a lifesaver.
Nothing spells disaster like bringing brand new equipment camping. What do you mean spikes sold separately? I recommend practicing putting up your tent and taking down your tent before you go. Do it in the living room (if the tent is small enough) or take it out to a local park with a nice-sized lawn. Now with the practice under your belt, you will look like a champ when you get set up quickly. Also, kids will love “camping” in the living room as they eagerly await the real thing.
Figure out how to light your lantern or start up your camp stove, it is much better to deal with trial and error at home than in the woods. Another benefit of testing before you go is without all the packaging you will have less stuff to carry. All your gear should fit in your backpack, so your hands are free. Try to start a small fire in your BBQ grill, now that you know how to do that you can take that knowledge with you, but when it’s for real just expand the pile of wood.
So if you follow these three steps (PET) you will be set up for a good time in the woods and hopefully will foster a lifelong affinity for the outdoors within your little one.