Monday, July 21, 2014

Notes on Camping

Recently I had quite a few people requesting that I offer up some kind of post about camping with young children. Typically, I tend to shy away from that kind of thing on here only because I always feel silly taking the voice of authority on just about anything. It's just not my thing. However I figured it wouldn't hurt to share some of the tips and mindset we keep to ensure that camping as a large family is always more fun than stress.

Here, a handful of tips we lean on.

Excepting Disorganization : The first few camp trips of the season we are typically stressed out because of everything we either forgot or didn't prepare for. Naturally, as the camp weekends become more regular, we get better at what we include in our packing. But still, with this many people it's hard to have everything covered. I try to keep sane by running over the bare essentials, making a pile for each of the boys including things like their shoes, shorts, a few tee shirts, a sweatshirt, a pillow, blankets, and then all the regular stuff I know we all need like flashlights, radio, cooking tools, sunscreen, showering / first aid kit, ect. Once I have that all that packed I try and add things as I go but figure as long as we have the basics covered, anything that's left out is not going to make or break our trip. Also, Embracing the fact that we will never be 100 percent "prepared" makes it that much easier on me for sure. Some people can manage the art of preparedness, and I applaud those that can. But it's not us. Will most likely never be us. And I have come to accept that that's OK too.

Camp Close : Right now we tend to stick to what is familiar. Campsites that are not too far from home and where we know exactly what to expect as far as set up and amenities go. When the boys are all a littler older I assume we will be more up for adventure, hopefully branching out and camping in new and further locations, but for now they are satisfied by the simple facts of being away from home, in the dirt, "roughing" it for a weekend.

Make it A Two Day Affair : Because the baby is new, and the boys still need constant attention while camping, right now two nights feels perfect. When we camp close we will sometimes even just drive down for the night and head home late the following day. Occasionally Mike and Arlo will spend one additional night alone after we've gone back. To hit up the local skate parks or snag some more surf time but for me, I am usually ready for a hot shower and our regular routine after two nights.

Accept That it is Not Going to be "Easy:" A number of people were quite shocked that we were out camping as family when Hayes was just over two weeks old. "Isn't it HARD to camp with a newborn?! It is. In fact, it's very hard. To camp with a newborn, while looking after an ever curious four year old who likes to wander off every chance he gets, in addition to a notoriously neurotic five year old who can find fault with anything from sand in his shoe to the wrong kind of cereal, on top of an eight year old with a non stop need for new adventures making my head spin for a better part of the day. But like I always say, you don't have four children and expect anything in your day to day life to be "easy." Camping as a family of six isn't easy. But that doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment in it because I know it's one of the rare things we can still do as a family that doesn't cost a fortune and keeps them entertained better than anything else we've tried. And, it's nice to be outdoors away from television, ipads, and routine.

No Frills Food: Eventually, I hope to become a better onsite cook and get a little more creative with our meals. But for now we tend to stock up on simple snacks like nuts, cheese, sandwiches, fresh fruit, cereal for breakfast and bbq'd hot dogs wrapped in tortillas and grilled corn on the cob for dinner.

Forget the Toys & Gadgets : I use to be a wreck trying to include all their favorite outdoor toys, coloring books, tools, water guns, and gadgets until I finally realized - just recently - that they actually don't need any of them. That when they don't have those things, they make better use of their surroundings. The dig in the sand, or the dirt and find sticks and rocks in the brush. They sit around a camp fire, climb tress, and run wild with friends on the beach or around neighboring sites. Letting go of the idea of packing all the right toys has been a big deal for me. It means one less thing I have to consider and one less thing they come to expect. Seems these days many of us can get caught up in all the ideas behind what we believe to be our kid's "must have" when really, food shelter and warm clothes is where it all ends on these kinds of weekends. Mind are happy with so much less while camping. And that in itself is a welcoming relief.

RV Campers > Tents : Make a world of difference. Mike and I have never been tent campers. Since our early years as a couple, prior to all these kids, we had an RV we drove everywhere - even to Mexico one summer, and back. Having it now, with a family this size, is a major luxury. It allows us ample space to make food, take naps, recover from the sun and so on. The one we currently use Mike bought for 500 dollars a few years ago, gutting and restoring the bulk of it in a half assed, super cheap restoration that saw bamboo coverings and discarded hardwood floors where we knew it would make for a cozy, but practical place to hang out. One that we are never too concerned about anything getting ruined or broken and therefore an especially easy place to relax. Very recently we also added this new vintage stand alone tent that connects to our VW bus to camp in when we don't want to lug that big RV to certain sites. The tent itself reminds me of an old termite tarp, but we love it because it's tall enough for us to walk around in it and the boys seem to enjoy the variety - sleeping on old military cots we picked up for 10 and 15 dollars at a local flea last month. Both set ups make for a great space to easily enforce naps when they (or I) really need them. The fact of which, above all else, has been our real saving grace for years.


Anyway, there you have it. I ask that you please forgive any current grammatical errors in these new posts. I might find the time to draft a post these days, but can't usually not an hour more to properly edit.

Also, I am sure I left a few things out. Feel free to include anything you might want to share in regards to you and your family's own camp habits.

Xx
J

14 comments:

  1. Thank you for these awesome tips. I'm always so envious of your carefree looking camping trips, oh and don't even get me started on your RV! Living in New Zealand means that life (in summer anyway) basically revolves around camping and hanging out at the beach. There's not a lot else to do here! Anyway I guess we felt a little intimidated by going away with an almost one year old in tow. Silly now that I think about it because it meant we only went away once over the entire summer. Seeing you do it with a newborn plus three other kids... well wow I have no excuses! A big part of our problem seems to be leaving home to begin with. We need to get better at really making a point of going away. Otherwise we muck around too long all weekend and before we know it the days are already over. Anyway our next big adventure is a somewhat intrepid journey to Sri Lanka. We'll see how that goes...

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  2. So well stated! Camping as a family has always been one of my favorite activities.

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  3. Thanks for this post. I really want to take our girls camping but my husband, who loves to camp, things we should wait till they are older because of of how much work it is. I also really want an RV. So...I'm forwarding this on to him. ;)

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  4. Great post! We love to camp with our two boys. We mostly tent camp, but recently got an old pop-up camper, which has proved to be quite nice for naps and especially nice on rainy camp nights. I've camped while pregnant and have even tent camped with a newborn, we've actually fit a pack 'n play in the tent!

    Your two points that really stick out for me are accepting that you're going to be a little disorganized and that it's not going to be easy. That's definitely the best attitude to start out with. Then you don't get too upset when you realize you did forget this or that or even though you worked your butt off to have everything you need (including kiddie crafts and all) the kids decide not to cooperate.

    Also for food, just thought I'd add that I'm a big fan of prepping camp meals before hand. So in the cooler I'll have marinated kabobs and sliced and seasoned veggies and meats ready to throw on the grill or fire. Also we have a double pie pocket iron and it's the best ever. Usually for one dinner we end up just doing pizza pie pockets. Sometimes we even get fancy and do ham and Swiss or Ruben style pie pockets. You can even make desert pie pockets with pie fillings and some powdered sugar. Really it's one of the simplest camp ideas and all you need is soft butter, some bread and any kind of topping/filling you can come up with.

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    1. I like the idea of prepping the food beforehand. I'm going to try some of the tips you offer on our next trip. And the two comments describing the pie pockets have me sold. I'm ordering one tomorrow!

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  5. I like that you don't fret about lugging along a bunch of toys. So fun for the boys to use their imaginations & create their own supplies. Also great that you don't fuss too much over meals. Camping should be a break for all (including mom). When my son always had his buddies around growing up, it seems their favorite food was hotdogs and mac & cheese. One little guy asked me one time if I could pls. make mac & cheese the fancy way. I asked him what that was. He said,"you know- you add cut up wieners and mix it in."

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  6. i've never camped in an RV before, but I'd love to try it! and i love that you minimize your tech & toys -- camping is a time to have fun in nature :)
    x
    staygoldrebecca.com

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  7. have you ever tried a cast-iron pie maker? always a staple in our camp food. bring some bread, pizza sauce and cheese- stick in the fire and you have perfect pizzas.. then for dessert use dough, chop up some apples, cinnamon and sugar- little apple pies. i'm sure pinterest has a great collection of recipes. xo

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    1. No, I haven't. But based on what you tell me here, I think I'm sold! Thanks for the recommendation Carly.

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    2. Love the cast iron pie maker idea xxx

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  8. oh, this will be so helpful in a couple of weeks when we head up north for our first camping trip with all three kids. thanks for your honest account, advice, and great photos. easing my mind a bit....

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    1. glad it helped meg. enjoy your trip!

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  9. Thank you for this post. I will take away 'expecting disorganisation' and 'accept it isn't going to be easy' and chant it like a mantra before future camping trips! Happy camping! xx

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  10. Ah this is great, i have four boys too 12, 10, 6 and 4 and we started camping with the kids when my eldest two where little, my church also used to camp for its weekend away and at the time my youngest was new born and looking back i cant believe we went and others couldnt either but im so glad we did although it was full on. Camping is great for us because it isnt too costly but we love it too! I would say i naturally like to be organised but often dont quite get there with the 6 of us but im quite laid back so take it in my stride or none of us are having any fun! we go to a fab place each yr with a small group of people, we have a music night with great muscians, fires all week long and the kids are off free to play and enjoy the outdoors in a beautiful setting. Ive found the same and used to pack way too many toys and way too many clothes and not enough bedding! Now i pack just enough clothes with afew spares, lots of extra blankets for comfort and warnth which ive picked up from second hand shops and they are lovely! I used to take way to many non perisable foods thinking we may need them but ended up usually bringing them home, i guess it depends whats available, but where we go there are great places to get lovely localfresh produce so saves space with not bringing too much along, Last yr i face painted all the children, we got out into the woods and made bows and arrows, slingshots etc, and we made signs to go above our tents, its a great opportunity to get really creative with the kids and nature, this yr im going to make more dens and do some weaving and making crowns with them which i think they will like! Even though we didnt bring so many toys anymore the children had lovely games of uno the card game altogether and loved collecting fire wood. So weve been camping for yrs be we are by no means pros, last yr we turned up, pitched the tent which was so mouldy inside it could not be used, as we pondered what to do i sat down in one of my 'vintage' chairs and feel through it scrapping up my back, then i cried! :) we then had to go buy a new tent! we had a great week though, despite the lows i love it for the best bits and the qualtiy time and being outdoors. P.S lovely post, sorry for rambling on Karen (thislittlecorner on insta)

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