Go camping with your kids they said. It will be fun they said. They were wrong.
Often, even to people that have camped a lot, the idea of camping with a kids is really daunting. We’re often asked when we started camping with our kids, and though different ages may bring specific challenges, there are principals that apply no matter the age of the children. So for the sake of this post, I’m going to use the term “kids” to refer to babies, toddlers, hoodlums of all ages.
You might be thinking, “My kids are a handful at home, how will I ever handle them out in the mountains/desert/etc? That doesn’t sound fun.” You’re wrong. It is fun. Before I get to deep into this, I must say that the first step to any of this is to make a freaking decision! Seriously, just go. Just do it. It’s one night! I can’t tell you how many times families have told us how they’ve been really wanting to go, “but”…so make a decision that you’re going to do it or just accept that you’re going to stay home and work in the yard every weekend instead.
A recent backpacking trip we went on with our 4 boys, Zev (8), Kai (6), Liam (4) and Shem (2) embodies a lot of the principals we’ve found to be necessary in having a good time out with your kids. We promise if you’ll implement them you’ll have a much better chance at a great trip!
What works for one family won’t work for another so any advice you get (except this article – it’s straight-up heaven-sent truth), digest it and adapt it to your family. Make your best assessment of your kids and make a plan that you think could work for their current tolerance for discomfort (heat, cold, bugs, dirt, etc.), hiking, sleep, attention span, etc. This particular weekend we decided to go backpacking since we had 3 days to explore. Liam is our limiting factor, so based on last year and it being the first backpacking trip of the year, we knew that we should keep it to 2-3 miles each direction each day.
This one seems obvious but it’s important to ask yourself the right questions and mentally plan for the trip. Personally, I don’t love being near others when I camp so I result to Google Earth a lot. What type of area will best serve the needs we identified above? Spend time researching. What will you do that night? What will you eat? What will the kids do while you prep meals? How long will you be in the car? Where will you go during the day? What will you do if that slight chance of rain turns into a downpour? What will you do to try and keep bedtime from turning into a drive home in the middle of the night? While planning is key, don’t forget that IT’S JUST ONE NIGHT!
Don’t get attached.
You’re already thinking that your first camping trip with your little one(s) may not go according to plan – and you’re right! It probably won’t! It took me longer to wrap up some things for work so we got to our parking spot late and ended up racing the sun the first night of our trip. But we ended up a mile short of the 3 miles and finding a really rad place to lay our heads down and wake up to! I’ve struggled with this principal (probably also because I often spend hours on Google Earth the night before trying to find the most radical of spots) but it really really helps when combined with the next two points. Yep, keep reading.
On this trip, nothing went to plan. We didn’t camp at either location we had originally planned on, nor the backup spots. We didn’t even do the hikes we planned on. Heck, we lost our keys on the second night in the middle of nowhere with no cell coverage. Communicate with your significant other. Assess and adapt as the day progresses. It gets interesting sometimes! Staying on the same page with the love of your freaking life will help keep the stress levels down.
Just have fun!
We have to remind ourselves of this all the time. Kids complain, kids don’t help, they don’t listen, etc. etc. Focusing on a positive attitude is a constant for us. I mean, 4 boys under the age of 8 will make you want to punch yourself in the face sometimes. Sometimes focusing on making the trip a positive experience really has to be the only focus and sometimes that’s a challenge. Regardless of what happens on your trip, you’ll look back at it with less regrets if you focus on just having fun.
Use that drive home to assess.
You made it. You’re alive. Kids are alive. You’ll already know how you feel when you’re on your way home but see if you can identify the exact positives and negatives of the trip. Ask your kids too – if they’re old enough to talk. What stood out to them will be helpful insight to your next trip! Yep, cause you’re going again, you pansy.
The more you go, the more both you and they get the hang of it. And it’s worth it cause who wants to stay home to work on the house anyway? If you go in with proper planning and expectations, chances are you’ll come home and still say “that was fun”. And that’s usually enough to get you to try it again.
Thanks so much for reading! Were you ever reluctant to take your kid(s) camping?
What made you finally get up and go? Share with us in the comments below!