Posts Tagged ‘advice’
This article will appear in my soon-to-be-released eBook about Camping For Beginners. Please leave me your comments on it and I will potentially include them in the final draft of the book. You can also use the links for Kindle and Nook to view my current titles.
The car is packed, the kids are excited and the campground is calling your name! But what are you going to do once you get to the campground?
First off, remember that kids can and should be enlisted to help with setting up camp. Not only does it make them feel important, it teaches them that while this may be a family vacation, they’re not at a 5-star resort where everything is done for them. Or, as my mother is fond of saying, “This isn’t a Howard Johnson, you know!”
By including your child in helping you also can keep an eye on them without making it obvious! Unless your child is in diapers, they have something to contribute. Little kids can help move sticks and pinecones off the tent pad. Older kids can help unload the car, put tent poles together, gather firewood, keep track of smaller kids, etc. When I was too young to be of much real help, my job was holding the dog’s leash while my folks did most of the important setting up or tearing down.
And when it is time to pack up and go home, just reverse the process! Kids are especially good to recruit to clean the campsite and pick up any wayward trash you or any prior camper left behind. I know one family that has every family member pick up one piece of trash for every year they’ve accumulated. The seven-year-old has to keep her thirty-three year old father from “stealing” her trash!
As you set up, make sure that you’re clear that everyone needs to take care of their own stuff. Adults are on the trip to have a good time too, not to baby sit toys, hats, and drinks. I recommend labeling any item that might be fought over: balls, hats, marshmallow sticks, etc.
I also recommend assigning each family member their own water bottle or canteen. Write their name on a PBA-free washable water bottle with a permanent marker. Other drinks can be served from plastic cups but that way each child knows which water bottle is theirs.
Hanging out in camp
Hanging out at the campsite is not at all like hanging out at home. There is no refrigerator to peer into looking for a snack so make sure that you have plenty of kid-friendly foods on hand. I never wanted to take time from camping to eat so my mom was always sure to keep my favorite balanced snacks on hand so she could stuff one in my hand and off I’d go. Remember that whatever you normally eat at home, you can eat at camp!
I recommend taking both large air-tight containers of snack foods for sharing and individual portions so your child can grab it and take it with him. Just remember that any large container that goes to camp full has to come home empty! I recommend packing snacks into plastic bags to save on space.
Make sure your child stays hydrated. So drink lots. And I don’t mean soda! Take extra measures to keep kids (and adults) hydrated. That means plenty of water or clear liquids. Juices and sports drinks are okay, but in moderation. While camping is an excuse to break from routine, make sure that your kids are drinking plenty of appropriate liquids to keep them hydrated.
Plan for First Aid. It’s likely to get bug bites. And scraped knees. And a splinter. And, you get the point. Make sure that a full bottle of quality sunscreen is packed with your first aid supplies and that you apply it liberally and often. Sunburn is especially common at higher, cooler elevations where the sun doesn’t feel as intense and it feels so good to sit in the sun to stay warm. Trust me, sunburns happen even in the mountains! And they’re not fun anytime but especially miserable when you’re not at home!
It’s been suggested to me to pack spray-on sunscreen. It goes on evenly even when your kid is filthy dirty from playing in the dirt all day. A rub-on sunscreen applied over dirt and sweat can streak and leave your kids sunburned in streaks. Not fun!
Remember that while you’re on vacation and everything is flexible, kids may still need their nap. Take a few books or stuffed animals to help them quiet down. Even if your daughter doesn’t actually sleep, a half-hour resting will do wonders for her attitude. And yours too!
Along that vein, its okay to try for some semblance of routine while you’re camping, like enforcing bedtimes. Know your kid: what routine do you really need to follow to keep everybody happy and sane? Does he have to have a bedtime story? His favorite stuffed animal? The best part of camping is that you get to set the schedule so you can schedule what works for your child.
Eating outside is GOOD. But it may take some getting used to! You will eat dirt. Get over it.
In the tent
It’s every parent’s nightmare that their child will get out of the tent in the middle of the night and wander off. The littlest are unafraid of anything and will happily wander off after dark. Older children might want to sneak off on purpose. (Unless they’re like me: afraid of the dark!)
Put an adult in front of each door to the tent. That way, any child making a break for it would have to crawl over a sleeping adult to get out. And if you’re child is afraid of the dark, then he can sleep better knowing that there’s somebody between him and the great outdoors!
If you have more doors than parents, you can safety pin the zipper shut. If you have two zippers, just pin them together. If the door only has a single zipper, you can pin it shut by putting the pin through the hole in the zipper and fastening it to a duffle bag just inside the tent. I don’t recommend pinning the zipper to the tent itself because you’ll be putting a hole in the tent fabric!
Realize that no matter how many times you make them use the restroom before you go to bed, somebody will have to go potty in the middle of night. Take a flashlight and remember that camping is an adventure! If an adult has to go, you need to decide if you need to wake your child at the same time. It might be better to wake your kid when you’re up already rather than have her wake you just as you are falling back to sleep! And, you also don’t want to frighten your child if they wake and find you gone.
If you’re not staying in a campground with bathrooms, be sure to teach your little girl how to go potty outside. And do it in the daylight! My cousin Kris, the mother of three girls, just says, “Camp someplace with a potty. Little girls don’t go in the wilderness!” I remember when I was a little girl and hated peeing outside. Again, this comes back to knowing your child: if it’s an adventure, go for it. If it will stress them out and they’ll try to “hold it” all weekend, then you’re better off camping someplace with a restroom.
It’s also a given, your kid will likely get cold in the night. Plan ahead and know they’ll be snuggling into your sleeping bag sometime in the night. You can also pack two kids into a roomy sleeping bag so everybody stays toasty.
Kids can get uncomfortable in adult-sized furniture. You can get collapsible kid-sized picnic tables and camping chairs. It can be especially difficult for children to eat at a picnic table when they can’t sit on the bench and reach the table!
When you’re leaving camp for a walk around the campground or to go on a hike, make a hiking train. This is where you sandwich the kids between the adults. It allows an adult to lead the way and the second adult to be able to see all the kids at all times. If you’re camping in an area with snakes, it also has a responsible party scanning the trail for slithering friends.
If you don’t have the advantage of a second adult on your camping trip, you can accomplish the same result by having everyone hold hands.
Two final thoughts from every camping mom I’ve ever met:
1. Baby wipes are your friend
2. Extra washcloths and a dab of water can clean anything
I was at a party last week when the subject of buying a new tent trailer came up. My friend had said she’d seen a nice-looking used tent trailer for sale and was considering buying it. The EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family camped in a tent trailer, otherwise known as a pop-up trailer for many years.
(Until The Queen Mother decided it was too much work and made ESP Boss buy her a different RV. But that’s another story!)
Throughout our years of owning a tent trailer, we actually went through three different models. Since we’re something of an old hat at buying tent trailers, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips; all from personal experience!
The salesman or previous owner will make it seem like a piece of cake to set up and tear down your new trailer. And it is; for THEM. For you, it is a brand new process.
And, of course, it goes without saying that before you buy an RV of ANY type, you make sure that your vehicle can tow it safely AND that you have the needed hitches, receivers, brakes, and connections!
- Take notes. It’s better if you have one person taking the notes and the other person following the seller around
- Draw pictures or take pictures. It’s amazing how little things like not pushing a bed in from the right angle mean that the bed won’t slide in at all! (Our Coleman tent trailer had a very finicky door. If it wasn’t done exactly right, it wouldn’t latch into the ceiling!)
- Have the seller do a complete set up and tear down for you to watch. Make notes of any steps they have trouble with, especially if you’re getting a used model from a prior owner. It might indicate that the part is due to be replaced, doesn’t want to work when wet (or dirty, or dusty, or on Thursdays…), or that the current owner didn’t use the feature much and isn’t familiar with it.
- YOU do it. Yes, you will look a bit foolish since you don’t really know what you’re doing, but it’s a lot better to practice when you’ve got the “expert” there to help you out. Plus, you’ll get a feel, right away, for how much work it is to do. You might change your mind at this point and decide that a tent trailer isn’t for you! (The previous owners of our Coleman tent trailer bought a top-of-the-line model with ALL the extras, took it out once and decided that it was too much work! My folks got a great deal, but think of all the money they spent on an RV that didn’t fit their lifestyle.)
- Take it home and then practice it again.
- Use EatStayPlay.com to schedule a test trip. You’re looking for a near-by campground that is easy to get to, has BIG level spaces, and is close to a major town so you can buy supplies, if you need them. This test run is just a test run — GO to a campground even if you prefer dispersed camping. Leveling the trailer on a nearly-level pad will make a big difference on your maiden voyage!
- Get to the campground when there is plenty of daylight left. There’s nothing worse than setting up an RV you’re not 100% familiar with in the dark!
- While you’re out, try out and test all the features of the tent trailer including the refrigerator, stove, toilet, inside and outside shower, lights, propane system, heating system, etc. If something doesn’t work, you need to get it fixed right away AND let the seller know about it! Going out with your new tent trailer is especially important if it is still under warranty.
- Make a folder with all the manuals in it and keep it in the trailer. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to reference the owner’s manual while on a trip. Luckily The Queen Mother is very good about keeping all that stuff handy.
- Be patient! Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your children and pets. Camping should be fun. Don’t expect everything on your maiden voyage to go well.
Our first trip with our first tent trailer: The “moon” feet didn’t reach the ground so we couldn’t level the trailer and had to drive into town for wooden blocks. The hot water heater wouldn’t stay lit (pilot light gizmo needed to be replaced!) And, it snowed! Thankfully, the heater DID work.
Readers Weigh In:
- What do you do before buying an RV?
- Have you ever taken your RV out thinking it was going to be simple and had a disaster instead?
I really like camping out in the sticks — dispersed, dry camping where I have to haul in all my own stuff (including water), use my porta-potty, and haul out all my trash. But, on holiday weekends, (like Labor Day this weekend) all the traffic from ATVs and trucks can make me nutsy, so I head to a campground.
But, there’s nothing worse than camping in a developed campground than inconsiderate neighbors. Here are 9 tips to help YOU not be one of those people!
1. Respect other’s rights. Don’t walk through another camper’s site — walk around it. Most public campgrounds (in Arizona at least!) have paths between sites to the bathrooms, trash, etc. Use these paths and enjoy the stroll!
2. Be noise aware. I have no problem with shouting children having fun during the day — I love to see families out camping! However, noise like radios, generators, yelling for no reason, and fighting is really rude. You should also obey the campground’s quiet hours. Voices, radios and other noises carry further than you might think on a quiet evening. (A good rule is to tone down the noise as the sun sets.)
When Nicole and I went camping a few weeks ago, a huge group of women came in. They were up to all hours of the night drinking, yelling, throwing wood on the fire and just being obnoxious. The camp host was fantastic, asking them to be quiet, but no such luck!
3. Pack out what you pack in. You should leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. If the campground has campground hosts, they are responsible to keep the campground tidy– NOT to clean up after wild parties! Many campgrounds have trash service that you should use, making sure to close the lids tightly to keep animals out. Recycle when possible — many campgrounds have recycling programs.
4. Keep your pets under control. If you camp with your dog (or cat!), keep Fido contained and clean up after him, just like you do in a city park. Before tying him to a tree, make sure it’s permitted. (I prefer collapsible pens.) If your dog likes to bark, like Lily does, then make sure you keep it under control. Lily barks when somebody walks by and then stops — if she continues, I put her in the trailer.
5. Don’t cut living trees for firewood. In Arizona, most of the time, any downed (dead) wood is good to use, but not necessarily the dead wood on a living tree. California has completely different rules so know the campground’s rule on finding your own wood or buying it.
6. Clean up after yourself. Campground facilities exist for the benefit of all campers. Help keep them clean!
7. Be water respectful. Do not clean fish or wash dishes in lakes or streams. Waste water (grey or black) should not be dumped in a lake, stream, or on the ground. If the campground offers potable water (drinking water from a faucet), know the rules of what you can and can’t do at the spigot. Most of the time, this means no washing ANYTHING at the spigot.
8. Know and respect the campground’s rules. Even if you don’t understand the reasons for them. The rules have been established to protect and respect the rights of campers, the campground, and the environment.
9. Be considerate with your generator. If you’re going camping, CAMP! Get out of the RV and enjoy nature. If you’re going to use your generator (we’ve got one, so you know I approve of them) be sure to be considerate of others.
A few summers ago, my folks went camping at Rainbow Campground in Arizona’s White Mountains. For the last three days, a HUGE RV pulled in beside them and ran the generator non-stop! My folks ended up leaving a day early because of the noise and smell.
Readers Weigh In:
- Are there any campground etiquette issues I’ve missed?
- What particularly makes you mad when your neighbors don’t (do)?
Have you heard that there’s more interest in camping this year that ever before? Due to changes in how people budget for vacations, camping is suddenly ‘in vogue’ and people are heading to the hills.
So, here’s a question that’s being asked over and over:
How do I pick a great campsite at a public campground?
Good question! Here are 9 tips for you.
First off, decide what you’re looking for:
- Do you need trees for shade?
- Will it be windy?
- Tent or RV?
- If you have a tent, do you want a tent pad? Tent pads are usually mostly level and free of rocks and roots to tear the bottom of the tent.
- If the campsite doesn’t have a tent pad, is the campsite level enough for you to be comfortable?
- If you have an RV, do you need a pull-through spot or are you comfortable backing in? What about slide- or pop-outs; is there enough room?
- Can you bring your pets?
- What is the placement of the fire ring in relation to your tent or camper? Will the (prevailing) wind blow the fire at your “living” space?
- How close do you want to be to your neighbors? The bathroom? The water faucet? The camp host?
Some campgrounds have lights that stay on all night — especially near the camp host or the restrooms.
Obviously, you can’t really tell ANY of this information about a specific campsite from a website. If at all possible, go to the campground that you want to stay at and drive around. A family favorite campground here in Arizona is Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff Arizona. I know that the sites that are located on top of the hill, while pretty, are subject to wind. The sites just off the hill are much more sheltered. Another campsite is raked by headlights all evening long since it’s on a curve of the road. I really studied the layout of the campground during a pre-trip drive-through.
How to pick a great campsite:
If possible, visit the campground and come up with your first, second and third choices. Most campground hosts have a map of the campground that you can take with you. Make notes on it! Write down sites you’d love to stay at and sites you don’t want to have.
Ask around. The camp host is the expert about that campground. Tell them what you’re looking for in a perfect site and then have them make site recommendations. If there are people in the spot that you’re thinking of using, ask them how they like the spot.
Reservations can be a good thing! Some public campgrounds offer reservations rather than first-come first-served. Often, not all spots are available for reservations. I recommend reservations when:
- You’re going for an extended stay and want to make sure you’ve got a spot
- Your trip is months ahead and you want to be guaranteed a spot
- You have a favorite campsite
- You’re going camping over a busy weekend like Memorial Day or Labor Day
- Book really early if you can; especially over holiday weekends!
If you are going to do a first-come, first-served campsite, then here are some additional tips:
- Campgrounds are busy on the weekend. If you can, plan to arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday to get your spot.
- If you can’t get to the campground mid-week, arrange to arrive at check out time. I’ve actually sat on a picnic table as a family was leaving to make sure I got the LAST space in a campground. (Um, I asked the family if they minded first!)
- Be flexible!
Readers Weigh In:
- What are your suggestions for finding the perfect campsite?
- Do you have any funny (or horror) stories about a campsite?
Don’t you hate it when you get to where you’re going and when you turn on your flashlight you discover that the batteries are dead? And, doesn’t it always happen when you REALLY need to use that flashlight to get somewhere? And, it never fails, you don’t have the right size battery to fit the flashlight!
My dad, ESP Boss, was a volunteer for the K-9 unit of Yavapai County Search and Rescue for many years. He quickly got tired of having the exact same thing happen to him. So, here’s dad’s solution:
- Standardize all the equipment to take just one battery size. He uses AA (double A) because it fits his GPS, flashlight, walkie talkie, you name it!
- If your equipment doesn’t take AA, replace it. He had a great flashlight that took 4 D-cell batteries. Not only was it heavy, he also had to remember to bring extras!
- Bring several replacement packages of batteries so you have them on hand to replace ones that are dead.
- After every trip, replace the batteries that you used. So, if you keep 8 extra batteries with you when you’re camping and you just used 4, be sure to replace them so you have them the next time you go out.
If you will be keeping the batteries in the flashlight between trips, you can flip one of the batteries so the ends are opposite of where they are supposed to be. This keeps the flashlight from turning on accidentally! Just remember to flip it back!
Another related tip: be sure to turn on all your battery powered equipment and flashlights before leaving home. It’s a lot easier to test them and make adjustments when you are at home rather than in camp, hours away from the nearest store!
Just remember, your flashlight might turn on, but that doesn’t mean that it is bright enough. Take it to a dark room to test the brightness of the bulb and then replace the batteries or bulb as needed.
And please, dispose of your batteries properly! Make sure they make it into the trash and are not left in the forest or at the campground.
I’m a big fan of Cabela’s Outdoor Outfitters and I get a lot of my outdoor equipment through them. So, here’s a link to all the excellent flashlights that are available through the website. Test them out and let me know what is your favorite!