Columbus Day Camping

Columbus Day Camping October 18, 2013

Newly back in America after five years of living in Europe, we are getting into all things American. So we went camping.
This is the first time we have busted out camping gear that we were given as wedding gifts. Ten years, no camping, but here we went.While loading the car I left the crucial bag with headlamps, nighttime diaper and camera on the table. I attempted tin-foil pocket dinners that were horribly burned in the fire, and we kind of froze in the “girls’ tent” because I overestimated overnight lows. BUT, all in all it was a success. We took away some major lessons learned, but I think when things warm up again in Kansas (Ha) we will be back out there again.

Some keys to our success were:

1) camping alongside another family with whom we are friends and sharing meal, toy and beverage responsibilities.

2) bringing the Pack’N’Play for the toddler even though it required a whole extra tent

3) hats and wool socks for everyone

4) tons of s’mores supplies and a hacksaw which my husband used to cut up kindling as wood ran low


Some failures:

1) Darkness is no joke, everything gets way harder after sunset. I will never ever forget headlamps and kiddie glow sticks again. Ever.  Also, the site had electrical power and I saw other campers with Christmas lights hung across their site. This strikes me as a good idea.

2) A bin of extra blankets would have paid huge dividends around 2 or 3 AM

3) We only stayed one night, I think all the preparation required would have made two nights seem more worthwhile, but the sleep deprivation might have taken its toll if we did this

4) Burgers and hot dogs only for meals, those tin foil dinners were rough.


Any of your readers camp with young young children? What tips do you have to make our next venture a success?

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  • Annie

    Thanks for sharing about your camping adventure, this was really fun for me to read because we took our first camping adventure as a family this summer.

    I completely agree that bringing the PnP is a necessity for the toddler. We also shamelessly brought a big air mattress and even the comforter from our bed, which were great when the temp dropped! Like you, we intended to camp only for 1 night, but ended up staying for 2 to make the drive (we went to Glacier) and packing worth it. My lessons learned from camping: (1) toys were not necessary because our toddler was having too much fun simply exploring the campgrounds, playing in the dirt, and playing with sticks; (2) Aidell’s sausages were good for grilling too, they are tasty and a bit different from hotdogs; (3) finger foods were best for a toddler who was just too busy exploring to sit down; (4) a good Kelty-style backpack carrier is a great investment for hiking around, our toddler was a little angry being in the Ergo because he couldn’t see much, and (5) being married to an old Eagle Scout and lifelong camper really makes things smoother! =)

    I look forward to hearing other tips and tricks!

  • AWOL_Mommy

    I married an Eagle too, and after I posted my post I was regretting that I hadn’t mentioned how totally sexy it is to see one’s husband in this environment when it is something at which they excel. Thanks so much for your comment, Annie. How old are your kids and how many?

  • ejhickso

    I also recently returned from my first camping trip in a long time. Packing was time-consuming and not completely successful — Like you, I forgot essentials and packed other things that were completely unnecessary. After the trip, I decided to take a moment as I was putting things away to make an ideal packing list for next time. I tucked the list into the top of the plastic bin that holds most of my camping supplies. No doubt packing for the next trip will be much smoother! And I can imagine that I’ll refine my list over time. (I considered making an electronic list and keeping it on the computer, but that seemed overly complicated and likely to be forgotten by the next time around.)

  • Kate E

    So we camp with some frequency usually just 1-2 nights. Yes with an Eagle husband although we usually end up arguing over the size of the fire (it does not always need to be huge, small fire, foil pack success FYI), they are super hot when busting out their rugged outdoor knowledge 😉
    1: we bring no toys except 1 dump truck and 1 shovel per child. Missions include garbage pick up, pine come collection, sand bucket for the fire, etc.
    2: I always pack 3-4 washcloths and 3-4 kitchen towels. Wipes (my normal best friend) don’t cut some of the mess we encounter.
    3: I think we are investing in a “camping toilet”. My daughter just can’t grasp the girl peeing in the woods trick and i might just bring a potty for her, but I usually have to go at the crack of dawn too and we never choose a site near the bathroom.
    4: headlamps, lanterns, glow sticks. Glow bracelets to mark your tent lines helps avoid tripping at night.
    5: doormat for outside tent, shoes stay outside, wipe feet before entering
    6: we own a giant 2 room tent. We will never go hiking with it but it is awesome. Especially when bringing the pack m play
    7: we have a color coordinated camping dish set which is awesome. Each member gets a color and it has hot and cold mugs, plates, bowls, and it nests.
    8: I always bring 2-3 empty Tupperware for found treasure, leftover food, etc
    9: get into your camp cooking. Pie irons are amazing: custom grilled cheeses, pizza pockets, French toast pockets, etc. this year we made refrigerator cinnamon buns in hollowed out orange peels in the oven, they were yum. And easy. ut our first night we usually just bring in subs or something during tent set up, etc.
    10: camping French press. Proper tea. Hot cocoa for kids. Morning beverages are crucial. Make em good
    11: we have forgotten nighttime diapers almost every single time we go camping. How is this possible? Getting pee out of a sleeping bag sucks, I generally have ventured out to find a Walmart or cvs. But seriously got to add that to my list.

  • AWOL_Mommy

    Kate, love all this. The glow bracelets on tent lines would have saved many face bashes and frontal mud on 20-month-old Berna. What is with not choosing a site by the bathroom, is that on purpose?

  • Kate e

    We find the bathroom area to always be noisy and have a lot of traffic. Our kids go to bed relatively early so we try and find more secluded spots. On a related note here in NJ we found a “County Park” in contrast to the state run parks we usually frequent, it was cleaner and way nicer. I know our state is cutting budgets seriously so I guess the county spends a little more on upkeep. We will definitely be frequenting the county park again.

    Also I forgot, don’t forget other fun non-s’mores camping snacks. Popcorn is a big one, non sugary, super fun, we just got a campfire popcorn cooker. Nice for late afternoon while little ones nap, our big kid has popcorn and we play cards usually.

  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    You are so Brave, AWOL!! We tried in our backyard once and everyone was inside by 9pm!

  • I second all the comments about you being brave. My idea of camping is a cheap hotel! And camping with children, let’s just say the idea of it makes me laugh out loud! Kuddos to you for trying it out.

  • Annie

    Haha, yes! We just have one 1 and 1/2 year old – so that is probably why I am so enthusiastic about camping now, it was fairly easy with just 3 of us!

  • GoingCamping

    You don’t need to be, or have an Eagle scout on hand, just get an *old* version of the Boy Scout Handbook – it’s chock full of advice on making camping fun, easier, and more rewarding, including a bunch of great camp recipes and menus, and tips for getting camp cooking right. (If you’re serious, get a Dutch oven, and your camp meals can be a real treat.)

    BTW, the reason for specifying an old version of the handbook is twofold: First, the later versions have objectionable “progressive” material (really, what idiot thought, “this is a great camping and outdoors handbook, but needs a treatment of masturbation, nocturnal emissions, and drugs”?) Secondly, the quality and usefulness of the outdoor and camping material is far better in the older editions. The big change happened sometime around 1970, when I was a scout, so I have both editions. I recently threw out the newer version, but will always treasure the older one. (Yeah, all the boys have crew cuts and wear goofy shoes – so what? And it’s a real piece of Americana, too, a throwback to a time when men were viewed as having value for being men rather than being defective because they are insufficiently feminine…)

  • Karen M

    AWOL Mommyy, I thought you’d like this article!

    Any push-ups in your family? 🙂

  • AWOL_Mommy

    Wait, physical fitness tasks are not standard punishment in all families? We actually favor the flutter kick, star jumps and “overhead arm claps”. Any questions on what these are, they are from the Army field manual on Physical Training. Thanks for the article, Karen! Great read.