Over the last many years, my boys and I have done a lot of camping.
After joining Boy Scouts, we camp at least 2 times a year. Scratchy camps 3-4 times a year. I love camping with the scouts or with others because it's a community - we all cook, clean, chat, help and babysit.
Here are some of my fun camp tips I have learned over the years.
- You never out grow your first camp chair.
- Don't forget the camp chairs!
- Shade is essential. You can't be in the sun the entire day. Try to find a place with a pavilion or some trees nearby that will shade you.
- Don't set up your tent right under a tree, at the bottom of a hill or right on the edge of the woods (ie. next to the tall grass) for the following reasons: bugs, rain, falling branches, animals, bugs.
- Put a tarp under your tent if rain is in the forecast. The tarp should be smaller than the tent. Fold under NOT over. You don't want a pool under your floor.
- If it does rain, for the love of God, DON'T touch the inside of your tent walls. Just one drop coming in breaks the seal and you may as well move your stuff outside and sleep in the rain.
- Patrol your area when get there and when you have packed up. Specifically, walk through the tent area looking for sandals, tent steaks, campfire forks, trash, etc.
- Breakfast by the campfire is badass. Pre-cooked sausages roasting over a fire and fresh pancakes and homemade donuts - outside. By a campfire. On a cool, perfect morning ... bliss.
- Anything you can make at home can be made camping. Long gone are the times of foil dinners and hot dogs. My "camp kitchen" has one cast iron skillet, one small-ish saucepan and a mixing bowl. I can make just about anything with that. I'll make another post about how to make up a camp kitchen and some meal ideas.
- Let the kids cook! Marshmallows, sausages, hot dogs... anything they can cook, let them!
- Who needs to shower when you have a lake? People that camp and need to shower every day annoy me. You're camping. Everyone can go 2 days with just a washcloth and bar of soap.
- Use the washcloth and the bar of soap!
- Just because you are camping does not mean you don't have to brush your teeth.
- Activities do not have to be a huge ordeal. Some rope, a ball, a corn hole game, a pile of rocks - all these lead to hours of entertainment for kids.
- I always try to camp at a place that has swimming. Double win - cooling off and rinsing sweaty bodies off.
- Going on hikes is a requirement. Wearing pants (even though it is 90) is a good idea.
- Poison ivy is a pain in the ass. So are bug bites. (see point above)
- Learn to use a fishing pole. Take your kids fishing. Even if you have the Mickey Mouse poles and no hooks. It's good fun and totally a bonding experience.
- Stop to look at the wildlife. But don't touch it.
- When you see a hawk/bird/rabbit/deer, don't scream for everyone to "LOOK AT THE PRETTY HAWK/BIRD/RABBIT/DEER!!" They will run away and no one will see it and people will start thinking you're seeing things.
- Leave No Trace is one of the Boy Scout mottos and I strictly enforce it. It means be there, experience it, but do not disturb nature. Not only should you not litter, but you should not pick flowers, move branches or chop down trees unless you have specific permission from the camp facility to do so. Those flowers feed the bees. Those branches were an animal's protection from the rain. That tree was food and home to many creatures.
- Bring a refillable water bottle and some insta-something (I like Mio) in case the water tastes bad. Don't use the landfill bottles. Even if you recycle them - a refillable bottle produces significantly less waste than a case of bottled water.
- Same reason - bring washable dishes rather than paper and throw-away plastic.
- Bring extra batteries. Even though they work fine at the house, flashlights have a habit of dying that first night. Camera batteries, too.
- DO NOT keep food in your tent. Even if it is in a ziploc baggie in your bag in a tote. The critters smell it. Raccoons are crafty little bastards and I've seen them open tent zippers.
- Bring a backpack. Not a shoulder tote, but a back pack. You can put 78,485 things in a backpack and lug it around easily. A shoulder tote will undoubtedly lead to an all-arm amputation. Better yet - bring backpacks for everyone to can carry their own crap!
- Everything will need to be washed when you get home. Even your camp kitchen. Properly wash it and then pack it away to save your sanity later.
- You will pack a metric ton more than you need and you will still forget something critical.