My husband loves the great outdoors, I could totally do without it. The beginning of our relationship was filled with him trying to get me into outdoor sports as much as possible. Our conversations went a lot like this, “What do you mean you’ve never been camping?” You’ve never been snowboarding, ever?” “Who hasn’t gone to a beach bonfire before?” To which I always reply, “I’m from L.A. so…” And now not to use my upbringing in Los Angeles as a crutch, there were just things that kids from the hood didn’t have the opportunity to do.
When we began our family, there were definitely things that I wanted to do differently with our children. I wanted them to have experiences I’d never had as a kid and I wanted to be able to have those experiences with our kids. It took some convincing, but I was finally coerced into going camping. I’ve never been a huge fan of camping. I’ve never understood the fascination of sleeping outside in makeshift housing. Let’s not forget the bugs. I can’t do bugs. For the sake of our children I had to set aside my personal dislikes for family experiences.
Our first camping trip was nothing short of a disaster. It had been a while since my husband’s last camping trip and we were just all over the place with our packing. We overpacked things we didn’t need and forgot essential things. It was a mess. I can laugh about it now, but our first camping trip did not leave me wanting for more, for sure. The kids on the other hand, had a blast.
We’ve been going camping every year as a family for a few years now. Our first solo trip taught us many things, one of them being, camping with family and friends is the best way to go. If you forget to pack something, chances are someone remembered. Camping truly is a team effort. I have put together a list of some must haves that make each camping trip a bit more enjoyable.
I will never go camping again without a comfy bed to sleep on. The first year we decided we would use sleeping bags, you know, to get the “real” camping experience. Never again. Pack an air mattress or a cot. Add some comfy pillows and enjoy your sleep. Sleep is a luxury during a camping trip.
Bring chairs! Foldable lounge chairs are the best for camping. I made the mistake of not bringing chairs to one of our camping trips because I assumed we could use the park benches. Big mistake. We had nothing to sit on and it was not a fun time.
Cast Iron Cookware
Invest in cast iron. Not only is it an awesome heirloom to pass down to your kids, it’s the best thing to cook with while camping. We have accumulated so much cast iron over the years from camping that I can make entire meals that I make in my kitchen outdoors. Need some pancakes and eggs? No problem, I’ll just pull out my handy dandy cast iron griddle. Want to fry some fish? I have my cast iron dutch oven that will get the job done. Seriously. Get some cast iron.
While I’m on the subject of food and cooking, I would strongly encourage a portable sink. It’s hard work trying to wash your dishes and cookware from a water spigot. I can’t stress enough the ease of cleaning when you don’t have to constantly bend over. Portable sinks also cut down on the mud puddles around your camp area. Don’t forget the dishwashing liquid though. I have and it’s the pits.
Some campsite bathrooms are just…nasty. I can’t give you an answer as to why that is, it just is. Taking a shower in a nasty bathroom is a huge no-no for me. I just can’t do it. Portable showers come through in the clutch in any camping trip. Most campsites offer electricity and water hookups, so purchasing a portable shower will save you from gross bathrooms. While you’re at it though, grab the portable toilet if you’re a germaphobe. You won’t regret it.
It gets dark at night in the woods. Don’t forget to pack flashlights, or lanterns. Our kids love the flashlights that they can wear on their heads. They have so much fun chasing each other in the dark using their headlights. It’s hilarious. Lanterns are great to have inside of your tent so that you can see. Once the sun goes down, you are out of luck finding anything in the dark without light.
Nothing says camping like s’mores. There is nothing better than gathering around the campfire roasting marshmallows. Our kids live for s’more during our camping trips. On our latest camping trip, the kids wore themselves out before dinner and they were too tired to even attempt s’mores. No problem though, we had s’mores for breakfast. The joys of camping.
Bring all the games to the campsite! I have won a game or two of Uno, and Connect Four during our trips. It’s a great way to spend time as a family and keep the electronic devices put away. Load up a new camping playlist. Bring along your speakers and let the music play. Sing alongs are also a favorite of mine during camping trips.
We have camped in the heat, and we have camped in the cold. I have learned to check the forecast to see which unit is needed. Last year, we nearly froze to death because I failed to check the weather forecast and the kids and I killed the car battery a few times using the heater to dethaw. It was a mess. A few years back, we didn’t bring a fan and the inside of our tent was uninhabitable until the sun went down. Keep your eye on the weather and pack accordingly. Don’t forget the extension cord! I’ve forgotten a few times.
Did I mention I hate bugs? I don’t do bugs. Don’t like things crawling on me, I don’t like getting bitten by ants, or mosquitos. I just don’t like it. Guess what I did a few years back? Yep. I forgot the bug spray. I grabbed the sunscreen and forgot the bug spray and I just wanted to turn around and leave once I realized I had forgotten it. Luckily enough for me, our friends didn’t forget the bug spray so all was well with the world. Bring the bug spray. You’ll thank me later.
There are so many things I can add to this list, but I can’t list everything. What I do want is for you to enjoy the time with your family and friends. Don’t worry if you forget to pack the first aid kit, someone will have bandaids. Remember the rules of the wild, stay on the beaten path, and leaves of three leave them be. My husband got a really bad case of poison oak during one of our camping trips as a result, I will never forget his swollen face and the importance of leaves of three.
Although camping has gotten a bit easier each year, there are still things that I forget. Needless to say, we still have a fantastic time, and the kids have the memories to go along with each trip. Years from now, we won’t remember the year that Mommy forgot the bug spray. We will remember tubing on the river, laughing and having a good time.