On Camping…with Children


General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.

So. I’ve been a little absent because after my 3-week jaunt abroad, we thought it was a good idea to go camping a week later…with two kids under 4. Yeah, it wasn’t the brightest idea, but it ended up working out okay. However, I am beyond ecstatic to be home. I’m tapped out this summer.  It’s a high-quality, first world problem, but whatever.

I decided to compile a few lessons I realized on the trip instead of recapping everything.

Background: I used to go backpacking in the good old days. Backpack, no toilet, bare bones supplies, just us and the great outdoors and sometimes a bear or a marmot or some other wildlife. These days I am relegated to civilized campgrounds with bear lockers and running water.

The Grass is Always Greener

When I was the baggage-less college student sun bathing on slabs of rock, reading my book or writing in my journal, I used to eye the people with kids and think how great it would be when I would have my own. I thought for sure I’d take them backpacking too, even if it meant packing their diapers and packing it back down (of course, this never happened!). I always ached for my turn to be the mom.

These days, I’m the tired mom who can’t even get to page 2 in my book because the little one is trying to eat dirt again and is still in the stage of walking-like-a-drunk who has a high probability of stumbling and cutting her head open on any of the million of rocks everywhere. I look longingly at the college students who walk by in their short-shorts and college sweatshirts, chatting about some boy like it was the most serious headline news to ponder. No responsibility, totally detached from reality…like a breath of fresh air.

I admit, we’re never going to be 100% happy. The other side will always look more attractive. So, I chase the kid for the 15454848th time and remind myself that in a few years I’ll be sitting in my camping chair reading my book and sipping my glass of wine while the kids occupy themselves. This is just a test of life endurance. I can make it. Yes I can…I can…I can. And so I repeat to myself.

A Packing List is Required. Double-Checking the List is Doubly Required

We actually did use a packing list. I didn’t do as good of a job preparing for the camping trip because I spent many hours getting ready for our Europe/Israel trip, which in my mind was the priority. I stupidly thought my husband could pick up the slack and perhaps get our stuff packed since he didn’t do any planning for the other trip. WRONG! Why would he want to do that when it’s easier to let his wife assume that responsibility? I swear, having a husband is like having an extra child. So my Extra Kid, er, husband, packs the portable bbq and unilaterally decides to leave the stove at home without conferring to the person whom he shoved all the packing responsibility to…aka ME. Because you know, who needs coffee in the chilly morning while you’re stuck in the great outdoors?

Lesson 215454: go through the list with significant other and double-check that everything makes it into the van. You know what they say. If you want the job done right, you do it yourself.

Take the Time to Make a Menu

Due to limited time, we didn’t plan our meals very well. We just kind of half-assed it. Big mistake. Our friends, who spent hours and hours cooking and got no sleep the night before departure had a meal planned for each day. Chili, cornbread, this and that. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was no questions about what they would eat, and they even planned for fruit and vegetable with each meal. I felt like a pig watching them.

I’m going to get a camping cookbook (soon) and put a little more effort into this part of the planning next year. I’ll admit that I was more focused on what museum I would see in Paris rather than planning what we’d eat on the camping trip. We ended up taking a few too many trips to the greasy food joint up the road like a bunch of cheaters.

Organize Your Camping Equipment

Invest in some plastic bins to organize your camping equipment next year. We did this to some degree last year, but we’re going to get even better at it. It helps so much to have everything in one location.

Seriously Consider Getting a Hotel Room and Pretend that You Camped

Sometimes I ask myself why the hell I decided to go camping again. Didn’t I swear off camping for eternity last year? Why am I doing it again?! And while on this note…

Noble Truth of Camping

Everything is 5x better in pictures and fond memories. Seriously. As much cussing as I might have done under my breath and as much as I swear I’ll never go again, I look at the pictures and think shoot, it sure is amazingly beautiful. And just like childbirth, I forget the intensity of the pain and go back and do it again.

In the end, it’s totally worth it, but rest assured it will be a pain in the ass.

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