Summer means outdoor fun in a variety of ways and one of the most popular is camping. Late summer is a great time to take the family camping and from personal experience, kids love it. Veteran campers have it all together and some spend weeks at a time in state parks or in private campgrounds enjoying fishing, hiking, boating and a host of other outdoor activities. There are many families who want to try camping but are hesitant to do so because they may not know how to start planning. The following suggestions may help.
Camping with young children can be a pleasure or a nightmare depending on how well you prepare. Whenever we took our kids camping we always stayed at a state park because there was always something to do and while we were camping, it wasn’t exactly “roughing it.” There were showers, flush toilets, and boats to rent. Swimming and fishing activities were readily available and the kids didn’t have time to be bored. We limited our most of our stays to three days and two nights and that always seemed to satisfy everyone.
When sleeping outdoors it’s necessary to have good shelter. We slept in a tent designed for six people and the extra room was always welcome. A good tent will keep the bugs and rain outside where they belong and will have “no see um” netting that will keep the smallest insects from getting inside. When turning in for the night make sure you leave several of the tent flaps open so inside moisture has a chance to escape.
Nothing will ruin a camping trip quicker than a poor night’s sleep, so be sure to included several good sleeping pads because even the most level looking ground can prove to be uncomfortable. The pads will shield you and the kids from any small rocks, twigs or pebbles and will provide a comfortable night’s rest. Summer nights can be quite cool so it’s imperative you bring warm sleeping bags that are up to the task. Shivering through a cold or even a cool night can ruin a camping trip in a hurry.
There’s something about being outdoors that generates appetites in young and old alike, so be sure you bring plenty of food and snacks. When filling a cooler with milk and other perishables, use block ice rather than cubes; it lasts longer. Grilling a steak on the back deck at home is fine when you’re with friends, but when camping keep things simple and consider the old standbys like hotdogs and hamburgers. Whatever you decide to have for dinner be sure to plan the meal at home and make a list of everything you’ll need in order to cook it outdoors – don’t forget things like salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard. Cooking can be done with a portable camp stove but remember, kids love roasting their own hotdogs over an open fire – with adult supervision, of course. The idea is to allow the kids to have a hand in their own meal preparation while avoiding meals that require a lot of pots and pans that need cleaning afterward.
Campfires are always a special part of camping, so along with the hotdogs be sure to bring a big bag of marshmallows and the makings for s’mores. The kids will love it. While on the subject of campfires, consider bringing wood from home if possible. However, to avoid transporting serious insect pests, don’t bring it if you travel more than 50 miles from home. Most campgrounds or surrounding areas offer firewood for sale at a nominal price, so to be safe ask where to get it when you check in.
Be sure to take precautions to avoid bugs like ticks by staying out of areas with high grass or deviating from marked trails while hiking. Sprays containing DEET are safe when used as directed and can save the day if mosquitoes or gnats prove to be a problem. Finally, when camping with kids be sure to make them aware of some basic rules of camping etiquette. Voices carry far in the outdoors so make an effort to speak in quiet tones so as not to bother fellow campers. "Quiet hours" at most campgrounds are typically from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Don’t bring a radio, but if you insist be certain it can’t be heard by other nearby campers.
Camping can be relatively inexpensive fun for the entire family and I’ve never known a youngster to say they didn’t thoroughly enjoy the experience. New York has a host of state parks and private campgrounds that offer a range of camping experiences. Consider a visit to one of them and see for yourself what fun camping can be.