Summer Fun: Camping

July 11, 2016, by Sheila DelCharco

I am always shocked when, in conversation, I find out that someone has never been camping, or that people shun camping without ever having tried it. My husband and I went camping together shortly after we started dating and he jokes with me that that camping trip solidified our relationship. 

Summer is the perfect time to try it out! If you have little kids, all the more reason to give it a go! There are a few necessary items that you'll need, but I recommend borrowing what you can the first time so you don't invest too much at first.

A Tent - If you go camping, it is obvious that you will need a tent. Ask your camping friends, or if you aren't sure who of your friends goes camping, then ask on your social media channels for a loaner. I would recommend going AT LEAST two sizes bigger than your family. When Michael and I went camping recently we borrowed a friend's 4 person tent for the two of us. We bought an 8 person tent for our family of 5. Trust me when I say you'll want the "extra" space. When they label those "sleeps ____" numbers, the manufacturers are picturing a sardine can. 

Air mattress - If you want to actually like camping then an air mattress or cot is a must. Only little kids can sleep on the ground and spring up in the morning fully rested. The rest of us could use a little cushioning. If you have sleeping bags, great. But if not just pack bedding for your air mattress. Bring an extra blanket, just in case. In many places, it cools off at night and you'll sleep better with that extra layer. If it stays warm you can always pull it off. 

Flashlights - A hand held one is important for finding things in your bag at night or making your way to the toilets. I also like to bring a headlamp for reading in bed at night or preparing s'mores.

Food - You can go easy and just plan on cold foods such as sandwiches, or you could grill/cook over the fire. If you are adventure or really like to cook, you can bring a Coleman stove. I often like to cook ahead and reheat. Possibilities include chili, tacos, spaghetti, beans and rice. Hot breakfasts are especially popular while camping: eggs, bacon, pancakes (the plastic containers you add water to, shake, and pour.) Don't forget to pack any necessary tools: measuring cup, spatulas, tongs, etc. S'mores on a campfire is a must! Bring sticks or clothes hangers to cook the mallows on. A coffee pot! Alternatively, you can go out for breakfast/ brunch, depending on where you go camping and what is available nearby. 

Cooler - Don't forget to bring your cooler of cold stuff and bring plenty of drinks and snacks. 

Kitchen stuff - Thinking about your menu, you will want to make a list of things you'll need to cook and eat with such and pots/pans, dishes (paper/plastic), utensils, cups. Some people do paper goods but I prefer plastic. If you go that route you'll also need a dishpan or two. Don't forget the dish soap, something to scrub with, dish towels and paper towels. Over the years we have collected extras that we keep in plastic tubs, ready to grab. I just need to refill with consumables. 

Tablecloth - I like to bring a tablecloth to lay on the picnic table. This is not a must, but I like to be able to lay utensils down on a clean surface. 

Mat and small broom - We like to bring some sort of welcome mat to put outside the tent. An old rug scrap works really well or even an old small throw rug. This will help keep the dirt out and gives you a place to put on your shoes before getting out of the tent. Dirt/sand will inevitably get in the tent so having a small handheld broom and dustpan will take care of clean up.

Firewood and chairs - You will undoubtedly want a campfire at night so be prepared with your own firewood and some way to start a fire (matches, a clicker) and don't forget your chairs! Most campsites provide a picnic table but you can't use that for sitting around the fire. 

Clothes and personal items - Campgrounds have community bathrooms so plan on bringing things you need for showering, including toiletries and towels. I like to bring a small hand towel in addition to a bath towel for those short trips. Bring extra clothes such as a change in case you get wet and a sweatshirt/ jacket in case it turns cool. Again, it all depends on where you go camping. We like to go to the mountains in summer because camping in Florida between May and October is no fun. Since I am a wimp, and 72 degrees is cold for me, I pack sweatshirts and windbreakers for a trip to the mountains.

Other things to consider - 
Camping with kids? Bring toys/games. This is a nice chance to unplug and spend time together so games like Uno are fun for kids to play with adults. We also brought "outdoor" toys such as frisbees, balls, bocce, bows and arrows, light sabers, flashlights for the kids, glow sticks, bikes.

Hammock - If you have one, this is the perfect occasion to use it. 

Books - For me, it goes without saying, but a nice book to read at night while snuggled in bed is a must. If you are camping with kids then a good read-aloud is fun too. A few of my favorite adventure-related ones include: Swallows and Amazons, Drift House, Little House on the Prairie, the Boxcar Children, Narnia. 

Location-specific needs - Depending where you are going you and what you'll be doing you might want to bring snorkeling gear (beach or springs), small backpack (hikes in the mountains), fishing gear (beach, lake, streams), sand toys/towels (beach trip). 

Don't forget the bug spray and/or sunscreen and sunglasses and/or hat! 

Camping with friends can be especially fun. You can share things you've forgotten and the kids can have playmates. Even if you can't coordinate calendars or find anyone who will go with you, I encourage you to give it a try! I find it so satisfying and the memories we've made as a family have been precious!