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Five Things To Think About Before Your First Family Camping Trip

Overall, our first family camping trip went quite well. Still, though, I’m someone who’s always looking to improve things the next time around. So on the way home from our first camping expedition with kiddos a few weeks ago, I made a list of things I wish we’d done better.

While there were plenty of things we did right on our first family camping trip, there are plenty of others we could have done better. Learn from our mistakes, so you don’t have to repeat them!

Sure, it would have been nice if we had pint-sized headlamps and folding chairs for our pint-sized campers; but we survived without them. What I really wish we’d handled differently, though, are these things:

Try on shoes ahead of time

As I realized when trying to pack, Essie didn’t have any hiking-appropriate shoes that fit her. In the closest, all she had were some sturdy fabric sandals with closed toes, so that’s what we brought for hiking shoes. (Fortunately, they worked just fine as makeshift hiking shoes, with a pair of socks.)

As for Kimmie, she had a pair of fancy hiking shoes that I thought still fit her. Ditto for the water shoes we brought for her to wear while showering and hanging out at the pool. As we discovered on the trip itself, though, both these pairs of shoes were actually tight enough that she complained the whole time she was wearing either pair.

Pack a few diversions

My husband and I were so intent on remembering everything we needed for camping (from hiking gear and bathing suits to food and cooking implements) that we forgot to bring any entertainment for the girls. A few age-appropriate storybooks about camping would have been a super place to start if we’d been planning ahead. Even a ball for them to toss, or some containers of bubbles, would have been better than nothing.

Fortunately, our campsite was surrounded by wild berries, so pointing these out to the girls to pick kept them entertained–for about five minutes. Unfortunately, the surrounding woods were also full of poison ivy, so their exploring was otherwise limited to our campsite itself.

Plan age-appropriate camp chores

We should have figured out more ways to put them to work. They were thrilled to be able to help with setting up the tent, and Kimmie loved learning all about doing dishes camp-style. I even got them to gather berries to go into their bowls of oatmeal on Saturday morning.

But for all the mental energy and effort I expend thinking of ways to keep the kids busy around the house, I didn’t take the time to think ahead about ways in which we could similarly include them in the tasks of daily living around our campsite. Doing so would have helped immensely with keeping them out of trouble, and out of harm’s way.

Even your toilet-trained kiddos need spare clothes

I was very proud of the girls for making it through our hike accident-free. But while overnight backpacking trips have given me a level of skill when it comes to the delicate art of peeing in the woods girl-style (without getting your clothes wet, that is!), my kids don’t possess those skills yet. (And needless to say, this isn’t exactly an accomplishment the girls and I get to practice on a regular basis in our day-to-day suburban existence.) Lesson learned.

Prepare for sleep deprivation

See the above points on the need for diversions and chores. We did a lot of things right: we got into camp plenty early enough to set up our tent and make dinner well before dark. I had our bedtime stuff ready to go when the time came, and we even brought eyemasks for the girls to help them sleep past the break of dawn.

Still, though, between the s’mores for dessert and the fact that bedtime just takes longer when you have to substitute the bath down the hall for a shower down the trail–not to mention all the excitement inherent in one’s first night camping in the great out-of-doors. The girls slept about 2.5 hours less than usual on Friday night.

The kids were raring to go when the first light of day awoke them at 6:30. But even the modest hike we planned proved more challenging than it should have been. And we hadn’t brought the carry backpack, because we didn’t think Essie needed it. So instead, she kept dozing off on Daddy’s shoulders.

And while It’s one thing to be too tired to hike, it’s another to be downright uncooperative. Do your kids get selective hearing and short fuses when they are overtired? Mine sure do. When kids fight with their siblings or ignore adults’ requests at home, most of the time it’s just plain annoying. But when you’re surrounded by everything from poison ivy to the open flames of a campfire, something as simple as two grumpy kiddos giving each other a shove can suddenly become a lot more dangerous.

This post originally appeared on Supermom Hacks. It has been reprinted with permission.

Flossie McCowald was a teacher before becoming mama to Kimmie (now 8) and Essie (now 6). A country girl who married a city boy, she and her family now live in Suburbia, U.S.A. When not schlepping her girls to Scouts, Code Club, swim lessons, or church choir, she enjoys bicycling, cooking, crocheting, and volunteering. She shares all her parenting mistakes, screw-ups, and things she learned the hard way her parenting tips, tricks, and hacks to save busy parents time, money, and sanity at supermomhacks.com

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