Monday, April 19, 2010

Camping: Lessons Learned

I am rather ashamed to tell you that this was our first camping trip in many years, and our first one with our kids. That's right--outdoor loving me hasn't taken her kids camping yet. For shame, Greta. For shame.
I have done a lot of camping. I remember some great trips as a kid. And more as a teen-ager.
I have camped pretty hard core in the Florida Everglades. I am talking pit toilets, washing clothes and body with a bucket of water I pumped myself, flooded tents and more mosquito bites than I can even begin to describe.
I have frozen my booty off camping in Scotland one summer.
Aaron and I even camped on our honeymoon. We were scared out of one our campsites by some teen age boys reenacting The Lord of the Flies. While in our tent trying to sleep, Aaron said to me, " I think I can take on 4 of them with the axe, but you'll have to take the other 2 with the knife."
We left and went to a hotel.

Despite those misadventures, I really love to camp. And I have wanted to take our kids. When James and William were smaller, I didn't feel ready yet. It seemed difficult to manage it all. How would we all sleep in the tent? How would we keep them from falling in the fire? Could I really stand all the dirt?

But with more kids comes more courage. Or insanity. You decide.

And so, last summer we tried to go camping. But for lots of different reasons we were foiled every time.
It was very disappointing.
But this time, I prevailed.

Beach camping seemed like a good first time camping with kids choice. Pretty easy as far as the roughing it goes, right? In southern California you have to reserve 6 months ahead to get a beach side spot on a weekend. It is kind of maddening. If you don't do it that day, the sites are gone. You may luck out if there is a cancellation, but the chances are slim.
So 6 months ago I remembered to go online the first day of the month and got our site. Now I wish I had done it every month since.
That, my friends, is the first lesson learned:
Reserve a campsite every month or so. If you don't use it, you loose $7. If you don't reserve it, you lost your chance at camping that month.

Lesson 2: we packed way too much stuff. We already have the list going on ways to improve our next camping experience. I hope to have a camping essential list to offer you in the future.
Lesson 3: you can't bring along every comfort of home, but bring some. I forgot our pillows. Towels make lousy pillows. Real coffee is worth the effort. Don't you dare bring instant!
Lesson 4: bring some special camping treats to eat, but nothing that is too hard to prepare. I asked the boys what treats they wanted for camping. William chose barbecued potato chips and James chose brie and baguettes. Now a camping tradition, I think.
Lesson 5: Don't bring tv, computers or lots of toys for the kids. They will find something else to do if you just let them. We don't have a portable tv or computer so this wasn't even an option for us, but we didn't bring them anything else, except stuff for drawing. They had a blast climbing the trees in our site, and making paper airplanes. Next time though, we will bring bikes.
Lesson 6: You have to let some things go. This is Lilly dragging her blanket through the dirt. At first I tried making her keep it in the tent, but I gave up. Things get dirty when you are camping. Even blankies.
The lady in the site next door to us was constantly yelling at her kids, "I just swept that tent! Get out of there!"
I figure the kids have to be clean enough at home, I can lower my standards while we're camping.
I didn't worry about the dirt one time.
And that is quite a feat, for this cleaning fanatic.
Like I said, we have high hopes for lots more camping. Really, despite the work, it was very relaxing.
As I said, we are already working on a list for streamlining our camping supplies. We already have a much clearer vision of what is needed and not needed.
But I'd love to know, if you camp, what do you always take with you?. What are your essentials?
Teach me.
Love from Greta


Life with Littles said...

We always bring a portable toilet. It's one that I keep in the car that folds up to the size of a small breifcase. You use ziploc bags with it so you don't have to clean it out. I love it! We use it in the middle of the night, even me ;)

other things-
Comet for ants
babypowder to get sand off
bug catchers

Prepared meals in ziploc bags. I do as much prep as I can ahead of time.
spray on sunscreen so that you don't have to get it on your already dirty hands

Shannon said...

Baby wipes. Baby wipes. Baby wipes.

Your post yesterday inspired me to book a spot at Carlsbad beach for next month. It is a weeknight, of course, because for the last 2 years I have forgotten to book 6 months ahead. And after reading your blog, I just couldn't wait for October!

Erin McDonald said...

We love to go camping well we loved to go camping but just haven't been in awhile. One of my tops must have is foil fire dinners. you can put anything in them, meat veggies a little seasoning and fold it up in foil and stick it in the fire cook for 30 mins and YUMM!!!!!!!! Don't forget to bring long tongs to grab that hot puppy out of the fire! Oh and also love a good lawn chair, sitting at your site watching the world go by and your kids too! Glad to see you are enjoying camping and making wonderful memories!