Monday, February 16, 2015

Outdoor adventures: an introduction to camping with kids


Over the weekend we eased ourselves into camping (and when I say 'we' I mean 'me' because I seemed to be the only person worried about it). I've never been camping proper - I never made it past Brownies; we didn't do it as a family and there was an aborted attempt with Lovely Husband in the early days but there was a small issue of missing poles from the borrowed tent. Needless to see, I was feeling a mite anxious about camping with a three year old.

So we I enlisted the help of my brother and sister-in-law, who are seasoned campers (and parents to my super-fresh, squeezy-cheeked nephew), to hold our my hand the first time and we went all-in and kitted ourselves with tent, camp stove and self-inflating mattresses when they were on super-sale. Lovely Husband stocked up on gadgets and I started making lists in my head.

My bro picked the place (a caravan park on Phillip Island) and we headed south east for an overnighter. They were cruisy and chill and I was a mess after a last-minute dash with Dear Boy to the doctor. All my plans for a cruisy and chill couple of hours to finish packing disappeared, so we I ended up getting super snappy and stress-sweaty - lovely - and forgetting things. Namely pillows.

We I forgot to bring pillows. Forehead slap.

Here's what else we forgot or didn't think to bring but might have been handy to have around:
  • sponge/scourer for the washing up
  • dish washing liquid (luckily the seasoned campers had plenty to share)
  • plastic/garbage bags
  • dustpan and brush (to try to keep some of the grass and sound out of the beds)
  • rubber mallet for the tent pegs (some of those suckers just couldn't be banged in with a shoe; again, seasoned campers to the rescue)
  • big container of water (to save multiple trips to the taps; yup, seasoned campers to the rescue)
  • some kind of bright, fleuro ties or markers for the tent pegs and guy ropes (the small person seemed blind to all of these)
  • pegs (we had wet towels slung on the back of chairs and over guy ropes - they mostly stayed damp)
  • cards or other simple entertainment
  • nibblies (because sitting around in camp chairs needs nibblies) 
  • books for bedtime for Dear Boy (he can live without everything else from home; we ended up scrounging a tiny old Mr Men board book from the car, but it just didn't cut it)
The pillows were the real killer; our mattresses were super comfy and I could live with the stereo-snoring from Lovely Husband and the guy in the tent next door but no pillows was wretched for getting a good night's sleep. Dear Boy coped fine.



Here's what else was fine even though I had some concerns about it beforehand:

Safety: Dear Boy getting out of the tent and disappearing without us realising (haha, no ninja skills could mask the sound of those zippers opening); that something would happen so close to the water (he wandered off to the fence line quite a bit but the worst thing that happened was his foot slipping down a little hole and he banged his chin - he also got a splinter but who knows where from); he'd burn himself on the camp stove and Trangia (he was curious but steered cleared after we told him it was hot).

Toilet training: the progress on toilet training would fly out the window (we set the potty up in the tent and he used it several times, Dear Boy isn't keen on peeing al fresco); how the hell do you clean a potty when you're camping?! (I'd found a pack of potty liners last week and threw them in at the last minute; any plastic bag would probably do, but it was super simple to lift off the potty seat, tie up the bag and toss it, no cleaning necessary).

Boredom: how to entertain a three year old while camping (we took a few small wheeled toys but he pretty much entertained himself, throwing leaves and sticks and stones into the water, chatting with his cousin; the only real problem was when he woke at the crack of dawn and wanted out of the tent befor eeveryone else was awake - if we'd had a small supply of books, this would've been easier); how to entertain adults while camping (the seasoned campers were right on the money with this one - you're usually busy with the business of camping - cooking, washing, exploring, etc, that you need the downtime to just sit around and chat, maybe play some cards).

Weather: I am no good sleeping when it's hot (we kept an eye on the BOM and were prepared to cancel if the temps got too high - ended up perfect weather though with warm days and cool nights - it was super hot and sweaty when we were putting the temp up but cooled down in the afternoon); rain and thunderstorms (both were predicted and I didn't want a wash-out to marr our first camping experience - we got some sprinkles but no downpour, and some mighty black cloud cover but no storm); too cold at night (I brought lots of blankets and socks).




Here are some of the tips from the seasoned campers and others hacks I found online that are worth passing on:
  • Bring a pair of gumboots for the kids for hanging around the campsite - these are super easy for littlies to pull on and off so helped stop grass getting tracked through the tent - plus good for walking on campsite bathroom floors and great if it rains, and better protection than thongs if they're bashing through the bush.
  • Bring socks and at least one set of opposite weather clothes - I remembered this for everyone else but forgot to pack myself a pair of shorts and sweltered; also cold feet in a tent, not fun.
  • Do lots of the food prep at home - chop the veg, cut the meat, etc.
  • Let the kids get dirty and stay dirty - saves on the stress, just wash their hands before eating.
  • Wipes and hand santiser -because you don't want dirty to become an invitation for bugs (of the gut or creepy-crawly variety).
  • Spray or wipe the tent zips with insect repellent (of the human friendly variety) so bugs don't come flying in after you every time you open the door.
  • Pick a place with something to do - the seasoned campers like spots near water and walking tracks.
  • Invest in earplugs if you're a light sleeper - tents offer no sound protection whatsoever. Whatsoever.
  • Camp chairs are worth their weight in gold - avoids bugs, wet bums, spilling food, etc.
  • Invest in a lidded tub or two - this keeps all your gear together so you can just throw it in the car and go - cookware, crockery and cutlery, fire lighters or matches, batteries, head torches, small tool kit, first aid kit, hand santiser, wipes, paper towel, and small containers of basics like oil, S&P, tea, etc.
We still need to figure out the esky situation - what the ultimate cooling methods are for short and long trips - do you buy the bag of ice, use ice bricks, bottles of frozen water, etc? (Maybe there's a 'science of...' post there) - and a few other things that weren't really an issue at a caravan park with all the mod cons nearby (wildlife, al fresco toileting, no running water, etc)... but we had a good time. Pillows certainly would have helped, but we still had a good time.

We're going again soon.

Are you a n00b or seasoned camper? I'd love to hear any tip or hacks or excellent camping spots (in Victoria) you want to share with us me (especially if you've got the answer to the esky situation).

6 comments :

  1. Excellent advice. Gum boots are a brilliant idea. We'll have to try that next time. I'm a big fan of sealable plastic containers to store food once it's open and to stop the animals and insects getting in x

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  2. I think your commenting system ate my post - what I did say was I am so ready to try camping with my kids. I have the best memories of camping myself when I was growing up xx

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    1. Oh no! That eternally hungry commenting system munching on my comments!

      You did mention you'd like to try camping again on one of my previous posts: http://lilybettandboy.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/outdoor-adventures.html

      It wasn't neaerly as scary as I thought it would be - so I reckon you should go for it!

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  3. I love camping but there always seem to be something that you forget to (or wish you had) packed. No pillows would be horrible, though easy enough to roll up a jumper or something instead. You tend to live and learn with camping and don't make the same mistake twice.
    As for the esky - it is trial and error to figure out what works best for you.I like to freeze some of the food for later in the week and use them as ice packs to save on room. A few good ice bricks and depending on where you are, what you have packed etc maybe a bag of ice (though unless you have packed well everything gets soggy). We make use of the camp kitchen fridge for milk or any other dairy products which can be helpful if there is one. Just remember to take a big black texta to mark everything with.

    I'd love you to link this up to my #wednesdaywanderlust travel link party this week.

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  4. I camped in my early 20's though I have to say I'm not big on camping, caravanning though is a different matter - did loads of that growing up. Nice to be off the ground have a small kitchen and somewhere dry to be if it rains.

    I have to say though whether you're camping , caravanning or resorting it really is just about hanging out together and having fun.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond to what you have read here at Lilybett and Boy. I love reading through all your comments.

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