I don’t know about you, but I love camping so much I could just die of happiness. A flannel shirt, a red Coleman lantern, a crackling fire and a chill in the the air; camping makes me giddy.
In keeping with the theme of my whole life, I consider myself a simple camper. I don’t haul a bunch of crap out into the woods. This is partially because I like simplicity and partially because I’m lazy. The less I take, the less I have to clean up on the tail end of the trip when I’m good and tired.
(Yes, that’s a Louis Vuitton duffel. No, it’s not real. Yes, I take it camping. I got it for 25 cents at a yard sale. Don’t hate.)
It’s totally possible to do a fun and environmentally friendly camp out without dragging the entire contents of your kitchen into the great outdoors. I’ll show you how…
1. Keep the food simple. No one expects a Top Chef meal over a campfire. Good, hearty food need not be fancy. We usually do vegetarian baked beans from a can with Applegate Natural hot dogs for dinner. Slice up an apple or two, toss some baby carrots on the plate and you’ve got a decent meal. Tin foil packets with potatoes and chicken or sliced kielbasa sausage are delicious and easy as well. For these two meals all you need is a can opener and some tin foil. We bring fruit like apples and pears for snacks and sides. They’re healthy and don’t require any utensils. Crackers are good too because they don’t have to be refrigerated. We always, always, always do s’mores! It would be un-American to camp without s’mores!
2. Don’t bring plastic or paper tableware. It’s bad for the earth. It just is. We have a set of utensils with four each of knives, forks and spoons. They even came in a handy little carrying case. We bring reusable plastic kids’ plates to eat on. They’re easy to wash and they can get banged up without breaking. For cups we use our Camelbak water bottles and a couple plastic mugs from home. It’s silly to create a bunch of waste with paper plates when we can easily pack a few things from home. Part of getting back to nature is learning respect and sustainability.
3. Don’t bring toys from home. Why go camping if the kids are going to play with all the same stuff they play with in their rooms? I let my kids bring one toy each, just in case we get blindsided by a thunderstorm and we’re stuck in the tent all day. Going camping is about exploring the woods and playing with mud and sticks. If your kids are hooked on electronics, they may be bored at first. It won’t last long, and if it does, your kids are way too hooked on electronics and going camping was the best decision you ever made. We are innately attracted to the outdoors. Nature is good for our souls. Don’t do your kids a disservice by distracting them from what the earth has to offer.
4. Learn to tell a good story. People have been sitting around a fire telling stories for thousands of years. If you sit your kids down around the campfire after the sun goes down and tell them a good story, I guarantee you no one will ask for their iPad. Tell funny stories about when you were a kid, tell about adventures you had before your kids were your adventure. Retell a fairy tale and insert your children’s names for the main characters or tell a good ghost story. It will become part of your family’s tradition and your kids will ask you to tell your stories again and again. “Mom, tell us about the time Dad fell in the lake in his Easter suit!” Oral history is important. Much of what we know of our grandparents and great grandparents came to us by way of a story. Keep the stories alive!
5. Make packing simple so you camp more often. I keep our camping stuff in a plastic tub in my closet. The tub contains a can opener, a lighter, a lantern, extra batteries, bug repellant, our utensil set, an LED light, a couple plastic bags and a few trash bags. When we pack I just grab the tub and put in our plates and cups and whatever food I can fit in as well. The sleeping bags and tent are kept together in the basement. They’re easy to get to when it’s time to go. You’re more likely to plan a trip if the packing isn’t a huge hassle.
So what should you take? Here’s a rundown of what goes with us…
Tent- REI Kingdom 4
Sleeping Bags- 2 from REI, 2 Keltys from Costco
4 Camp Chairs- 2 big, 2 kid sized
4 Thermarest pads
Clothes- not a ton of stuff but always a couple extra outfits for the kids
2 Towels- we share and make do
The Tub- mentioned above, full of useful items like a lantern and a lighter, trash bags, baby wipes, paper towels, etc…
Cooler with food- medium sized cooler. We bring dry goods in reusable bags.
And that’s about it!
If you’ve been thinking of going camping, but haven’t made plans, what are you waiting for? Get outdoors with your family. Once you breathe in the chilly air, hear the crickets chirp and the fire crackle, you’ll be glad you did!