Our family of 5 took on the challenge of camping last year. I say "challenge" because I, personally, don't find it an easy endeavour. It's definitely not for everyone. You see, I grew up camping but my husband grew up "hotelling", as we like to joke. If you ask me about my best childhood summer memories, they involve our family camping adventures. I've determined that if you didn't have these childhood memories banked, you may not see the value in putting all the work into it for your own children.
Now, I don't claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. Our camping trips have been ultra tame in terms of Bear Grylls' standards. In fact, our last camping trip didn't even have a lake on site; it had a pool. We have gone to both private and provincial campgrounds and have enjoyed both for different reasons. I forsee us eventually learning to really "rough-it" but while we have fairly wide age ranges of children (3, 7 and 10) we'll stick to having one foot in the tent and one foot in the van, with quick access to the HWY 416.
Today I am speaking to the pre-portaging crowd. The pre-outback campers. The first-time adventurers with one to two night camping trips in their calendars. Each time we go camping we gain tips and tricks from friends, family and other campers that we adopt into our own agenda.
- Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew Italian Roast - I feel like coffee is always a good place to start. Because when the group camping down the path keeps you and the kids up late at night or the coyotes howl all night at the moon or the crows squack you awake at 5am, what are you going to yearn for first? This is the best tasting instant coffee I've had. Boil water on your stove and pour.
- Woods Cots - We started sleeping on foam and air matresses and have graduated to cots. Everyone is happier when they don't have to sleep on the ground, especially if water should find its way into your tent. Watch for sales at Canadian Tire - we just picked one up for $40.
- Sterilite Wide 3 Drawer Cart (aka your new portable kitchen) - Scour local garage sales for utensils, pots, pans and other needed kitchen items and store them in one of these. Store it in your garage, put it in the car, and return it to the garage when you return home.
- Propane lantern - Not only does it give off great card-playing light but it also gives off heat for those chillier nights. It attracts bugs so it's best when used inside a screened-in dining tent.
- Screened-in dining tent - It's a mosquito-free place to sit at night but also your shelter from the elements. We didn't fully appreciate our dining tent until we found ourselves in the midst of a relentless downpour, hail and all.
- A good tent - There are a lot of factors that make a tent "good". I've seen friends buy the big tent that was on sale that came with a cooler and camping chairs which just didn't last. I've discovered you want one with good stitching, strong material and waterproof material up the sides and bottom to keep out heavy rain. You want one with good ventillation, a good fly, and one that's not too difficult to put up. I just discovered a tent with a "D" door that opens and closes like your front door at home. No more forgetting to zip up the door!
- Cardboard drink holders - You know at Tim Hortons when they ask if you'd like a cup holder and you say no because you have enough holders in your car? Say yes and let them pile up in your back seat. These things burn slowly when you light a corner on fire and gives off great mosquito-detracting smoke. Stick it beside your camping chair and avoid bites!
- Metal roasting sticks - We have kept food quite simple so far. Everyone can cook their own food by roasting hotdogs, brats, marshmallows etc. You can also toast bagels, english muffins and toast. An easy meal.
- Cast iron toasters - My sister-in-law has these toasters and she let the kids toast their own pizzas. Spray with oil, add bread, add pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni, then another piece of bread, and close. Toast over the fire and it's like a pizza pocket. Another easy meal. She also has one that is circle-shaped in which is great to cook an egg. Pair the cooked egg with a toasted english muffin and you've got a sandwich everyone will eat.
- Mike's Hard Frozen Lemonade - These double as ice packs in your cooler. So it's really a service you're doing to the family by keeping everything cold. Do it for the family.
There's obviously more that you need when camping like sleeping bags, blankets, sunscreen, bug spray, stove etc. This is simply a list of lessons recently learned by our family.
Question is... what are YOUR tips for camping?