I was asked last week how I got my children into camping. Like it was some kind of 5 step program on how to guide them to be an experienced outdoorsman. It seemed like a silly thing to describe. I got my kids into camping by taking them camping. But after further discussion with a mother on the banks of the Swanson river while we loaded our boats to set out on a three day paddle trip into the wilderness, I realized that she thought we were extreme. There they were, having their adventure by fishing on the bank of the river with their cozy RV parked nearby and here we were setting out with tents and a toddler on a backcountry adventure. I told her to just start hiking and camping more. But that's not fair. Camping comes natural to me because my mother was a crazy woman and drug us kids through the wilderness like it was a kids park. As a child, I remember spending entire days wandering the wilderness in Chicken Alaska while my folks dredged the river with nothing but gold on their minds. And I mean it. I learned to roam far and find my way back. I learned at 9 to use the sun to judge my direction and distance from where camp was. I learned to add tinder to a seemingly dead fire and blow on the coals to bring it back to life. My mother always harassed me to carry a lighter, pocket knife and toilet paper in my pockets for emergencies. I guess my childhood may have been a little strange to suburbanite kids.
As a teen we lived in the Aleutians. Unalaska island is a wind swept grassland full of flowers and birds in the summer. And no bears. I used to take my nephew into the hills alone so we could camp and enjoy the views of the fishing boats in the harbor.
So it is something that is a deep love of mine. What else would drive me through the stressful planning and prep that goes into taking three kids into the wilderness. Because its not easy to plan such an endeavor.
For us, it starts with the excitement about a destination. Three days before departure, I scramble to find all the gear and get all the backpacks packed. Make the meal plan, shop, prep & pack. Gather all the available information about the destination. Motivate each member of the family. It takes a different approach for each child. My middle is the only resistant one. He drags his feet and complains the entire time leading up to a trip. He is also the most exuberant one during it. My child of extremes.
All the stress and hair pulling makes me question the entire trip sometimes. But as we set out with minivan packed and gear loaded, I am ALWAYS deeply relieved that finally I get to relax and do something that I love.
I love everything about camping. From setting up the tent to guiding my children through starting the fire. I love climbing into my sleeping bag at night and the sounds of the forest around us. From each hike near our destination to cooking meals on the fire. Its just something that I love. And my love is obvious to my children. They see that difficulty can be overcome and even enjoyed. That just because they are cold, or uncomfortable, it doesn't mean that we can't find a solution and still have fun. Learning to find joy and overcome difficulty in a situation is such an important skill & can be hard. On our trip down the Swanson, as I got a little stressed out through some rapids( they were small but I still stress in a canoe) my toddler started shouting that she had to poop. And I mean it. She hadn't pooped in two days and it was happening right then. So I let my hubby navigate the boat and helped her lean her little bottom over the side of the boat while she pooped. And all was well and hilarious in the universe. It gave me strong flashbacks of being little in Prince William sound one summer while we fished out of Cordova and of my big sister holding my hands while I leaned over the boat to do the same thing.
So maybe I do have a step up with experiences in the weird and wild of this world of ours, but it all begins with a step. With seeing a picture or hearing a story about some far off place.
Its about inspiration and desire to see and do. Just decide to go somewhere new. It doesn't matter if the packing or planning doesn't go smooth. Learn from each trip and prep better next time. Look to the web for good resources. Because really, kids don't notice the details. They tend to enjoy camping as long as they have a warm blanket to sleep in at night and food in their belly. My advice is, just go camping. Get the kids involved in picking a destination. Get on Pinterest to look at locations. An entire family excited about camping is a happy family.
And here is my last little secrete to a great camping trip. An awesome sleeping pad. Unless we are backpacking far to a destination, I pack a camper sleeping foam pad and I swear it is better than my bed at home. I really do sleep better when I am camping.
Now go find your own adventure.
Some good resources for camping can be found at:
The leave no trace foundation- https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles
Gear up and prepare-http://www.familycampinggear.com/
Motivate and prepare- https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/family/kids-parenting/camping-with-kids