Camping With Kids

Many of you were wanting my take on camping with little kids. I’ll begin by saying that this will not be a super positive review of the experience.

I don’t think I like camping. I think I like the idea of camping. Of waking up to a chilly morning, quietly drinking my coffee by a campfire while listening to the sounds of the world waking up. A bird chirps. A squirrel whizzes by. Ah, camping. The day progresses in a slow, sedated lull. I wander with my campmates through a hike or down the coastline for a relaxing walk. In the evenings, we all don an extra layer and drink hot chocolate with Bailey’s around the campfire until it’s time to curl up in our sleeping bag and quickly drift off to sleep, the fresh air doling out to us the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had.

That didn’t happen though. Even without kids it wouldn’t have happened. Camp coffee always has grounds in it. I’m freezing cold from about 5pm until 3pm the next day regardless of how many layers I wear. I didn’t have any Bailey’s. I also didn’t have my fan who’s sole purpose is to offer white noise so falling asleep to the sound of… well, nature, didn’t really work for me.

Oh, right. And then there’s the kids.

Lillian, at two years old, actually did pretty well. She listens and obeys for the most part. She eats whatever’s offered. Sleeping in her own pink sleeping bag was the coolest thing ever. Were she to make a pros and cons list, I imagine her biggest con would be getting caught sneaking out of the tent after she was put down for bed. Talk about a deer in the headlights. Luke pointed her out to me and I said, “What do you think you’re doing?” at which point she scurried back into the tent much like the squirrel in my camping fantasy.

Levi, on the other hand, did not do super great. First of all, in case you’re unaware, camping means a lot of dirt and sticks and sand and rocks and those are four of Levi’s main food groups. I swear the kid’s going to poop out a house for all three little pigs by the time his intestines move everything from camp out of his system. Second of all, for a one year old, he listens kind of well. I’d say a 4 or 5 on a good day which isn’t anything to scoff at for his age. When you’re in a campground, though, with cars meandering past your site, when you’re surrounded by tall grass and strange people and, oh yeah, the campfire, his obedience level needed to be at a 12 and his was around a 2.

I feel like I spent most of my time on “vacation” yelling at Levi to stop heading into traffic or wander into any direction he felt like. Sure, we built an ice chest barricade as best we could, but the kid is smart and determined which will help him a lot as he grows older, but camping wasn’t the best time to exhibit those traits.

And neither kid was a super great sleeper. At home, I would let them cry it out if I knew they were okay, but you can’t really do that when you’re in a campground. On the plus side, Luke and I each got some good middle of the night cuddles with both kids so that was nice.

All in all, would I do it again? Nope. I think camping with a baby older than two would be doable. I think camping with a kid less than four months old when they’re still in the baby blob on a blanket stage would even work. But a one year old who has a whole new world he needs to explore and consume (and I mean “consume’ in the eat all of the things way)? Nope. Wouldn’t do it.

But I did do it. And we all survived. And I only cried the first night. The beauty of taking kids this young is that chances are they’ll have no concrete memory of it so I can only get better at this camping thing as they get older, right?

Gotta remember the Bailey’s next time.


10 thoughts on “Camping With Kids

  1. I’m incredibly impressed that you went at all! Camping was my family’s way of vacationing growing up and I feel like a traitor because I’ve never had a desire to take my kids even though they’re now 5 & 3. I definitely understand liking the idea of camping though :). As always, great writing!


  2. Oh, I know it’s going to suck but I still can’t wait to take our kids. Of course, it’s not going to be until winter and it’s not 800 degrees outside. And I’m sure I’ll come home just as worn out and miserable. But by damn, I’m going to do it anyway. I must.


  3. My kids are 11, 10 and 3. Trust me, it does not get easier. No one can sync up their potty times therefore the flipping tent is open more than it is closed and of course all the lovely outdoor creatures come in to visit. Every noise that is made outside “MUST BE A MONSTER” according the 3 year old who’s brothers have told her too many monster stories. Not enough alcohol in the world can make me want to take all of them camping again!


  4. I was an avid backpacker and climber pre-kids. I was pretty hardcore–three week trips into back country, survivalist challenges, etc. my wife likes the idea, and she really had a blast on the trips we did before kids (probably a certain hot springs in western Washington was our “heat of the moment” that led to me reading this blog…). My two are 7 and 12. It is hardest for me to understand why this is not something they are begging for us to do with them. My parents were not able to take us camping, and I would have killed for that. Time with my dad. I was really surprised to find out that they would rather do something else. Hopefully one of the buggers will get into it with age.


    • By the way– It is all about technique for the morning joe. Either use a French press (even Starbucks sells a camping version) or just throw the grounds in a pot of boiling water, allow them to steep, then toss in a cup of cold water. The grounds will sink, and the first cup is virtually ground free. That is the bounus of being the first up early! And skip baileys, too much of a weight to alcohol ratio. Whiskey and real Irish coffee at night.


  5. Mmmmm Baileys. Is that what makes camping bearable? I’ve managed to get my husband to take us camping twice in 14 years. We even bought a tent that will actually sleep all 8 of us! But camping is tough and nobody gets much sleep.

    Ha! Poop a house for all of the three little pigs! Awesome!


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