Sunday, October 6, 2019

Camping Adventures Part 3 - What I Pack and How I Organize When Camping with Little Kids

As I said...we are tent campers, but the car tent camping style.  Some might call us "glampers" which means that we enjoy comfort while we camp.

There are so many different ways to organize your camping supplies.  What has helped for us to have a few main categories and pack those items together.

I don't have anything about the food here since I'll have it's own blog post.

This post may contain affiliate links.

I use one of the orange utility bins, two stackable plastic bins and a few big blue IKEA bags for clothes and bedding.  I love those IKEA bags.  They are not expensive, super durable, have duffle handles, and backpack loops.

I will say that we do not live in an area with actual bears.  Just Yogi.  But, if you have bears near by you will want to take extra precautions with anything that has food.

Calling out a few of my favorite things

First I will share a few of my favorite camping things and tricks.  Then I will inundate you with our official list.

1) Head Lamps for Kids - Tomato has his own headlamp that he has to wear after dusk.  It helps us keep an eye on where he is and also makes sure he sees where he is going.  We also sometimes have him wear light up shoes which also help us track his movements.

2) Easy place for trash - Pop-up hamper, with clothes pins holding up a trash bag.  This has been one of the BEST things we bring with us.  It's so easy to keep the campsite clean.  I have a few extra bags in the bottom and you can kind of see the rock in there too to help hold the bag down.  At night we move the bag into the car to keep the raccoons from messing with it.

3) Stackable bins (also in the above picture) - The size of which depends on how much stuff you are putting in them, but I really like having them the same size so that they stack well and we look more consistent.

4) Garden wagon - great for hauling stuff around the camp grounds...or hauling kids.  We bring this instead of a stroller.  When Blueberry was big enough to go in this, but too small to not have some sort of padding, we brought the boppy and put it in front of him and a blanket behind.

5) Perfect for them camping chairs.  Blueberry loves his portable highchair.  We also use it for brunch at Gramma's and trips.

6) A footmat - My best buddy, Crystal, got this Coleman foot mat for me for my birthday a couple years ago.  The shoes go inside the zipper areas so they they don't get all dewy at night but can still stay out of the tent.  No shoes inside the tent.  That's a hard and fast rule at our campsites.

Alright, and here is the whole list!

Let's Get It Started Bin --> orange bucket
This bin holds the stuff that we need to get the tent set up.
  • Stakes for the tent

  • Mallet & Hammer
  • Fire starter
  • Lighter
  • Fire poker
  • Paper towels/newspaper kindling
  • Bug flame fluid
  • Bright rope (I put around the camp site to denote where the kids need to stay)
  • Knife
  • Duct tape
  • Utility clamps
Kitchen Sink Bin
This is at a high level, anything we use to cook with.  Each time it might vary depending on what food we are having that time.
  • Cooking forks/Marshmallow roasters
  • Paper towels
  • Forks/knives/spoons
  • Plates
  • Napkins
  • Cups
  • Kid water cups
  • Coffee
    • French press
    • Ground beans
    • Cups
  • Table cloth
  • Table cloth Clamps
Supply Bin
To help keep things a bit more together in this bin, I have a few smaller bags for First Aide, Lights, Batteries, etc...otherwise they are all a jumble inside this box.  Or if I had them just in smaller bins, they got lost.  So a bin of bags ended up being a good solution for my family.
  • First aide bin
    • First aide bags
    • Tylenol
    • Bug spray
    • Mosquito bands
  • Grocery bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Extension cords
  • Power strips
  • Small broom with dustbin
  • Trash
    • Pop up hamper
    • Clamps
    • Bags
  • Bug Candles
  • Batteries
    • D for mattress
    • AAA for flashlights
  • Light bag
    • Hangable lights
    • Flash lights
    • Lanterns
    • Zander head lamp
    • Glow sticks

Home Is Where We Are Bag (Ikea Bag)
  • Phone chargers
  • Clothes
  • Dob kit
  • Diapers/wipes
  • A couple of towels
  • Pull ups
  • Door mat

 Kid Bin
Right now they share a small bin, but I think as they get older they might want their own bags with their clothes and toys together so they can manage their own items.
  • Bubbles
  • Bubble machine
  • Binoculars
  • Markers/paper
  • A few small toys
  • Trucks for dirt
  • Kid shovel
  • Pacis
  • Balls 
Bedding Bag(s) - Ikea Bags
  • Tomato's sleeping bag
  • Tomato's pillow
  • Sheets for Blueberry's pack and play
  • Blankets for under their bedding
  • Extra sleeping bag to use as a play blanket
  • Pillows
  • Sleeping bags
  • Blanket for under the air mattress

Large and Loose
These items are just loose in our car
  • Tent
  • Tarps
  • Air mattress
  • Tomato's cot
  • Blueberry's Pack n play
  • Bjorn
  • Hiking pack
  • Diaper bag
  • Garden wagon
  • Chairs
  • Phones
  • Wallet
  • Campground site number
  • Roll extension cord

This sweet brotherly moment brought to you by camping!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Camping Adventures Part 2 - The Basics of Camping

Maybe my first post about why I like to camp has inspired you, but you know nothing about camping.  My goal with this post is to teach some of the basic concepts.  My next post will give a detailed packing and organization list.

These pictures are from our first and second camping trips when Tomato was barely 3 and Blueberry was 13 or 14 months

Types of camping

Backpacking/wilderness - This was what I did as a young person.  You get a special backpack, a light weight tent and take everything you need to camp with you.  The longest I ever did was a 3 night 4 day trip.

Car (tent) camping - This is what we do now.  You load everything into your car, drive to the camp site, unload everything from your car and hang out there.  I love tent camping, but some tents don't handle the weather as well as other tents.  My old backpacking tent did great in all weather, of course.  However our huge family tent (that my brother-in-law dubbed "the Taj-ma-Tent") can't handle wind or heavy rain. After treating the fly (that goes over the top of the tent) with weather treating, it's fine in light rain, but we don't want to risk something stronger with the kids.

RV/Trailer - Some people own RVs/Traiers and others may rent them at certain RV parks.  I flirt with the idea of getting a trailer one day.

Retrofitted bus etc - A guy I used to work with restored a VW bus and he and his family would go camping in it!

Cabin - Some state parks have cabins that you can rent.  You'll still need to supply almost everything including bedding, fire starting, etc.  We plan on cabin camping a couple times this year at further away locations so that we don't have to set up our tent after driving 3+ hours and that we would want to make sure we still went even if the weather was bad.

Glamping - This is just a term for adding some glamour and comfort to your camping trip.  For example, with our air mattresses, we'd probably be called glampers!  As you can see, D even has a fan to help keep him cool!

Places to camp:

In some states you can't just park your car and sleep there.  You'll need to get a reservation

State or national parks-  I enjoy camping at state parks.  I've found them to be very pretty and less expensive than private parks, but they fill up pretty fast.  In Indiana you can book 6 months in advance and you need to make sure you hop on exactly 6 months in advance especially for festival weekends.

Even if you plan to do a backpacking/wilderness style trip, you'll still want to get reservations in advance.

Jellystone parks-  I love Jellystones!  They all have a big Yogi bear that can come read the kids a story and pretend to try to steal their picnic baskets.  Each weekend has a different theme and they usually have some sort of water play to do.  We are usually the only tent campers in the whole place, lol, but that's fine!

HOA- Another brand of RV parks.  I have not personally camped at them, but Pete used to when he was a kid.  Like Jellystones, they also have a lot of activities to do with your family.

rivate campgrounds - The quality ranges from place to place so really look at reviews before booking.  Jellystones and HOA have standards to remain in the brand.  Sometimes the parks are super great and sometimes they are more run down.  We've had great experiences at the private campgrounds we've stayed at! This picture is from a Halloween festival at a local private camp ground!

Basics of what you need:

Itinerary of where you will be communicated to others:
This is especially important if you are backpacking or going somewhere remote.  If something happens to you or your family you'll want people to know where to start looking...or that looking is something they'd need to do.

First Aid Kit - Accidents happen in nature and you'll want to be able to handle it.  In my packing post I'll include what we have in our first aid kit.  You'll also want to make sure to grab any prescriptions, of course!

Something to sleep inside of - This would be a tent, RV, trailer, etc...unless you are cabin camping of course...there is something beautiful about the idea of sleeping under the stars, but once the dew starts to come down on your face, you might change your tune :-P

Bedding and something to put under it - You'll want a sleeping bag or something.  But, I would not suggest laying it directly on the ground.  Even when I did backpacking, I still had a sleeping mat.  Albeit a self-inflating super light one.  Now, as I mentioned above, we bring an air mattress.  Z has a cot and D uses a pack and play.  When it's cold, I put a blanket between the ground and our air mattress.  The ground is a huge heat sink.  I'd rather have a blanket under the air mattress to keep what I am sleeping on warm than an extra blanket on top of me.  Usually we bring sheets for the air mattress and make it up like a bed but if the temperatures will get down into the 50's we each have our own sleeping bags.  You can also get double sleeping bags, which we are planning on doing this year since the boys always end up in our bed in the early morning hours.

A way to make fire - First, do not bring your firewood with you.  This can transport insects and diseases to new areas.  You should always buy your firewood where you are camping.  But you will need matches or a fire starter and some kindling.

Food - I'll have a whole post on camping food.  This is one of the most important .  But to start, you don't need to go all out.  My kids are happy with hotdogs, Pringles and apples!

Light - The best part of camping is when the sun goes down!  But if you want to keep the fun going, you'll need some sort of light source.  We have headlamps for the boys so that they can see and that we can see where they are.  We also have lanterns for each adult and an extra one for the camp table...and a string of lights for over the tent door.  We also have citronella candles to give us light and a bug free area.

 This is Part 2 of a 4 Part series
Part 1: Why We Camp with Little Kids
Part 3: What I Pack and How I Organize When Camping with Little Kids
Part 4: More than S'mores and Hotdogs: Favorite Camping Recipes

Some good links with more information:
* REI - Intro to Camping - Lots of links with different reviews of gear.  I love REI and we get most of our gear from either them or Cabella's.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Camping Adventures Part 1 - Why We Camp with Little Kids

Fall is my favorite season to camp.  In my younger days I enjoyed "real camping" where we hiked for several days and stopped and set up camp for the night.  But now I'm a fan of "car camping".  It's only kind of roughing it.  There are air mattresses involved.

We've gone since the boys were 3 and 1.  Back in those days Blueberry used a pulse ox to measure his oxygen levels so we had to get a site with power.  And now that we don't need the pulse-ox anymore, we still get a power site. wouldn't do it any other way.  We often end up being the only tents in our area surrounded by RVs, but they are nice people too :).  All of these pictures are from our first camping trip in September of 2017.  I'll feature other trips in my other posts!

I didn't camp as a child.  But I enjoy sharing this time with my boys.

1) Intensive Family Time
We are stuck in pretty close quarters with not a whole lot to distract us.  Without all the noise of our daily lives we really get to focus on the moment and on each other.  Often when I am with the boys, I'm only kind of with them.  There's food to be made, toys to pick up, toilets to be scrubbed, laundry to do.  You get the idea.  It's all about us and being together.  It's about naps in the hammock or just sitting near the fire watching the boys play.

2) No screens
Okay, we do bring the tablets along for when we got out to breakfast, but there's no TV and no possibility of them bugging us to let them watch whatever is their show du jour.  Parents also have a no screen rule unless it's taking pictures!  It's as important for me as it is for the kids.  Let's face it, Facebook is a bit of a siren call to me at times.  I enjoy the opportunity to unplug.

3) Inexpensive and better
You don't have to book a trip to Disney to get great memories.  And honestly, while I'm glad we've done the Disney thing and we will again, I'm sure, I have more fun camping with the boys that I did on the over-loaded-with-magic-Disney-craziness.  And at the end of the day, my boys enjoyed the nature walks poking at bugs, playing on the playground with other kids, the marshmallows roasted over the fire, the glow sticks so much better than any amusement park.

4) Appreciate Nature
Camping forces us to slow down and appreciate the nature around us.  We can hear the sounds of the animals.  This also teaches them about dealing with being a little cold or hot or wet (though we won't camp if it's really rainy, windy or the weather dips to below 50 at night...but still, there's no heat or AC).  They also learn about what plants to stay away from and that fire can be dangerous.  We also use it as an opportunity to talk about different species of plants and animals.  While we point these things out on nature walks and in our neighborhood...there's nothing like being surrounded by it for kids to really notice.

5) Builds confidence
The boys are learning to sleep in a place that is not their bed room.  They are learning to try new things and visit new places.  They are learning new skills like how to start a fire.  And it builds confidence in us parents too!  We gain confidence that we don't need all kinds of stuff to keep the kids happy!

6) Teaches simplicity and mindfulness
We only take a few toys with us when we camp and the kids learn to play with just those toys or make toys out of the natures that is around them.  They don't need all this external entertainment.  They find ways to amuse themselves.  They make up games and focus on the moment.  I do try to prioritize giving them opportunities for free play, but with school and therapies and sports, the length of time isn't what I'd love it to be.  When we camp, it's basically all the time for days!

7) Memories
And really, the most important is that it's creating memories that will last us the rest of our lives.  They get to roll around and get dirty and then no bath (until we get home).  We try to camp at different places throughout the season and seek out local events and festivals.  This takes a bit of advance planning, but adds a lot of fun.  Although some of our best trips have been those that we didn't make it away from the campground except to hike.  But we like to mix it up each time.  Though, certain things are dogs for dinner, going out for breakfast, smores for dessert and glow sticks!  Our older boy recalls events from past camping trips with such fondness and I hope that it continues to be a precious way for us to connect as a family as we grow together!

Now that I hope that I have inspired you!  Here are the next articles in the series:
Part 2: The Basics of Camping
Part 3: What I Pack and How I Organize When Camping with Little Kids
Part 4: More than S'mores and Hotdogs: Favorite Camping Recipes