#getoutside: Veteran Scoutmaster talks Family Camping (Part 1 of 3)
Joe Brandl has been a Scoutmaster in Dubois for so long, no one even remembers when he started. Most of the kids (and a lot of the adults) he’s mentored are now sharing outdoor memories with their own children. Joe is also a father and an accomplished survivalist who appeared on the hit Discovery Channel show Naked and Afraid. In this 3 part #getoutside feature, Joe shares some of his family camping wisdom. #getoutside, a series focusing on our County 10 outdoor lifestyle, is brought to you by Wind River Outdoor Company in Lander.
The summer is in full-swing. You can get to almost all the good camping spots and camping makes so much sense right now.
It’s an inexpensive family activity in a tight-budget economy and a way to give your kids what they may lack in this go-go era: unstructured time outside, away from screens, homework, and an avalanche of after-school activities. Camping provides a rare chance for them (and you) to be a kid, and what could be more important?
These nine pointers will help make your vacation in the great outdoors fun, safe, and enjoyable.
#1: Pick Your Perfect Spot
Some campgrounds are well developed and have toilets and running water and ready-to-go-fireplaces, and some are just a little spot of ground for you to set your tent up on. I recommend that newbies opt for campgrounds that offer toilets, showers, and an attendant on call if assistance is needed.
After you find a campground that meets your basic requirements, think about the kind of experience you want to have. If you bring bikes, look for a campground that has paved roads instead of gravel. If you have kids that are toddlers, choose campground for safety, picking spots far from any hazards such as bodies of water or drop-offs.
I also suggest first-time campers look for a campground close to a town. That way, if there’s a pizza place, someone can pick up a pie and make dinner a lot easier on Mom and Dad. You’ll also be less stressed when (almost inevitably) you realize you’ve forgotten something.
The experienced outdoor family won’t need an established campground, but if you’re new or just new to family camping this list of Wyoming campgrounds from Travel and Tourism could be really helpful.
#2: Get the Kids Involved
Even though most kids (who, let’s face it, love nothing more than having space to run around in) don’t need convincing when it comes to camping, including them in the planning will keep them enthusiastic and engaged.
Picking a camping spot should be a family decision. When my kids were little we would pull out the maps, talk about where we’ve been and where we want to go. Consider planning the trip menu together, and everybody gets to put a special snack on the grocery list. And a good idea is to let your children sleep in a tent, pitched in the backyard or even inside for a few weeks before an upcoming trip.
Have your kids pack their own bags (with parental supervision). Choosing what to bring can help little ones feel more comfortable—they can make sure a favorite toy or blanket comes along—and teaches older ones about planning.
At the campsite, let older children choose where to set up the tent, and then have everyone pitch in to pitch it. Children as young as 3 can help slip the tent poles into the fabric. Other easy tasks to assign: pulling sleeping bags out of stuff sacks blowing up mattresses, gathering kindling (where allowed), and getting water from the pump.
#3: Gear Up
A few key purchases have both kid appeal and safety value. I like to provide each kid with a Camelbak hydration system. This helps to keep her kids moving on a hike. The pack “makes them feel cool, and they drink a lot more when they have that little hose on their shoulder. Even flavoring the water with a sugar free additive encourages them to drink more. I always equipped my sons with inexpensive headlamps which make walking around at night safer and reading in the tent more fun.
Glow sticks rank as a number-one gear item for kids, because they are just so dang much fun to play with when the sun goes down. You cannot overstate the power of the glow stick. But if you are going with a group of kids, make sure to bring enough. The greatest sin is to show up without enough glow sticks to go around, and the second greatest sin is to not bring enough color diversity. That is the code of the glow sticks. Grab a few glow necklaces as well to help keep tabs on little ones when darkness falls.
#4 Make a List, Check It Twice
There are plenty of checklists on the Web that are designed specifically for camping trips with children. Download one, and then personalize it for your needs. A few days before you leave, tape it to the kitchen counter; designate a space for stacking your gear, and check objects off as you add them to the pile. As you pack, have the kids read the list out loud and cross out the items as they go into a bag, and then the car. (Got the glow sticks?)
In Part 2 of 3, Joe talks bedding, meals and safety…