#getoutside: Veteran Scoutmaster talks Family Camping (Part 2 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.
In Part 1 of 3, Joe talked planning…
#5 Plan to Sleep Well
Camping isn’t roughing it anymore, with all the great gear that is available. If you have a good sleeping pad and tent, you are not going to be uncomfortable. I recommend a four-person (or more) family tent that’s big enough for everyone to pile in and still accommodate the equipment. Pick a tent with two doors so nobody has to crawl over bodies to get out, she says. Look for a full-coverage rain fly to keep you dry and snug during wind and rain, and lots of netting for breezy, cool sleeping in warm weather. Aluminum poles are more durable and lighter to pack than fiberglass.
As for sleeping pads, spend a little more money on good ones. They’ll make slumbering outdoors as comfortable as your bed at home. Grab the pillows off your bed. Why suffer with a rolled-up jacket?
#6 Make Meals Quick and Easy
Cooking over a campfire is great for kids, because it’s hands-on and easy to make food taste delicious without a lot of work.
Before leaving home do some food prep, such as chopping vegetables and sealing them in plastic bags, mixing pancake batter and storing it in a glass jar or Tupperware (it will keep up to a week in a cooler, and making marinades for meat—which will keep from three to five days in a similar container (as long as they have not touched meat or seafood).
When cooking on-site, anything on a long fork is good, because kids can stand back from the fire while they work. Hot dogs are a natural, but mix it up with Italian sausage, pepper, and mushroom kebabs or grilling fruits such as pineapple, peaches, and plums. Another option: Wrap up “hobo packs” of meat or fish and veggies—try tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green beans—and nestle them among the coals to cook. Bonus: no pans to clean afterward. Finally, of course, no matter what’s for dinner, there’s only one thing on the dessert menu: s’mores.
#7 Play It Safe
Though statistically kids don’t get injured much more on camping trips than they do at home, certainly safety can be an issue for parents (particularly novice campers), who may worry that their child will get sick or hurt. Picking a campground close to a city or town with medical facilities may provide ease of mind. I also recommends that parents become certified in CPR and take a first aid class, whether they camp or not.) You might check a campground upon arrival for a landline to call 911 if necessary.
Other safety tips to keep in mind:
Pack a good first aid kit—you can buy one, or assemble your own—along with any medications you or your family may need.
As soon as you drop your gear, have everyone walk around the site together. Establish strict rules and safety boundaries. Use easily identifiable landmarks, such as fallen trees, to mark any areas that are out of bounds. It is very unusual for a child to get into serious trouble if they don’t wander away.
Point out possible dangers like poison ivy and remind kids not to feed or touch wild animals and to watch where they put their feet and hands.
Review proper fire safety: Children should keep a good distance from the pit to avoid tripping into it, and they should never put anything into the fire without adult supervision. I recommend involving children in building the fire (gathering and setting up the wood, for instance) so they get the idea that it’s not an abstract thing, and that you have to respect it.
Give every child a whistle to wear around his or her neck. If kids get separated they should find the nearest tree, sit down, and blow the whistle three times. Adults should return the call with one whistle to let the child know they are on their way. You can blow a whistle for a lot longer than you can shout, and the sound is more distinctive and carries farther.
Wear long pants tucked into socks during tick season.
In Part 3 of 3, Joe talks family camping…