Camping with kids can be fun! …I’m serious.

Weekends are sacred in our family. Those two golden days bookend our busy week like a pine-scented hug. So when Friday rolls around the adventure is roughly planned, the bags are packed, and the 4 x 4 is loaded with all the fishing/camping/nature walk paraphernalia it can hold. This is one of my favourite things about living in Vancouver: that you can drive a short distance from the city and be completely surrounded by wilderness. For less than a quarter tank of gas you can fish the Capilano River, rock climb in Squamish, or camp in the mountain ranges of Pemberton.

Now, let me acknowledge that sometimes camping trips can be a bit hairy with small kids, and there are certainly some situations that are better than others for them – and for you. Here is a quick list from my own personal experience about what works when camping with kids:

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1. Overpack.

While I am a minimalist in all things in life – camping with kids is the one area I let this slide. Bring those rubber boots AND flip flops! keep the extra blanket AND the bathing suit! bring two packs of bacon AND a family pack of sausages! You never know when the blue skies will turn to a rainstorm, when a wrong turn will lead to a surprise hot-spring foray, or when forest explorations will result in third helpings.

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2. Pick your campsite well.

Kids = outhouse. Yes, my husband once made a toilet out of rocks for my kids when there wasn’t an outhouse around and they thought that was pretty cool. I did not think it was cool when in the morning the poop was gone and there were bear tracks around the campsite. This leads me to my next suggestion –

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3. Adults in the tent, kids in the car.

This will do wonders for your peace of mind. If you have a truck like us, the kids will be sleeping like kings – they’ll be warm, dry, and safe from those poop-eating bears I mentioned above. Also, once they’re asleep, the grownups can break out the bourbon and a be a little rowdy around the fire if they want to be. Space is good.

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4. Be okay with getting dirty.

Yes, hand sanitizer is fantastic. Bring it. But also allow your kids to explore and play in/with nature. My kids spent hours sweeping the campsite (their castle) with fallen fir tree branches, and scooping up pine needles, leaves, and rocks to make wizard potions. They looked like chimney sweeps after but their eyes were sparkling with imagination and enthusiasm. If they are getting out there and engaging with nature instead of sitting hunchbacked on a stump mourning the loss of cell reception – encourage it!

Tell us about your camping experiences with kids, and what your tips are. Was there a game the kids were enthralled in while you stoked the campfire? Was there anything you thought was a genius idea that failed miserably? Let us know in the comments below!

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