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Novice Camper v. Professional Camper

 

camping 25Earlier this year, I went camping and wrote a blog on necessary things to bring camping.  My family just got back from a Spring Break camping trip to the Guadalupe State River Park with Corrin and my friend Tracy so I thought I would update the list and add a few more necessities based on our recent trip.  

Here was the original list of “Must-Haves”

  1. A good cooler

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      2.  A table

      3. A stand for your camping stove

camping 12 4. A pop up tent

(Side note:  Corrin and Dave have an awesome pop up) tent.  We bought a Coleman 9 man tent (not pop up….) but it has a light switch…and a fan…and a light at the top….It is  awesome….and is about $250 at Acadmy.)

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5. A large storage container

6. An air mattress

7. (Optional: hiking stick)

8. Snacks for little ones

9. Activities for little ones

10. (Optional: making some food ahead of time)

Here are the items that we feel should be added to this list:

camping 2811. Battery Powered Air Mattress Inflator:  Some campsites have electrical outlets and others just have water.  Even if your campsite has electricity, you will want to inflate your air mattress inside of your tent.  A battery powered air mattress inflator will allow you to do this.

12. Doormat for the entrance of your tent: One thing that you do not want is for dirt or mud to be tracked inside of your tent.  It rained both nights we were camping which caused a lot of mud and dirt on shoes. I remembered from my last camping trip that the professional campers all had doormats.  I was kicking myself this time around that I did not grab a doormat to bring because there was mud everywhere (inside and outside of the tent).  

camping 2913. Small broom and dustpan:  You want to keep the inside of your tent somewhat clean so bringing a small broom and dustpan will allow you to sweep out any dirt or dust that may make its way inside.

14.  Wasp/Bee Spray:  We had several bees that hung around out campsite for the entire time we were camping.  Finley was stung by one of the bees.  When Corrin went to pull the stinger out of Finley’s arm, it ended up going into her own finger!  Ouch! 

15. Towels:  I packed one towel for myself and my two year old to share (and my husband if he wanted to share).  My husband and older kids all packed their bags themselves.  I stupidly assumed that they would throw a towel in their bag for a shower.  Imagine my surprise on the drive there, we discovered that we all had one towel (the one I packed for myself) to share between the seven of us.  There were several loud “ewes” and complaints.  I said “I’m the one that should be complaining, I have to share my towel.”  Luckily I was able to buy towels at the Walmart near the campsite. Side note: Make sure you pack flip flops for the showers.  This is a must.

16.  Pop Up Canopy:  We were thankful Corrin brought her pop up canopy on the second day when it started to lightly rain.  We set it up over our picnic table and played board games.  Notice Finley on the potty!

camping 3017.  Bug Spray:  There were TONS of mosquitos so bring lots of bug spray.  We even sprayed down our camp chairs.

18.  Tarp:  We brought this on our last camping trip but forgot it for this one.  A large tarp is nice to have for the kids to sit on and play games and do other activities.

19.  Portable potty for the small ones:  Charlotte and Finley used this a million times on the trip.  I brought the one that I wrote a blog on. 

camping 2220.  An electric coffee pot if your campsite has electricity: This was much nicer than our campfire coffee pot.

camping 2121.  Camping Chairs: Most of your camping trip will be spent in these by the campfire.  We even bought the little ones their own chairs.

camping 622.  Power strip:  We had several teenagers so we had to fight over the one electrical outlet to charge our Iphones (a constant struggle in our family…we did a blog on this issue).  A power strip would have been nice so that several phones could be charged at once.

23.  Camp stove:  We used the camp stove for half of our cooking and the camp fire for the rest.  Make sure you remember to bring the small propane tanks that go with it.

24.  Trash bags:  You will constantly go through these so bring several.

25.  Wipes:  These are nice to have while camping for everything.

26.  Antibacterial Soap:  We kept a bottle on the food prep table.

27. Walkie Talkies:  These are good to have if you don’t get good cell phone reception.

28. (Optional:  Strands of Lights)  Several campsites had cool strands of lights draped around their campsite.  You will also need an extension cord if you decide to do this. We will do this on our next camping trip because outdoor lights are awesome.

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Ok campers:  My question for you is this:  What did we miss?

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The First Blog on Camping

This weekend, Brad, Charlotte, Paige, and I joined four other families for a fun family camping weekend at Garner State Park (park west of San Antonio, Texas).  We were told that all families were taking care of their own food and to just bring stuff for your family.

the campersBrad and I were not worried because we have been camping a couple of times together and a few times growing up.  

This camping trip was a lot different from other camping trips we have gone on.  We soon learned that we were spending the weekend with “camping professionals.”  There were lots of things we learned that we wanted to share.  

  1. You need a good cooler, not a wimpy one. We bought a very wimpy cooler.  Our stuff didn’t even all fit into our wimpy cooler and we had to mooch off of our friends who felt sorry for us and put some of our stuff in their cooler.  

coolerSolution:  Buy a nice big cooler.  Brad and I both agreed that we are going to buy one now because it is something that we will use for many years.  You can buy a 150 gallon cooler for less than $100.

  1. Bring a fold up table.  The last time we went camping with our friends, we used the picnic tables that were around our campsite.  Our professional camping friends knew better.  They all brought fold up tables.  It would have been very helpful if Brad and I would have also brought another fold up table.  The picnic table by the campsite stayed packed with items that would have been better on an extra fold up table.

tablethe campsiteSolution:  You can buy a fold up table at Walmart for $36.00.  We want to buy one of these because they are always useful to have at your house, especially for  family gatherings.  

  1. Have a stand for your camping stove.  Brad and I borrowed Corrin and Dave’s camping stove.  It was the same stove that the other couples had.  We were jealous that the other couples had their camping stoves on a stand, as opposed to using the picnic table top.  

stove stand

Solution:  You can get a camping stove stand on Amazon for $19.00.  Like anything else, you can get much more fancier.  One of the professionals, Veronique, had a super fancy camping stove stand.  It had lots of different storage containers.

  1. Invest in an a large instant pop up tent.  If you plan on camping at least two times, invest in the new tents that they make that instantly pop up and are large.  When Brad and I went camping in March, we brought our small dome tent.  Everyone else had the new large instant tents.  Brad and I were super jealous because ours was too small, especially with a toddler.  For this camping trip, we borrowed Corrin’s large instant tent.  It took about twenty seconds to set it up and was very large.  It even had a zipper where you could have two separate rooms.

instant tentSolution:  Buy one of  these new pop up tents.  They are a little pricy but completely worth the cost if you plan on camping.  You can an instant tent starting at around $200.  Our friend Anna bought her instant tent from Walmart for $250.  It also include two air mattresses and two camping chairs.

  1. Invest in large storage containers.  Brad and I threw all of our food into three large 31 bags.  This was a big no no.  The professionals had extra durable storage containers.  Why is it dumb to pack all of your stuff into tote bags?  You need to have a storage container to put your non perishable items in so that the ants or other creatures don’t get into the food.  Once again, we found ourselves mooching off the professionals.  They were kind enough to throw our food into their containers.  

storage binSolution:  We plan on investing in a super nice storage container (not the cheap ones you find at target for $10).  Heavy duty storage containers start at around $35.00.  

  1.  To air mattress or not to air mattress?  Most of the families brought  air mattresses.  I of course forgot to put batteries in our pump so I had to borrow one of the professional’s battery operated pumps.  (Do you see a pattern here?  Brad and I are not moochers…next time we will be sooooo much over prepared.)  Two of the families had blowouts with their air mattresses.  Nothing is worse than waking up in the middle of the night to your air mattress being flat.  The problem with air mattresses is that they are so unpredictable.  One of the air mattresses that went flat was brand new.  One of the professional campers invested in a self inflating sleeping pad.  She did not have to worry about air mattress blowouts.

matSolution:  We are on the fence about this.  I don’t think we will go camping enough to invest in self inflatable sleeping pads for the seven of us.  If you do plan on doing a lot of camping, I think this is a great thing to buy!  Self inflating sleeping pads start around $40.00

  1.  Hiking sticks:  When we started on our group hiking trip up to the top of the mountain (or maybe it was a hill…I think mountains have to be a certain height), professional camper Veronique and her family all pulled out their hiking sticks.  I started to laugh because I thought “We are just going on a little walk.” Veronique and her family were the smart ones.  The hike up the mountain has steep.  It would have been very nice to have these sticks.  I think, though, it is only worth the investment if you plan on doing a lot of hiking.

hiking sticks

Solution:  Buy hiking sticks if you plan on doing lots of hiking.  They are very helpful.  Hiking poles start around $15.00.

  1. Pack lots of easy snacks for the little ones.  Brad carried Charlotte in a backpack on his back so we didn’t have to worry about a two year old hiking up a mountain.  There were two littles ones (three and four) that made it to the top!  It was very impressive.  My friend Amy said that they were able to make it to the top because they stopped every once in awhile and gave the kids snacks.  This seemed to help keep them going.

brad and christaSolution:  I think that the apple sauce squeezable packs and bags of goldfish are great snacks to bring.  Paige threw fruit roll ups in the basket so Charlotte chomped down on one of those as she was leisurely sitting in her backpack up the mountain.

  1. Bring activities for the kids:  I remembered from our camping trip in March that having activities for the smaller kids was very helpful.  I brought play dough for the kids and stuff to make pasta and fruit loop necklaces.  One of the professional campers, Anna, brought stuff for a scavenger hunt, prizes, and  large pumpkin bag that the kids filled with leaves.  It is amazing how much fun the kids had stuffing the large orange bag with leaves.  

kids activitiesSolution:  You can go online and find tons of camping activities for smaller kids.  This is great to break up the day when the adults are sitting around by the campfire and the kids want to be doing something.

  1. Make some food ahead of time.  One of the professional campers made breakfast tacos ahead of time and froze them.  One the third day, he threw the tacos on the campfire (they were wrapped in foil).  They were easy and tasty.

Solution:  There are lots of dishes that you can prepare ahead of time and throw on the campfire when you are ready to heat them up.  Breakfast tacos are a great example.

In conclusion:

I think that one of the best things we can do as parents is to make memories of doing different things together as a family.  I am excited that when my kids grow up, they will have memories of us going on camping trips together. It was nice to have no cell phone service and just enjoy the outdoors.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to a fancy resort with fancy things, but camping is a fun activity.  I do think, though, that two nights is the perfect amount of time for camping.  I do not think my neck could take three nights on an air mattress.  We live in Texas where camping in a tent in the summer is not an option for my family.  Going in the spring or the fall is a much better experience.  

Our family kept it simple and brought basic food:  Snacks, eggs for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and burgers for dinner.  The professional camper’s food was much more fancy.  They put a lot of time and effort into planning their menu.  Some of the fancy foods cooked by the professionals included:  Brie, paninis, filets, french toast loaf,and breakfast tacos.  Would I go fancier next time?  Yes, I would do both.  I would plan a few fancy items and do the rest simple.  Paige brought cinnamon rolls.  Professional camper Rosie popped out her portable oven (of course she had a portable camping oven!!)  It was awesome.  It was placed on the camping stove and the cinnamon rolls baked inside.  

cinamon rollsSo my question for you is this:  Who is ready to make some family memories and go camping?

Other tips:

Bring heavy duty large garbage bags so you don’t have to keep emptying the garbage

Bring a Ziploc with safety essentials:  Bandaids, neosporin, and benadryl.  One of the kids got stung by a yellow jacket.

Bring a Ziploc with durable string and thin rope

Set up a washing station by the water supply:  tray, dish washing soap, handwashing soap, and a dish towel.

Make sure all of the campers have camping chairs (even the little ones).

Bring a doormat to place at the front of your tent.

A (BIG) thanks to Anna’s mom for making the adorable camping shirts for the little ones!  They are sooooo cute!

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