Like any endeavour, camping is more enjoyable with a little preparation, so assembling and packing the equipment you need is your first order of business. If you’re tent camping, it pays to heed certain rules — you don’t want to share your snacks with the wildlife, do you? And sometimes you can camp with a campfire. Knowing how to get a campfire started is a welcome skill to have.
To go camping on short notice with the least hassle, keep the items in the following list assembled, packed, and ready to load into your vehicle. A large plastic crate is a good container.
- Camp tent
- 3m x 3m heavyweight blue plastic tarp
- Sleeping bags and mats
- Duct tape, 15m nylon cord
- Bungee cord, ocky strap assortment
- No-stick frypan, large pot, small pot
- Two-burner stove
- Water filter, 20-litre water drum
- Can opener
- Plastic cutting board
- Kitchen knives
- Spice kit
- Barbecue tongs and fork
- Serving plates and cups
- Knife-fork-spoon sets
- Aluminium foil
- Spatula, pot grips, oven mitts
- First-aid kit
- Camp biodegradable soap, sponge
- Dishwashing basin
- Dishtowel, paper towels
- Resealable plastic bags, large garbage bags
- Folding chairs
- Lantern, torch, extra batteries
- Frisbee, football, playing cards, travel games
Tips for Tent Camping
Camping is a wonderful way to spend time in the great outdoors. But if you’re tent camping, you don’t want to welcome too much of the great outdoors into your tent. Happy campers observe simple rules, such as those in the following list, to keep tenting tidy and safe:
- To keep the inside clean (or at least cleaner), park your boots and shoes outside the tent. You can herd those wet and dirty items into a big plastic bag to protect them from weather.
- Don’t bring food into the tent. Animals can smell it a mile away, and you don’t want a possum — or any smaller critter, for that matter — sharing your tent.
- Safety first: Don’t light matches or use any flame-powered device inside the tent. That includes flame-powered heaters of any kind. Tent fires are extremely serious, possibly deadly.
- Resist the impulse to use the tent as a springboard. Kids of all ages are tempted to fling themselves against the side of the tent for the bounce-back effect. Sometimes the tent breaks. That’s b-a-a-a-d!
- Walk, don’t run, close to tents. Stakes and guylines are easy to trip over, and no camper enjoys a face-plant.
Knowing How to Camp with Children
Camping with children is an outstanding way to share a love for the outdoors without breaking the budget. While family backpacking or camping does take a great deal of planning and loads of patience, it is a rewarding activity for both you and your children.
- If you have gone camping before, you will quickly realize that to go camping with children requires added responsibility and alertness on a parent’s part. Common sense and good judgment are the rule. Not surprisingly, the crucial point to a successful camping trip with parents and children is often rooted in their first experiences outdoors together.
A question commonly posed is, “When is my child old enough to begin hiking and camping?” The answer depends on your child. No two personalities are the same; no two children the same. What may work for one family may not work for another.
The following guidelines can help you decide when and where to introduce your child to the great outdoors, but please remember that the only firm guide is each child’s particular personality and physical condition. Whatever the activity, you must let her pace herself.
- Infant: Paediatricians recommend that parents wait until the child is 5 months old before venturing into the wilderness. This is when a child can easily sit up and support his own weight and has fallen into a fairly regular sleep pattern. Use a sturdy child carrier that is safe and secure for the child and comfortable for you.
- Toddler: Between the ages of 2 and 4, children are still getting used to the idea of being on two points of balance and not four. Short hikes up to 3km are ideal as long as the terrain is flat and secure to walk on. Take regular walks in a neighbourhood park to get a feel for your child’s attention span. Expect a focused attention span of around 10 minutes for younger children and up to 30 minutes for older children.
- Ages 5-9: Longer hikes at an easy pace over easy terrain are now possible. Children are beginning to develop more physical and mental durability. This is an ideal age to begin allowing your child to become involved in most aspects of the trip, from planning and packing to helping lead. The older your child is in this age group, the more likely moderate goal setting will be effective. Just make sure that the goals are shared and not an unrealistic attempt on the parent’s part to “motivate” the child up an impossible hill or over a 15km endurance test.
- Ages 10-13: Children are becoming increasingly conditioned physically. Emotionally, they are more likely to be able to handle moderately challenging situations, but they are also more likely to question the worth of anything extremely difficult. Hikes up to 15km are possible as long as the terrain is not too hilly or mountainous.
Children in this age group thrive on being the leader — diplomatic and judicious support from parents is key. Menu planning, route finding, cooking, and camp setup are reasonable tasks to assign to kids at this age, but be careful that they do not take on too much and begin to feel like all they are doing is working.
- Ages 14-18: Distances up to 19km become reasonable in this age group. Terrain choices and goal setting can become more challenging, but the axiom remains the same: Any choice must be a group choice, or the parent risks making the children feel dragged along.
- Children are encountering growth spurts during this period and are definitely vulnerable to stress and overuse injuries. Use caution and listen to your children — they may need to back off a hike
- Be prepared to get down and dirty with your children. Experience the outdoors with them — don’t just watch them. Parents shouldn’t scold their children for getting up close and personal with a mud puddle, dirt, a bug, or more. Become childlike in your pursuit of the outdoors and your children will appreciate even more the time you spend together in the wilds.
Packing up Camp
When packing up camp, be sure to restore the site as close to its natural appearance as possible. Taking down camp should be done according to the following guidelines to ensure everything goes smoothly:
- Begin by stuffing your sleeping bag and stowing your sleeping gear. If you really want to speed things up, open the valve on your air mattress or self-inflating sleeping pad while you are still lying on it, just before you get up.
- Top off your water bottles for the day’s journey, if needed.
- Put items you will need quickly during the day in an accessible area of your backpack (if backpacking), front handlebar bag (if biking), or nearby small waterproof bag (if paddling). These include snacks, maps, compass, binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses, and so on.
- If it is raining, take down your tent and the tarp last. If it’s not raining, take tent and tarp down first. Shake off any excess moisture by holding the rain fly vertically and then shaking it wildly from side to side. Stuff your tent into its stuff sack. Wipe off the poles and stakes and place them carefully inside their stuff sacks if they’re separate pieces, or inside the main stuff sack if not.
- If you cleared sticks and twigs from an area under your tent, return them.
- After your stove is cool to the touch, pack it away along with your pots and pans.
- Completely douse any fire with water and stir the mixture so that the coals become cold to the touch. If there was an established fire ring before you got to the campsite, leave it. If not, bury the coals, scatter the rocks, blackened side down, and smooth over the area.
- Walk through the camp with every member of the camping party to be sure that all signs of your presence are removed and all litter, yours or not, is carried out.