Growing up, my family did not go camping. Our idea of “roughing it” was sharing a hotel room with just one bathroom. The entire idea of camping was completely foreign to me. Why would anyone want to sleep in the woods? Without air conditioning?
I was surprised as anyone when my husband and I got the urge to take our kids camping last year. We literally can’t remember whose idea it was or why we wanted to go. But within a couple weeks, we had purchased a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and reserved a site.
We have now been camping five or six times, and we still look forward to it every time. Sure, it takes quite a bit of work to get everything prepped, and we definitely don’t sleep as well as we do at home. But the benefits outweigh all of that. Here are my top five favorite things about camping with my family.
- We all get to unplug for while. There are literally no outlets (and sometimes questionable cell service), so we save our devices’ batteries as long as we can. Without the distraction of phones or video games, we talk, enjoy our surroundings, and connect as a family.
- My kids notice and appreciate nature in a way they don’t at home. They see interesting bugs, they hear unusual bird calls, and they gaze at the brightest stars these suburbanites have ever seen—and they think it’s all awesome.
- Some of the best conversations with my husband happen around the campfire. After the kids have crashed in the tent, my husband and I sit around the fire, beer in hand, and talk. No phones, no TV. Just the stars, the fire, and us.
- My kids have more responsibilities and get to be more independent. They set up the camping chairs while Daddy and I set up the tent, they hunt for kindling for the fire, and they fill up water bottles and our coffee percolator at the spigot. We let them walk over to the bathrooms or the camp’s playground by themselves. The campground feels like a very safe space. There are always nice people around, and often other families with young children. I love that my kids can flex their responsibility muscles in a safe environment.
- The world just stops. When we’re camping, we’re not thinking about our upcoming plans or all the messy logistics we have to figure out to balance our busy schedules. For that weekend, we can put all those worries aside. We know real life will be waiting for us when we get back home, so why worry about it now?
Have I convinced you to try camping with your family yet? If you’re not sure where to start, you can find millions of “camping hacks” and tips on Pinterest and YouTube. After looking at tons of these tips, I can say that there are some good ideas out there, but a lot of really useless things, too.
My best advice is to be prepared. Plan out your meals and prep as much as you can at home. Chop peppers and onions, roast potatoes, and slice up strawberries. You can even crack eggs into a mason jar or clean water bottle—much easier to transport in your cooler. Make lists of everything you’ll need, from bedding to toiletries to flashlights. Don’t forget cooking utensils—tongs, a spatula, potholders, campfire roasting sticks (perfect for hot dogs and s’mores), a lighter, and a cast-iron skillet are musts. Foil and duct tape also always seem to come in handy. I’m sure I could list tons of other things, but that’s where the internet can help you out.
Worried about the time it takes to get to a good campsite? Don’t be! There are many options close by. Personally, we love Wallace State Park (near Cameron, MO). We haven’t had a bad experience with a Missouri State Park yet. (One tip: if you’re heading to a site across the state line, don’t bother bringing any firewood with you. They require all firewood to come from the state you’re in.) We’re anxious to try out some of the parks on the Kansas side, too. If you have any favorites, leave a comment and tell me which to check out first!
What are some of your favorite things about camping?