Monday, July 19, 2010

Why I Love Family Camping

This past weekend we went on our first family camping trip in about 3 years. Texas was just too hot...and well, the fire ants do not appeal to me.

This trip was actually with other families from the Girl Scout Troop....even though it wasn't an actual Scout outing. We had 5 families total.

I am AMAZED at state park camping in Ohio. First off, there is not a fee to enter the state parks. Wow. Although Texas and Nebraska don't have big fees, and have season passes, it still costs just to go....even into a day use area of the parks. So Ohio, that's a big plus for your state in my opinion.

Second, these parks have massive programs on the weekends all summer long. Nature centers with demo's and classes all day. Night hikes with rangers. Canoeing first thing in the morning with rangers. All the other things like horseback riding, bike rentals and tours, archery, beaches, fishing, night time just goes on and on.

We ended up camping at Hueston Woods on their Christmas in July weekend. It was hysterical! I could not believe all the campsites with Christmas Trees, lights strung everywhere and even the big blow-up Santa's and Snowmen and whatever. There was even a bike parade (with all the campers hanging garlands and decorations on their bikes) and a Santa visit. All day Saturday they had crafts in the pavilion in the camping area (which you do pay to get into as you pay for your site). Note to self -- Christmas lights strung in the camp do not attract bugs like lanterns.

And let me just say this was the MOST crowded camping I've ever done. We did check out the non-electric sites - they were more than half empty but its because they have latrines instead of bathrooms. So for many campers its probably not as much about the electricity as it is about the smell.

I have also never seen so many tvs, dvds, game consoles, large projectors for dvds and every other electronic gadget you can imagine. Why even leave home?????????? Why pay to do the exact same thing you would be doing at home? I honestly don't get it. (Funny how the people that have these things are also camping in air conditioned campers - it really is just like being at home.)

So Hubs and I were asking ourselves WHY we like to camp? And we had such a great weekend that we asked WHAT was it that made it so great? It is alot of work to WHY do we do it?

And here is why we love to camp as a family:

To get away from the house for a little bit and "get away from it all". Sometimes it nice to break out of the routine. Of course you can do this while bringing all the extra stuff with you, but its not much of a break from routine if you do. We like camping to be different - not the same.

To leave electronic gadgets behind and actually interact with others without interference. Camping without the gadgets forces even the teens to interact with everyone. It's relationship that is more than cell phone deep. Our society has become miles wide...but only a 1/4 inch deep. There's not a lot of true relationship going on in 1/4 inch involvement in others lives. Let me ask many truly deep relationships do you have? The kind where you feel safe and don't worry about what you say? The kind where you can share "secrets" or fears and still feel safe? You have to get to know someone really well to get to that level. How many of your 300 friends on Facebook do you know well enough to have that kind of relationship with? Or even within your own four walls??? We like being in a situation that actually forces you to interact with who you are with.

Camping requires working together to make it fun. That means everyone does the set-up and breakdown and meals and chores to make it all work. And its not hard work. But it does go so much smoother when all chip in. We find that the kids help out much easier in this manner than they do with household chores. So its a chance to work side by side without all the complaining you get at home. You can joke and talk to each other on a different level than at home. I don't know if its the outdoors that encourages this change or if it is actually taking them out of their daily surroundings. Whatever it is I cherish it with my kids. Its so much more light-hearted and fun.

Adversity can make for shared stories and bonding you don't get at home. Lets face it....there always seems to be something that goes "wrong" when camping. On this trip it was getting poured on when we went for our morning canoe trip. And then had to come back to break camp in the rain. That's not fun. We rode home in wet clothes....REALLY wet clothes. It leads to "remember that time....." and laughs. Maybe its the time the tent had a hole in it and bugs got in. Maybe its the time you ran out of fuel and had to scramble to complete a meal/s. Maybe its the time you got the worst sunburn. Maybe its the time the canoe tipped. Maybe its the time the animals got into the trash or camp. Maybe its the time you came home with a million bug bites and no one else had even one! Whatever it is, it seems tragic at the time but becomes family legend and fodder for shared memories and laughter.

Its an economical family activity. At least it can be. If you go primitive the sites can even be less than $10 per night. If you go electric it can be closer to$30 a night - but compare that to a hotel. No comparison. Food you bring in and can be as economical or expensive as you choose. You have all the control over what you and your kids eat and can be healthy or not by choice....instead of by what restaurant is in the area. Your entire food costs can be less than one meal out. Even the activities tend to be much cheaper than other family type activities. Instead of spending over $100 to visit a amusement park, you can spend half that on a weekend with archery, canoeing, biking and hiking and fishing, spread out over 3 days. We love being able to do so many different activities with the kids without draining the bank account.

We love to spend some time in a natural surrounding. We like to be sung to sleep by the insects. We love to walk and hike in natural areas. We love seeing animals and birds in their more natural surroundings. We love seeing the mists over the lake first thing in the morning and listening to the surrounding forest waking up. We love to be able to really see the stars in the night sky without the light pollution. We don't get this at home.

Kids seem to be more willing to try new things. You wouldn't believe how many camping trips we've gone on where someone has asked me if one of my kids wanted to do something and I thought they wouldn't....only to have them prove me wrong and REALLY enjoy something I thought they would hate. Sometimes it takes encouragement to get them to try...but many times it doesn't. Again, I think half of that is because the cell phones have no coverage in the area and there's not a whole lot else to do. Camping can really broaden your kids horizons and help them learn more about themselves and their strengths and weaknesses.

Our weekend camping trip was wonderful for all of us. This time we bring home the memories of:

  • The first family camping trip that Mouse remembers.
  • Getting to know 4 other families we probably would never have gotten to know otherwise.
  • Watching Songbirds pampered dog "rough-it".
  • A ranger guided night hike.
  • Songbird making a new friend to hang with at Scout outings.
  • Lots of swimming at the lake.
  • Why spray on sunscreen is not as good as the lotions.
  • The amount of food kids can eat after playing outside all day!
  • Mouse going fishing for the first time and catching 3 fish (the only 3 caught!) This was a free program put on by the rangers. It is also something I didn't expect her to like so I didn't even go with her and daddy. No pictures!!!!! Argggg!
  • Mouse watching The Grinch at the pavilion. Another thing I didn't think she would like and would find scary. She loved it and wasn't scared.
  • Smores! and Banana Boats in/over the fire.
  • The game Apples to Apples with all the families. Hubs and I aren't much for games but it was really fun with so many people of so many ages.
  • Picking on the teen girls and making them squeal.
  • My first ever time to paddle a canoe.....I've taken a ride in one before in Nebraska but only once. Loved it. It was an early morning adventure with a ranger and we had a blast....all 12 of us that went.
  • Getting soaked in the canoe by a Girl Scout that is going to get paid my own time. Heh. I am coming for you girl.
  • Getting poured on while in said canoe. Twice.
  • Breaking camp in the rain.
  • A very cold ride home in wet clothes.
  • Not a single complaint in our family over our trip. It was great!
If you have never tried family camping I would encourage it. But do go with experienced campers the first time or rent a cabin instead of trying a tent or camper. Learning the ropes first makes all the difference in the world. And if cabin or camper camping is wonderful for you...stick to it! I'm not a purist that thinks tent camping is the only way to go. It is much more work than any other camping. You can have the same great time without the extra work. Even if you end up hating it -- it will be worth the remembered experience and family legend it could take on!

And if you have about sharing the best or worst experiences with us if you have a blog or in comments? I love camping stories and it just might encourage another family to give it a try!

And now, to go set the tent back up to dry so it will not be smelly for my trip with the girls in two weeks!

Happy camping friends!


  1. The last time I camped in a tent was in junior high. I had to pee in the middle of the night, and well, girls going in the woods just doesn't always work out so well. :)

    Glad you had such a great time!!!

  2. I have never thought camping was very appealing, but you have started my wheels turning! It wouldn't be the first time... :)

    Glad you are enjoying your summer!

  3. I grew up tent camping. Hiking, cooking over a fire, or a griddle. Halloween was a tradition for years. Amazingly enough one year it snowed, in GA . Just a light dusting, but snow in GA is rare, and practically unheard of in October. What can you do but laugh? (and cuddle up really close.)
    My sis and BIL have a pop-up camper now and we have tried to go as a whole family every year, (all the sibling, spouses and grandkids) but the last time I went was the same weekend I started noticing my mini-seizures. (two years ago) In the dark around a campfire is a spooky place to start blanking out. Maybe I will be ready again soon?! Canaan has been asking, and Z is old enough to remember it now.

  4. Amy W - I have to admit...I camp in places with bathrooms. Or at least a latrine. Peeing in the woods would be the exception...not the rule!!!

  5. Amy D - you should give it a try some time. Start with a cabin instead of a tent. Your 3 are too little to be much help so I wouldn't take on the extra work of a tent at this time in your life! Although you guys could just go out to the lake or to Whitney where it would be real easy to pack up and go home if it went really badly.

  6. Bethy - hope things improve to the point where you can go with the boys in the future. If not it could make for some extra special daddy weekends. I'm sure all three of them would love it. (And by the way.....camping with the Boy Scouts...NOT my idea of fun. I'm just saying. Some things a mom just doesn't need to be a part of! LOL! Stories I heard of my son's camping with scouts was enough to make sure I never joined them.)