It’s that time of year again. My husband can’t resist the urge to build fires and look online at expensive camping gadgets. I want to point out the irony that he’s shopping online in an effort to camp, which is ostensibly about unplugging and simplicity, but I hold my tongue. As a neat freak, a control freak, and also just a general freak, I remind myself of ten simple tips to survive camping with kids.
1. Don’t skimp on the vices. I don’t care if it’s chocolate, wine, weed, or turkey jerky, make sure you’re fully stocked on whatever it is you need to get through the trip. For me, this is booze in a variety of forms.
2. Accept the work. It takes me a full day of prep and another full day of laundry after the trip. Laundry that includes dead spiders stuck in half-eaten s’mores, assorted rodent droppings, and a feather from a bird that probably died of a contagious disease, but that my four-year-old used to tickle my face. Budget your time for this, and you’ll be less cranky about it.
3. Everything will be okay. Is there a serial killer hiding out at a nearby campsite? Possibly. Will a bear attack you in the night? It could happen. But, it probably won’t happen. And your family is probably in more danger just traveling to and from school every day, so don’t waste energy worrying about it. Also, keep a hatchet close at hand, it’ll make you feel better.
4. Nature is dirty. All the wipes in the world won’t rid the earth of dirt, so stop trying. If possible, avoid looking at your children’s fingernails. If you do see them, remind yourself that you can steam-clean the grime out of there when you get home, before their teachers see them and call social services.
5. Snot happens. During the course of camping with kids, there will be tantrums and snot and assertions that I’m a horrible mom for putting my kids through such a miserable experience. But the same could be said of bath time at home, so we might as well go for it.
6. Keep it simple. If your kids are young enough, you might find that nature is entertaining in itself. Dirt, pine cones, and rocks go a long way. My six-year-old will stand by a lake for hours, holding a fishing pole with no hook on it. She’s happy and thinks she’s fishing, so who am I to crush her dreams?
7. Eat well. If you have to spend two nights sleeping on a foam pad that your husband tries to pass off as a mattress, you might as well make up for it at mealtime. Choose steaks over the can of chili and chocolate croissants over Pop Tarts. Unless you really prefer Pop Tarts, in which case I won’t judge you, but you’re crazy.
8. It’s easier than you think. I had crushing anxiety over a camping trip while my youngest was potty training. I was sure the experience would not only interrupt the process, but also scar her for life and leave me changing diapers until she was twelve. Turns out she loves pooping in the woods and she abandoned diapers quicker than expected. Now, I just need her to stop squatting in our front yard.
9. The world will go on. As soon as you return to civilization, you can catch up on as much depressing news, pictures of what your friends had for lunch, and crafts at which you will fail, as your little heart desires. So, put the phone away and don’t worry about what you’re missing. Good things might be happening right in front of you. Or your kid might be crapping in the tent.
10. White noise. Yes, camping is about nature and family time, but it’s also about getting shitfaced and freaky after the kids go to sleep. Make your kids run laps around the campsite before putting them to bed so they’re good and tired. As an added precaution, bring a battery operated white noise machine to act as a buffer in between kids and parents. Then commence getting shitfaced and freaky.