Monday, June 25, 2012

The Great (Intimidating) Outdoors

Thumb Butte Hike, 4/20/12

I grew up in the middle of the woods, surrounded by acres and acres of trees. Most of my memories are of being outside; playing in the dirt, running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day, or exploring the trails that ran through the forest. As I got older though, I started to prefer more indoor activities. I always played sports and still enjoy hiking and trail running, but really spending time outside by way of camping has not always been high on my list of things to do.

Although my family and I did always spend a week or so every summer "camping" down in Cape May and loving it, the campground there (minutes from the beach and equipped with showers, bathrooms, a clubhouse and pool) was the closest I ever got to really roughing it. Later on in college my sorority decided we should take big camping trip into the Flagstaff wilderness, which turned out to be quite the interesting experience. To sum it up, the night consisted of crazy elk rubbing up against our tent while making the strangest noises, Autumn trying to hammer a tent stake in with a piece of wood, only to discover it was a huge piece of hardened animal poop when it crumbled in her hand, and waking up to insane, pouring rain at 5am. Yup. So needless to say it didn't help with my growing distaste for all things outdoors.

But recently something's been happening. I've been having this need to spend time outdoors, to go hiking and climbing, and to sit on top of the hills by our house looking out at our town. I'm not really sure what it is, but there's something about being in the middle of nature that makes me feel more alive than it ever has. And now Hank and I have somehow found ourselves talking about taking our first camping trip as a family.

I have no idea how to camp though. And maybe that phrase is completely ridiculous- maybe you don't need to know how to do something like that, but being a planner, I feel like in order for me to feel prepared and comfortable I need to know how.

So Hank and I made a little goal. Sometime, before it gets cold, we are going to go camping. Nothing crazy. We luckily live smack dab in the middle of prime camping country so it will really just be one night away, basically down the street. We'll start small. We don't own anything camping related so we'll have to do some shopping and borrowing. We have lake gear, beach gear, and one measly backpack for hiking, but no camping stuff whatsoever.

It's bizarre to me that I'm so excited about borrowing a tent and spending the night sleeping on the ground. My old self would have been shocked I would find this so attractive, but it's something I've been drawn to, and something I'd love Henry to grow up enjoying. One of my goals for this year was to try new things, and camping has been on my mind for the longest time.

So I ask any of you seasoned outdoors-men and women, any tips for first timers camping with a toddler?  Or maybe you just want to tell me "Don't over think it and just GO!" just like so many of our more outdoorsy friends have been saying (after they finish making fun of us and talking about how "us camping" is a reality show they'd absolutely subscribe to). Either way, help!

43 comments:

  1. Love that photo of Thumb Butte! :)

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  2. I am not a big fan of camping either, but there's something about creating experiences with your toddler that makes it more exciting! I came across this post on Campfire Chic the other day and it will be a big help: http://campfirechicblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/5-tips-for-new-campers.html

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  3. You guys should check out www.polerstuff.com for camping gear. I live in Seattle so it is hard to not enjoy pacific NW outdoor activities, and Poler makes me feel like I'm passing as a camping pro. They're based out of Portland and my mister and I LOVE our Napsack sleeping bags. Who wouldn't love a sleeping bag with a hoodie on it?? Anyway have fun in the woods!

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    1. I just love the polerstuff.com website. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. This past weekend I went to a beautiful campsite with my mum in her campervan in rural England. There was so many kids there, and it reminded me so much of camping holidays when I was young, and got me excited for when I have my own kids and taking them on these holidays! Have fun :)

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  5. Go for it. I camped a lot when I was little (we were all boy and girl scouts in my family) and it was always fun. I dreaded camping for a while, but my little brother had started doing it again and assures me that it's not as bad as I've made it out in my mind to be.

    I'm a total planner too, but some simple stuff should have you covered. Make sure to plan your meals, what you need to make them and eat them with too. Also bring trash bags and leave your space clean of all your trash. Bring water and matches and a little camp stove will work wonders too.

    The site that Becca recommended above looks like it has great tips.

    Overall have fun, it's great to be out with nothing but your friends and family to entertain you!

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  6. I love the outdoors and used to camp at least once a year with family and friends. The last time, ended at five in the morning with me trying to relieve myself half-squat next to my car-paper cup in hand (why the cup? still not sure) it was 98 degrees and ridiculously humid and I had a sudden moment of clarity "my parents live 15 minutes away!" I left everyone sleeping and crashed at my parents' house.

    Needless to say, these camping trips are still some of my favorite memories. :) Go for it!

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  7. How fun! I love the camping memories I have from my childhood - I'm sure your little one will love it! I've found that making a checklist ahead of time and writing down things we forgot AS we realize that we forgot them is a huge help. Then when we get home I add to our official "camping checklist", print it and tape it to our camping tote in the garage and run through it while we're packing. Also, simple foods are the best, keep things un-stressful and it's less to pack!

    Fun fact: My husband went to Embry-Riddle in Prescott and was one of the founding members of their Camping Club!

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  8. So exciting! Although I'm a self-admitted girlie girl, camping is one of my favorite things in the world to do. There is something about the smell of pine trees and the cool mountain breeze that feeds my soul.

    Definitely invest in or borrow an air mattress- it makes sleeping on the ground much more bearable. Also, planning out your meals will make you feel more prepared. A little camping grill is convenient but cooking food over a fire is fun too! I don't know if you have bears in your area, but having bear mace always puts my mind at ease if I get anxious in the middle of the night :)

    I think you'll have a great time! It's fun to rough it once in a while and get a little dirt under your nails!

    Also, the timing of this post is quite ironic. My hubby and I just went camping over the weekend and I blogged about it this morning! www.giveitgrace.blogspot.com

    xo

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  9. I'm a junior at NAU (part of the reason I really like your blog!), and I just started going camping with my boyfriend. We can always find a place on the forest access road at the Kachina Village exit on the 17... it's free, no reservations, and not crowded! I had no idea you were allowed to use that road until recently, so I thought I'd clue you in if you didn't already know about it!

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  10. Invest in a good all natural bug spray!! Chances are you'll be needing a lot of it, and you definitely don't want to sleep or breath in a cloud of chemicals. I also think it helps to bring different warmths of clothes to sleep in. Sometimes I freeze, and sometimes it's soooo hot. It's nice to be able to take off or put on layers. I'm a planner too ;)

    ...is "warmths" a word??

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  11. Oh yay, how exciting! My husband and I camped in Prescott right before we moved there, at Alto Pitts. I believe that was up near Thumbe Butte but don't quote me on that. It was a beautiful place. I would also recommend the tent sites at Willow Lake RV Park. They're back behind the RVs and maybe a five minute walk from a prime lake picnic spot (my favorite spot ever, which I blogged about here: http://travelingphoblogwripher.blogspot.com/2012/04/glimpse-at-prescott-arizona.html) plus you'll still have a showerhouse if you're the kind of camper who can't stand to go without a shower.
    Basically, my tips would be to bring plenty of snacky foods and plan to just enjoy it. I always bring a book and board games, because you never know when it'll be too hot/too cold or you'll be too tired for hiking around, but we usually spend a camping trip exploring and then just hanging out around our campsite eating, laughing and playing games. If you have a big group of people it's always tons of fun to play horseshoes, and my family does a huge 25+ person 4th of July campout every year where most people over 12 years old play hide-and-go-seek in the dark at night. I hope you blog about your adventure, I just love camping and all things camp-related. =]

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  12. My piece of advise is to try camping out in your backyard. That way you know how Henry might react and it will help him get use to it. We did that with all of our kids and are heading out on a real camping adventure this summer.

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    1. This! I remember doing it as a child and even that was super-fun, plus it gives you an introduction to it.

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  13. Love the great outdoors! :) Camping is so much fun with kids. It's memories they will cherish forever.

    http://shannonhearts.blogspot.com/

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  14. what a gorgeous photo! i love being outdoors too -- fresh air and sunshine does a body good:)

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  15. my parents took me camping ever since i was less than 6 months old, so we became pros! lol.
    things i've picked up from my parents':
    - plan and prepare meals ahead (so you don't have to bring a bunch of spices or utensils you'd only use once.. such as a sharp knife to cut meat/potatoes/etc.)
    - if you make it a regular habit to camp, get tote bins for everything (one for the tent, bedding, air mattress, etc., one for "kitchen"/eating - plates, cutlery, non-parishable foods, etc.)
    - if you end up going anywhere where it may rain, bring a couple tarps and lots of rope!

    my mom always said that camping was only enjoyable for her if she had everything prepared and all the work done ahead of time.

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  16. I love camping! We actually created a wedding registry at REI. If you do not want to commit to buying, I do know that REI and maybe other similar retailers offer a rental option. Borrowing from friends is also great too :)

    Be sure to take camping chairs. The thought of sitting on the ground is nice, but it gets uncomfortable after a while. Happy camping!

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  17. You might want to bring a plastic potty for H to use if the campground bathrooms are too far away. (Helps prevent accidents and too many frequent walks up to the restrooms.)

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  18. Ah, camping! I looove camping. My family used to go pretty much all the time, and we even lived in the woods in a camper for a summer just because. It was SO amazing. The summer after I graduated I went down to Havasupai and camped for a week with some friends. There's absolutely nothing like it, and I bet you'll love it. Guarantee that Henry will!

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  19. My husband was shocked when he found out I had never been camping, ha. Recently at a friends house we all got on the subject and one of our friends has never been either, so we all decided that before the summer is over we will go on a camping weekend. Our friend's in-law's have all the equipment we'd need too, so we don't even have to buy tents or anything! I'm pretty excited about it, can't wait to hear how your trip goes!

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  20. We went camping every summer when I was a kid. I remember having a blast, but I haven't camped since I was a teenager. Maybe it's time to get on that ...

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  21. I'm not sure if you have REI in Arizona, but that's my recommendation for camping gear. Everything has a lifetime guarantee, and their stuff is really high quality. My husband and I backpack, so we have lots of great camp-stove recipes in our rotation, but this chicken and dumplings one is great EVEN if you have access to a full grill! (easy to make it vegetarian, as well, just sub veg bouillion for chicken and use tofu or beans instead!) http://www.onepanwonders.com/dinners.htm

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  22. we just got home from camping! it was only my fourth time, and we only go for 2-3 nights at a time, but we were in a (Canadian) Provincial Park, with real "roughing it" style campgrounds ;) I like that my husband brings along an inflatable mattress for us to put our sleeping bags on. It really helps with the rocky, uneven ground on most campsites.

    Campfire cooking is also the best!! Bring veggie dogs and some pancake mix & you're set :D xo leanna

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  23. Here are some camping tips that I have found helpful...
    -Practice setting up the tent in your back yard. If you feel confident with the tent, getting settled in to the site will be much less stressful.
    -Cook food before hand and just heat and eat! Soup is great for dinner. Oatmeal is pretty easy for breakfast, and pb&nutella sammies are a great camping snack.
    -Bring chairs, a lantern, and bug spray.
    Have fun!

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  24. I say, just go for one night and see what you wish you'd had for the next time. Don't be afraid of getting dirty, eating comfort food and exploring. Kids don't really need much when they've got the outdoors to explore. Personally, I think bringing electronics and toys can take away from the peaceful surroundings of the outdoors. Minimalism is best,... though books, chairs, tarps and hammocks are nice.

    And lastly...Don't forget to put your fire out and make sure you have enough water (or if the site has potable water).

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  25. Scott and I want to take Judah camping sometime this summer, once you have some tips please post them :-)

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  26. i just typed a long comment then the browser refreshed..F. anyway, here are the highlights hahaha:
    - borrow a sleeping pad or two from friends. they make a world of difference
    - trying to camp a night out in your back yard is a great pre-trip idea...no technology distractions
    - have fun and don't over think too much ....you're not going deep in the rocky mountains ;)
    - layers are important even if it's hot as heck in az...it's super chilly between 3-5am and it's always nicer to strip down than to be uncomfortably cold :)

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  27. I've been feeling the need to get my boys camping as well. And we are also not "camping people". My husband hates to be without his own bathroom. I hate all the "stuff" involved. I'm thinking we should take some baby steps too. Perhaps cabin camping (with an optional tent out front)? I'll be looking forward to seeing how your trip goes...

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  28. Yay, camping! You should totally go. I've already seen some great tips in the comments and I just want to add: bring decent tent peggs and a hammer with you. It's quite frustrating when your tent blows away.

    Oh, and my mother always said that my sister and I always had a rough first night (along with all the other toddlers at the camping, haha). Lots of crying and screaming and disorientation. Be prepared for that!

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  29. I love going camping. My Guy and me go on a canoeing trip ones a year and usually go camping about twice each year. We even take our dog. We really are pros by now.
    I can't really give tips on how to camp with a toddler. And giving tips on what to buy is always hard. It always depends on where and how you are going camping. There are only three very important things I find. 1 Invest in a good matress!! it doesn't have to be a big one it can only be a good camping mat. But you will definitely hate yourself if you don't invest in something good. 2 A good cooker. Me and Chris went through so many of them before we finally found a good one that is light enough to take canoeing but still sturdy enough to even heat our food in the pooring rain and wind. The expensive is not always the best. The one we have now was 10$ and served us better than any other cooker. It's awesome 3 You only need a minimum of stuff. There is a ton of stuff out there to buy for camping trips. And yes. It is awesome if you have stuff like special tupperware for eggs etc. But honestly. All you need are two pots, plates and silverware for each person and one cup for each person. (not talking diapers and stuff like that here ^^) The lighter you travel the better. This includes clothes. You need some light but functional clothes and then some clothes to throw over in case it gets cold or wet. Leave all the extras at home! You will so not need them and in the end you are just gonna hate yourself for bringing all that luggage ;)

    Don't think to much about it. Even if you forget something at home or realize that something is missing. You can always ask your camping neighbor if you can borrow the dishsoap etc.

    Camping is awesome! It needs getting used to (like having to pee really bad when it is raining in the middle of the night) but there is nothing better than waking up and going to sleep with nature around you. It always makes me remember what is really important in life. Just go and have fun and don't worry about it :)

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  30. Oh...and also...leave all your make up at home but take a lot of sunscreen and something to rub on you against bugs and ticks!!!! very important!!!

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  31. I've camped my whole life! I love it so much. I'm very clean and girly at home but once I exit the city... BRING ME MUD.
    I say go camping for one night so you know if you like it or not and then if you want to do it again... do it for two! Etc etc.
    I cannot use sun protector as I'm allergic but I cover up in light clothing and a huge hat if it's sunny. I do bring a tinted moisturiser for my face because I'm not a fan of letting my messed up skin pigment scare away the wildlife!

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  32. I haven't camped yet with our little guy but I'm thinking that before we do we'll try it first in the back yard. That way if he freaks out we can bring him into the house into his crib! :)

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  33. hi there!!! new to your blog and i absolutely ADORE it!! you have the cutest fam :) ive never camped in flag before but ive camped near jerome and all around sedona.. its a fun little adventure for a few nights!
    cant wait to read more from ya!
    xox

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  34. haha i absolutely love this.
    where i'm from, all everyone does is go camping.
    if you don't OWN a camp (or cottage) then you have a spot in the middle of nowhere that you set up a tent or a trailer. :) so i'm definitely experienced and can give you advice!!!

    first of all, DON'T "just go". That's a terrible idea haha.
    You want to make sure you have EVERYTHING you need. Start off by making a long list of everything that might be useful to you. Think about what you NEED while you are at home.. and then think of it in a camping perspective.

    You'll need things like, lighters, flashlights, lawnchairs, shampoo & soap, (do you have mosquitos? buy a pick to get rid of them) bug spray & sunscreen, disposable plates, bowls & cutlery, things to cook over a fire unless there is a place to cook... oh my gosh the list is endless. LOTS of water, obviously. And lots of snacks for the little guy.

    Is there a beach where you guys are going? One of mine & my sisters' favorite memories of camping when we are young is playing with sand toys on the beach. Plastic pails & shovels.. you can probably just go to target and get a beach kit. Lots of activities.. like colouring books things like that.

    If you need any help, I'm a camping expert hahah that's all I do in the summer so just shoot me an email.

    jessicakutok@hotmail.com

    hope this helps a bit! i really hope you enjoy it because where I'm from, we have winter for practically 10 months of the year so I long for summer so I can just spend time at the lake. :)

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  35. My husband introduced me to backcountry backpacking. It is so exhilerating + I always feel so great after we do it. I had never even spent the night in a tent before he took me on our first adventure. It takes a while to get used to sleeping in a tent + not being afraid (for me), but...it gets easier every time. I really enjoy it now + look forward to it. We have no access to the car, cell phones + have to carry very little in our backpacks. The worst thing is not having enough water. I always carry a lot because I'm afraid we won't be able to find any on the trail (which has happened). You can call a park ranger or ask before you go to see where there will be a source of water at the time you are going. I would suggest car camping first. I don't have a toddler but I think it would be less scary. You can google lists of stuff to take. We sleep on foldable pads that attach to the outside of our packs with sleeping bags. Not very comfortable, but you def want something between you & the ground. The food in the freeze dried packs is gross...we keep trying different things & always throw it away :P S'mores are always great! I've blogged about our trips here: http://dailydoily.typepad.com/peaceloveandcupcakes/camping-hiking/
    There's so much, haha. Bear canisters or always hang your food. Headlamps are great for night & they even make them for children. Have so much fun! I can't wait to hear about it. ♥
    *feel free to email me if you have any specific questions :)

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  36. my husband and i take our 7 and 9 year old camping about 4-5 times each summer, and have been doing so for the last 4 years since they were 3 and 5. bring essentials - things you know you can't live without, and start small - one or two nights in a nearby campground is a good place to start.

    i am a planner too, but every trip we seem to add something new to the list of things we should have brought with us and need to remember next time. trying not to stress about the little things is key to a relaxing and fun camping trip. enjoy each others company and your surroundings and all will be well! :)

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  37. We are seasoned campers. I say bring what you think you will need and just go for it. Then make a list of what you did need that you didn't have and next time you will be totally prepared.

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  38. i have 3 little ones, 6, 3 and almost 2 and we JUST got back from camping yesterday lol. i've taken them all camping before.. i must say though that this last trip was especially difficult.. we booked our camping space about 3 weeks early, and since it was so early there was really no way to predict the weather.. although being that it is summer time, we just hoped for the usual lovely sunny weather. welp. that wasn't the case.. it rained for the entire 3 days, and was sort of miserable lol. i feel like i did learn from it though. come our next camping trip (and im sure we will venture out again this summer) i will make sure to pack for odd weather conditions. rain boots, and jackets, shorts tanks, sweats and hoodies etc. also pretty much my entire trunk is still drying out, so TOWELS. lots of towels lol. and i also learned to not skimp on a tent (ours actually LEAKED.) my husband couldn't sleep next to me because rain was dripping onto his face. *sigh* BUT it didn't break me. we've also had a hand full of lovely camping trips where all we needed was shorts, swim suits, and flip flops, and we all managed just fine. your best bet is just to make a list of anything you might need - don't bring everything in your closet - but don't leave without everything on your list. most importantly - remember to have fun! camping is not about having it all figured out. there's plenty of room for mistakes. camping is about being in the middle of nowhere with people you love, and it's about taking the time to stop, breathe and enjoy every moment.. btw if we hadn't been in pouring rain all weekend, then i wouldn't have the hilarious image of my beautiful husband lying in the mud, trying desperately to take our tent down, as the rain would splash back into his face.. we were both laughing so hard i truly thought i might pee my pants... so if you forget something, or come into bad weather, or if an univited wild animal decides to pull your pre made lunch out of the cooler you THOUGHT was safe in your trunk.. remember, it's an experience.. something you'll remember forever.. life is unpredictable.. embrace it :) - manda

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  39. love your blog keeep it up!
    http://kemples.blogspot.co.uk/

    xxx

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  40. I'm excited for you. My advice - fake it 'til you make it :)

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  41. Yay!! Ohmygosh, I'm camping obsessed. It's sooo nice to be outdoors, in the sun, roasting marshmallows. The mister and I now go so far as to camp in hammocks, with very little planning - we tie it all on the motorcycle and just *go*. We camped for 2 weeks in Maui and it was dreamy - it took me a while to get there, though. ;) I'd say, for new campers here are some tips: bring some emergency toilet paper in case the sight doesn't have any, always bring some water, and check for fire bans so you can pack appropriate food (it gets dry here, so they're banned half the summer). You can never have too many blankets (extra can be good!), and we always bring 2 of every clothes in case one gets wet (two hoodies, two tank tops, two jeans, etc.). And make sure you have a mat or air mattress to sleep on - we forgot this on our first trip ad it was horrible! lol. :) Have fun!!

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