“I would rather be outside” is my motto. I grew up with parents who loved the outdoors. They would take us to National Parks, fishing, hiking, and to a rustic cabin built by the loving hands of my great grandfather. It was at this cabin where I caught my first fish, learned to ride a horse, and soared down mountains on rubber inner tubes in the winter. I made some of my fondest childhood memories there.
My husband, an Eagle Scout and avid fly fisherman, and I are striving to instill a love of the outdoors in our children. We love to escape to the mountains any chance we can get. But there is one outdoor activity where I draw the line: camping.
Camping, to me, feels like unnecessary torture. Camping with young kids takes things to another level entirely. Our first attempt at camping with a toddler only lasted until about two in the morning when we threw in the towel and made an exhausting trek back home to our beds. For some odd reason, the utter unfamiliarity mixed with the cooler temperatures and lack of a bed led to our child’s refusal to sleep. Funny how that happens.
We soon realized that camping would not be an option unless we invested in a camping trailer of some sort. And so, we did. The camp trailer – with its priceless heater – allowed for some amount of sleep to happen for our now two young boys. We had some great memories with that trailer until we needed to sell it out of necessity. Still, it never entirely solved my primary issue with camping: the work.
Camping is a lot of work. There is nothing convenient about it. There is next level packing that needs to be done, and not the kind where you can afford to forget something. There will be no convenient stores nearby. Next, there is meal prep. Meal prep means not only gathering ingredients and making sure you have a way to keep them at an adequate temperature, but it also requires that you bring all tools necessary for prepping and cooking. You will need lists for your lists. It gets complicated.
Camping also requires a lot of gear and an equal amount of patience for setting it up. And be prepared for the work to continue once your adventure is over. There will be a staggering amount to put away and clean when you return home, exhausted.
Camping is not a vacation, it’s an activity. There will be no down time, and someone will probably be whining about one thing or another at any given moment: bug bites, being too hot, being too cold, needing to pee after being tucked into their sleeping bag. The list goes on and on.
I will admit, however, that camping can have its moments. Being away from it all, out in nature – that’s number one for me. I also enjoy campfires (minus washing everything that reeks of smoke afterwards). These few redeeming upshots are the reason I have made a compromise for the sake of my family.
We spend the day out in nature, soaking in all that it has to offer. We set up a tent, roast marshmallows and hot dogs, and then, when it starts to get late, I take our youngest and drive home. My husband, who enjoys the “unnecessary torture” desribed above, stays with our two older boys.
Yes, my husband and I still suffer through the packing and subsequent cleaning, but it’s worth it to offer our kids the experience. While I may never be a “happy camper” (I’m much too attached to my bed and my shower), I will always take my three boys out into nature.
There is much to be gained by exploring the wilder parts of our world. I just don’t need to sleep on its unyielding surface to experience it.