Sunday, June 26, 2011

Camping in Tents

Tents are definitely the most versatile method of camping.  Tent camping is what we do the most.  We camped at Yosemite, the coastal area of Washington, and many different areas of Utah in a tent.  You can get a tent to suit your needs, you can camp anywhere that allows camping and will fit your tent.  Most of the time we camp in a tent in areas that have water to drink, but no electricity.


My favorite methods of camp cooking are on an open fire and with a Dutch oven.  I like doing creative cooking with my kids and the fire.  We boil eggs in paper cups, make muffins in an orange peel, and make s'mores.  When cooking in this manner we also make sure to teach fire safety.  

One of my favorite foods while camping is marinated meat which is meat that I cut up and marinate for 2 days before cooking.  We cook this on camp marshmallow roasting sticks over an open fire and it is so YUMMY!  We also use this meat to make kebabs.

Another favorite is tin foil dinners, this is great for kids because they can add what they like.  I usually have onions, hamburger patties, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots cut really thin, broccoli maybe steamed a little bit, canned or boiled potatoes.  I have for toppings, Italian dressing or a cream soup or gravy.  I double wrap my dinners in tin foil and put them in coals, I know when the coals are ready when I hold my hand about 4-6 inches above the coals and it takes about 4 seconds for it to be unbearably hot on my hand.  This temp is about medium heat.  We use a permanent marker to put the name of the person on their dinner to make sure they don't get mixed up.

We brought a crockpot with us to Yosemite, but we were in a tent and did not have electricity.  We have a power cord converter in our van and we plugged the crockpot into the cigarette lighter.  There was quite a bit of driving, we were not camping inside the park and Yosemite is quite large.  So by lunch time the chili in the crockpot was hot, and we had Frito Chili Pie inside Yosemite.  I was glad that it worked out!  I don't usually bring crockpots camping, especially if we are in a tent, anything I can make in a crockpot I can do in a Dutch oven.  In this case, we did not plan on going back to the campsite for lunch, I just had a crazy idea and luckily it worked.  Using a crockpot works better in a cabin usually provides electricity so no plugging anything into a cigarette lighter.  

  1. Bring extra towels, even if no swimming is involved, children tend to find water and mud even in a desert and can end up looking like my daughter in the picture on the right.  Bring extra blankets, nights get cold even in the summer time.  
  2. Bring lots of sunscreen and hats to prevent sunburns, and aloe in case someone still gets burned
  3. Bring jackets for the night or unexpected weather
  4. Bring extra socks and shoes, especially for the kids!  I put them in their worst shoes first!  If they are growing out of shoes and you have to replace them anyway, bring these camping, you may just throw them away when you get home.
  5. When packing food freeze whatever can freeze that won't significantly alter the taste.  This helps me be able to make sure my food is not going to go bad, on day 3 of a 4 day camping trip, and also helps me to be able to pack more food without as much ice.  Some things I freeze are butter, lunch meat, drinks, chili, and any meat I want that is already cooked like taco meat, etc.
  6. Use sleep sacks that go inside of sleeping bags, these can be taken out after camping and washed very easily without having to wash our sleeping bags every time we go camping.  We made them out of queen size flat sheets, folded them in half and sewed around the edges, leaving a little bit unsewn at the top that can fold down.  I feel a lot more sanitary since we started using these.  My mother embroidered everyone's name at the top of theirs.  (You can also use these at Youth Hostile's)
  7. Always pack extra outfits, especially for kids.  I have never regretted doing this!  I pack layers, so that they can start a day out in a sweatshirt, then take it off and just have a t-shirt when it gets warmer.  
  8. Bring extra batteries for anything that needs batteries, like flashlights and electric lanterns.
My friend Chris has 3 rules he always follows they are 
  1. Don't depend on a fire, bring a stove and warm clothes. 
  2. Staying dry and warm is the most important thing you can do, so don't neglect your kids' clothing just because they're growing out of clothes quickly. 
  3. Use Ziploc bags and garbage bags to keep things organized and dry is a must.

I am by NO MEANS a camping expert!  We camp for fun, have a lot of mishaps, and use it to grow closer as a family.  It can be an economical and fun way to see the country.  So by all means, go out and camp with your children you will make memories that last a lifetime!

Camping in cabins and yurts

Camping in Yurts and cabins is a really nice way to see the country a lot less expensively than staying in hotels.  When we went to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon we stayed in cabins.
Camping in cabins and yurts is a fun way to be able to engage in nature and not have to pack as much with you.  You can travel a great distance and not have to haul a tent.  They also accommodate different sizes of families.  Usually having a larger bed for parents, and bunk beds for kids.  Sometimes they just have bunk beds, but sleeping in a bunk bed can be fun even as an adult.  When I say "cabins" I do not mean a vacation cabin, I mean a camping cabin, there are beds with no bedding, a table, maybe a porch, and electricity.  You do have to reserve these at least 3 months in advance, they tend to fill up quickly.  These types of cabins usually have electricity, but probably not much else.

We bring an electric skillet and food you can cook in the skillet such as frozen skillet meals, pancakes, sausages, burgers, really it can be anything that can be cooked on a flat surface.  Easy, convenient, and you don't have to worry about making a fire to cook your food, or packing a heavy grill or camping stove.  We have also brought a crockpot and put food in it while we were out seeing the sites.

Everywhere we have stayed that has had cabins or yurts has also had bathrooms with showers somewhere near by, so you can feel clean some of the time.  I never really feel clean while I am camping, and I tend to bring white shirts with me, which always end up so dirty!  Camping in a cabin gives you a slightly more clean environment.  Sometimes the campgrounds that have cabins or yurts also have swimming pools, and my kids think they are in heaven if they get to go swimming!

I like this way of camping when you are seeing some of the America's most beautiful countryside.  Like the Grand Canyon, or Yosemite.  We have chosen this method because we wanted to go to a lot of places in a short amount of time.  We didn't want to have the hassle of setting up a tent and taking it down, which would also take away from our sightseeing time.  We also wanted to be more economical and not have to pay a hundred dollars or more a night for a hotel.  If I was going to go on a trip across America, I think this is the way I would go.  I feel like this is a more comfortable way to camp and more convenient.

When we went to the Grand Canyon and to Bryce Canyon we reserved these cabins.  The best part was getting to the campground and being able to put the kids to bed within a 1/2 an hour after getting there.  We had them put on their jammies, brush their teeth, bedtime story, and then hop into bed.  My husband and I went outside to the porch, sat on the porch swing, we stargazed, held hands, read our books that we brought until it was time we wanted to go to sleep.  In the morning I got out our electric skillet, made pancakes and sausages, and we had breakfast.  After getting dressed we rolled up our sleeping bags and we were off for the day.  It was so easy, I loved it!  It felt like we were camping, but cheating.  Can't say I minded.  

If you want to reserve a camping cabin or yurt, look at local campgrounds of the places you want to stay, many have this as an option, many more are adding them for the future.  

  1. Don't forget your sleeping bags or some type of bedding!
  2. Before bringing an electric skillet make sure your cabin has electricity
  3. Check to see if they have lights or if you need to bring your own
  4. Bring a swim suit if they indeed do have a pool
  5. If there is no form of AC or heating, bring a fan or a space heater depending on the environment.
  6. You can find these even in major cities, like LA, if you want to go to places like Disneyland really economically, check this as a resource. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Camping! Camping with children could be its own blog!

We went camping 3 times last year.  We have found that the more children we have, and the younger they are, the harder it is.  It is hard when you have 2 older children, a 3 year old, and a newborn to go camping.  The one I worry most about is the 3 year old!

To begin with there are several different types of camping!

  1. There is RV camping, you can make do this without too much trouble with children.  I am not really going to say much about RV camping, an RV can be your home away from home, you can have it mostly packed and be able to leave without too much trouble to you or your family.  I used to not consider this camping, but now I am tempted to get an RV!  
  2. There is KOA camping, or similar types, where you can get a cabin, have bathrooms close by, maybe even a pool.  As a child this was my favorite type of camping, and as a parent it is really nice!
  3. There is tent camping, if you have a tent you can camp pretty much anywhere, this is what I think is the most fun but also hard with children.
  4. And there is primitive camping where you make your own shelter, or bring a tent.  If you are lucky you can find spots where you can hike all your stuff in to your site.  It can be fun to live off of the land or follow the rules of the wilderness to only leave footprints and take only pictures.  These are the places where you need latrines, you find and sterilize your water, and enjoy beauty most people never get to see.  This kind of camping I have not attempted with kids, yet.   

Over this week I will post some differences of tent and cabin camping.  But let me tell you, after last year it will be a while before I go camping again.

First experience last year, we went camping in my grandparent's cabin off of the Wynoochee river, I was with my kids and we had fun.  We did kebabs for dinner.  We had skewers and marinated meat, vegetables, canned potatoes and cooked them over the fire on a rack.  We did banana boats for dessert, it was all yummy.  However wasps had taken up residence in that cabin, and we had to evacuate them before going to bed.  All you could hear in the cabin was bzzzz, and if you put your hand on the floor of the loft you could feel it vibrate.  This scared me!  We thought the spray that we sprayed on them worked, but in the morning they were still there and I did not want to get stung!  We left soon after breakfast.

Second experience, we went to my family reunion and set a tent up in my grandparent's orchard.  It was a very peaceful place to put our tent, except there was chickens, or let me be more exact, a rooster about 10-20 ft. away from our tent.  Stupid rooster kept cock a doodle dooing anytime anyone shined a light near it.  We were not the only people camping there, and little kids thought it was HILARIOUS to shine their flashlights at the rooster.  Not so much fun for us!  I wanted to have chicken soup for dinner the next night. 

Third experience, we went camping in the mountains as a church activity and my husband was in charge.  We had our tent, food, and clothing.  Our kids were SO excited!  We traveled about an hour and a 1/2 and found the campground, set up camp, our children found friends and were playing.  We made dinner and it started raining.  I mean the kind of rain that you get drenched walking from your driveway to your front door, kind of rain.  We had to tough it out, because my husband was in charge.  There was a pavilion that we ate under and everyone was huddled under.  We had to sit in the middle of the pavilion to avoid the rain.  It was kind of a fun, it definitely turned into a get to know you kind of night.  We watched most other families who had tents pack up and go home.  My husband needed to get something out of our tent in the middle of the impromptu togetherness, and he found that  it had blown over from the storm.  He set it back up, luckily nothing inside had gotten wet, and he was still confident we would be okay through the storm.  When he came back to the party he told me what happened but seemed to think the worst of the storm was over.  A couple of hours later, the rain seemed to have lessened a bit, so we thought it was a good time to go to bed.  Walking towards our tent we couldn't see our tent, it was GONE!  It had blown down and drifted away.  We found it basically in a wad in the wilderness.  This time we were not so lucky, things had gotten wet.  Luckily my children's sleeping bags were mostly untouched.  Our air mattress was soaked (yes I sleep on an air mattress, I was about 3 months pregnant at the time and I was not about to sleep on the ground).  When I say things were wet, I mean it was a miracle my children's sleeping bags were dry!  We used towels to try to dry up the ground.  We would soak up the water from about 1 square foot of tent take it to the door and ring it out and go back and try to soak up more water.  Every time we moved a bag we would find it in a pool of water.  Our bags seemed to be mostly water proof, so our things were okay.  It took us about an hour to get our tent dry enough that we were not afraid of putting our things on the floor.  We got the kids into bed and we tried to go to sleep.  My sleeping bag was wet, the air mattress was wet and I was freezing.  At about 3am I was shivering so bad I was pretty sure I had the beginning stages of hypothermia.  I went to my car and turned the heat on high and sat there for 1/2 an hour before I stopped shivering.  I let the car run for awhile after that before I really felt warm.  I refused to go back into the tent.  My tough days are behind me I am afraid, I didn't want to buck up, or tough it out, I wanted to go home.  By morning I felt too nauseated to eat much, the vitamin B supplement my doctor told me to take had been left at home by accident I did not want to be there, but I also was not looking forward to the drive home.  I was pretty sure it would not be a fun ride.  My kids had fun and they were fine, but I have not really wanted to go camping since then.  Of course that could have something to do with me being pregnant and then having a baby, but I'm sure I won't forget that camping trip anytime soon.

So reader beware, this is the person who is now giving tips and advice.  Although if you are not a rugged outdoor person, my tips may be just what you need!  I can look at my experiences camping as bonding moments with my family, building great memories and togetherness.  I think that is what camping is all about, leaving the tv, computer, and video games behind and learning to be a family without all the distractions.  I watched my kids build a fort on our last camping trip and that just wouldn't happen at my house in our backyard.  My kids were working together and having fun.  That was worth it.

What to Pack

Here are a few tips I like to use when I pack.  I like to pack light, but have packed so light that I had to do laundry in a bathtub in Paris, that I do not suggest!  So here are some general tips I like to use.

1.  Check the weather for where you are going, pack accordingly
2.  Bring clothes appropriate for activities you are planning on, swim suit for swimming, dress clothes for a wedding, etc.
3.  If you take a baby with you, pack all the diapers you need, this may sound a bit extreme, but you never know how hard it will be to find a store, if you go to a country that does not speak your native tongue, you will not know what brand of diapers to get.  And finally, the diapers you use then create space to bring home souvenirs.  Oh and buy the nicest diapers, the expensive kind, the overnight ones if possible, so that you will be the most protected from blow outs while travelling.  
4.  If you are going to be staying in one place, you can pack a little more heavy, with an outfit to go someplace nice in, or multiple shoes to match every outfit.
5.  If you are going to be changing locations often, pack as light as you can, but make sure you at least pack a different shirt for everyday, with a couple shirts to spare if you have a baby.
6.  Try to pack pants and skirts that you can mix and match with your shirts, that are more versatile. 
7.  Have the kids pack a small backpack or bag they can carry themselves with an outfit, pajamas, toothbrush, and activities so that they can keep themselves entertained, and so that if luggage gets lost you will at least have something to change them into, or if a major spill happens you have clothes that are easily accessible.  Try to make this bag small enough that it can fit into luggage if you need it to. 
8.  If you have a baby, pack multiple outfits in the diaper bag.  Babies tend to blow out their diapers when on vacation a LOT more than when they are home.  You never know you too may be at Versailles and have to change your baby 4 times out of their outfit.
9.  Pack fever reducers for your children, you don't want to have to worry about finding a drugstore if your child starts running a high fever. 
10.  Pack any medication, or home remedies for your children for things that are more likely to be a problem. For example I pack vitamins, ginger for nausea and motion sickness.
11.  Carry a small amount of cash in the currency of the country you are travelling.  Not so much that you are worried if it gets stolen, but not so little that you won't be able to get your children something to eat or drink from a cash only venue.
12.  Try to bring some snacks for your children, in case food is not easy to acquire when they are hungry.  Try to make sure these are foods that can go through customs, or eat them before you have to.
13.  Make a copy of credit cards, passports, and your identification, and leave this with someone you trust before you go on vacation.  If your wallet is stolen, or your passports you will want to be able to have the information from these documents fast so also write down all numbers you may need to call and information you need and put it separate from your wallet in your luggage.
14.  Bring a print out of reservations for places you are staying.
15.  Pack things so that the first things you need are on top and then put in order for when you need them.
16.  Pack some garbage bags to put dirty clothes into.  
17.  If you are going to Seattle, I don't care if it is August and there is a heat wave, bring a sweatshirt or hoodie with you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


About 3 years ago my husband had the opportunity to go to Belgium with his company.  It happened to be when I was having a birthday.  I told him that "I was going too."  I had 3 children at the time, and a great fear to leave them when we left the country.  Since we were going to be in Europe anyway, we decided to go to 3 countries instead of just the one.  We planned on visiting Germany and Paris, France as well.  I had never been to Europe before, so I got a few books about travelling in Europe.  I found very few that talked about travelling with children.  I had also just had a baby, he was only 2 months old when we left.  So naive me, I packed up all 3 children and we headed to Germany.  We were able to accomplish only about a 1/3 of what we had planned for.  While we were there I felt like I could write a book, one with 2 versions, on one side it would say, "Why to take your children with you to Europe," and flip it over and the other side would say, "Why you don't want to take your children with you to Europe."  The trip made me think that I could share what I learned from those trips for other people who chose to not leave their children at home.  Travelling with children is very different than being able to travel single, or just with a companion.  That first international trip with my kids cured me of my fear of leaving my children at home, to a certain extent.  I can leave older children at home, but still bring the little ones.  My husband has the opportunity to travel ever so often with his company, and we go on a trip or two a year here in the U.S.A.  I am hoping that this blog will give me a creative outlet to share my lessons that I learn, my mistakes, so others can avoid them, and the fun with any secrets or little known facts we learn along the way.  If you are reading this, hope it helps.