Yes twice this month my husband and I braved the outdoors and camped with all 4 of our kids, including our 10 month old twins. Many thought we were very brave other like us, patted us on the back and said good on ya for getting out there!
A little bit about our camping background and experience. I have been a member for GGC (Girl Guides of Canada) since I was 7 years old, and an avid tent camper with them from the age of 9. I also grew up with a cottage we went to every weekend, where I learned lots from my Grandpa, earning myself lots of “that’s the ticket” from him, my dad and uncles who knew much about the outdoors and fixing things, and my aunts, one who has been in GGC since she was about the same age as I was, and the other who could out swim anyone on our lake and has the swim across awards to prove it. I also only grew up playing with boys there, and on special occasions their cousin Tara. Now lets not leave out the other important people from the cottage my grandma, who made a mean crazy 8 partner one summer and is fantastic at cooking and braiding hair, and my mom who could read a book and sunbathe like the best of them. Dave comes from a family of campers as well. They tent camped a bit while young and then carried on in trailers since Dave was about 5. So you see we know a bit about the great outdoors and what to do for a weekend away. We are not experts but enjoy having a good time out by the fire in a tent under the stars.
Here is what I have learned about camping this month, especially with infant twins.
- Choose your location wisely. Too far away can lead to either a nice nap there or very cranky babies on arrival. Our first camping trip was an hour and a half away from home, where we also geocached all the way there, turning it into an almost 4 hour car ride. For longer trips I would recommend having supplies ready to make bottles or food for babies once you arrive. I thought we’d get there in plenty of time to set up tents and get our stove out to warm up milk, not the case. Bring a thermos full of warm water to mix up bottles and some easy cookies or finger snacks for babies to eat, also juice boxes and cookies or something similar for older kids. Being closer to home paid off for our second trip because on Sunday morning mom woke up with a terrible stomach bug and spent the morning in the outhouse. Only having to drive 20 minutes was nice for me I made it home safely where I could continue my bouts of sickness.
- To go along with the long distance drive. Keep an eye on the skies. Things didn’t look bad 15 minutes before we got to camp. I thought we’d have plenty of time to set up before the clouds I could see, turned into rain. For this I would recommend, making that last pit stop in the last town or city. Don’t tempt fate, and don’t plan on getting there and trying to set up quickly, it will rain and you will get wet, why because that’s just how it is. This way everyone can have that last pee break, eat something even if it is an early dinner, everyone can then arrive at camp fresh and ready to behave or help out.
- Set up your new tent before you go out. Don’t sit there and say you will like we did and then forget. Do it! Yes, we were those lucky people trying to figure out the tent in the rain with squirrely kids. Also it will give you a perspective on how big your new tent actually is, that 220 square feet of space really is big! You will then have a better idea of where it will fit and how to have it sitting on your site.
- Screen tents are great for small kids or babies, but only if you get the right one. Dave went out and bought a small pop up screen tent for us. A tip from another multiple family who camps. But the picture was misleading. We knew it didn’t have a bottom, no problem we have tarps, but since they showed the picture with the flaps tied open we did not know that it didn’t have a zipper down the front and they only over lapped slightly. It was highly unsuccessful at keeping the boys in, see picture below. The second camping trip we brought the UFC ring gates we have to keep them in.
5. Bring extra extra clothes. Since it rained the first night we arrived on our first trip, and well our Amy is a get down and dirty girl she had gone through most of her clothes by noon the next day.
6. Lists, make packing lists. I used to roll my eyes at the kit list we’d get in Guides, but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate a good list. If you plan to go camping often make up a few permanent ones and get them laminated so you can use them over and over again. This will help with all your packing and so when you are distracted you won’t forget things like your kids pajamas. Thankfully I had extra long-sleeved shirts and leggings, not so good it was on the first camping trip when we could have used those extra clothes. Make through list too for your food, from meals to what you need to cook with and prepare each meal. We are also working at lists of what we have in our camping boxes so we know if we run out what to buy and what we may need to pack that is extra.
7. Playpen, two or one? We debated on this, both times we only brought one thinking that with cooler nights the boys would enjoy the body heat from each other. Both times they slept with us the first night and peacefully together the second night. We are lucky that they are still some what small enough to share, but since they don’t regularly it was a learning curve the first night again for them.
8. Buy jarred baby food. I’m a make my own kind of gal but having jars was so much easier while camping. So are other easy go to prepared foods for snacks and dinners.
9. We planned for everything but illness and that now will be on our lists. Trust me you don’t want to get stuck with a stomach virus and being sick with only outhouses on hand. From now on I will have packed in an ice cream pail, gravol, pepto bismal, extra face clothes, and other tummy ailment remedies. It was one rough day for us all. Dave had to pack and tend to the kids himself, for take down and unpack when we got home. He earned the nap he got on the couch and the beer at the end of the night for sure. I was just glad I managed to get home in one piece.
10. Lastly go with the flow! Camping is a lot of work, but it is a lot of fun. Don’t over pack your days with plans to go and do everything, just take it as it happens and everyone will have a much better time. Bring a few simple games and activities for kids, and the rest will take care of itself. We like things like sand toys, colouring, bubbles and card games. Most sites have a beach, play ground, walking trails and if you are like us geocaches to hunt out, so there is always lots to do around.
I’m sad to see summer come to an end, but I’m happy for the memories we have made this year. Now to go and continue on with the mountain of laundry I have, which I’m still working hard at only drying on my clothes line.