Camp Like a Champ!
I grew up in a family that loved the outdoors. When I was a child, camping was one of my favorite outdoor activities, and remains so to this day. Creating a safe and happy camping experience requires planning; but camping with kids requires even more preparation and foresight. In order to create happy family memories that will last a lifetime, be sure to follow these important tips.
- Planning: Whether you are a first-time camper or you have pitched 100 tents, it is important to start planning your trip early. You wouldn’t go away on a vacation without reserving a hotel room in advance. The same goes for camping. In order to assure that you don’t drive around for hours from campsite to campsite, looking for an open site, check availability and make a reservation in advance. Be aware that some campgrounds are first come, first served and do not accept reservations.
- Preparing: Create a list of items that you will need when camping. Start gathering them a few days in advance to make sure that you don’t forget anything. If you are new to camping you may not know what to bring, and what to leave at home. There are many different camping checklists that you can use and personalize to your camping style, such as the one provided by Montgomery Parks, or Love The Outdoors.
The three most important things to have when camping are:
- First-aid kit
If you are tent camping, be sure that the tent is free of holes, and is not missing any necessary pieces. Appropriate clothing is important if the weather is hot or cold. Exposure to the elements can lead to hypothermia and even death. Be sure to pack clothing appropriate for cold nights, even if you don’t expect the temperature to drop. Having a well stocked first-aid kit can save lives as well. You can purchase premade first-aid kits at big-box and camping stores, or you can make your own. If you decide to make your own, consult a checklist like this one from REI, to be sure you have everything you need. Don’t forget to include a compass, map, bug spray, matches/fire starter, hand sanitizer, pain reliever, toilet paper and poison ivy/poison oak treatment in your kit.
If you have a child with severe allergies or other special needs, put their necessary supplies at the top of your list. If your child may require the use of an Epi-pen while on the trip, be sure that you camp near facilities that will be able to assist you in case you need to use it. If you do have to use the Epi-pen, your child will need to be evaluated at an Emergency Department (ED) after it has been administered; so it is important that you know where the nearest one is, and how to get to it from the campsite. If your child requires the use of special supplies such as urinary catheters, be sure that you bring enough to last 2 to 3 days longer than planned. This will help you to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, such as your car breaking down.
Be sure that your family’s immunizations and vaccinations are up to date prior to your trip. Diseases can be contracted through bug bites, scrapes and improperly stored and prepared food. Some of these diseases can be avoided through vaccinations and immunizations.
If you or your child uses a wheelchair, be sure to research hiking trails that are wheelchair accessible; doing this prior to your trip will save a lot of time and frustration. Campgrounds also have a number of wheelchair-accessible campsites that can be reserved, even at first come, first served campgrounds.
- Things to know before you go:
- Don’t drink water directly out of lakes, rivers or streams. Bacteria and viruses from animal waste can be living in that water, and can make you very ill if you ingest it.
- Familiarize yourself with the common plants and insects in the region that you will be visiting. It is better to know what poison ivy looks like before you touch it than after. A good rule of thumb is “leaves of three … leave them be.”
- Do not eat foliage, berries or anything that is growing wild. Ingesting poisonous material may be life-threatening.
- Store your food in a safe, bear-proof container. Campgrounds in bear territory will provide a bear-safe food and gear locker at each site. Be sure to utilize this container whenever you are not using food or equipment that smells like humans (toothpaste, deodorant, hairspray, etc.). Your car is NOT a bear proof container. Also make sure that you dispose of your garbage properly.
- If you plan to take a hike alone, let someone know which trail you plan to take, and how long you plan to be gone. If you are lost, this information will make it easier to find you. If you think that people are searching for you, stay in one place. It is harder to find a moving object than a stationary one. Also, children should not be allowed to hike alone.
- Learn about campfire safety and obtain a free print-ready campfire permit at PreventWildfireCA.org.
Most importantly, remember that camping trips are meant to be fun; if you expect the unexpected you will be able to roll with the punches. If you are first-time campers, don’t expect it to go perfectly. Even if it turns out that camping is not for you, you will have memories that you can look back on and laugh at in the years to come!