Mindful Mama's Camping Guide
Updated: Nov 5, 2022
So you want to take your little(s) camping, eh? It's so much fun! One of the major highlights for me is that bedtime is actually easier! I'm not sure if it's all the physical activity or no screens, or the fresh air, or the dusk time, whatever, it's been wonderful with my first daughter. And then for me, it's an absolute necessary reset for myself. I am calmer, happier and does wonders for my wellbeing. Science and research backs this claim up. I have currently five camping trips on the books for 2023. These will be my first as a mama of two.
I have the luxury of living in beautiful Washington State where nature is everywhere. I grew up with fond memories of camping as a child and teen in CA, Canada, and WA. It's something I want to give to my daughters and I dream of the days when I can go backpacking with them when they are teens.
I believe camping instills the slow pace, the appreciation for Mother Nature, resilience, family traditions and problem solving I want for my family.
During a camping adventure you need a fire so you keeping trying until it works. You jam full size items into tiny ass bags. You have to try and try. Practice and practice. Come up with tactics and curiosity to solve your problem(s). If your a Sesame Street viewer you know the motto of "I wonder. What if. Let's try!" Camping gives your toddler, preschooler and grade school children to put it to work. I enjoy tent camping with family and I have my supportive husband that goes a long with me. Even though he is by no means has the experience; we are finding our way, creating family traditions, to which I am very grateful.
Here's what I recommend:
Big Tent - Ours is from good old REI. It fits 4 people. It's tall enough that we can stand in it. It's easy to assemble so even I could do it solo when I'm adventurous, brave, and have the energy to go with just the kiddo.
Sleeping Bags - make sure they are warm enough. I like my Kelly mummy style one.
Thermarest or padding or air mattress - something to sleep on. We have a queen size foam and air mattress we ordered on Amazon that I like. My husband will be buying a cot and trying that our for the 2023 season for his hips and shoulders.
Camping Pillow - compressible so it takes up less space when you are packing up. Some pillows can also be blown up; a reminder to take deep breaths.
Goodnight, Campsite board book - We have story time rituals before bed, so this is a great way to bring your regular sleep time and rituals to the campground.
Stove - we started our camping adventures with just a Jet Boil and Backpacking food. It was simple and straight forward. We are slowly moving into having camping stove now, playing with recipes on Pinterest and inspired by my camping mama friend.
Water container - I love the big cube plastic thing from REI.
Container to wash dishes - candidly we've used the plastic bin that we were given after giving birth as our camping sink! It's a perfect size. Bring soap and a sponge.
Food - It's helpful to have food packed in a closable container. That way no squirrels, crows, raccoons, etc get to your food. Also, easy clean up to just throw a lid on it and throw it in the car. I have kept menus and cooking simple when we were starting out:
coffee and/or tea
cider or hot chocolate for the kiddos
backpacking meals for lunch and dinner
Lighter - I specifically have a local campground as our first designation to make sure we don't forget anything small, say a lighter to start that Jet Boil for coffee and warm meals!
Firewood - if allowed and there are no burn bans in effect.
Chairs - to enjoy said fire. They make adorable toddler camping chairs, even baby camping chairs. We've gotten a lot of use of our pink camping chair I found at Haggen for Charlotte. We use it on our beach outings as well.
Table cloth or blanket - helps to keep the surface clean. Blanket can also be used on the bench, or as an added layer around the campfire if temperatures drop low.
Clothes - layers! I've been caught my the cooler temps at night a few times. Pack those warmer clothes. You may end up wearing several layers. Don't underestimate the power of cozy socks either.
Flashlights or headlamps - to guide your way to the restroom at night. Or scare off curious raccoons.
Other Optional Gear
Highly recommend a rain picnic shelter - that was a game changer for us. Can also be good shade if campground is out in the open.
Osprey Kid carrier backpack - I think they are amazing! We used it for my oldest daughter all the way up til she was 3 years old. And, she's tall for her age group. The backpack's frame also helps you stand up a little taller and is great alignment for your shoulders. Just saying. :)
Rain gear - rain jacket, rain pants, rain shoes
Play Pen - With my first daughter we waited until she was two years old. Oh, and how she absolutely adored it! With my second daughter we will be taking her when she's a year old so I'll update the blog then. (So check back, hehehe) I plan on packing our pack 'n play with us to contain her a little bit when needed, like naps. We bought a used one at a garage sale for $5 to use for just this purpose. The beauty of camping is you get to just rough it a little bit! Don't need that beautiful pack 'n play that's never been opened. It's going to get dirty.
Activities for children - We have a corn hole set, another tossing game, I spy books, Hidden Picture books, coloring books and small amount of crayons. Balance bike or scooters. I encourage my kids to play with sticks and stones though, they are far more creative than I am. "Play the Forest School Way" has loads of activities you can do in nature.
Marshmallow sticks - you can buy some cool ones that extend out, or go the old fashioned way and forage for sticks.
Large Tupperware Containers to keep things organized and easy to pack in the pack of the car.
Be aware of the senses: Tastes, smells, sights, sounds, textures and touch.
Stay present with you children and watch them play with sticks, and make new friends.
Unplug - no screens, no phones, go "off the grid".
Take notice of the beauty of nature.
Do nothing but be. Breathe.
These are also an option. Most need you to bring most things with you but you may be a little more cozy if rain is a concern. Many WA state parks have cabins or yurts to rent. Sleeping Lady and Locheree Resorts are some of my favorite destinations. There are even Tree House cabins to explore. That's on my list!
ENJOY! Breathe in the fresh air, take in the slow pace, eat well, rest well, be well.
Pictures Below: Christie Cabin at Locheree Resort on Lake Quinault. S'more Cone! Thank you Pinterest. And, cabins at Sleeping Lady Resort just outside of Leavenworth.
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