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The Many Benefits of Family Camping - Modern Parents Messy Kids

The Many Benefits of Family Camping

I love this picture.  At first glance, it looks like C is pouting a bit.  But further inspection reveals he’s actually softly smiling to himself.  Content just to be surrounded by nature, doing nothing more than breathing in the mountain air.


The family and I have been doing more than our fair share of camping lately and this photo reflects exactly why I’ve fallen in love with our weekends away.  The great outdoors has exactly the same effect on me as it does on my son.


Here’s how it goes down.  I spend a good part of my Fridays doing laundry and loading up the beast trailer with clothes and provisions.  When my hubby arrives home from work we jump in the car and head for the hills. I can quite literally feel the tension leave my body the farther we get from the city.


The best part is much of the time we’re technologically cut off from the world.  Often we have no cell reception or internet connection.  And even when we do, barring a work emergency, we don’t use it.  This is such a gift. Lately I’d been noticing myself becoming more and more attached to my cell phone – even feeling a bit antsy if I didn’t have it with me.

I was starting to really wonder if it was possible to play with my kids without needing to check who was texting/facebooking/emailing me at any given moment.  But ever since we started re-connecting with nature, I’ve noticed the phone doesn’t have the same pull it once did.  I return home on Monday out of the habit of constantly checking in and I’m finding it much easier to keep my distance.


The Many Benefits of Family Camping


In case you’re wondering, the trailer we take on our adventure isn’t ours.  It’s on loan from the in-laws for the summer.  Have you guys ever trailer camped?  We always tented it growing up and, I admit, until very recently I always thought these things were just a litte bit tacky.  Oh, how wrong I was!


The Many Benefits of Family Camping


The camping trailer is not tacky or hokey or even “cheating” as some camping purists might insist.  Instead it’s an almost magical device that lets you take a two and three year old into the woods for days at a time and still have them wake up…


The Many Benefits of Family Camping


…looking like this!  Why is little S so happy?  Because she’s clean (thanks to the trailer’s small tub and hand held shower nozzle) and rested (thanks to the bunk beds which my kiddos think are just about the coolest thing in the world).  Best of all, she wasn’t freezing the minute she crawled out of her sleeping bag (always the worst part about camping).  Plus her and her brother have a comfy booth to sit at for reading books or making a little art while breakfast is prepared.


I’m being a little cheeky here – are American’s allowed to use that word?  We are a little spoiled by the trailer and we do greatly appreciate the convenience but it’s definitely not a pre-requisite to having some family fun in the forest.  It just makes it a little easier if your family contains members under three feet tall.  Once we get past the morning hump, the trailer stays pretty vacant for the rest of the day, provided it doesn’t rain.


One of the best things about traveling around exploring America’s campsites is finding out how varied they are. In the photos above we were in a pretty dense rain forest and we spent our time hiking and exploring.


The Many Benefits of Family Camping


Last weekend, by contrast, we made a 5 1/2 hour trek to meet up with some friends at a much more suburban style campsite.  We started our days as we always do, a once over with the sunscreen (see above).


The Many Benefits of Family Camping


But instead of hiking, the kids were on bikes and scooters for pretty much all daylight hours.  C is still loving his balance bike and we had more than one camper inquire about it as he zoomed by.  S was captivated by this scooter (which she “borrowed” pretty much all weekend from our friends). The clever design with two wheels in the front and one in back allowed her two year old self to stay balanced and chug along with the big kids.  She’s not super speedy yet but I could see her getting a lot of enjoyment out if it as she becomes more proficient.


The Many Benefits of Family Camping

At night we all gathered together for family-style dinners.  Cooking and cleaning up is so much more fun when mixed with girl talk from a friend you haven’t seen in months!

The Many Benefits of Family Camping


And, of course, camping just wouldn’t be camping without S’mores!

Do you guys camp?  Do you tent? Trailer? Sleep under the stars?  Despite our love for it, we’re still fairly new to this summer way of life.  Any survival tips you have would be much appreciated!



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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison August 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

My family owns a camper and we LOVE to camp! I never thought I’d be a part of a camping family, but it works for us. I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and they both just love it. It’s a nice break from the normal routine. My favorite part is that we can spend time together and since most of the eating is done outside it’s ok if things get messy. Oh and of course no trip is complete without smores. I highly recommend making them with Reese cups :)


Anonymous August 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I did not camp growing up, but my husband tent-camped when he was young because they couldn’t afford to go on vacations. So I WANT to camp, but my husband doesn’t. We have 3 boys, ages 6, 4 and 2 and I’m constantly sending him links and articles about camping. One day I will convince him…


small + friendly August 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I’ve never been a big camper but I have been longing for it lately. I think maybe because I need a tech break in a big way. Perhaps it’s time I sweet talk someone with a trailer….


Breanna August 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I grew up camping with my family, and my husband and I recently bought a pop up camper. I love being able to get away and see some beautiful places for very little $$! Unplugging for a few days is priceless.


Heather @ Life, Gluten Free August 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

We just got back from a camping adventure, so I was pleased to see your post. Camping and being out in nature is so important to everyone, especially kids. We camp in a tent (with an air bed for extra comfort and good for those with back issues). We also use a two-burner camp stove for heating up soup. We have food allergies, so I spend a day cooking lots of food before our trip. That way we can just heat it up on our stove.

We don’t have an RV or trailer, but that would be nice too. Either way, it’s about enjoying the beauty of nature and spending quality time!


Emily Strawn Photography August 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm

LOVE IT! Next time you make S’more use a Reeses Peanut butter cup instead. AMAZING!!!


Nicole August 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

We just returned from a cross country trip where we spent time ‘camping’ in little cedar cabins at KOA campsites along the way. We all enjoyed our time unplugged and a chance to stretch our legs with a long hike! I think we would love the flexibility of a camper until the little ones are bigger!


Brooke Ballard August 9, 2012 at 2:29 am

My family has a goal to visit all the national parks. We have 2 girls who are 6 and 3. Both girls went on their first camping trips by the time they were 9 months old. We always tent camp and love it. We try to keep our night routine the same as at home. We bring books for story time and read with lanterns and flashlights. The kids love it! We also try to reserve campsites that are close to the bathrooms. Our favorite thing is looking for wildlife on the hikes.


rachelle | tinkerlab August 24, 2012 at 2:59 am

I love this post, Steph! We haven’t been camping with the kids, primarily because of all the tent issues that you shared :) But I’ve been eying trailers and I think it’s in the cards for us sometime soon.


JO November 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

camping is the greatest…


Leon February 3, 2013 at 1:51 am

That’s a great image of the young fella seemingly going through technology “withdrawals”.

My son is a little older at 29, but he had a similar look when he visited me at my rural retreat here in sunny South Australia.

But it did not take long for some camping and fishing experiences to push those computer games to the background.

The trailers look great but I still prefer setting up a tent or sleeping under the stars in a swag.

Happy camping.


Margaret May 28, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I feel like I could have written this exact post. Growing up we tented or rented rustic cabins. Now we use a travel camper with our 6 children. It is complete relaxation for me. Kids are busy all day playing outdoors, and I only have to clean a camper versus our house. We just took our two week old infant. We park our camper and leave it on one site all season. This is even better than driving it around. Happy camping this summer!


Jayme May 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

We have a slide-in truck camper and love it! Because of its tiny size, we are limited to staying outside most of the time except for absolute necessity. We recently went camping with friends who upgraded to this massive 5th wheel toyhauler (They got it for a steal!) and allowed another family to stay with them. I was disappointed when people would go in the camper and never come back out! Normally, that isn’t the case. We spend a lot of time driving and exploring Alaska’s amazing beauty with our Polaris Rangers. Happy camping!


Joan July 17, 2014 at 5:17 am

I would love to take my girls in an RV and I have thought about renting one for a weekend to see how we do. I am just not sure how to hook everything up but maybe one day I’ll just give it a shot.


Steph (MPMK Founder) July 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

Do it! You can learn everything you need to know online and our experience has been that fellow campers and campsite rangers are extremely willing to lend a helping hand if you get in a bind :).


Louise July 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I love the way the pull to DO ALL THE THINGS and CHECK ALL THE UPDATES disappears the moment we pull out of our driveway with sleeping bags and tents. We are a big family (6) so a summer spent camping always works best for our budget, too. Would love to try it in a trailer (it’s on my wish list!) Lovely post. Thanks for sharing. http://latenightplays.typepad.com/late-night-plays/2014/07/little-moments.html


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