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Book Review: The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for summer vacation. Yes, I’m fully aware its only spring break, and we still have a few more months left in the school year. A mom’s gotta dream. In fact, I’m dreaming about fun in the sun once temperatures warm up here in Colorado — and for my family, that means camping with the kids.

We’re the proud owners of a beat-up, pop-up camper, and we’ve towed it to campgrounds around Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. While I didn’t grow up camping, my husband did, so from him I’ve learned everything about setting up camp, making camping food, spotting wildlife and figuring out whether or not berries are poisonous (I’m still not good at that last one).

Camping with KidsI’m so fortunate my husband served as my own personal camping tutor when I started camping as a 28-year-old — and then when we introduced our children to camping mix when each was only months old. But even if you have never slept under the stars before, and you’d like to try, I suggest this fabulous primer for camping with children: a guide by my pal Helen Olsson, The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature.

Helen — aka Mad Dog Mom, who’s also an Epic Mom with meĀ  — walks the walk when it comes to camping. Not only did she grow up vacationing in the wilderness, she’s raising three children to love the outdoors as much as she does. She notes that one’s definition of camping may change once kids are in the mix: While I miss the hours of quiet contemplation once associated with my camping trips, I relish the new moments of excitement, enthusiasm, adventure, and downright hilarity. … Simply put, there is little else that warms my cockles like the whoops and grins of my kids in the woods.

I agree! Camping is the one time that my family leaves the computers behind. Without electricity, wi-fi or cell service, it’s just us, the s’mores, the sleeping bags and the stars. We hike, we fish, we kayak…. we totally enjoy one another’s company in the great outdoors.

Roasting marshmallows and making s'mores is a *must* on any camping trip with kids!

Roasting marshmallows and making s’mores is a *must* on any camping trip with kids!

Throughout the upbeat and irreverent Camping with Kids, Helen shares a bunch of humorous anecdotes from her on family’s adventures in nature — not only the fun she has with her children, but also stories from her childhood. But the crux of the book is a definitely camping with children how-to guide, filled with packing checklists, first-aid tips, camping recipes, games for the kids and arts-and-crafts projects.

I appreciate Helen’s ode to duct tape, her picture map of how to best set up a campsite and the “smart tips” peppered throughout the book, like “Collect dryer lint to use as tinder” “Bring along tablecloth weights to keep your plastic tablecloth from blowing away in the wind” and “Garage sales are great places to pick up old cutlery for camping.”

Order The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids on Helen Olsson’s Mad Dog Mom website. It retails for $17.95, but if you use the promo code DOWN30, you can save 30 percent. I think the book would make a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift for anyone who is brand-new to camping or a seasoned backpacker who happens to be a new parent. After all, as we all know, children bring a whole new perspective and set of logistics to anything we do!

4 Responses to “Book Review: The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids”

  1. 1

    I was a fairly late-comer to camping too (in my 20s) but I suspect that ‘s partly fueling my enthusiasm – I’ve a number of friends who spent years camping with the Guides or Scouts as young children and it’s scarred them for life, they simply don’t believe tents are waterproof nowadays…

    My kids have been camping since before they were walking and there’s nothing like the fresh air to lure them away from the Nintendos and iPods…(and not miss them in the slightest) and of course make them sleep in longer than 6am.

    If only the British summer was longer than a few weeks it’d be just perfect :-)
    Chrissie x

  2. 2

    I have camped with my family ever since I was a baby. It has been a great impact on my life, it has given me a wide variety of interests and not the “Eww dirty dirt” kind of girl. It has always been an escape from the stresses of life in which I can kick back. read, and be one with nature. Enjoying life simple pleasures is an important aspect in life especially for kids in a technology era.

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