5 Tips for Easy Camping
Stress-free camping for lazy parents. Okay, not totally stress-free.
Last weekend, my 13-year-old daughter spoke aloud the words that strike fear in the hearts of parents everywhere: let’s go camping.
(In my defense, let me point out that this was in February. I’m not a total grinch.)
Against my better judgment, I agreed to one night. “Don’t think of it as a camping trip,” I told my incredulous friend when I called to invite her child. “Think of it as a sleepover at the home of a family that’s too cheap to turn on the heat.”
Now, I am an experienced car camper with a garage full of expensive and well-used gear to prove it. But when you are taking four children to the woods for a 24-hour camping trip in February, you need to cut a few corners. Here are five ways to cheat a little and make your life easier.
1. Camp close to home
If you don’t know where your closest campground is, do this: pull up Google maps and type in your address. Then type “campgrounds” into the search box. If you don’t find anything you like that way, try searching ReserveAmerica.com and Recreation.gov. The bottom line here is don’t drive far, especially for a 1-night camp out.
2. Order takeout
While you’re finding the most convenient campground to your house, you should also keep an eye open for one within easy striking distance of a pizzeria that delivers. You will make your life much, much easier if you just order a pizza.
Now, is this the true spirit of camping? Of course not. But sometimes you have to take the path of least resistance. When I announced we would be ordering pizza on our February camp out, my kids became somewhat long-faced and gripey. Then I told them we would cook s’mores and breakfast over the fire, and they made a miraculous recovery.
3. Go disposable
In general, I am a good steward of the earth. I recycle, compost, buy in bulk, and try not to buy over-packaged products. But last weekend, I packed paper plates and cups. Since we used exactly eight plates and six cups, I felt ethically okay with it. Plus, we all got a huge laugh out of saying, “Time to do the dishes!” and then dumping everything in the fire.
4. Cook over the fire
Speaking of the fire, this is a key part of camping so don’t skimp on this (especially in February). Don’t bother bringing wood, because you can buy it at the campground. Do buy more than you think you’ll need however, and do it right away, because once the ranger is gone for the night, you’ll be out of luck.
In addition to the traditional dessert of s’mores, we cooked breakfast over the fire too. A friend introduced us to doughboys years ago, and they’ve become a breakfast tradition. Here’s what you do: open (but do not unroll) a tube of crescent rolls. Slice them into 1/2″ rounds. Spear the rounds on an extendable roasting fork and cook them over the fire until they puff up and are golden brown. Carefully remove them from the fork, butter them, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
Not only is this a fairly mess and packing-neutral breakfast, it will keep your kids happily occupied for at least an hour. Win-win. If all that sounds like too much effort, just toast bagels.
Need a midday snack? Try these campfire nachos. I’ve never made them, but seriously, how could they not be good?
5. Grab and go
When you wake up the next morning, all your gear will be dusty and wet with dew. This is incredibly depressing. Instead of waiting for it all to dry and then trying to clean it all up before you pack, just throw everything in the car and do all that at home. You can dry your tent in your garage if it’s not sunny enough outside.
The advantage of doing it this way is that you can take your time putting everything away, and you don’t have to worry about trying to supervise your kids around a campfire when you’re doing it.