10 ways to improve camping (for a non-camper like me)

We went camping on Memorial Day weekend.  

For pictures and another perspective on the trip check out Andy’s post.

It was just one night, with our small group.  It was a lot of fun; beautiful surroundings and even more importantly, wonderful people.  The kids had an awesome time, and would probably make our permanent home a tent if they could.  

I could forgo the tent part in a heartbeat.

So, having had a day to reflect on our camping experience I have come up with some important things to keep in mind for next time.  You see, I’m new to camping.  

And camping isn’t exactly my first idea of “fun”.  It’s something that I have to work at having fun at.  And I think it’s probably something worth working on, which is why I’ve decided to write this list down for future reference.

1) Always, always, always bring an air mattress.  We slept on the ground.  And using the word “slept” to describe what happened while laying in the tent all night long is a stretch.  More like, laid in uncomfortable pain for many hours with my eyes closed pretending to be asleep.  

I realize that having the air mattress won’t change the ongoing night noises of camping (which also hinder sleep for a very light sleeper like myself) but at least I’ll be awake on a soft surface.  

2) Pay careful attention to the Movement of the Group (or, MOG).  It can happen in a split second and you never know when the MOG will do something unexpected (which will inevitably turn out to be the most fun thing to happen on the whole trip). I have a keen ability to be doing my own thing when the group is on the move, potentially doing something that will be the defining momentous occasion of the trip.  

Multiple times I found myself not doing what everyone else was, and having no idea where everyone was or how to find them.  It wasn’t anyone else’s fault; I just really need to improve my “group-looks-like-it-might-be-ready-for-a-move-and-I-better-pay-attention radar.”

3) Don’t sweat putting up the tent.  If it doesn’t go up perfectly right away, it is not a reflection of poor life skills or a sign that Mr. TommyD and I have a dysfunctional marriage.  Tents are tricky.  Especially if it’s a borrowed tent.  Putting up and taking down the tent is not a race or timed event.  

4) Bring a bib.  For heaven’s sake, bring a bib!  

5)And while your at it bring a broom and dustpan too,

6) Oh, and some coffee.  Don’t forget the coffee.

7) Go ahead and wash your hair in the outdoor faucet by the campsite.  Who cares what people think?  I would have been a much happier camper if I had been a little cleaner on the second day.  

8) Related to #1, just forget about sleep.  I actually already knew this going into it, but somehow still got caught up in the hope for decent sleep when we went to bed fairly early.  (Actually, it was just me and all the kids in the group who went to bed early.. see #9)

#9) Be sure to study up on the What Every Parent Intuitively Knows To Do While Camping Handbook.  Which doesn’t exist.  Because everyone already knows it.  The piece of the protocol I was unaware of was that after everyone gets into their tents as though they are going to sleep (psyche-out!), they just stay there long enough to get their kids to sleep, then come out and have a good time together.  

Mr. TommyD informed me of this after I was situated with PJ’s on and about to drift off to “sleep” with the kids.  At this point I thought, “Oh, they’ll just be up for a tiny bit and go to bed.. if I get up, it will be just in time for everyone to head to bed.”  I kept thinking this every 15 minutes for the next hour or so.  

Next time, I’ll get that right.

#10) I actually don’t have a number 10.  Except to remind myself that, as with everything, it’s about the people.  Enjoy the people, enjoy our family and let the rest go.  I’m not going to win a “best camper” award.  I will probably always be a little bit out of my comfort zone while camping.  

But I do want to be about loving people, loving my family and being a happy and delighted child of God, if not always a “happy camper.”  And I couldn’t have asked for better company this weekend.  I got to witness four other amazing families enjoying each other and God’s creation.  

I got to get to know them a bit better and the more I know them, the more I love them.  I love that they take an interest in my kids and spur us on to be better parents and spouses.  And it was a chance to get to know something (ie camping) that my husband really enjoys, and through that, to get to know him a little better too. 

All in all, I say, “Bring it on.  I’m ready for next time.”

10 thoughts on “10 ways to improve camping (for a non-camper like me)

  1. this is great Abigail…thanks for sharing. We went camping for the first time as a family this weekend too. can totally relate to #3 and #8. you are an encouragement to me!

  2. We’re absolutely on the same wavelength with camping, and I think we would have gave it a try if it weren’t for the baby who puts everything in her mouth (loves pine needles and rocks), but I have now lived vicariously through you! Thanks for the insight, missed you all.

  3. Thanks for the link. Thanks for pushing yourself this weekend. We are all better for it. I hear you on the air mattress. That’s why I love “car camping”. We have figured out everything that you need or might need to have a good time camping. Car camping allows one to put all of that stuff in your vehicle and have it at the ready. We’ll look forwardd to the next time. On our way to the parking lot, Brian said,”We should do this again in the fall.”

    Maybe your next time will come sooner than you thought.

  4. @Andy,
    Yes, it definitely occurred to me that “more is more,” when it comes to camping. And I didn’t expect to have the car so close by, so we could have easily had more on hand.

    I’m game for doing it again.. let’s shoot for a warm fall weekend!

  5. Horray! Way to go!!!… can’t wait to join you next time! We missed everyone! And, not that you will camp for more than three days–but if you do, #3 is the magic number for a good nights sleep! At that point you are tired enough to sleep on anything!

  6. Way to go. You may be surprised. When I met my husband 13 years ago I had never camped in my life. Now I’m a seasoned backpacker. And by backpacker I mean all gear & food on backs, head into the forest/desert/mountains (take your pick) and return MANY days later having hiked 10-15 miles a day, dirtier than you can image and having a whole new appreciation for God’s creation.

  7. Thanks for the encouragement Teresa! I believe you about night #3… we’ll see if I ever make it that long.

    And gmsh, wow. My college roommate is of your ilk and I admire her endurance and love of God’s handiwork. I’m wondering how the back-packing works with small children..

  8. Ha! Abigail, I just came across this post (even though it’s quite old.) #5 is a definite necessity for camping! We camped a lot growing up in CO. LOVED it, but I would probably not even like it a little had we not done it growing up. Funny. 🙂

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