The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature

Plan your family camping adventure!
Whether you’re a first-time camper or a veteran backpacker befuddled by the challenges of carting a brood—and all the requisite gear—into the great outdoors, here you’ll find all the tips and tools you need to plan the perfect nature adventure with your family. Humorous and irreverent, yet always authoritative, this guide to camping with kids, from babies through pre-teens, is filled with checklists, smart tips, recipes, games, activities, and art projects. Helen Olsson, a seasoned camper and mother of three, shares lessons learned over the years of nature outings with her own family. Learn the basics of family camping, from choosing a destination and packing gear to setting up a campsite and keeping little ones safe. Create the perfect camp menu with simple and tasty recipe ideas. Discover foolproof tips and tactics for keeping kids happy and entertained while hiking. Explore nature through clever and creative camp arts and craft projects. This guide is your game plan to unplugging from the digital world and connecting your kids to nature. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows around a crackling campfire or stretching out on a camp mat to gaze at the stars, the memories you’ll be making will last a lifetime.

Community Review 

  • As the title promises, this book is ‘down and dirty’. It covers everything parents need to consider from selecting gear, choosing destinations, packing, setting up the campsite and keeping the kids engaged. Olsson adds a wry sense of humor, and seems grounded in just how exasperating camping with kids can be. I especially appreciate the stories she tells on herself about mishaps and misadventures that contributed to her wisdom and expertise on this topic.
    On a deeper level, I appreciate the basic assumption behind this book — camping with kids need not be drudgery; in fact, more than most other experiences, it can bring families closer and build lasting memories. Would that I had this book when my kids were kids.
  • I’ve read or skimmed other books providing advice on camping with kids over the last decade, and most are either boring or just don’t add anything to the mix. They seem to offer nothing to anyone who has slept in a tent for more than a night or two. I started off camping with my parents in diapers, and have been car camping and backpacking most of my life. Once we had children 10 years ago, I started doing it with my kids. Our first couple of trips, despite what I thought was my abundant wealth of knowledge and experience, were nothing short of disasters! Where was this book then?!
    The book by Olsson is fun, funny and helpful. I now know way more than I did 10 years ago about camping with kids (having learned the painful way), but there is much in here I did not know and everything in here is what is wish I HAD known. It is that good. The book included humorous stories from her camping days as a kid and with her own family (and who doesn’t enjoy a good camping disaster story!). My favorite was the one about the sister who used poison ivy to wipe her backside after a pit stop in the woods. I have vague recollections of a similar error. Mixed in with the entertaining anecdotes is plenty of solid advice. The poison ivy story is followed up with guidelines for avoiding poison ivy, for treating a poison ivy rash, and for getting the oil out of your clothes. The author isn’t afraid to let us learn from her mistakes. Isn’t that the best way to learn something – from someone else’s mishaps? It’s a refreshing take on camping with kids.
    The book is packed with the basics on gear, planning, and food (great recipes for a new kind of s’more), but there’s also beefy chapters on arts and crafts and games and activities to keep the kids entertained at the campsite. I’d buy this book for the unbelievable checklists in every chapter (and listed together at the back). One thing I have learned on my own is that the checklist is key. While the kids are screaming, the car is jammed with your crap, and you are worried about forgetting beer, some key piece of gear – a lantern, matches – something that will cause you to turn around when you remember it, will be forgotten. This is inevitable. I’ve replaced my lists with hers. They are that much better!
    I especially liked the tips sprinkled throughout. Like bringing along earplugs to mitigate the sound of your wife’s (or your friend’s wife’s) snoring. Or to pack wintergreen lifesavers: when kids crunch on them, you can see sparks in their mouths. Who knew? If you have camped for years, and are about to embark on the activity with kids in tow, I’d say it is a must-have guide. It is not targeted to the RV crowd (not that there is anything wrong with that activity), but would seemingly come in helpful to them as well. Heck, it would be a great camping resource even if you didn’t have children.

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