I went on a camping/hunting trip with my 3 oldest children. Here are a few things I learned and did to make camping with kids enjoyable.
For the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of having my sons join me in our annual hunting trip for Elk. This year my daughter is 9, and she desperately wanted to come. When she found out that she was invited to attend this year’s hunting trip, she gladly accepted, even forgoing the chance to spend the day with her best friend. My sons tried to persuade her not to go with tales of walking forever in neck high snow uphill both ways and wild animals only steps behind, but she brushed them off and stuck to her guns; she was going!
For the most part my wife has stayed home from most hunting trips. I still remember the first hunting trip she went with me on a year after we were married. She was currently pregnant with my oldest son but remained a trooper and stayed at camp despite the cold weather and run down outhouses. As I recall this was also the last hunting trip she attended…
So my experience with women/girls in camp has been minimal. So here is what I did to keep my daughter comfortable during her stay in camp.
First things first #1 and #2
For guys it’s easy to find a tree and make nature their restroom, not so easy for the opposite sex. To assist with keeping things comfortable, we instituted the use of a folding toilet like this one from Walmart, Reliance Folding Portable Toilet. There are lots of options for portable toilets but the positives for this one include it being the perfect size for my daughter, it’s lightweight and easy to carry and easy to set up.
The negative for a larger guy like me were the short plastic legs that held my weight but remained a concern during use. Another option is this more sturdy version.
When not in use, make sure the toilet is kept closed to keep the seat from forming ice crystals. Along with the folding toilet we kept both toilet paper and wet wipes out of the cold and in the tent ready for use. Nothing says good morning like a frozen wipe, trust me.
Separate sleeping areas
In our tent we were able to set aside a small area for my daughter to sleep and change when needed. This ended up being a good idea, as she spent the first 2 days sick and it afforded more privacy. It was also away from the opening and I didn’t have to worry about her being bothered every time someone came into the tent.
Keeping her warm
Purchasing a good sleeping bag and mat can mean the world to anyone sleeping in the mountains during winter months. With this in mind I would rather pay a few dollars more and have the 0 degree sleeping bags like the Coleman 0 degree Mummy Bag for my kids to use than worry about them freezing and not getting enough sleep.
I know just about every kid owns a bag that can be used for sleepovers and sleeping in the backyard in the summer; these won’t work in the snow. Another thing I would recommend would be a sleeping bag liner like this Fleece Sleeping Bag, it adds a few more degrees of warmth and doesn’t take up very much space.
I’m a little spoiled and I had brought my small solar panel so I was able to keep my laptop, Walkie Talkies, and my phone charged. My Expedition also has a DVD player so when packing I had made sure my daughter had chosen a few movies she would want to watch. This again came in really handy as we spent those first 2 days in camp with not much to do. Packing card games that can be played with 2 or more players will also help if you’re trying to get away from all technology.
Just like sleeping bags, proper clothing will make any trip a success or failure. Effectively layering clothing so it can be added or subtracted during the day. We purchased these long underwear sets for my boys and this one for my daughter. During our trip, they wore them constantly. They are lightweight, but designed to keep in body heat and helped them stay much warmer than they would have been otherwise.
Making sure little feet stay warm with waterproof boots and warm socks will ensure they last a full day out hiking instead of coming back to camp, trying to warm up and dry out.
Correctly sized hunting orange or pink vests and hats are a must and hats should include both stocking caps and baseball type caps so these can be changed out as needed.
If you’re hunting during a rifle or muzzleloading season, you need to make sure your children have the proper hearing protection. This will be needed both in camp when sighting in a new rifle or when out in the field. You need to make sure their ears are protected since they will most likely be close to you when pulling the trigger.
Additionally, make sure each kid has their own flashlight, hand warmers and safety whistle. These are most easily carried in a backpack along with some water and snacks like granola bars. My oldest also had the use of a walkie talkie.
Last but not least, time and attention
This is why we are really out there, right? Try to include everyone in the conversation. I made sure that we would talk about things relevant to the ages of my kids and that I could include my daughter in any of the conversations we were having. Someone being excluded from the conversation can really change the mood of a trip.
I was also able to spend some 1 on 1 quality time with my daughter as we stayed in camp. Just asking about the day to day can really help you understand what’s really going on in our children’s lives.
What do you call an unsuccessful hunting trip? Camping with protection. Even with unfilled tags in our wallets, we headed home winners.