Camping is kind of a sacred activity for my family and especially for me. I loved the outdoors growing up and normally came home muddy and sunburned at the end of the day. I latched onto camping immediately and got even more involved with Boy Scouts.
My father worked insane hours and travelled a great deal for his job, so we did not get so see him very often. However, camping trips were the few times I remember that he would forget about work and just have fun with us. This created bunches of traditions and activities that we have carried on with my wife and my son.
The activities that you enjoy while camping often become rituals for your group. These are the little things that everyone looks forward to. When I think back to those camping trips as a child, I always remember those little things that became the meaning of camping for us. In this article, we will cover different activities that can make camping more fun and more memorable for your group or family.
Make Packing Fun
Packing for a camping trip can be tedious and time consuming. It is tough to be sure you bring everything you need for the whole time you will be gone. However, the items that you pack are previews to the fun you will have when you arrive at your destination.
For example, it is lots of fun for my son and I to talk out our fishing plans while we pack up fishing gear. I get to ask him if he wants to pack footballs and frisbees to play catch, or if he wants to pack up gear to go swimming. We get to plan out all of our meals as we grocery shop and load up the cooler. It gets the camping trip going before you even pull out of your driveway.
I learned a long time ago that road trips can be miserable, or road trips can be a blast. It all depends on your mindset going into the experience. We had a family friend in those days that would yell “Kick the tires and light the fires” before our caravan headed out. That was the start of road trip fun.
We always planned out playlists of those classic songs that nobody has heard in forever. One person was assigned specifically to loading up on snacks and drinks for the car ride. We brought CB radios or walkie talkies so the cars could talk to each other. The kids would write signs on paper and put them in the window as we passed other cars. Semi-trucks always got the signal to honk their horn for the kiddos.
Whether you are driving an hour or two or driving across the country, it is all about how you approach the journey. If you go into it thinking it will be stressful or boring, then it probably will be. If you go into it seeing the adventure in front of you, the experience will be completely different.
Camping is all about food for my family. It is not uncommon for us to have cooking competitions when we get together, and the battle is fierce. When we go camping, we like to have a mix of the camping classics as well as some more complex meals. Don’t worry, there will definitely be burgers and dogs at some point.
Camping breakfast is an absolute must. Unless we are in a hurry to get packed up and on the road, I insist on cooking breakfast over the fire. There’s usually bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, biscuits, gravy, and either cinnamon rolls or homemade doughnuts. That breakfast is often the only thing dragging me out of bed and into the freezing cold of the early morning. Coffee helps.
Lunches are often eaten on the go in our vehicles or out in nature. We typically have picnics along our hiking trails or eat a shore lunch. This is usually sandwiches, chips, and some other random snacks. I know it sounds weird, but those lukewarm soggy peanut butter or ham sandwiches are something I look forward to. Nothing says “I’m on vacation in the wild, and I’m eating like a king” like this classic mobile meal.
When we are fishing, shore lunches are often different. If we have caught any fish big enough to keep, we do a fish fry shore lunch. I filet the fish, dredge it, and fry it with onions and potatoes. There is no better meal on the water, and it’s even better when it’s a little chilly outside.
Of course, dinners are the big show. We would bring baked dishes to heat over the fire, or we would cook whole chickens or pork tenderloins. We loved to BBQ brats or cook a perfect steak. Normally we had enough leftovers that our refrigerators were full when we went home.
I do not necessarily need to have a fire for every meal or even every day of the camping trip. There are times it is just easier to cook with a camp stove or on a charcoal grill. However, I insist that we have at least one big group campfire after dinner one night of the trip. Usually, we just sit around telling stories and bragging about our experiences from that day.
Roasting marshmallows is an absolute must activity for every campfire. I personally like to make smores, but many in our group are just happy with the marshmallows. Often times we will heat up apple cider and hang out until it gets too cold to stand it.
The fire itself is an important ritual for our camping trips. My son always enjoys collecting firewood with me and helping to light the fire. He likes to tend the fire and add more wood when I say he can. He even enjoys properly extinguishing the fire with me to be sure it is safe.
Another activity that we always try to incorporate into our camping trips is spending time on the water. This can look lots of different ways. Sometimes we camp near the ocean and spend the day on the beach. Sometimes we camp on a lake and fish all morning. Sometimes we take a boat down the river and soak up the sun. There are even times we camp at one of those fancy campgrounds with a pool.
Whatever the case may be, water means fun in the summertime. We stayed at a campground last summer that had a creek with about two feet of water. That was all it took for us to have a blast splashing around in the sun. Everyone loves being around the water. Even the people that don’t want to get wet enjoy watching all the kids splashing around. Even if you must resort to a hose and sprinkler, take a minute to cool off. It can get pretty muggy when you go camping in the heat of the summer, but water activities can help keep you cool.
My son is turning eight this week, and he loves to learn about the outdoors. Every time we go camping, I try to get him helping me with some of the more important camping tasks. He loves to help me build fires, put up tents or set up the camper, and prepare meals. He enjoys learning about plants and animals in the woods, and loves learning about hunting and fishing.
What I have found is that often, other kids in our group will want to join in when they see him helping with these tasks. Many times, kids just want to feel like they are a part of the process and not just along for the ride. These kids are learning skills that they can use well into adulthood.
The other way that we get everyone involved in building memories is to plan projects. We bought an old camper last year and have made it a rule that we need to improve something on the camper every time we take it out. Piece by piece, we are remodeling the camper to make it really comfortable for our trips.
I am a Cub Scouts leader, and for our camping trips we plan service projects. These are simple projects for which we provide general labor to help someone in the community. Often, we work on landscaping at the camp site or improve the property in some other way. A few years back they cut a series of trails in the woods for campers to explore.
When you go camping, it is important that you think about the importance of these little moments. These are the memories that will carry with you can your family for the rest of your lives. You don’t need to print up a laminated itinerary or anything but take the time to plan some activities for the trip. You will find that quickly your camping group will have a routine of the traditions that you helped create.
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