May 22, 2012

Back Yard Camping

We are itching to try out camping in the Great Outdoors. Our big goal this weekend was to give it a "test run". We have dug up all the camping/tailgate stuff we have, and this was our chance to try them all together from the comfort of our backyard. 1) to make sure everything works, 2) to make sure/a list of everything we need, 3) see how M does. Did I mention that we are not campers... even before we had a kid?

So on Saturday we had a leisurely breakfast and a not-so-leisurely trip to REI. M was only interested in riding the bikes and we wanted to try out sleeping mats, which is pretty hard to do with an un-interested toddler so that will have to be another day. Suggestions (for a cheap but comfortable option) welcome! In the meantime, the yoga mats we used instead did nothing for comfort, but we weren't cold (not sure if they helped in that department either). I digress.

After a Tyke Hike in the morning, M was worn out and took a  nice long 3-hr nap. By the time he got up and had a snack, it was time to set up camp in the back yard. We picked our spot (and turned off the sprinklers). We were pleasantly surprised how big a 4-person tent really is. It easily fit two sleeping bags, a pack n play, and a little pallet for Our 30 lb. dog. There was a nice little space to store shoes underneath the pack n play, too, and handy pockets for keeping our cell phones and flashlights attached to the inside of the tent.

M loved the idea of being in the tent and zipping and unzipping the door. We did have to remind him a couple of times not to lean on the tent. He also very much liked his toddler-sized bag chair, and how he could fit his water bottle or sippy cup in the cup holder. He encouraged us to use our chairs as well.

For dinner, we made grilled cheeses, using the grill as our campfire, and had apples and canned green beans as our sides (note to self: add can opener to our checklist). M was a little wiggly sitting in a grown up chair our our outside table and wanted to keep sliding off his chair and climbing back up until he finally fell over in it. *sigh*
After we cleaned up (we cheated and used the indoor sink. I haven't totally wrapped my head around doing dishes outside, though I think we can use one of our storage tubs and biodegradable soap)we went upstairs and brushed our teeth and took a shower (we do plan to hit up some 'upscale' campgrounds that should have decent amenities for both activities... I think... Am I overestimating?). Then it was time to get M into his diaper and PJ's (It was starting to get chilly, so we dressed him inside. I worry the tent is going to be small for these acrobatics, but I suppose this could be done in the bathing quarters as well?). Then we read our 3 books with a cup of milk (our  nightly routine) and it was bed time, al fresco. He was excited to get in the tent and after a few minutes of singing to himself, he was out like a light. Hubby and I then wondered what it was we were supposed to do until our bed time (suggestions welcome!). We read a book on the iPad and surfed the Internet (pretty sure these amenities may be limited at the campsite).

all dressed for bed, reading a book and drinking milk
Sleeping was a little uncomfortable on the hard, slightly sloping ground, but plenty warm. Actually too warm we realized when M woke us up, all of us sweating. Once, Hubby said he woke to M standing in the crib and motioned to him to lay down, which he did. But on the instance I heard him, he was standing, with his hat strapped only around his neck and looking very sad. He wanted to get out and said hi to The dog and crawled all over the tent, laid down with me for a bit, sucking his thumb but not sleeping, requested a diaper change (claiming he had poop in it, but didn't) and then announced that he was "all done" in the tent around 3:30 AM. So we moved inside, I laid him in the crib and we got into our bed and we all went right to sleep until 7:30 AM (which is an hour late for us, thank goodness).


Anywho. We got up the next day, and went back outside to make egg sandwiches on blueberry bagels and our instant (Starbucks Via) coffee with water boiled on the grill. This turned out well. M was slightly less wiggly in his chair, but not much (how do you attach a booster seat to a picnic table?). We went over to the playground with M still in footy pajamas (sandals on top - quite the sight... and of course we met a new neighbor at the playground, but hey, we are roughing it!).

All in all, I am not sure if this is a success or not. I would love any suggestions or feedback. I am not sure why M got up (3:00 is when we could hear our neighbors' sprinklers turn on, we were all much warmer than we needed to be, he could see us through the crib walls.... other thoughts? suggestions?).

I would like to say a special thanks to the other outdoor blog writers who inspired me to even do a test run of camping, and answered my questions. I want badly to do this at a real campground, especially during our adventurous 100 Weeks Challenge!!! Thanks to Cragmama, Adventure Tykes and FunOrangeCountyParks!!

>>> update: we did it! we actually went camping!!! see the post!<<<

Also, here are a few links I used in my research for tips and checklists:


  1. I'm SO proud of you! That's a huge step. And you did it with a little toddler. Wow! I will have to read it over again and figure out an answer to all your questions. You are awesome!

  2. Exciting! Have you gone on your real camping adventure yet? Trying it out in the backyard first is a great idea! I really want to go camping now but Kyle is on a rotation now with no weekends off. It is probably for the best to give Liam time to get a little bigger. It may actually be easier taking him camping though since he is pretty much immobile compared to a toddler. I cant answer any of your toddler camping questions... but about the dishes...

    When we are car camping, we usually try to use as few dishes as possible. (Mainly because I like to take as little stuff as possible and because I want to spend my time enjoying and not cleaning.) Some tips....

    Bring food that doesnt need dishes or many dishes. Some good ideas for this are things you can cook on a stick - hot dogs smores etc - things in a bag (trail mix etc), things you can cook in the fire. We like to make everything in the fire wrapped in foil. It works really well and keeps the ash off your food plus no dishes! You can make hamburgers this way. I usually patty them out ahead of time to save time and grossness of raw meat on your hands out in the wilderness. You can also make what my friend calls "hobos" - these are fish or chicken in foil with veggies. Very delicious. Again, we make ahead of time and just pop in the fire. You have to eat these on your first night though unless you plan to take coolers and worry to keep it cool... You can also put anything in a can into the fire. You just vent the top and set in to heat. We used to go on a trip where we biked in when we lived in Cincinnati. Since we didnt have much room we packed in soup cans and ate soup - good for Fall camping. Only a spoon/can opener needed. You can also have veggies this way - not as nice as fresh but a way to get some in while camping.

    Make your dish intensive meal(s) toward the end of the trip. We try to not use many dishes throughout the trip but we do love to have a nice breakfast on our last morning. So we make the breakfast - grits/eggs/bacon the works - and I just rinse the dishes. We either bring water from the camphouse or take them there to rinse. There is usually a well type spighot where you can get water if you are at a campground. then I put the dishes in a plastic bag (reused grocery type) and wash at home. I have found that if I wash them (soap and tub etc) then I just end up washing them at home again anyway. So might as well just do it once.

    I do the same thing with our silverware. We have an old set of silverware that we only use for camping. We take that silverware in a ziploc bag and I take an extra ziploc bag. As the silverware is used we transfer the used to the dirty ziploc and wash at home.

    Cant wait to hear how your adventure went! M will be making great memories, I am sure!!


    1. We have booked our 'real' camping trip for mid-July (campgrounds fill up fast around here!!.. at least the ones with real bathrooms, do...). I'll let you know how it goes!

      Thank you for all the food suggestions. I would have never thought about canned foods! We are only going to camp for one night for our first try, so we may have to do this foil dinner thing! When you say "in the fire" do you mean... IN the fire? And probably our dishes can wait 'til we get home, too.

      I hear that starting with little babies is the best time to go camping, and then they'll never remember when they didn't camp!!

      see this post from my friend Cragmama:

    2. well, not in the flames, but yes in the fire. if you plan to cook in the fire you will want to make it enough ahead of time so that you can get some good hot coals. when you have some good hot coals you just place your foil item on top and wait. if you do hamburgers you will want to flip them. you can use a stick or bring tongs (ah more dishes). it is a good idea to double foil the hamburgers in case you puncture the foil or the outer foil gets too burnt and to keep the ash out. it sounds more difficult than it really is...but know that it takes much longer to cook than say a grill. i always forget that and start cooking much later than i intend.

  3. Also, I checked out the links. Thanks! There is some great info there for camping with children! Cant wait to use it!