By Andi Diehn
I’m always on the lookout for better vacation ideas. Last summer, when a friend of mine mentioned she was taking her son camping, I invited my own family along, and it was a terrific time. We swam in a brook, hiked through the woods, went fishing, and cooked all sorts of yummy things over an open fire.
“Part of what’s great about camping is that it’s a whole-family process,” says Gregg Pitman, executive director of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association. “It’s not like the parents do the planning and the kids say, ‘Hey, where are we going?’ The whole trip is the family activity.”
Pitman suggests getting the kids in on both the preparation and the work of camping. “Get the kids in on the process,” says Pitman. “Setting up the campsite, preparing meals, cleaning up.” Even the littlest children can collect sticks for the fire.
Stephenie Lynn — a West Lebanon, N.H., mom — agrees that sharing the work is one of the best things about camping. “We help each other constantly,” she says. “We can all enjoy the end result of teamwork.”
Are you the kind of family that likes to stay active on your vacation? “Depending on the family, there’s a campground out there to mirror their tastes,” says Pitman. From a rustic, bring-your-own-toilet-paper kind of experience to resort-style campgrounds that offer a full schedule of activities, the choices are many.
Camping doesn’t have to be just about sleeping on the ground and eating food cooked in the open.But these things are important, too, and, if you’re like my family, they’re what you look forward to the most. “I’ve heard from many families that just sitting around the campfire is the highlight of the experience,” says Pitman. Our daily lives are subjected to dozens of distractions; chatting, storytelling or even sitting quietly around a fire is something kids, and parents, will remember for a long time.
“Nothing compares to sharing time with family and friends around an evening fire, toasting marshmallows,” says Lynn. “Bring on the s’mores!”
What to Bring
A few things we don’t leave home without:
Lots of food: fruit, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, juice boxes, cheese, in addition to meals like steak kabobs and corn on the cob. Kids and adults will get hungry from all that sunshine and fresh air.
Cleaning materials like paper towels, trash bags, paper plates and wet wipes. Expert campers may scoff at this environmentally questionable list but, for beginner campers, these things will make outdoor life a lot easier for the first summer or two.
Plenty of extra clothes. Packing light is an admirable skill, but when your child has fallen in the brook yet again, you’ll appreciate another set of dry clothes while the wet ones dry (on the clothes line you were smart to bring).
Flashlights — for everybody!
We also like to bring notebooks and pens for the kids to make camping journals, maps and notes.
One of the things I love best about camping, especially in the Upper Valley, is that you don’t have to spend hours driving to find yourself in a whole new world. Twenty minutes outside any of our quaint centers of industry will put your family among the trees, on the edge of a field, on the shores of a river.