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Camping Out
by Adlen W. Robinson

     Even my friends who know me pretty well are sometimes surprised to learn how much I love camping! While I might not seem like the sort of gal who likes to “rough it,” I truly love tent camping at our beautiful and well maintained state parks---especially the ones that dot the shorelines of Lake Lanier.

     Few activities unite a family as much as camping. My husband grew up camping in northern Maine with his grandparents. Their brand of camping involved much more crude conditions than I could ever handle---but even so, his fondest childhood memories are of those camping experiences. He was extremely close to his grandparents---especially his grandfather Arthur. Sitting around a campfire telling and re-telling stories always reminds him of listening to the stories his grandfather told.

     I did not grow up camping---except for a few camp outs with friends or at camp. Even so, I knew camping was definitely something I wanted my children to experience. Our first attempts at camping as a family involved more calamities than positive memories, but now that years have passed, even those mishaps translate into humorous memories.

     One of my close friends came right out and said I was crazy to enjoy camping. She said it was way too much work---from the packing of every little item you need to cook, clean, etc, to the actual work involved while camping to the breaking down of camp, to the unpacking and putting away once you arrive back home.

     Yes, it does take some work, and I will be the first to admit that pretty much every time we go camping I think of something we have forgotten, or a way I should have packed to make the process easier. But for me, that is part of the fun of it: figuring out ways to make each camping trip easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable.

     For me, enjoying camping comes down to one main ingredient: comfort. The more comfortable the camping trip, the more enjoyable the experience. We are not minimalists when it comes to camping. This fact drives my husband crazy and he is known as the “grumbler” when he loads and unloads the car. But he does not grumble when he is enjoying a delicious meal, or asks for the first aid kit (or cards, etc) and is quickly handed the needed item.

Here are some tips to make your family’s camping trip the best ever:

  • ·     Pack most of your gear in medium sized clear, plastic containers. It might seem to make more sense to have one big one, but we found that those are difficult to carry, find space for and even worse to rummage through. I have one container that contains all my pots, coffee pot, cutting board, coffee cups, anything I use for cooking. Another container holds all paper and plastic products such as paper towels, napkins, plastic cutlery, plastic wrap, and trash bags. I also keep dish-washing soap and a scrub brush inside a zip lock bag inside a plastic tub for washing dishes here. One container I use for dry food goods such as cereal, grits, crackers, bread, cookies, chips, etc. The container keeps the chips from being crushed as well as making it easier for me to see what we have. Another container, smaller than these, houses all kitchen knives, spatulas, measuring cups, scissors, can openers, etc.

  • Plan your meals on paper before the trip. Write out what you will have at each meal, and do not forget snacks. Keep the menu list handy when you are packing the cooler and the dry goods so you can check yourself. I have one cooler (a 5-day type) for food and another one for drinks.

  •         Pray for sunshine, but plan for rain. No matter what the weather people say, plan for the worst. Bring ponchos and fishing poles for sure. Children do not mind a little rain at all---in fact, the younger ones think it a blast to go fishing in the rain. Pack cards, board games, art supplies and do not forget to bring a box of toys for young children. I cannot tell you how many times a few hot wheels or some plastic animals have kept my kids from being miserable during a surprise rain storm.

  • Keep your sense of humor. Children take their cues from you. No matter what is happening, even if you forget the marshmallows, how you react will set the mood for the rest of the family. Your children are not going to remember the mistakes you make, but they probably will remember if you lose your temper and ruin the trip. Besides, smores taste almost as good with just the chocolate and maybe some peanut butter to sub for the marshmallows (can you tell that has happened to us?)

  • Count your blessings. Camping offers an incredible opportunity to spend quality as well as quantity time with your family. No television, no computers, no cell phones (well, two out of three is not too bad). I love the fact that we are all "forced" to be together without these outside influences that often separate us during the week.

Even if you think you are not the camping type, give it a try. If nothing else, there is nothing like a weekend of Mother Nature to make you appreciate a hot bath and cozy bed!


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