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Q&A and a camping book giveaway!

by Justin on April 30, 2012

The Down and Dirty Guide Camping With Kids

The Down and Dirty Guide Camping With Kids

I’m hosting a give away! Want to win a copy of “The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids”? Simply leave a comment of your best camping experience with kids to be entered! The winner will be announced Saturday May 12, 2012.

I highly recommend this book to any family that is looking into camping for the first time or that is newer to camping. The book is 254 pages and features chapters on camp topics such as:

  • Planning your camping trip
  • How to choose the right camping gear, tents, sleeping bags, and more
  • Camp grub. What’s for dinner? This book will help you plan your meals while out enjoying nature
  • Camp boredom: Boredom is a preventable disease 🙂 This book has some ideas on games for all ages
  • Daily hygene
  • Camp safety
  • and more!!

The entire chapter devoted on what to cook and camp planning is great. You will know exactly what you’re having for your meals and what should go into backpacks on those hikes. There is also a section for brewing a cup of the perfect camp joe, for those coffee drinkers.

Another cool tip is for star gazing. Because most camp sites are miles away from the lights of the city this is the perfect time for gazing up at the stars on a clear night. Being a tech guy I noticed the mention of Google Sky Map. It’s a free app for Android phones that lets you hold your phone up to the sky and uses your GPS to show on the screen any constellations, planets, or stars that should be visible when you move your phone. I recommend this app for fellow amateur star gazers.

The book also has great tips. Tips such as “use fluorescent or brightly colored ribbon to tie bows on your tents guylines. This will keep the kids (because adults NEVER trip over those lines) safe around the tent”.

Here is my Q&A Helen Olsson, author of The Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids

At what age did you first take your children camping, and how long of a trip was it?
When our oldest of three children was 11 months old, we took him on a backpacking trip on the flanks of Steamboat in Colorado. He was still in diapers and breastfeeding. I loved camping with my babies because they were so portable. We put our son in our Kelty baby backpack carrier (a critical piece of gear) and hiked to our campsite while he napped. It’s when kids can toddle around that things get a little more complicated. I clearly remember thinking how great headlamps are for camping with babies, as I dangled a slippery flashlight between my teeth at midnight, changing his diaper in a nest of sleeping bags.

What are your kids’ favorite campfire snack?
S’mores are so old school! We like to raid our pantry at home, bringing along candied ginger, dried cherries, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and coconut, as well as fresh fruit like strawberries and blueberries. For dessert, we open up the s’mores bar. Which is to say, we dig holes in marshmallows and stuff in different combos of goodies. For example, a marshmallow stuffed with a cherry and some chocolate chips and roasted over the campfire is a chocolate cherry bomb. Mmmmm. The kids also love to make apple pie s’mores and bananas foster over the campfire. (Recipes are in my book and at my website,

What is your family’s favorite thing to do when out camping?
We love to take a long leisurely hike with the kids. Hiking, of course, sounds like a simple endeavor, but most parents know that a hike with small kids can be fraught with grief. I have a beefy section in my book with tips for hiking with kids. For one, never ever use the word “hike.” It’s a four-letter word. Also, dangle the destination carrot. Tell kids you’re going on an adventure to see a haunted miner’s cabin or to throw rocks in a pond and look for frogs.

For first time campers what is the best way to prepare a child for sleeping outdoors overnight? Any tips to alleviate the child’s anxiety about that first night in the tent?
It’s important to make sure all the comfort devices from home are in place in a tent. If a child sleeps with a security blanket, a binky, a favorite stuffed animal, don’t forget to pack it. If your child sleeps with a nightlight at home, bring along a portable nightlight for the tent. You can also bring along glow sticks. Children can play with them before bedtime (light show!) and then you can tuck them into the pockets of the tent, where they’ll give off a comforting glow. And if you always read to your kids at bedtime, keep the routine by bringing along books. My kids never had anything but raw excitement for sleeping outdoors, but if kids are truly anxious, another tactic is to set up the tent in the backyard and have your first campout close to home.

25 comments… read them below or add one

Lois Sorlie April 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Our favorite part of camping is being together as a family with no outside interruptions. Gives us time to talk and just stare into the campfire at night. We usually sleep so well after being in the outdoors throughout the day. Also, whatever we cook always tastes so much better when cooked outdoors. The only thing we need to master yet is the hiking part. One of our children is not so fond of hiking so I appreciated your helpful hints on this matter.


Justin April 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm

You’re right Lois any food cooked outdoors just tastes better.


Janet April 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

OK – so I haven’t actually been camping with my six year old yet, and he is asking me to take him – which is why I can’t wait to read this book. I need the help! We do love hiking, and I know some of these tips will help out “day trippers” like me.


Justin April 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I’ll bet your six year old will love spending an evening under the night sky. You could always try a backyard campout 🙂


Jen April 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Best camping experience ever was with ten 4th grade girl scouts at 11,400 feet. I had done this hike many times before, but never in the summer. When we hit the trail, with no map-because it’s a really easy hike, it never occurred to us that the winter trail is closed in the summer. We cut through thorny bushes, creeks and rocks and made it to the top. The caretaker who looks after the huts asked us upon arrival, “Where’s your car?” – we didn’t realize driving was an option either!! Needless to say, we took the road down on the way home.

Best part was the Snipe Hunt with pillow cases!


Justin April 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Haha! The snipe hunts! Gotta love them!


Francesca Painter April 30, 2012 at 5:56 pm

We were amazed at how well our kids took to camping and how natural they are in the outdoors. My favorite camping trip was when my son was 4 and my daughter was 5. They ran around for hours making up games to play in the woods – they needed nothing but the surroundings and their imagination to occupy them. Then my daughter just went straight into her sleeping bag in the tent and fell asleep (she normally would require a long bed time routine). She felt so comfortable. My son wanted to fall asleep in front of the campfire and that he did. It helped to really listen to their cues. Boy, I wish I had known that advice about not using the “Hike” word! Now, the word “s’mores” has a much better effect…


Julie Gelderloos April 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm

What an excellent idea for a book! Our best vacations have included camping with our two boys. We started when the oldest was 6 mos old and I wish I had Helen’s book because it was the longest 22 hours of my life… We went with a group and I was so worried his cries would wake everyone else up (he was the only kid in the group). I was also paranoid that he would be cold all night. But he was quiet, warm and my worries were for naught. He is now 13 yrs and just did a week of backpacking through Paria Canyon with Scouts. He loved it so, he is taking our whole family on a backpack trip next month through some other slot canyons – I can’t wait! I love that cozy feeling when we are all in the tent together – I feel like quite the hen with all her brood in the nest…


Tom C. April 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Best camping experience is hard to decide, they are all fun for different reasons. Probably camping along the Colorado River near Fruita, CO was my favorite, the kids had endless fun along the beach and in the water, and the hikes- oops I mean explorations- were achievable and suitably impressive for all ages.


Justin April 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

There you go! You’re not going on a hike, it’s an exploration!


Janet April 30, 2012 at 11:09 pm

My son loves camping. One memorable experience was camping in Yosemite National Park, he was 2 years old, we played hide and seek behind the giant pine trees for hours. He would hide behind a tree then make a mad dash to the next tree laughing all the way. Camping provides a time for our family to slow down and spend time together. We always go for an after dinner adventure and stay up late around the camp fire, everyone sleeps well. Great advice about destinations rather than hikes.


diane May 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm

We love camping with our kids. The first time our eldest was 10 months old and he spent the entire weekend collecting rocks, bugs and loads of dirt all over himself. Now when we camp, there is still a lot of dirt but the kids enjoy so much freedom being outside, away from the usual distractions. I love this quality family time. Every year we go on at least 2 long weekend camp outs with friends who also have kids. They all go exploring, set up “forts” and generally become feral for 3 days and we encourage it! Thanks Helen for writing this book, I can’t wait to get new tips for fun things to do in the great outdoors. Also, love the illustrations…


jenna c. May 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

we love camping and try to do a big trip (couple of weeks) at least once a year. our best was camping in late may in bryce canyon, and waking up to a couple of inches of snow. the kids loved it! this book sounds so great – i always look for more tips from experienced campers on how to make it great for kids. thanks!


Justin May 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm

A couple weeks is a nice long camping trip Jenna! Snow in May around here would be great! It is in the 90’s here today.


Christina Brady May 3, 2012 at 6:32 am

Our best camping experience with kids was on the beach of the Arabian Gulf. Camping on the beach is always fun since the kids can go shoeless and a swim can be part of the morning wake up. Best part of this adventure though was waking up to the local fisher guys with small boats pulling their long nets onto the shore at sunrise, and then seeing how they sort for the keepers and toss back the pesky jellyfish. Had no idea we were gonna see this so we felt like we got the bonus camp experience.


Justin May 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

That sounds fun camping on the beach Christina! Ours is usually out in the woods.


mary shack May 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I remember as a kid my most memorable camping experience was in Yosemite. A bear found our neighbor’s car and somehow sniffed out a coca-cola. The bear tore the door off the car then pulled the cooler to an open position, the lid would have never opened inside the car but the bear re-adjusted the height of the roof to facilitate getting at the contents of the cooler. We watched him (horrified) as he plopped down between our campsite and theirs while he guzzled a coke and ate sugared cereal out of the box. I was never the same person after that experience!!


Justin May 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

Wow I bet! Reminds me of the commercials around Christmas with the polar bears drinking coke.


Helen Olsson May 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Whoa! that’s the craziest bear story i ever heard, and i have a bunch of bear stories of my own. We had one come into our campsite in the Adirondacks and my sister said, “Shhhhh. Don’t scare it.” As if. I made the biggest racket I could.


Suzette H May 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

Last year was the first time I took both my boys camping. They were 7 yrs old and 15 months old. They both did great! I was scared that my little one would wake up crying and disrupt the whole campground, but he did good. Since last year was our first time camping, I think we learned a lot of do’s and don’ts. I can not wait for this year that the boys are a little bit bigger.


Justin May 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

That’s awesome Suzette! Hope they enjoy camping this year too!


Erin May 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I went camping often as a kid — it’s really one of my favorite childhood memories. My husband and I also went when we were first married. Cooking over a campfire is the best part! We haven’t taken our kids yet — but reading this interview has inspired me. A childhood isn’t complete without it! This book is now on my must read list!


Justin May 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

It’s definitely a good read Erin! Good luck! Maybe start off with a backyard camp out with the kids?


Justin May 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm
Shari May 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm

We just enjoyed a great time at Brazos Bend State Park with the kids. We highly recommend this area to anyone who’s looking for a great place to camp or hike with kids in the Houston area.

The Saturday that we were there they had a great geocaching program. They even provide a GPS unit and teach you and the kids how to enjoy this great outdoor sport. Brazos Bend has almost 100 geocaches, so there’s plenty to find. Plus, they have their Geocaching 101 program most Saturdays.

We went because we wanted to see alligators and we saw lots. This makes for a great place for the kids to bring their binoculars and have a successful time finding wildlife to view close-up. We also saw turtles, lizards and frogs. What fun!


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