Tag Archives: Tent

Pack Your Bag and Head to the Woods: Great Fall Camping Sites Near You

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that fall is one of the best times to pack a bag and pitch a tent in the middle of the woods. Fall camping means colorful foliage swirling around, crisp air biting at your nose, and the opportunity to be completely immersed in the wilderness without having to worry about feeling sticky in your tent or freezing on the cold, hard ground. Really, does it get any better than having an autumn adventure? We made a list of some of the best state and national parks to spend the night in this fall.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Perfect Fall Camping Setting at Acadia National Park

Seriously, how is Acadia National Park allowed to even be real? [Image: http://bscrittersitter.blogspot.com/]

Of course Acadia National Park is a camping hub—with its gorgeous views and wide array of outdoor activities to partake in, it’s almost easier to make a list of things you can’t do here. You’ll find everything from mountain ranges and dense woodlands to vast expanses of beaches and sparkling waters. With a wide variety of different habitats comes the opportunity to see all the fall changes that come to each, which of course you can’t be expected to see in just one day.

Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas

Lost Maple State Natural Area in fall.

The colors, Duke, the colors. [Image: https://www.geocaching.com/]

Head out to the Lone Star State to watch the leaves change and enjoy the cooling weather—if the name wasn’t indicative enough, it’s an especially fantastic spot to peep some changing maple trees at! The Lost Maples State Natural Area is updating their website to note the changing foliage throughout November, advising when the best time for visiting would be. It’s a great resource to have to make sure you don’t accidentally show up after all the leaves have already fallen.

Kissimmee State Park, Florida

Kissimmee State Park trees.

Tour the gorgeous trees at Kissimmee State Park this fall. [Image: http://www.centralfloridahiker.com/]

Whether you’re looking to head out into the water or opt for a low-key, relaxing picnic instead, you’ll be accommodated at Kissimmee State Park. It also happens to be one of the most ideal places in Florida to extend your stay by a few days and relax into the warm weather. If you aren’t already aware, fall in Florida is entrancing and is not something to be missed.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park in fall.

Yosemite National Park, how’d you get to be so beautiful? [Image: https://www.scenicwonders.com/]

There’s a reason that Yosemite National Park has a reputation for its jaw-dropping views and plethora of outdoor activities. So it only makes sense that it’d have premium camping opportunities as well. Although a California autumn isn’t quite the same as an East Coast one, it still makes for a unique adventure that’s worth experiencing. Bottom line: You could definitely do worse than spending a few nights in Yosemite National Park this fall.

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park.

Although there aren’t any pretty leaves, we think we can forgive Snow Canyon as it’s still super beautiful. [Image: http://www.sandhollowresorts.com/]

A bit of a different direction—one that doesn’t exactly have the changing leaves we normally affiliate with fall. But spending a night in the hypnotizing Utah desert is a worthwhile venture regardless. Climb over the spreads of black lava and red rock cliffs during the day then collapse into a tent as the seemingly endless sky spreads out overhead. Can’t you picture it already? It’s just like a movie.

Perrot State Park, Wisconsin

Perrot State Park in autumn.

Breathtaking views and amazing foliage: Coming this autumn to Perrot State Park. [Image: https://philipschwarzphotography.wordpress.com/]

Some of the most picturesque campsites can be found in Perrot State Park, and they’re only enhanced by autumn and all its predictable changes. Many visitors come for the hiking, biking, and canoeing. Then they decide to stay so they can do it all again the next day.

Are you feeling convinced yet that fall camping is one of the best ways to spend your autumn? Good, we figured as much. Before you head out, make sure you download our handy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to aid in any and all of your explorations.

Figuring Out Your Camping Style

The first step in ensuring a positive camping experience is making sure you’re comfortable and happy at your site. After all, a night spent in the great outdoors should be a night well spent. Whether you want to be as close to the bare ground as possible or you’d rather sleep under the stars in style, determining your preference before you head out will make the difference between striking up a continued interest in camping or permanently putting out that flickering campfire in your heart. Here are five types of camping that can help you figure out what works best for you.

Glamping (Glamorous Camping)

A full living room inside of a tent.

Camp…er…GLAMP in style! [Image: http://eluxemagazine.com/travel/glamp-of-approval-great-glamping-sites-for-any-season/]

Glamping is perfect for those that want to enjoy the great outdoors, but don’t want to get their hands dirty while doing so. A relaxing weekend away from the stresses of every day life with all the conveniences of home at your fingertips makes for a great opportunity to clear your mind. Glamping can be done in villas, huts, yurts, cabins, lodges, or at park hotels and motels.

RV Camping

A family sitting near a campfire next to an RV in front of a the lake as the sun sets.

Gather the whole family for some cozy RV camping. [Image: http://blog.elmonterv.com/wordpress/photo-gallery/index.php/page/13/]

Similar to glamping, packing up an RV and driving to a campground offers a close-up view of nature’s beauty from the safety and comfort of a camper. An RV can be stocked with all the conveniences that you’re used to and is essentially just a home on wheels (mobile home—get it?). With the open road laid out ahead of you and a cool drink at your side, there’s not many vacations that can compare!

Car Camping

A car packed with camping gear parked in front of a mountain with a tent in the background.

Pack the car and head for the hills! [Image: http://blog.tahoemountainsports.com/2011/05/23/car-camping-list-checklist/]

A bit more rustic yet still comfortable, camping from the convenience of your car gives you easy access to a lot more supplies than just one or two backpacks can hold. It’s a way to get into nature and enjoy yourself while also making sure you didn’t forget your favorite jacket or lucky socks. Just make sure you pack the car in a well-organized and easily accessible way!

Tent Camping

A tent next to campfire in front of a lake as the sun sets.

A peaceful camping trip is just what the doctor ordered. [Image: http://media.onsugar.com/files/2010/10/42/1/912/9123837/8e33a8f26a0179cc_tent_camping.jpg]

When people typically think of camping, they imagine pitching a tent in the woods and cooking over a raging campfire. This style of camping is best for those outdoors enthusiasts that want to respect and honor the nature that they’re partaking in. Head for the hills with your tents in tow, and don’t forget to camp with the best interests of curious animal friends in mind during your stay.

Backpacking

A backpacker standing on a cliff as the sun rises.

Load up your backpack and go explore. [Image: http://www.travellinguide.com/photo-3162-1-the-15-best-backpacking-destinations-in-2015.html]

For those adventurers looking for a challenge and deeper connection to nature, backpacking is the best type of camping to take advantage of. A pair of reliable hiking boots, a backpack stuffed with lightweight camping gear, and good company are all you need before you set off on a backpacking adventure. Part hiking, part camping, it’s perfect for those who like to make a plan and stick to it—set your hiking course, figure out where you want to set up camp come nightfall, and you’re ready to go!

Whether you’re looking to get down and dirty in the woods or want to have a taste of nature with the comforts of your home, this list should help give you an idea of what type of camping you’re most suited for. Browse our Gear Store to get any last minute camping necessities, and don’t forget to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps before you head out to find an accommodating campsite near you!

Camping in the Wilderness

Setting up camp can be a hassle. But even more so when camping in the wilderness or a totally isolated place! Many campers want privacy and choose areas beyond the multitude of campers that station themselves in popular, often crowded spots. Check with you’re national or state park to see where you’re allowed to camp; some wildlife habitats are restricted from human-use. In case you don’t want to be totally stranded or lost, go for primitive camping!

If you don’t already have the items to sleep comfortably outdoors you have to purchase or borrow them. It would be ideal to sleep in the woods without needing anything, perhaps on a tree, but let’s be realistic. When a torrential downpour comes our way we want a comfy tent protecting us, and a warm sleeping bag for those high mountain winds. But we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves by carrying a tons of stuff we don’t need. The best policy is travel lightly, live simply, and learn to improvise.  Here’s a basic guide on what you’ll need to camp in the wilderness.

A girl, alone, camping in the wilderness.

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/+%23woman+%23camping

Camping Items:

Tent: Know weather conditions, number of people to find the tent with the right space, weight and price. You want a tent that is roomy, light, and moderately-priced. Is it easy to set up? Tents are separated by number of sleepers and seasons. 3-season tents are good for spring, summer and fall. If you’re anticipating humidity, make sure your tent has ventilating mesh panels. If you’re expecting to face harsh weather, a 4-season tent is best.

tent camping in the wilderness

Why not? [Image: www.tumblr.com]

Sleeping Bag: When choosing a sleeping bag, make sure it fits your body size. Check the temperature rating; most bags go between 15°F to 50°F. For example, if it says ” 30-degree bag,” the temperature should not fall below 30°F, otherwise your sleeping bag will not warm you. Bags can also differ by gender. There are three sleeping bag shapes to choose from: rectangular, barrel-shaped bags and double-wide bags that sleep two people.

Sleeping pad: Don’t let the bitter cold get you! A sleeping pad keeps your sleeping bag away from the cold, hard ground, and adds a cushioning layer. Think about weather, style of travel, thickness and weight when choosing the right sleeping pad. On the heavier side there are air pads and self-inflating pads. The basic foam pads are lighter, inexpensive, but somewhat stiff.

Two hikers on their way to camping in the wilderness.

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/wilderness+camping

Backpack: Depending on length of travel, preference and body size, you can pick between a variety of backpacks. Go with a lighter bag if you plan on climbing or hiking 1 to 2 nights. Consider the size of your torso when choosing a backpack. There are backpacks especially designed for women. Check for extra pockets, compartments, and water reservoirs (some backpacks come with this feature).

Food: You need to decide whether you’re cooking. Are you fishing or hunting? Otherwise take protein bars, freeze dry food, and food that can easily be cooked. Salad, fruit, vegan-food, burgers, hot-dogs, and sandwiches are the easiest to cook up when camping.

cast iron skillet and kettle on a stove outdoors

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/campfire+cooking

Food Storage: If you’re camping in bear country make sure to take a bear canister with you to keep your food safe. You don’t want bears attacking your tent! Some parks have large food storage compartments at each tent site. For light-use, try picnic coolers with shoulder straps and backpack coolers. For larger groups, try chest coolers.

Lighting Materials: If you’re cooking, you’ll need matches and lighter fluid. You can’t eat chips and peanuts all day! Gasoline is not a good idea; it will make the fire uncontrollable. Make sure open fires are allowed, since campfires may not be permitted in certain parks. If campfires are permitted and a fire grate or pit is not present at the campsite, scout out your campsite for an appropriate place. Pick an area that is not bushy or full of low-lying branches, and keep your campfire low. You can also make fire by using the battery/wool, or the flint/knife method as seen below.

 

Cooking Equipment: If campfires seem too stressful, try using a campstove or a solar oven. To experience old-timey outdoors cooking, try cooking with a cast iron pot, dutch oven or a grill.

Cooking with a cauldron on an open fire

[Cauldron Image: www.tumblr.com/search/campfire+cooking]

Wood: The best wood is the small, thin stuff (twigs, small branches, leaves, birch bark), but it must be dry. Most parks don’t allow outside wood, since it might contain invasive species, so you’re better off buying it at the campground or finding fallen wood far from your site. Never cut live trees at the campground. Make sure to fully put out the fire when you’re done. Campfires can deplete soil nutrients, so be aware how and where you build your campfire.

Thermo/Canteen: You’ll be needing this for water, juice, tea or coffee. BPA- free, stainless steel insulated canteens are best for hot and cold insulation for many hours.

First Aid: You can make you’re own first-aid kit by storing band-aids, antibacterial ointment, large bandages, alcohol packets, gauze pads, fabric bandages, and medical adhesive tape or safety pins in a small receptacle.

Flashlight: LED flashlights are now smaller and brighter. When buying a flashlight, consider its use, battery type, size, ruggedness, and if it’s water resistant. Solar-powered flashlights and headlamps are also advisable.

Multi-use knife: Ideally, you should have two: one for cutting food and the other for doing manual work. If you don’t have two, one knife will be sufficient.

Wilderness camping knife on a rock

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/outdoors+knife

Biodegradable Soap: It’s important to leave a light footprint when going to these secluded places. Try a soap that is organic or biodegradable. Make sure to use it far away from the water source.

Hiking Boots: Sneakers are often too light and provide little cushion. Hiking boots can take you through rocky trails and slopes without much damage to your feet and knees.

Wooden utensils, plates and cups: Choose lightweight over bulkiness. These are easy to wash and don’t contain chemicals.

Tarp: It’s extra protection in case you encounter heavy rain or your tent rips.

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more! And remember to breath, take in the scenery, and write about it. There’s nothing like recording your thoughts while being surrounded by nature.

girl writing in her notebook in the wilderness

Image: www.tumblr.com

Staying Warm While Winter Camping

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Cold Camping

Cold Camping (image: www.flickr.com/photos/90028379@N00/6887082378)

Winter camping is camping at its purest form. No big crowds, and you’re out in the backcountry, alone against the harsh elements. For many, winter camping is a heightened endeavor due to the varying conditions, the unpredictable temperature, and the sometimes-uncomfortable atmosphere. Despite the harshness of the experience, there are several ways to make it a warmer, cozier, and more enjoyable trip. By making changes to your diet, sleeping habits, and clothing, it is possible to get the best out of winter camping.

Food

winter camping

SALAMI (Photo credit: Renée S. Suen)

Our bodies are constantly burning fat to stay warm, especially in colder climates. Burning energy generates heat, which translates into warmth for the body. When camping in the winter, it is best to eat more frequently than usual, especially because the cold weather can sometimes cause a lack of appetite, especially at high altitudes. A common trick for many mountaineers and high altitude adventurers is to eat foods that are commonly high in fat such as dry salami and other cured meats, since their bodies burn all that extra energy. If on an extended alpine touring or snowshoe trip, eating bread, pasta, grains, and candy can provide necessary carbohydrates to keep moving efficiently.

Also, it’s a good idea to eat a snack in the middle of the night to make up for lost calories. Cold air can quickly suck out moisture so another way to keep warm is to drink hot water with lemon or hot tea. Alcohol is discouraged, as it risks dehydrating the body even further.

Sleeping

gear : sleeping bag-MountainHardWear ULTRALAMI...

gear : sleeping bag-MountainHardWear ULTRALAMINA 32 (Photo credit: b.m.p.)

Although it may seem cozy, it is a bad idea to turn the sleeping bag into a “cocoon”. If the entire body is submerged within the confines of the sleeping bag, the breath can cause unwanted condensation and form ice crystals inside, negating the bag’s warmth-giving qualities. If using a mummy-style bag, it is acceptable to pull the draws tight around the head but keep the nostrils and mouth exposed to the air, so condensation is directed upwards. Before going to sleep, fill a Nalgene bottle with boiling water and keep it inside at the foot of the bag. The bottle will lose its heat overnight but will be warm and frostless in the morning.

Clothing

winter hiking in Finland Suomi: Retkeily

winter hiking in Finland Suomi: Retkeily (image: commons.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Winter_hiking_in_Finland_2007.JPG)

The three-layer system is well known: A base layer, a mid layer, and a top down layer, but the most important part is keeping all layers dry at all times. Occasionally snow will enter or condensation can build up, so keep all extra layers inside the tent to dry. Additionally, remove the insoles from hiking boots or the inner layer inside plastic mountaineering boots, and carry an extra dry pair of socks to wear around the campsite. Carefully dry damp clothes, as they run the risk of freezing overnight. When stuffing clothes inside of a backpack, line the backpack with a plastic garbage bag to keep any snow or water from entering.

When winter camping, the best way to stay warm is keeping all your equipment as dry as possible, eating foods that are going to burn calories, and minimizing the perspiration or condensation that may develop inside the sleeping bag or the tent. When choosing a sleeping bag or a tent, judge the area and the possible temperature carefully, as having a bag or tent that is rated too high or too low depending on the season can make the trip much more uncomfortable. Stay smart and as always, the best way to stay warm is to keep close to your camping partners.

Backyard Camping in December

Contributed by Al Quackenbush, The SoCal Bowhunter

December nights usually greet you with a bite to them, so let’s face it – the incredibly cold month is not usually the time you would think of going camping. But even though camping is one of those activities that’s meant for summer for most folks, you can do it year round, and it’s a great deal of fun! My daughter, who loves to be outdoors, asked me if we could do some backyard camping while I was on vacation. I thought it was a great idea, so that is exactly what we did.

There are some great benefits to backyard camping. Sure, it is not ‘roughing it,’ but think of what you and your kids can get out of it. First, there is the time you spend together doing an outdoor activity. Camping is something that kids usually love to do because it breaks from the norm and it allows you time away from the TV, the comfort of having heat pumped into the house, and you have to do a little work to have fun. Secondly, camping in the backyard allows you to share some great camping basics with your kids, so when you decide to camp in the wilderness at another time, they have the necessary skills to help out. Thirdly, you get to spend some quality time with your kids.

For nearly a year, I have had a solo tent sitting in the bow, unopened, in my garage. I also had the cot that it attached to and figured there was no better time than now to set it up. Sure, it’s meant to be a one-person tent, but a four year-old won’t take up that much space. Plus, I knew I could situate myself to be sure she had room. We had camped together before, but it was in a four-person tent and setting up the tent was an adventure in itself. This time the set-up would be much shorter and a lot more fun!

Backyard Camping

We did things backwards on our ‘camping trip’ and it was great. Instead of packing first and then setting up camp, we set up camp and then decided on what we would bring out. I set the cot up by myself because it’s beefy – it weighs 26 lbs. The solo tent was fun to set up with my daughter. She was eager to help and I allowed her to do whatever she was safely able to do. The smiles were great and seeing the satisfaction on her face when she did something properly was fantastic! Giving her the opportunity to listen to instruction and allowing her to help is something that any parent loves to see. It helps our kids build the confidence they will need for future problem solving.

Once the tent was set up, my daughter practically begged me to get in and check it out. Once inside, she insisted we get our sleeping bags, pillows, and fun stuff we had written down on her notepad the night before.

I am a big fan of making lists and she was eager to check off the items as we gathered them. Flashlights, stuffed animals, and hot chocolate in tow, we ventured the thirty feet to the tent. After we dropped off our sleeping materials, we put on our hats and gloves, set up chairs, and prepared to make some Snowman Soup. In case you have never heard of it, Snowman Soup is just hot chocolate with some fun marshmallows, a Hershey Kiss in the bottom of the mug, and you stir it with a candy cane.

My daughter was looking forward to seeing how I heated water in the backcountry. I have mentioned my JetBoil to her before, but I had never had the opportunity to fire it up until then. Watching her face light up as the water boiled was great. She couldn’t wait to see how we would make hot chocolate ‘camping,’ even though we were thirty feet from the kitchen. It’s great to see the wheels turning in your child’s head as you share with them something you take for granted.

With the hot chocolate in our mugs, we sat back and began to talk. Not just small talk, but a great conversation with my only child. She wanted to hold her mug like a big girl and kept asking if we could sit back and chat. Yeah, the sugar rush from the Snowman Soup was awesome, but I had a great time listening to my little girl share stories and ask me to tell her some of mine. It was the most grown up conversation we had and it was amazing. There were no worries about having something else to do or someplace else to be. This was a moment I will always remember.

After a story, she fell right to sleep. The weather turned colder and reached into the mid-fifties overnight. It wasn’t freezing, but when you are left with no covers and have not a hair on your head, it feels mighty cold! It was a rough night of sleeping for me, but I didn’t care. I wanted her to fully enjoy the experience.

Waking the next morning, she was ready for breakfast, but not ready to give up on camping – quite the opposite. She asked if we could camp out one more night. How could I say no? I wholeheartedly said, “yes we can,” and we began planning for the evening.

Most of it was the same, but there was heavy humidity in the air and it got colder. After adding an additional sleeping bag, some hats and gloves, and making some more Snowman Soup, we made our way to the tent. It was covered in moisture and you could feel it in the air. I was sure to tell my daughter that if she got cold or wet that we could go inside. It turns out my daughter is a tough cookie as she slept through the night without a peep!

The temperature dropped to forty-six degrees that night and she said she was toasty warm in the 20-degree sleeping bag I had for her. I even slept like a baby and slept in past what I normally do in my own bed!

There was condensation on the inside of the rain fly and on the outside of the tent, but we didn’t care. We had a great time and now my daughter can’t stop asking when we are going to go camping again. I love that! Now that she has camped a couple times in our backyard, I have promised her that we are going to start looking at doing some real camping very soon. She and I both started making our lists already.

Backyard camping

Camping with inTENT: The Coolest Tents Around

While in nature, your tent is considered your home, so it makes sense that you’d want the best house on the block. You may not be able to have a grand staircase or wood-burning fireplace, or a unique concept that hasn’t been made a reality yet, (such as the floating tent and the Titanic tent), but we’ve found some of the coolest (and real) tents around for those who like camping with a bit of eccentricity.

The JakPak tent

coolest tents around

Image: www.bonjourlife.com

First up is probably the coolest camping tent on our list. This contraption not only doubles but triples as a jacket, sleeping bag AND tent. It sounds complicated, but it’s pretty easy to use. It’s lightweight, so you can carry around anywhere. Once you’ve arrived at your overnight camping destination, just remove the jacket, unzip and unfold.  

The inflatable transparent bubble tent 

Image: www.huffpost.com

Image: www.huffpost.com

Think: what would happen if A Clockwork Orange had a baby with The Boy in the Plastic Bubble? Well, that baby would totally be the transparent bubble tent. This modern, chic tent is a plastic paradise. Its aim is to get people as close to nature as possible: French designer Pierre Staphanie Dumas said his design’s purpose is to “spend an unusual night in the nature” and take advantage of “a multifunction life space all year long.” Many variations of these “bubble” tents exist around the world. This tent allows campers to see around their camping area at all times, plus, it’ll let campers see the stars at night while they’re falling asleep. This cool camping tent is one for the books!

Dawg-E Tent

Image: http://www.jewettcameron.com

Image: http://www.jewettcameron.com

Man’s best friend needs his own space sometimes. In fact, some campers think it’s a good idea to invest in tents for their dogs. Lucky Dog’s Dawg-e-Tent is the perfect getaway spot for your pooch. It only takes a few seconds to assemble and disassemble. The tent comes with a fleece mat and is water resistant. The tent is modeled after a regular tent, which means your pet/s will enjoy the same camping experience you do. With this cool camping tent,  your dog will want to go to the dog house.

Dimension sizes are:

  • Small: 14″ L x 14″ W x 22″ H, 6.1 lb.
  • Medium: 24″ L x 24″ W x 35″ H, 10.1 lb.
  • Large: 31″ L x 31″ W x 47″ H, 12.3 lb.

The Cot Tent

Image: www.store.kamprite.com

Image: www.store.kamprite.com

The cot tent is for those who prefer a little elevation with their relaxation. This tent includes a full-coverage fly, a 1,500 mm waterproof-rated coating and a patent-pending rain-gutter system that keeps zippers dry and ensures the camper is protected from the outside forces of nature. The tent also boasts cup holders, an organizer panel to keep your camping items organized and closeby and a zippered storage bag.

At 56” x 88”, the tent is big enough for two people. After you’ve finished your camping excursion, the tent folds up and fits into a handy carrying bag.

Need a place to try out your totally awesome new tent? How about at your nearest state park? Download our free Pocket Ranger® mobile app and let the adventure begin.

First Time Camping

Contributed by Al Quackenbush, The SoCal Bowhunter Camping outCamping has always been a part of my childhood that I love to reminisce about: the cooking out under the stars, the long hikes to nowhere, the adventure of sleeping behind four walls of nylon. As a kid, you never really think about the work involved and planning that takes place. To be honest, that’s the way it should be! This past weekend, I took my daughter on her first camping experience and wanted her to remember it well. Riley and I have talked about camping for a while now and there always seemed to be something that threw the plan off. Not this weekend! We had one night to camp and we decided to do it urban style… right in the backyard. This would be Riley’s first ever campout. I wanted to make it memorable in the best possible way for her; she would only see the FUN side of camping. My goal for the night was to make it so enjoyable she would ask to go camping again. As parents, we should focus on these things with our children. They will learn about work and tough stuff as they grow, but showing them the fun side and allowing them to be kids is something many of us lose sight of.

As I started to pull down the sleeping bags, pads, and tent from the garage, Riley asked me if she could help. A four-year-old asking if she can help! I wasn’t going to make her do anything, but I knew if I allowed her to help, no matter how long it might take to set up camp, she would remember it. Handing her a sleeping bag, she claimed it was too heavy, so I said I would take it. Immediately she responded with: “No, I can do it.” That’s my girl! Setting up the tent was wonderful in many ways. First, she wanted to help me unfold it and get it in the right place, which she did with a smile. I showed her how to put the poles together, but knowing full well they would be too much for her to handle I said I could do them and she could go on an adventure. Even in our 150 sq. ft. backyard there is an adventure to be had.

Once I had the poles together and began erecting the tent, she watched in amazement. She had so many questions and I absolutely loved it! With the tent up, we set off to get the pads and bags into the tent. She was a big help the entire way and I could tell she really enjoyed it. I made sure to tell her that a tent is not complete without stuffed animals and a few books to read, and she promptly agreed. Inside the house we went for pillows, books, and stuffed companions. Watching her try to carry out six large stuffed animals was great. This time she let me help carry a few, just so they wouldn’t get dirty.

Once it cooled down and night had fallen, my wife made a trip to the store to surprise us with s’mores fixings! A lack of a fire pit didn’t slow us down as we roasted marshmallows over the gas stove and made the best s’mores ever! Riley agrees that s’mores are a great dessert, no matter what the occasion. I didn’t tell her, but I was going to let Riley stay up late and have fun. We read some stories, but most of all she wanted to hear about my camping adventures when I was young. It was a great opportunity to tell her about the adventures her Grandpa Q, Uncle Ben, and I went on in back in the day. She soaked up every word and I enjoyed sharing every single story. I had a great childhood and was able to experience so much because my parents were creative and fun. I wanted to be sure to return the favor.

Girl in a tent Waking up at a tentShadow puppets and listening to some of her stories followed and before long I could see her eyes getting heavy. After our bedtime prayers, we laid down and went to sleep. Well, she did. She slept well while our neighbors’ dog flipped over plastic tubs or something for a couple hours in their garage and that kept me up. Then there was the sprawling out and feet in my face as Riley moved around in her sleep. I honestly had to laugh because she was sleeping in a tent for the first time and I was happy. I was able to get some sleep, but woke up at 7:00 AM ready for coffee. Wouldn’t you know it, a few minutes later, Riley popped up and said, “Good morning Daddy!” She immediately wanted to call Mommy on the walkie-talkie and after a quick, ‘We had better not do that at 7:00 AM on a Saturday,’ she decided to read me a few nursery rhymes. Soon after, she wanted to open the zipped up window to see what was outside. Our resident hummingbird was there to greet us just before getting his breakfast. Riley pointed him out, along with a few other birds. Riley was all smiles and ready to play in the tent. She said she had enjoyed a great night of camping with her dad…and you know what? So did I.