Start ‘Em Young: Camping with Kids

Words by Chris Zimmerman
Photos by Chris Zimmerman

My wife and I love to camp. And we love road trips. We’ve done everything from a two-week cross country trek to multiple 10-day trips throughout the West, a week-long winter trip into Interior British Columbia and plenty of weekend getaways in-between. Our love of camping, along with our desire to generally be more comfortable, led us to buying a pop-up camper last year. Being able to cook inside, have a heater and stand up were total game-changers to our camping situation. There’s nothing better than listening to the rain when you’re inside the camper with the furnace going and the wine flowing.

Then we had a kid.

Don’t get me wrong. This new family addition is the best thing ever. Much better than I could have even imagined. But it did throw a wrench in our camping plans. There are plenty of parents who feel trapped at home after having a baby and we didn’t want to end up like them. From the very beginning we began taking our daughter on walks to the local brewery, on drives and a few cabin overnighters. Now she loves being in the truck—or at least sleeping in it.

We had done a few short overnighters with her but never camped. With kids, there is no “good time” to start doing anything. You just have to go for it. (I write this fully aware—and only 4 months in—that I really don’t know shit.) Parts you think will be hard will be easy and parts you didn’t consider will be more complicated. There’s only one way to find out. So we loaded up the camper, picked a destination that wasn’t too far away and set out. To document this inaugural trip, we brought along the Polaroid OneStep2 Viewfinder Camera, ironically capturing images my parents could have taken of me back in 1984.

 

 


Even as an adult, waiting in the ferry line sucks. And if you have a cranky baby, it’s even worse. To help avoid some of the traffic, we left Saturday morning instead of Friday night like we usually would. This strategy paid off big time as we were the very last vehicle on the ferry and didn’t have to wait at all. I’d rather be last on the ferry instead of first on every time.


 

 


We ended up making great time getting out to the beach, but the windy conditions made it too cold for the baby to hang outside. Luckily we were able to pop the camper and make a cozy little zone she and my wife could hang out in while I tried to surf.


 

 


It was super windy, but I did get one wave before the wind started to push me way too far down the beach.


 

 


Even at day-use areas, it’s great being able to pop the camper and take a nap, make lunch or just hang out. One of the keys for camping with kids is to make sure they are comfortable, and this is a great way to do it.


 

 


Ever tried to change clothes in a tent or the bed of a truck? It sucks. What about change a diaper? No dice. Being able to stand up is one of the best things about the camper.


 

 


Since our kid is usually in bed by 8pm, we got some us-time to hang out around the fire. One of the things we looked when shopping for baby monitors was one that can be powered by a USB battery pack. We were able to set up the camera inside and keep an eye on her from the fire pit. Worked out great.


 

 

We made it back to the ferry line in one piece. Luckily there wasn’t too much of a wait this time of year, but she did great the whole time anyway.

The first thing you’ll learn when you start camping with your kids, as I did, is that you’re on their schedule. (Basically like the rest of your life.) When she’s hungry you need to stop and feed her. When she needs to nap you need to give her a chance to nap. We used this trip as a trial run to see what we need to do differently next time. We wanted to ease into this new era of life without going on a 1,000-mile, 10-day road trip—that will come later this summer. We learned a lot on this first trip and I’m sure we will continue to learn more each time we go out. It definitely helps having a badass wife who can take every challenge in stride. But there’s really only one way to start camping with kids, and that’s to just go for it.

To keep up with Chris and all his future adventures be sure to follow him @wayoutwritingclub

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