Camping, sleep & kids..our survival tips!

Yay Christmas is coming and this means camping. I’ve camped all my life, from 6 months old apparently. We’ve kept up a strong family history of camping, often going away for 2-3 weeks with extended family. We like to camp in remote locations, with little in the way of facilities…the best locations are usually DOC camps or those in the middle of nowhere.

We’ve had some amazing holidays and some rather hairy camping experiences. The year before last was a metre high flash flood through the camp, and last year was the highest rainfall ever recorded in the Rotorua district. Great! This year we’re crossing our fingers and toes, and splashing out on a new family set of gumboots just in case!

So I thought it was timely to share a few pearls of wisdom for those of you embarking on your first camping trip, or your first camping trip with kids…cause its just a little bit different from camping without kids!!

Here’s my tips in no particular order….

1. Buy a trailer. Seriously, buy it now. Don’t even try to pack all your camping gear in your boot unless you drive a military sized truck. You will then be able to take a really big tent (see tip 2) and all the things that will save your sanity, like a table, chairs and your kids bikes.

2. Buy the biggest tent you can afford and make sure it is waterproof. Seriously, some tents aren’t. And make sure it can stand up to a decent wind, just because its summer doesn’t mean the weather will be good!!!  And ideally have separate rooms in your tent, so you can have your own space, keep your things clean and dry, and also kids sleep better (and parents) when you are in your own room. Even if the walls are canvas!

3. Nightlights….it gets very dark in the middle of nowhere and kids who are used to a nightlight will squeal very loadly in the middle of the night when they wake up and its VERY dark. Battery operated ones or you can be eco and try solar powered ones. Also get some solar powered outside ones to show where your tent ropes are..or you will definitely trip over them when you get up to the loo.

4. if you are pregnant, pack an extra container to pee in during the night. Actually even if you are not pregnant, getting up in the rain and dark to walk to a long-drop is not fun. One of the low points of camping….be prepared!

5. Are we there yet? If you are travelling more than about 5 hours, consider breaking the journey and stay in a cabin or motel for a night on the way. Driving long distances takes a long time with kids, and don’t forget to allow time to set up your tent (especially if its new) before it gets dark!

6. Take LOTS of things to do….board games, card games, an artbox with paper, pens and stickers, buckets and spades, bikes, balls, cricket bat, rope for making swings. Take stuff for fine weather but be prepared for rain…sorry!

7. Take lots of warm clothing. Nights can be freezing in the summer, so ensure everyone has the following on their packing list..wool hat, wool socks, gumboots, decent raincoat, several sets of merinos or thermals (great for bed), sunhat…and all your usual stuff.

8. Take lots of bedding. Basically work out what you think you need, then add more for bedwetting, leaky tents, and then add more blankets cause it will be colder at night than you expect. Don’t forget an under-blanket for everyone too, because camp beds and airbeds are freezing to sleep on.

9. Remember to pack warm things for YOU! It’s very easy to forget extra bedding for you, and enough warm clothes for you….and did I mention gumboots?

10. Food. Make it simple! Cook things like spag bol at home and freeze in a icecream container. They stay frozen for days and you just heat it up! Kids can survive many days on baked beans and tinned spaghetti. It depends how remote you are going as to how much you need to take..but remember lots of snacks as the fresh air makes kids (and grownups) hungry. Take a portable BBQ if you have one…you can’t beat sausages, bread and sauce…quick and delicious. You can have veges when you get home.

11. Frozen milk! Freeze some big bottles of milk, a mixture of 1, 2 & 3 L bottles is good. If you are going remote you won’t be able to buy milk….but a 3L of milk takes many days to defrost so it keeps your chilly bin cold. And on that note, avoid opening your chilly bin. Every time you open it, it warms up a bit. We take a couple – one for things you are using regularly like margarine or cheese, and the other one which we only open very occasionally…like to sneak out the cold sav at 5pm. Yes wine oclock definitely still applies when you are camping, sometimes even a bit earlier than at home.

12. Don’t camp by a river. Ever. No matter how good the weather forecast or how far away from the river you think you are. Rivers can rise in a very scary quick time, as we found out when a metre of water went through our tent in a flash flood. Lucky we had had the sense to remove ourselves half an hour before.

13. Other useful things to pack that you might not have thought of…insect repellent, sunscreen, brush & pan to sweep all the crap out of your tent, lots of rope, clothes pegs, matches, spare gas for your cooker, solar shower, waterproof picnic rug (especially if you have little kids), waterproof overpants if you have crawlers (the dew can make grass very wet!!), a gazeboo or tarpoline/ropes and poles to make one (you need to have some shade), your highchair, tables (1 to eat at, 1 to cook on), lots of buckets for collecting water, something to wash your dishes and your kids in, dish washing liquid, pot scrubber & dishbrush, papertowels, loo paper, really good first aid kit, antihistomine, PAMOL, small transister radio for white noise, Torches, nightlight, batteries galore….and gumboots!

14. Throw your kids routine and usual bedtime out the window. There will be other kids playing and being loud, and your kids will not go to sleep when there is fun to be had. And it will be really light and you will be pushing the proverbial up hill…go with the flow, kick back and let the kids play until its dark. What about their regular bedtime??? What about it! You are camping and different rules aply. And you might even get a bit of a sleep in.

15. Travel cots…make sure your little one can sleep in it before you hit the camping ground. make sure you have watched the YouTube videos showing how you put it up, and more importantly, fold it up. Remember to pack it (I forgot one year and had to have it sent by courier!!) . And if your child is an escape artist, I recommend a twisty tie (those little wire things that used to close plastic bags) to keep the two zipper ends closed. Also handy if your child can sleep in the buggy..pack a blackout shade for your buggy, as often it is actually cooler under a tree than in the tent during the day.

16. Take something good to read and eat. You might find you actually get a holiday too. Take some really good chocolate, some wine and a good book.

We wish you a wonderful camping adventure with your little ones and look forward to hearing your stories and seeing your photos. And our fingers and toes are crossed for good weather for you and us! xx

Louise xx


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