I bought a copy of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids by Helen Olsson a few years ago in a renewed flush of enthusiasm for holidays under the stars and would recommend it to anyone planning a camping trip with children.
What’s Camping with Kids about?
Written in an engaging and informative style Helen Olsson readily peppers the advice she gives with anecdotes from her own experiences as a mother of 3 young kids.
The focus of Camping with Kids is firmly on how to create happy memories with your children and the secret to that on a camping trip is good planning.
Whilst more experienced or regular campers may find the advice a little basic others will definitely appreciate the leave-nothing-to-chance packing checklists.
The book is written for an American audience so many of the references and resources may not be especially relevant for European readers but a quick question to Mrs Google will deliver a more local alternative, if necessary.
What the book covers
Camping with Kids is split into four parts:
- Part one – Getting started
- Planning your trip
- Gearing up
- Part two – In the field
- The campsite
- Camp grub
- Part three – Activities and adventures
- Outdoor recreation
- Campsite boredom busters
- Camp arts and crafts
- Part four – Hygiene, first aid and safety
- Daily hygiene – staying clean in a world of dirt
- Aches, pains, pesky plants and bugs
- General safety in the Great Outdoors
The Campsite boredom busters has some good ideas for games where no batteries are required. The Smart Tips and highlighted boxes on the pages make it easy to pick out information at a glance while the Knot Tying section with simple diagrams is bound to make you want to practice your skills.
I also like the extensive and varied Scavenger Hunt list.
In the back of the book is a very handy section of 17 (count them) packing checklists covering everything from the book.
Not so best bits
Unless your car is a Tardis on wheels you will find it hard to pack everything that the author recommends so use your judgement. That said, the lists mean that if you do omit something this is by decision not by forgetfulness.
There is only a half a page devoted to the importance of the weather on a camping trip and the advice is to camp in the summer, late spring or early fall, ie when the when it’s warm and sunny. This is where the book totally misses the mark for Irish campers – if we waited for weather like that we’d never go.
Why you should buy this book
This is a great book to read to get you in the mood for a camping trip, even if all it does is remind you to check your blow up mattress before you set off, not when you’ve already pitched the tent.
Camping with Kids will get you in the mood for outdoor adventures this year and may even help you to enjoy the preparation for your trip.