I grew up with an annual camping trip: it started with an old army canvas tent followed by a pop-up camper. The last few years of my childhood were actually spent backpacking in the backcountry of Algonquin Park. I marvelled at my parents’ bravery and organization of trekking their family of seven into the wilderness. I never dreamt of a different childhood for my kids. So, I tried to be brave and organized. I was a bound and determined (and stubborn) single mom who wasn’t going to let the fact that I was alone change my family camping dreams. Maybe I tried too soon? Let’s just say I had one trip with my 3 kids under 5 years old end miserably with a tent that was literally floating away at 2am and had to get rescued by my dad (he drove 2 hours to get us). I had another trip where I (again) packed up the tent in the middle of the night because I was afraid the endless wails of my 6 month old would make us bear meat.
Did I mention I was stubborn? I stumbled upon a 1995 Volkswagen Rialta and bought it. I have never been in a motor home (never mind drive one), and I never knew anyone who did. But I was sure if I bought that beautiful little box on wheels, I would succeed in my camping dreams. And you know what? I did. It was the best impulse purchase I have ever made, and it has been a huge part of the memories my little tribe and I have made together. Not like my camping memories as a kid, but our own version of the best parts of my childhood. I hope they feel the same about it as I do
With a lot of trial and error, here are my must-haves for camping with kids. We aren’t talking necessities here like sleeping bags, smores ingredients or wine - I mean the must-haves to keep everyone happy and entertained (including Mom)!
#1 Extendible Marshmallow Fork
I truthfully don’t mind searching for the perfect stick and whittling the end just right, but with three kids this turns into quite a project. My Uncle Dave and Aunt Theresa bought us these for Christmas a few years back, and they are a staple around here both for backyard bonfires and camping! They are easy to clean and store away, and expand to keep little fingers far enough from the flames. We included this deluxe version with a soft grip handle in our special edition Camping Box! Roast marshmallows to perfection on it, or cook a hotdog or sausage!
#2 Lightweight Packable Hammock
I came across one of these parachute hammocks about 5 years ago at JYSK (what a find!) and it is something we never leave home without. Our favorite part when we set up camp anywhere is finding the perfect two trees: the right distance apart, not too skinny and not too thick for the straps, with a little bit of clearing overhead for stargazing. This is always a spot everyone fights over for either a nap, reading, or gentle swinging.
#3 Embroidery Floss
For the obvious pastime of crafting friendship bracelets; we all come home with at least three or four by the end of any trip. Perfect for the long stretches on the road, or during storms when you’re stuck inside. Our signature, however, is what my family has called ‘The Payton Wrap’. Wrapping a small lock of hair using a simple bracelet making technique, it looks perfectly boho-hippie in my baby girl’s hair.
#4 Craft Project
Every year we have a specific project we work on that showcases everyone’s individual style. Last year we made dream catchers made of rings and sticks, decorated with leaves, feathers and rocks. The year before we personalized walking sticks wrapping the handles in leather and painted with individual style and flair. Believe me, it was a task to find the perfect one - it took a few days before everyone was satisfied with their find! This year we are trying our hand at Henna Art! We included this in our Camping Box as well, and I’ll keep you posted on Facebook and Instagram on how we make out!
#5 LED Helicopter
We love these so much, I had to make sure they were included in the Camping Box! They are little plastic helicopters with an LED light, that you slingshot straight up into the air with an elastic on a handle. Not only does it give a cool little light show, but it also whistles on the way down! We play a game in the dark where I fling it and the kids get points when they catch it: 2 points when caught in the air, 1 point if it hits the ground first.
#6 Card or Board Game
You can’t pack everything, but we always make sure the Dominos Train Game, a pack of cards, and Yahtzee make their way into our bags. This year, TENZI earned a spot! What a fun, fast-paced game for everyone to enjoy together!
Throughout this recent pandemic, everyone has had to rethink the way they do everything. From our daily lives to the way we vacation, things are a lot different. This is why we came up with the idea of a Camping Box (ages 6-12), with all the necessities!
Write and Wipe Placemats with Wonder Stix
Play tic tac toe, hangman, pictionary or doodle away!
Extendible Marshmallow Fork
Make epic smores, or some octopus hotdogs!
Try out our family game, or make up your own (we’d love to hear what you come up with!)
A fast paced, fun game of dice that the entire family can enjoy
Henna Magic (Girl Box)
Bring your temporary tattoos to the next level and show off your artistic skills
3D Wood Puzzle Model (Boy Box)
Fun project to do together! Take pictures of your finished model in different places throughout your adventures!
However you plan on spending the summer with your own tribe, remember to make those memories yours. We would love to hear how you use your Camping Box, and what adventures you explore in the upcoming months!
Michelle - Mom, Co-Founder and Vice-President