At the beginning of the summer, I shared our first experience of camping with two kids. Now I’m sharing what we’ve learned after a summer of camping and outdoor adventures with our kids. (Read Part 1 here.)
We camped a total of four times this summer (not including the two times Peter camped out in the backyard with Pearl). We never left the Sunshine Coast for our camping trips and our longest trip was two nights. So we’re clearly not hardcore but this is something we hope and plan to keep doing as a family.
This summer, we described camping with the kids as “an investment in fun”. It’s kind of fun now but it’s also exhausting and a lot of work. But this summer, with Pearl, we saw glimpses of how much easier it will be, how much fun it can be to show a child a new way of looking at the world and interacting with nature.
Our first camping trip this summer (as detailed in the previous post) took place about ten minutes from our house. Our second was about forty-five. We have a group of friends who camp on a lake in Pender Harbour for a week every summer. (Their kids are older.) In past summers, we’ve joined them for a day but this year we felt ready to stay over night. The lake was crowded but fun and camping with friends made it all feel more relaxed. Our friends’ teenagers doted on the girls and kept them occupied around the camp site and Peter and I got some time with other adults in the evening.
We camped again, with different friends on a different lake, in Pender Harbour at the end of August. This time there were five kids and Pearl was the oldest. Again, camping with friends was great. We shared meals and watched each other’s toddlers on the dock, swapped canoes and paddle boards, and shared forgotten items.
Our big family camping trip was two nights on Keats Island. Peter and I have camped here many times over the years; he’s been camping at Plumper Cove since he was a kid. The first time I ever went to Keats Island was nine years ago when I joined Peter and a group of his friends for a long weekend there. It was the first place we ever camped with Pearl but we hadn’t been back since the summer of 2016.
We left early on a Sunday morning, hoping to catch a calm sea. Peter and Pearl kayaked across from Gibsons, the kayak loaded with most of our gear. In order to make it easier, we packed as lightly and minimally as possible. Rose and I caught the ferry (foot passengers only) from Langdale and then hiked the 2 kilometres from Keats Landing to Plumper Cove. I carried a backpack as well as the baby but Peter had most of the stuff.
One of the things we like most about camping on Keats is that it is a little more remote. This makes it quieter, calmer, and simpler. No cars, no big RVS, just tents and boats. No showers, no washrooms, but the outhouses are kept clean and the area is maintained. There is a hand pump for water with a boil advisory. (We purchased a filter and used that with great success.) We hope to install in our girls an appreciation of the natural world and the beauty that we live amongst. I hope that they can be kids and teens and adults who don’t mind getting a little dirty, who don’t mind going without when the pay-off is getting outside and having an adventure.
I have almost none. And everything I learned this summer will be largely irrelevent next summer when the girls are a year older. The Bumbo seat was a must-have item (that we didn’t bring with us to Keats) for Rose, who otherwise wouldn’t sit still for meals and was hard to contain. But next summer she’ll be walking and will be closer to two so it won’t be necessary.
A child-sized camping chair and sleeping bag were unexpectedly helpful items, both of which were handed down to us. I would have hesitated to spend the money but now I would recommend both. Extra blankets are still good for when the nights get cooler but we lucked out with the weather this summer.
The Kidco Peapod that we bought for Rose to sleep in was kind of helpful. It enabled us to put Rose down to sleep earlier than the rest of us without having to worry that she was just loose in the tent. She has successfully napped in it at home and slept in it in other homes. She has never successfully slept in while I am in the tent beside here. As soon as I lay down next to her in the tent she would wake up so every night camping ended up with a bit of co-sleeping. I learned to accept it but camping certainly doesn’t equal a good night’s sleep for Peter and I. Hopefully next summer this will be better?
Pearl slept great in the tent though so the future looks bright! She slept solidly through the night and would even sleep a bit later in the mornings. (We had to wake her up early to leave Keats and that wasn’t so fun. Our apologies to the family in the site next to us.) We let her stay up late (until dark) and then we all go to bed together and this has worked well.
My best advice is simply to go for it. You will be exhausted. You will all be filthy. At 3:30 am, a baby asleep on your chest and a toddler pressed up against you even though she has a metre of space on the other side, you will wonder why you aren’t at home in your own bed. But then you will wake up in the morning and be glad of the slow drip of coffee, of the sun climbing over the trees and the song of the waking birds. You will love those sleeping babies, arms flung over their heads in the tent. You will love the moment, laying next to your toddler, that she opens her eyes and remembers that you are camping. You will love watching her wide eyes as she spots a woodpecker or a snail or the flash of a seal in the water. And you will love the way camping features in her stories and play for the next weeks. That she will ask over and over, “We go camping again when I am four?”
Yes, my girl, we will go camping again when you are four.