Few things can be as endearing as a child’s first family camping trip.
Roasting hot dogs over perfect campfires, splashing or fishing in a lake and falling asleep to the nighttime sounds of hooting owls and the breeze in the trees can lead to cherished memories that last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, things such as sun-blistered kids, tick-infested parents and a night spent trying to unsuccessfully go to sleep on a bed of jagged rocks can lead to “I’ll never do that again” tales told for decades.
Following are some tips from avid campers on how to make sure those first family trips to the campground send people, especially kids, home with smiles.
For adults, that can mean setting up the tent in the backyard and trying everything from lanterns to camp stoves before the first trip afield. You’re better finding out that the new cot is missing a piece when you assemble it in your garage than after dark at the campground.
For kids, a practice run of sleeping in their sleeping bags, in a camper or tent, at home is a logical step before they do it in the great outdoors. Plan on sleeping out with them and limiting their amount of trips indoors that night.
Go to www.kdwpt.state.ks.us for more details. Reservations well in advance are highly recommended.
Money spent on state park camping fees will usually provide better sites and services. Most offer maintained hiking trails, playgrounds, beaches, kids’ fishing ponds, showers and campsites with assorted utilities.
Some of the nicest camping conditions are in the late spring and early fall, before and after the holiday weekend crowds.
Several online sites show how to make lanterns out of peanut butter jars and other useful tools and toys they can use during their time afield.
Also, look for unique ways to cook things that work especially well while camping. Foil-wrapped dinners are great, because kids can add their own ingredients, like chicken or ground beef, and any of a number of pre-chopped vegetables. Go to http://allrecipes.com/recipe/campfire-foil-packs for the basic recipe.
A little online snooping can provide more fun ideas, like omelettes cooked in a plastic bag or potatoes baked in an old vegetable can.
It’s a great idea to bring snacks in pre-measured plastic bags that hold an individual serving. That makes for faster distribution and keeps grubby fingers from dirtying an entire box or bag of treats.
Go online before the trip to see how you should handle things like an imbedded tick, and don’t panic if you find one. Millions of ticks are removed from people every year, but you’ll want to be aware of how to look for possible complications.
Remember that the oil from poison ivy can attach to clothing. If someone walks through it, place the clothing in a plastic bag and don’t let it near people or other clothing until it can be thoroughly washed.
Inexpensive, slip-on water shoes are a good investment. They clean easily and can protect feet from assorted scratches and pokes.
One cooler specifically for washing hands, with a towel attached, works great.
Remember, too, that all clothing taken on the trip should be washed right away, even if not worn, to clean it of possible dirt, insects or poison ivy oils.
End one camping adventure on a good note, and the next will probably begin the same way.
Contributing: Lori Buselt, Seth Turner, Wendy Bowles, Todd Lovin and Christopher Smith