Camping for Dummies: I need your best camping advice!

(Sing to the tune of “Green Acres”  — the Eva Gabor part.)

New York is where I’d rather stay.

I dread allergic smelling hay.

I just adore a penthouse view.

Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue!

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows that I am not the outdoorsy type.  I am 37-years-old and have never, ever, not once been camping. And neither has my husband!

This weekend our family will be CAMPING for the first time thanks to the Cub Scouts. (Walshie did join Cub Scouts. See earlier entry on that decision.)

I am very excited about sharing the experience with Walsh, but I am also pretty certain we’re going to do things wrong, bring the wrong stuff and just generally be way out of our comfort zone. (And as you know from the football game discussion if it rains, I am out of there!)

We are lucky the Cub Scouts are making it an easy first trip. We will only be at Stone Mountain and our tent (borrowed from my friend Sheridan –thank you) will be located near the bathroom. (Hooray for indoor plumbing!) We will be sleeping in tents, but they will provide dinner. (Hooray for provided dinner.)

We will be hiking but I’m a good walker and in decent shape so I’m not too worried about that. I am extremely worried about getting the tent up and staying warm and dry during the night. (I am mildly worried about rapists and wild animals but those fears are probably unfounded.)

We had planned to take Rose and leave the baby with my mom and dad. But since Rose was out sick with bronchitis three days this week I am thinking she shouldn’t be exposed to cold , damp air and campfire smoke. (Michael thinks I’m crazy but I know cold air and smoke can set off lung issues and the poor child coughed constantly for five days!)

Michael is fairly certain I will bolt as soon as it gets dark and temperature drops at all. Despite his doubts, I am committed to stay as long as it doesn’t rain on me!

Here are my questions:

How long could it possibly take us to put up our tent? Is an hour and a half enough time? Two hours?

Is Walsh’s Pottery Barn Batman sleeping bag not going to be warm enough?

What if we snuggle him between us?

Do we need to bring a gallon jug of water?

Do we need to bring a cooler?

Where do we keep our snacks (they said not in the tent and in what?)

Give me some basic dos and don’t for the night! Nothing is too elementary!

95 comments Add your comment

Wayne

October 23rd, 2009
9:49 am

My family did a LOT of camping when I was growing up. I miss those days when you could run around like a maniac at a campground and just be a kid.

Putting up a tent: depends on what type of tent! Make sure you have the directions for it. Some Scout leaders are pretty good about knowing how to put up different tents, so find one and make them your friend.

Sleeping bag: different sleeping bags have different ratings for cold weather. Need to find out what yours is rated for. Tonight, in my area, there’s a chance of thunderstorms and pretty chilly. I’m thinking I wish I could be in a tent. We were seasonal campers – all summer long – and I couldn’t take the camper anymore, so I bought myself a tent. I was a teenager, and that was the bestest thing ever. Rainstorms were very cool… Some sleeping bags you can zipper together so all of you in one big bag could work!

Couldn’t hurt to bring water. Depends on how far you have to hike in and how much you can carry. The scout camp I used to go to (and now that I own my own home, my property abutts the scout camp! – how wierd is that?) we had to hike in pretty far so carrying stuff was something to consider.

Same goes for the cooler. If they are providing food, what would you bring?

Snacks/food is generally kept off the ground and hung from a tree – at least that is what we used to be told. Not sure of the ‘ground’ rules on that currently.

Basic dos/don’ts? Have fun! There is usually activities planned – again from my past experience so don’t sweat it to much…

HB

October 23rd, 2009
9:51 am

I don’t do much camping, but as someone with asthma who gets bronchitis a couple of times per year, I don’t think you’re crazy to leave Rose home. It’s so easy for it to flare back up again after you think you’re over it. I’d wait for a full week of feeling really well before trying camping, especially if pollen counts are up (how are weeds and molds down in Atlanta now?).

rmh

October 23rd, 2009
9:52 am

You are actually going on your son’s first campout with the Boy Scouts? See yesterday’s topic.

Wayne

October 23rd, 2009
9:54 am

Mattie

October 23rd, 2009
9:55 am

You need to know how to set the tent up before you go. Some will pretty much “pop up”, for others you may need to pound in stakes, so a hammer should be packed. Have your friend clarify what’s involved. Air mattresses will be your friend, and keep you warmer too. It isn’t supposed to be too cold this weekend, so the Batman sleeping bag should be ok, but bring a quilt to layer over it.

Didn’t the scouts give you a list of things to pack? That was always our experience. I would pack a cooler with water. You can always stick snacks in there too, in zip lock bags. A couple of strong bungee cords should keep to raccoons out.

jct

October 23rd, 2009
9:56 am

Camping at Stone Mountain is quite fun. We do so at least twice per year. Camping there is like being in a little community. I like camping because people are a lot more human and look at for each other.

Tents can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour if you don’t know what you are doing (or even longer if you don’t have the directions and have no idea what you are doing).

Suggestions:
Bring a tarp to put UNDER your tent before you pitch it. It is going to rain this weekend. You don’t tent on wet ground. If you don’t have rain cover for your tent use a tarp. It’s worth the hassle.

Keep your snacks in a cooler. There are no bears in Stone Mountain so you don’t have to do the extra prep if you were rustic camping.

You can bring water but you did not state if you are staying in the rustic camping part (no water or electricity) or the sites with water and electricity. That makes a huge difference. We stay in areas with water and electricity. We have older christmas lights that we hang on our sitting room tent. It is so much easier than having to bring a bunch of battery powered lights.

I would get those gel lights that you break and tie to your tent(I forget the name) so that if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night that you can easily spot your tent.

Only bring what you will need. Don’t try to bring your whole house. I always laugh at the families who bring 42 inch TV and hook them up so they can watch TV while camping. It is not necessary. However, I would bring a few board games – scrabble, monoply, etc. so you can have more organized fun.

The sleeping bag should be fine. Just make sure he had sweatpants/shirt to sleep in as well. I have camped outside when it was 30 degrees outside. In the tent is was relatively warm (people create heat).

I am taking bets (this is all in fun). Theresa, I bet you will be back home by 7 p.m. tonight. Any takers?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
9:56 am

Have to tell you that Boy Scout due to their unfortunate events in year’s past is a whole family experience now — You cannot drop off at meeting (mostly moms there due to the time) (They do not want Scouts alone with Scout masters where accusations can occur), and it is expected for sibs and parents to participate in events.Rose will probably make a car for the derby too — they do a sibs race from what I understand. I will accept the helicopter parent title but not on this particular event.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
9:58 am

Oh JCT — me feelings are soo hurt!! Give me at least until midnight!!

My friend did loan us tarps too for under and over!! I didn’t even thing about raccoons . I was thinking much larger!

jct

October 23rd, 2009
9:58 am

Ohh, bring string (sturdy). You will need to tie your garbage up in a tree. The garbage folks come through quite reqularly but you will need to store it properly.

Becky

October 23rd, 2009
9:59 am

Hope you have fun..Can’t offer any help as my husbands way of camping is the nearest Holiday Inn..

rmh

October 23rd, 2009
9:59 am

OK, I understand with the way the world is many things have had to change. However, my opinion (and mine only) is that your husband should go. This would be a great bonding experience for the two of them.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
10:02 am

he is going too — my husband isn’t super social so he would not do well alone with Walsh — he doesn’t know any of these folks so he would be a stick in the mud — i know a bunch from being at the school and he can get to know them this trip and then he would be better alone later at events — i do think that is true

string and garbage bags — I’m making a running list now — keep it coming.

jct

October 23rd, 2009
10:03 am

@Theresa – I would have given you to midnight if I had not read the weather report. I know you don’t do rain. It will rain tonight. LOL

rmh

October 23rd, 2009
10:07 am

BTW – I love tent camping. We use to grab a spot at Lanier at the beginning of every summer and someone was there all the time.

Don’t forget tissues and toilet paper (JIK).

Michelle

October 23rd, 2009
10:10 am

Theresa, I would check to see what the cold rating is on the sleeping bag. You might as well invest in a warmer one though. From my understanding the scouts camp a alot, and in all temperatures! (My S-I-L and her family have been in the snow!)

I would clarify “what” the leaders are brining. I would keep my own carry-ins down to the minimum. Raccoons will likely be your biggest predators though! :o)

Bring a pair of slip on shoes for the night just in case you need to make a bathroom trip. It sure beats putting on socks and shoes!

Even if it does rain, I think the experience of spending it together in the tent(s) would be fun…as long as it doesn’t last all night!

You are right not to bring Rose. If it were me, I wouldn’t bring my child who was recovering from bronchitis. It is not worth the risk of making it worse again!

Relax and have fun! This is not like the football stadium with thousands of people packed in! Dress in your comfy clothes and be prepared to have a good time!

Michael Trammell

October 23rd, 2009
10:10 am

I have heard that the Pontiac Aztek comes equipped with a tent that is neatly installed on the back of the vehicle. This is the best way to camp as far as I am concerned, and being an Ex Military survival expert I have been camping in every wilderness enviroment on the planet.

New Stepmom

October 23rd, 2009
10:10 am

My advice for camping is to stay at a cheap motel with B&W TV and no room service. I hate camping, I have done it before and have never been so miserable. I am sure you guys will have fun, but I would leave this one to the boys ;o)!

I know I will be blasted for this, but I am trying to be humorous….to some extent ;o)!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
10:15 am

Michael T. is a buddy of ours and knows we do own the Aztek as well as the camping attachment set which has never been opened!! Unfortunately I don’t think they’ll let us back up to the site. I would be more down with that.

Uconn

October 23rd, 2009
10:16 am

I am with New Stepmom…. Roughing it is a cheap motel… :-) …. Never been camping and really don’t want to… But thats just me… Have fun this weekend!

New Stepmom

October 23rd, 2009
10:20 am

Uconn…glad you are with me. My husband and stepdaughter went father daughter Girl Scout Camping in September. They hated it and expected to have a ball. It was so nice to take a hot shower and get in my bed while they were in their tents in the rain….

rmh

October 23rd, 2009
10:25 am

New Stepmom, now that I am nearing 60, a cheap motel would be a lot more fun for me.

JJ

October 23rd, 2009
10:26 am

Theresa you worry too much. Try relaxing and enjoying yourself. You are not in control this weekend. Let the kids have a good time, and stop worrying……Enjoy yourself.

Geez..rapists….really??????

You need to let go.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
10:29 am

a little bit rapists

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2009
10:30 am

I DO NOT CAMP.

I grew up in a family that started out in a Starcraft pop up and graduated to a pull trailer ( I think 24 feet) with a bathroom and shower. We went all the way to California from Chicago and spent many weekends at the lake. I have nevr camped in a tent but my kids have dones so.

My SAHM spent days getting everything ready and packing all the food/supplies we needed. Our station wagon was always about to POP.

NO WAY am I going to work that hard to GO on vacation. Also, I need running water…even if it is a cold shower…that would work in a pinch.

When I was in Alaska, last week…I was told of dry cabins. These are cabins folks have with no water and obviously out houses. They stay out there 3-7 days with NO shower. You have got to be kidding me!
I know it is cold but I must have a shower.

My husband’s family all are campers and my own sister and her husband stay out for days in their trailer…not for me!

My son went camping with his Dad and my husband’s family on lake Texoma when he was little. It poured down rain the entire night. He was about
8 or 10 and HE HATED IT. I know some families love it but mine will have to go without me. Kind of like riding roller coasters…not happening for me but I can still handle the tilt ‘o whirl or scrambler…hahaha!

Have fun and keep us posted!

YUKI

October 23rd, 2009
10:35 am

I’m not big on roughing it so don’t really have much advice but I think if you can get past the rain issue, you will have a lot of fun. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to do this kind of thing…I would even get out of my (hotel)comfort level to try something like this!!!

FCM

October 23rd, 2009
10:52 am

Wather forcast (source: Weather Channel) Stone Mtn, GA: High of 73 today. Cloudy with rain and possible thunderstorms this afternoon. Tonight: Rain early becoming intermitten overnight. Low 57. Tomorrow High of 62. Winds today and tomorrow 10 – 20 MPH. Sunset 6:53 PM.

Theresa you are so out of there. You will do the family stuff than go sleep in the hotels on property right? ;)

JJ

October 23rd, 2009
10:59 am

My dream is when I retire, I’m going to sell just about everything I have, and buy a huge RV and travel the country……..chose my own address, and really see America. Nothing will tie me down anymore………

Except, JJ...

October 23rd, 2009
11:13 am

…gas prices or the unavailability of gas!

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2009
11:26 am

JJ…have fun….I have been in every state except Montana and have enjoyed the view from Holiday and Hampton Inns. FREE breakfast to boot!

ZachsMom

October 23rd, 2009
11:28 am

My first and only camping experience was with the cub scouts. It was one of those “glad I did it” experiences but its just not for me. Does your friend who loaned you the tent have a sleeping bag that she can loan Walsh? ( Do you actually call him Walhsie? See yesterdays topic) Batman might not be cool in cub scouts.

Try to have fun…it might be the only time that you have to to this.

Thought:

October 23rd, 2009
11:56 am

Let’s chip in for a ticket and hotel in Montanna for MJG. Personally I am tired of hearing that she has been in every state except for Montanna. Then she can say she has been in all the states!

And that mile long comment after the shout of I do not camp? Histerical!

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2009
12:22 pm

@ thought….please get the spelling correct before you buy the ticket:
MONTANA with one N. Maybe you might like to get together with Vork who said he would be happy to pay me to shut up….I am waiting to see the money….NADA. He also mentioned that others might be happy to do this too but so far no one has stepped up to the plate.

I will wait to see how quickly you can get everyone to chip in for a ticket and put your money where your mouth is. BTW I fly Delta and I am booked with clients until June.

Glad you find me HYSTERICAL

What exactly did you contribute about the topic at hand….camping?
At least, I made a few contributions about it. Maybe some of the other bloogers may like to hear something from YOU about the topic and not just to rail on me. Maybe not.

I tried to validate why I do not camp. We ( who are) authors and public speakers tend to give illustrations on our opinions. I am not the only one here today who does not like camping and I know there are thousands who LOVE IT.

Have a nice day all…the leaves are gorgeous here in St. Louis.

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2009
12:25 pm

oops…bloggers and not bloogers…althought some do remind me of BOOGERS….they are stuck here and no matter what, we cannot get rid of them….perhaps some feel that way about me too!
OUTTA HERE….

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
12:27 pm

FCM – if it rains we’re going home — it’s very close to us — luckily!

AJ Palmer

October 23rd, 2009
12:42 pm

Hi Theresa,

You’re in for a great treat I’ve been camping my whole life and I even run a website devoted to it called Grillopia.com. As for you questions:
1. It depends on the tent, look at the directions before hand but it shouldn’t take long. But make sure this is one of the fist things you do when you arrive, and try to get there early. You don’t want to be figuring out how to do this in the dark.
2. I checked your sleeping bag on pottery barns web-site and they say that it’s cotton inside and out, and it has a Velcro instead of a zipper. It seems more like a sleepover bag than a camping bag. It depending on the climate you’re camping in, but cotton is not the best way to go for warmth, if your kids sweat it will hold that in and could make them colder. Plus a zipper holds in warmth better than Velcro.
3. Snuggle away
4. It sounds like the campsite your going to has water, but you don’t know how clean it’s going to be. It’s always good to bring your own water.
5. If you’re going to grill you need 2 coolers, one for food one for drinks. People especially kids are always closing and opening coolers to get drinks, and that is not good for perishable food especially meat that should stay in a cooler that is not being opened and closed.
6. Snack like power or cereal bars can be kept in the tent as long as there not open. Open wrappers will attract bugs. Fresher snacks like fruit can be kept in a plastic bag in the cooler. And depending on how far you are from your car you can keep snacks your sure won’t melt in the car.
7. Let me think`; don’t bring your shoes into the tent. You might want bring an extra towel to lie at the foot of your tent so you can put the shoes there. It sounds like this is not a campsite that will have anything crawl in your shoes. I’m not saying that to scar you, it just that I have camped in the desert before, and you need to check your shoes there.
I hope that was helpful, you can also get a free e-book designed for grilling and camping in the outdoors. Just go to Grillopia.com

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2009
12:45 pm

AJ — those were very good tips!! I appreciate you taking the time to write all that!! thank you very much!

Reader

October 23rd, 2009
12:47 pm

If it is cold, take a knit cap to sleep in. You’ll stay much warmer. Sleep with your clothes inside your sleeping bag– will be pre-heated for you in the morning!
Keep dirt outside of your tent: sit on the edge to knock off the dirt before you go inside. A small whisk broom is great to take along so you don’t have to sleep in sand.
Careful about changing by flashlight in the tent. You’ll provide a great silhouetted peep-show!
Make up your mind to relax and enjoy the adventure. You may not look, smell or feel your best. But who will? Have fun and look at it through your son’s eyes.
BTW, moms are usually invited on Cub Scout camp-outs. They are considered family events. Heck, the scouting structure is set up so that moms most often run the whole thing for the little guys.

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2009
1:05 pm

one last tip before I hit the road….

BIG LOTS Theresa…I think the one on 29 in Lilburn is close to you.
They have all sorts of flashlights, small coolers ( Walsh might like his own that he can carry himself and not have to share) and lanterns plus probably sleeping bags too….at GREAT savings. No need to spend lots of money until you find out if this is really your thing.

If I were home, I would let you borrow one of my kids bags…they have been to the dry cleaners and are just sitting around not being used.
Not sure if Walsh would go with plum but we do have a dark green one or maybe navy blue.

Barbara

October 23rd, 2009
1:05 pm

Theresa, it’s one night, in Stone Mountain; you’re not braving the wilds or anything like that. Suck it up, for the sake of your son. After yesterday’s topic I would have thought that you wouldn’t want to mother him. “if it rains we’re going home — it’s very close to us — luckily!” That’s hardly the attitude to have and what kind of example are you setting for Walsh???

You’re dealing with experienced campers, surely they provided you with a list of items to brings. Throw in some wet wipes for good measure. Check the rating on the sleeping bags and pack some tarps; remember this is Walsh’s night and above all it should be your goal to not ruin it for him!

Vork

October 23rd, 2009
1:21 pm

MJG = pompous windbag…..we all know it, and none of us can change it….that’s just how she rolls.

I would farking HATE camping. I have never actually been but the thought of not having clean and hot running water and no electricity is not my idea of a swell time.

Vork

October 23rd, 2009
1:29 pm

DB

October 23rd, 2009
1:30 pm

Oh, boy, does this bring back memories! I am NOT a camper, but out of love for my Girl Scout troop (they stuck together from K – 12), I went and got camping certified when they were in 1st grade and they were all dying to go camping, and off we went. We made lots of mistakes, but it was fine — remember, “perfection is the enemy of the good”. Just go and be willing to laugh at yourself, and don’t let any Paul-Bunyan-wannabe intimidate you into feeling that you are less of a mom if you can’t cook a turkey in a tin bucket. (Which is something my son’s Scout troop actually did on one trip!)

The sleeping bag sounds too light for outdoor camping, especially if it gets down into the 40s. Maybe borrow a slightly heavier-rated on? The most miserable weekend of my life was when I was 13, and on my first camping trip with a new Girl Scout troop. My sleeping bag was not an outdoor one, and I froze all weekend (of course, it was November in Virginia!)

But it’s only for one night — you can do ANYTHING for just a night! You might surprise yourself and enjoy it. Just don’t expect to be SuperCampingMom the first time out, and be willing to learn from the more experiened campers there. My girls enjoyed camping for about four years, and then segued into “urban campers” when their interests changed to performing arts as they got older.

PS: In the future, on camping trips like this, it might be best to leave the other kids with sitters so you can have one-on-one time with Walsh (or the camper du jour). Especially if it’s new to him, too — you really don’t need the distraction of having to deal with Rose, and what she might be interested in, etc. It’s Walsh’s camping trip. We often found that siblings tended to spoil things, because while the kids in the troop had ideas of doing one thing, inevitably there was a sibling who threw a monkey-wrench into it or a parent who wasn’t 100% available because of conflicting demands. The sibs often don’t understand that they are a guest.

DB

October 23rd, 2009
1:32 pm

PS: Don’t be afraid to bring an inflatable mattress — the “real” campers will sneer, but they do feel awfully good :-)

PPS: If a tent takes more than 15 minutes to put up, you’re doing something wrong!

Thought:

October 23rd, 2009
1:33 pm

“Vork who said he would be happy to pay me to shut up….I am waiting to see the money….NADA”

Go back and reread his comment. He said pissing you of was worth skipping the long texts. Its not the he won’t pay, he just decided to have more fun picking at you.

Wayne

October 23rd, 2009
1:40 pm

At one of my scouting campouts, we learned to boil water in a styrofoam cup. It was cool. Had nothing to do with anything later in life, but it was cool!

FCM

October 23rd, 2009
1:49 pm

Theresa I am not making fun of you. My idea of camping is letting the kids sleep in the livingroom in their sleeping bags and order pizza. I have been a few times (once in the October cool — but no rain–with my arm in a sling, I could not tie my own shoes!)

You probably won’t like this tip and it is NOT appropriate for tonight’s outing. It sounded crazy when I heard it but: Sleeping in your skin sweater or close to it will keep you warm inside the sleeping bag. Even with no hanky panky going on.

Hunter of MILF

October 23rd, 2009
1:52 pm

@FCM

How you doin?

Hey, motherjanegoose...

October 23rd, 2009
1:58 pm

…put YOUR money where your mouth is – How much will it take to get you to go away? Even before I read the comment by “thought:” I was thinking the same thing – let’s get that Montana thing out of the way so we won’t have to hear about that anymore!

Re: the camping topic (if I do not comment on that motherjanegoose will tell me I am not contributing to the topic – as if she contributed when the topic asked for suggestions on how to best deal with the event, and all she said was how she did not like camping – real good input to the topic there Ms. Goose, but she gets a pass because she is a legend in her own mind, just ask her – wait a minute, we don’t have to ask her, ’cause she tells us weekly how good she is, and if we do not believe her, just ask the thousands of clients to whom speaks annually – and did everyone catch that she is bookded up until June and is even gracing us with her “thoughts and suggestions” while she is out of town – but, I digress -

Back to camping, just stay close to Walsh and hubby and those rapist and beavers and bears and goats will not get you, unless the petting zoo fence breaks at Stone Mountain! LOL

Hunter of MILF

October 23rd, 2009
2:00 pm

FCM email me at hunterofmoms@gmail.com…..seriously….that sleeping bag thing sounds way fun.

LM

October 23rd, 2009
2:04 pm

My first camping experience was 10day with 10,000 of our closet friends. Before that my idea of roughing it was not room service ater 10pm. lol

Theresa, I do hope you lossen up a bit and learn to enjoy yourself. Camping is fun, a great cheap way to get the family together and away from TV, phones (turn off cells) video games and just reconnect with yourself, your loved ones and nature.

I have great memories of camping with friends. Once when we were in NC, my girl friend her husband & son, another girl friend my daughter and I were camping, we had a lot of space and my daugher got in my sleeping bag with me.. in the middle of the night she announces as she is getting out of my sleeping bag her butt is sweaty. to this day we give her grief and all of us have memories of each event we go to.