As a kid, the critical components to epic camping memories were simple: dirt, the freedom to wander, and sugary foods. The everyday rules of civilized living were left behind, and I loved it. I remember the slimy frogs we caught, the way the lake shore mud felt between my toes, and the secret forts we made with fallen tree limbs. We explored when and where we wanted to, coming back to our campsite only when we were hungry or tired. My parents even served us those small variety boxes of sugary cereal (at home we were only allowed to have Cheerios) as well as the ultimate camping treat, s'mores.
Fast forward to my role today as a parent taking my kids on camping trips, and I find myself forgetting these three critical components. Give me a few hours on social media and I'm convinced my kids will have the worst camping trip ever if I don't have every moment planned. Moms on Pinterest would have me believe I need to bring twinkle lights, activity kits, and perfectly nutritious meals packed into cute little mason jars with cursive chalk labels on the side. How the hell am I supposed to take my kids camping with all this pressure? I'm overwhelmed and think it's just easier to stay home.
Leave it to my friend, Felicia, to bring it all back around. "Screw the false expectations!" she said. "I want a fun weekend camping with my kids and I don't want to spend all my time prepping and cleaning up the damn food." Preach! She easily pushed through the facade of pretty twinkle lights, knowing that everything the kids (and she) needed would already be there.
Remember that dirt, freedom, and sugary foods are the three critical elements for camping success. As a parent we can add a fourth - coffee. In order to create epic camping memories for you and the kids without stressful pre-planning, just camp Felicia-style:
- Pick a location close to your source of daytime activities. I personally opt for lake camping. Nobody wants to re-pack the car after you've already reached your campsite in order to head out and explore.
- Never bring any meals. (gasp!) That's right. Instead, find a location close to a Taco Shack. That way, there's no prep or clean up required (bonus: this also cuts your packing list in half).
- Pack tons of sugary and processed foods. Your short list should probably include gummy bears, every flavor of Lays potato chips, Ho Hos, pre-packaged donuts, granola bars, trail mix (the kind with M&M's), apples or bananas (this is just for looks) and, of course, all the ingredients for s'mores. Seriously, it's only one weekend. You can eat kale when you get home.
- Most importantly, make sure your camping location is close to a coffee shop. Your own happiness depends on this. Pull yourself out of the tent every morning, drive down the street, grab some coffee, and you'll be ready for a great day.
Find the campground that fits your needs at Campgrounds360.com. Here's a quick list I made for easy weekend camping:
- Sycamore Grove Campground (Mendocino National Forst)
- Granite Flat Campground (Tahoe National Forest)
- Camp Richardson Campground (Tahoe National Forest)
- Long Ravine Campground at Rollins Lake (Felicia's pick)
- June Lake Campground (Inyo National Forest)
- Spring Lake Campground (Sonoma County)
- Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground
- Morro Strand State Beach (definitely try Taco Temple)
- El Capitan State Beach
- Carpinteria State Beach
**Due to Covid-19 the campgrounds listed above may not be open.