Atmosphere

Babes in the Wood

The perils—and pleasures—of camping with kids.

July 2010

The 2009 Colorado Kids' Outdoor Bill of Rights—a list of kid-friendly activities espoused by Lieutenant Governor Barbara O'Brien—declares that all Colorado kids should have the opportunity to camp out under the stars before they grow up. Sounds lovely. But any parent who's tried to pitch a tent in a thunderstorm while two toddlers mud wrestle in a patch of poison ivy knows the truth: Camping with kids is no stroll in the park. If you've never taken the kids into the backcountry, or your bad memories have faded and you want to give it another shot, here are some tried-and-true tips to make life a little easier.

Stay Warm
Helicopter parents may obsess over exploding camp stoves and West Nile virus, but what they ought to worry about is the cold. Camp below 7,000 feet and use pack-and-play cribs and inflatable beds to put some insulation between your child and the cold ground. Consider one of Colorado's southern (and warmer) destinations—the Great Sand Dunes or Chimney Rock—for pleasant night temperatures.

Circle the Wagons
Forget those two weeks you spent alone on the Continental Divide Trail in college. When it comes to toddlers, safety and convenience come in numbers. A good rule: Never let adults be outnumbered by kids. Invite friends, divvy up chores, and pack heavy—a big cooler, extra clothes, a Costco-size case of baby wipes. It's nothing like your old backpacking days, but car camping is better than no camping.

Bring Old Ironsides
Consider scrapping the good ol' tent for something with a little more stability—and protection—like a pop-up trailer. The compromise makes naptime and hailstorms more bearable, and that peace of mind helps keep everyone sane. Bonus: You and yours can cuddle up next to the fire after putting the little ones to bed, knowing that the blackout curtains will help them fall (and stay) asleep.

In the Know
Looking for more tips on how to convert your urban offspring into outdoor enthusiasts? Check out 5280 contributor Eugene Buchanan's Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Active in the Great Outdoors (The Heliconia Press).