The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: A Book Report

Spring is here (in Michigan it’s been here for a month)! This means our seasonal window for camping has expanded enormously. It doesn’t mean, however, that we are prepared for it. Camping requires some planning, and if you’re bringing kids along, it also requires strategy and stamina.

I’ve read a few books on camping with kids over the years, but none emphasizes the importance or explores the full landscape of preparedness more than this new book from Roost Books: The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids by Helen Olsson.

Olsson is a list maker, and there is perhaps no better trait you want in someone who’s planning or helping you plan a trip. As I’ve mentioned before, the motto we lived by in my scout troop was “A prepared scout is a happy scout.” This is true in for all campers.

In this book, Olsson answers all your questions about camping with kids. There are sections that deal with having all the right gear, from boots to tents. Later she gets you prepped and ready to camp with her signature lists—Little Tykes Gear Checklist, Software Checklist (that’s clothing), Camp Kitchen Cleanup Checklist—before explaining in the next section how to setting up camp, prepare meals, keep the site clean, etc.

The third section is my favorite. Anyone who has planned a camping trip knows the risk of over planning the sleeping and eating to the neglect of the other 14 or so hours in the day. You have to have something planned, be it hiking, rafting, fishing, throwing horseshoes, collecting flowers… something, or your family will go nuts and take you with them to the funny farm. Olsson’s final section has you covered enough games, activities, and crafts to keep your brood happy for a month in the woods.

But that’s not all (trying hard not to sound like a infomercial), there’s a lot of sound advice here. Smart Tips are scattered to nearly every page with sage guidance that will make your trip as smooth as a well-swept tent floor (she has advice on that too):

Save some cash by buying kids’ hiking boots used. (They’re going to outgrow them before they outwear them.)

Fish away from other anglers. Your kids will scare all their fish away and ruin it for everyone.

Stash socks in a mesh bag for easy locating. And don’t forget a plastic bag for dirty laundry.

All this is sewn up with important safety and first aid info, meaning you’ll want to take the book along with you.

Helen Olsson also has a great blog for us “getting kids outside” folks. It’s called Mad Dog Mom, and there you will find a record of her family’s outdoor adventures.



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