Whether you pitch a tent in the backyard or brave the backwoods armed with a canoe and a backpack, you can get out there and enjoy the outdoors with even the youngest of adventurers. Camping is an ideal way to see Canada, and it costs less than your average tropical vacation. Here are six tips for camping with kids that can help make your trip a fun family activity.
• Prepare food in advance: Meal prep may take up more time and energy outdoors than it does at home, so it's well worth examining your food plans carefully in advance. Helpful hacks include precooking bacon, sausage or other food (and storing it in an insulated cooler) so it only needs reheating on site; purchasing "liquid eggs" (which travel better than raw eggs in shells); freezing foods ahead of time to extend their life; and bringing plenty of snacks to appease hungry tummies between meals. Remember that block ice lasts longer than cubed ice in a cooler and is something you can easily make at home instead of purchasing. As always, food handling safety and hygiene are crucial. Know the proper way to pack and store food if you're headed to an area with wildlife risks. Ideas include storing food and food preparation materials in the trunk of your vehicle, if parked nearby, or storing them in a pack and hanging them off the ground (at least 4 metres in the air), away from a tree trunk (at least 2 metres) and separate from the sleeping and eating areas of your campsite.
• Don't be caught unprepared: A well-stocked first aid kit is a must. You'll be thankful for your supply of sunscreen, adhesive bandages, bug repellant, antihistamines, and so on, and if you've got a young one that ends up feeling poorly, you'll be relieved you brought along a thermometer. A pre-trip stop at Shopper's Drug Mart can set you up nicely.
• Pack an activity bag for the tent: As a parent, few things generate more disappointment than waking up hours earlier than desired with a child who's raring to go. And with the relative inability to block morning sunshine in a tent, it's a risk you run while camping. If you're not an early bird, keeping a bag on hand with distractions like books, puzzles, colouring books or small toys could buy you some extra ZZZZs. You'll also be thankful for these items if the weather turns rainy.
• Bring light: It's no fun to argue over a single flashlight or lantern at night. Bring several light sources and lots of battery backup, especially if you have a child who may be afraid of the dark.
• Keep them busy: Don't rely on "the wonder of nature" to hold a child's attention at all times. Prepare plenty of activity ideas ahead of time, bringing along sports and beach equipment, cards and board games, word games and campfire stories. What other activities can you introduce yourself or your children to? Stargazing, hiking or fishing (don't forget your fishing licence, if appropriate)? Many campgrounds also offer staff-run activities and educational opportunities to enjoy.
• Just bring the equipment, already! Don't let other people shame you into "roughing it" on a family camping trip if you're not comfortable without a luxury or two from home. If you've got the room, bring along whatever equipment you need, whether it's a playpen or a fancy coffee press, in order to enjoy family time together in the great outdoors.