4 Reasons to Try Camping With Your Family


"I require a toilet that flushes. And I don't go to the bathroom with spiders."

Those were my primary reasons for not going camping with my family before last year. I want to pee in peace somewhere with a flushing toilet and no spider friends watching me. I really don't think that's too much to ask. It's not that I mind nature ... it's just that nature shouldn't be a part of some things. And spiders, in my humble opinion, should never be a part of anything that also involves me.

But I saw the preemptive joy on my husband's face at the idea of spending a few days in "nature." Then I looked at my two boys -- 4- and 1-year-old (at the time) and I knew that if I didn't agree to go outside with them, they were going to go grow-up outside without me. And I hate being left behind.

As it turns out camping isn't so bad. Don't tell anyone, but I actually like it. And even if you're not a camping person, I'm pretty convinced you might like it, too.

And the timing couldn't be more perfect for you to try it in your own backyard -- literally. June 28 is the Great American Backyard Campout, a push from the American Wildlife Federation to get kids and their families outside to reconnect. And the proximity to your own bed and bathroom couldn't be better. Can't sleep? Abandon ship in the middle of the night and sneak back inside, maybe even unnoticed.

If you're sitting there thinking "I'm a pillow top mattress kind of person. So that's a definite 'no' on camping," let me give you a little list on why you might want to reconsider.

4 Reasons You Might Actually Like Camping

1. Nature is scary -- but being unplugged is awesome. My husband, an Army guy, is a huge fan of nature. He lives for field time. But if your service member loves the unsullied brilliance of his Navy whites or joined the Air Force specifically so that he would never have to sleep in a puddle, he may not be pushing you out the door to spend time in the woods.

But BOTH of you can appreciate the sanity of being completely unplugged for a few hours. And while it's certainly possible to take the iPhone, iPad, portable DVD player and satellite dish with you on a camping trip, it's way less work to just leave them home. I know, I know -- the idea of going without your phone is probably sending you into a mild panic (even if you don't want to admit it) ... but if you give it a try you'll discover how completely freeing it is.

So do it. Go camp in your backyard or at a local campground on June 28 and leave the technology inside. Bask in your new found sanity, listen to some crickets and have a chat with your spouse or kids without the distraction of Facebook.

2. Discovery takes time. The National Wildlife Federation has a whole list of night time bugs and animals you can watch for with your kids. Lightening bugs, moths, owls -- the list goes on. And what about the stars? But if your kids are tucked in bed inside or watching TV in their evening hours, they aren't going to see this stuff ... and neither are you. Observation of their world takes time. Why not spend a night checking it out?

3. Relationships also take time. I find I have the best conversations with my spouse when we are out of our routine, away from our housework and project distractions and sitting by a campfire. There is just something about watching those embers after feasting on s'mores a bottle or two beer (or glass of wine) that sparks a good heart to heart. We talk about our future, our past, our dreams, our failures -- stuff that makes marriage communication what it needs to be. Give it a try.

Spouse deployed and flying solo with the kids? Camping in your own backyard with a fire pit on your deck is a easy way to get outside and have those same conversations with them. And when you aren't thinking about cleaning the kitchen or that really epic pile of laundry, it's easy to focus on people.

4. Being outside isn't as bad as it sounds. No, really. If you're headed to a developed campground, it probably has a bathroom that is not only civilized but also cleaned regularly. This was a huge shock to me. In my head I saw porta-potties full of Shelob sized eight-legged occupants. But that was not the case.

And the being otherwise outside in nature thing isn't so bad either. We bought a few camping cots so I am well off the ground at night. Coffee tastes better when consumed in front of a morning fire. I like the sound of the peepers and crickets chirping away as I fall asleep. And, while I hesitate to say this lest I seriously jinx myself, in the 10 or so trips we've done I haven't had one serious bug or dirt problem. A little backwoods spray takes care of all the pests.


If you plan on camping June 28 or any time this year, take the Great American Campout pledge from the National Wildlife Federation and join the fun. I'll raise my s'more to you.


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