Why I’m Not Taking My Kids Camping For a Very, VERY Long Time

Ahhh, summer camping –  endless sunny days, children’s laughter, bubbles in the sunshine, s’mores, and starlit memories made around a campfire- right?


This summer, my husband and I took our nine-month-old son and two-year-old daughter camping at Warren Dunes State Park. I wasn’t worried while we were packing up, I was excited! I grew up going camping. My husband and I have gone camping together plenty of times. We had even taken our daughter camping the previous two summers, when she was nine months and 21 months old. Just throw some essentials in the car and we’d be set!  I envisioned blissful outdoorsy days, no house to clean or demands of daily life to attend to, and after the kids were cuddled up in the tents for the night, we would have long bonfires and laugh and just relax for once.

That is SO not what happened.  

  1. First mistake: Underestimating the weather. This one was not our fault, it’s just that this camping trip happened to take place during a heat advisory. All weekend long the temperature was in the nineties, and it was so humid you felt instantly drenched whenever you were outside – and when you are camping, you just so happen to ALWAYS BE OUTSIDE. Even at night, it barely got down to 80 degrees. With the heat index, it literally felt like 100 degrees. There was also a thunderstorm. Not a great weekend to be sleeping in a tent. Or trying to breastfeed your nine-month-old.
  2. Second mistake: Assuming that bedtime at a campground would be run just like bedtime at home. If there’s one thing I am militant about as a mom, it is bedtime.  If we aren’t well-rested, life just stinks. At home, we utilize blackout shades and white noise machines to create tiny sleep havens for our kids.  In a tent – you are at the mercy of the sun, {which didn’t set until 9:30 pm}, and the surrounding campground, which was very family-friendly, but still noisy {cars driving past, etc.} well past 11 pm. Regular bedtime at home? 8 pm. Further complicating matters was us expecting our toddler and baby to share a tent, though they do not share a room at home. At one point in the hours-long struggle to get the kids to sleep, I caught my daughter smashing her face into the mesh side of the pack n’ play, yelling “OPEN YOUR EYES, BABY!” Yeah. No one slept. 

    “Get me out of here!”

  3. Third mistake: Expecting fellow campers to be perfect. We had enough obstacles to good sleep all by ourselves, but the first night we also woke up to our site neighbor ratcheting up his metal awning… at 4 am. I couldn’t fall asleep again on our wretchedly deflated air mattress, and then the birds and the sun got the whole crew up at 6 am. Thank goodness for our friends who made strong coffee every morning!
  4. Fourth mistake: Biting flies. And mosquitoes in droves. Did I bring bug spray? No. Can you even put bug spray on babies? The Internet is too confusing on this topic. Ugh. 
  5. Fifth mistake: Trying to go to the beach. First of all, it was packed because there was a wine festival going on. After navigating parking, my daughter adored the half an hour she spent splashing in the 64 degree lake before the baby started overheating and we had to call it quits. The sand stuck to our sunscreen, we lost my daughter’s shoes on the beach, and as a bonus, we couldn’t get the shade tent back into it’s case if our lives depended on it. 

The second night as we struggled again to get the kids to sleep, I tearfully whispered to my husband, “should we bail?” I was so close to giving up, but we muddled through, packed up in muggy heat, and joyfully blasted the AC the whole way home. 

Do I want to take my kids camping someday? Certainly! When the sting of this experience softens, I dream of a day when I am no longer breastfeeding and the kids no longer need naps, where we hike and wander in the sun and make oodles of family memories all over the state. 

In the meantime – hotel rooms are always the same temperature, you can turn off the lights at 8pm, and they even have cable, too.

Do you take your kids camping? What tips help you all survive and have fun? 

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