As I think about the camping I will be doing with my son’s Boy Scout troop this weekend, I am reminded of my “tricks of the trade.” Some of these work well with “car camping” (when your car is nearby and you are not hiking your gear in), like I do with my Cub Scout pack, some are better suited for back packing. Here are my recommendations (besides the obvious tent for shelter):
Have a good sleeping bag – This is essential. If you are “car camping” (meaning not back packing your items in), as we do with Cub Scouts, bring lots of old blankets and comforters. They can go above you and below you to ensure a warm, positive experience, especially with youngsters who are new to camping. Many parents (and their kids) have been cold and sad on our Cub Scout family camp outs. Your car is just 20 feet away… Why not fill it with every blanket and comforter you own?? If you are back packing, add a blanket or fleece to your sleeping bag when it is extra cold. Don’t unroll your sleeping bag until it is time to sleep.
Use a sleeping pad – This isn’t just for comfort. Having something underneath you will help keep you off the ground and therefore, warmer. Use blankets/comforters on top of the sleeping pad as extra warmth if you are car camping and can haul them.
Change clothes to sleep – This is not one my boys do, but it is one of my “must-dos.” Before I crawl into my sleeping bag, I am much warmer and happier changing into my warm, dry comfortable fleece PJs and out of my damp, dirty clothes. Yuck!
Socks! Socks! Socks! – Warm socks, dry socks, lots of socks! Any store that sells camping or hunting gear has super warm socks you can buy. Have enough with you so that you can change into warm, dry socks at night. Warm feet equal a happy cold weather camping experience.
Wear a knit hat – Wear a knit hat or something similar while you sleep. My boys may be able to stick their whole head into the bottom of a sleeping bag. I won’t. Keeping your head warm goes a long way towards keeping you warm.
Use hand and foot warmers – Is this cheating? I don’t think so and I didn’t know there were any rules for keeping warm when you camp. These things work great and are cheap. My kids love ’em! Pick them up at Walmart. I just did.
Have a “Little John” – A “Little John” handheld urinal (with female adapter for the ladies) is indispensable for those of us with a finicky bladder. Who wants to crawl outside the tent in the cold to go to the bathroom? Not me. Each time you use it, close the lid tightly and put it back into a plastic bag in your tent to await its next use. (Yes… My bladder is really finicky.)
The theme here is preparation. Make plans to stay warm and you will have a positive cold weather camping experience. A positive camping experience with kids can turn them into lifelong campers and outdoor lovers. If you remember nothing else, remember to plan on keeping your body off the ground and your head and feet warm and dry all night. Happy camping!