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Winter Camping with Kids

It was a bone-chilling night. We were trying hard to shimmer through the hazy horizon, which covered us like a white fabric of snow. The trail, where I could usually navigate blindfolded seemed like a road to nowhere today. The kids were uncertain, confused, and cold. It was past 7 o’clock, and every step felt like another pound was added to my backpack.  I wish I had considered how winter camping with kids would test us.

I wish I weren’t so sure about my expertise in camping with the kids. Although it was my first time, I didn’t want to admit it earlier. It wasn’t like any trips I’ve had, which was usually solo. I learned it the hard way because when you’ve kids around, camping isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Just like climbing with kids, special planning is required.

Ever since when camping with my kids in winter, I make sure that I won’t make the common mistake or overlook any vital precaution. If you’re wondering, here’s my life-earned experience summarized 1,000 words on how I’d plan a winter camping trip with my kids.

Trying the Virtual Experience & Moving On

I didn’t mean on-screen, but somewhere close to the wild where my kids would get the same outdoor experience yet be close to something they’re familiar with. I’d try camping once with the kids in my backyard, and while most kids find it intriguingly interesting, others might be less adaptive, like my youngest son.

So, I’ll build a lovely snowman or a fort to give a realistic touch, and we will camp just like we’d do outdoors. This gives the young one the first-hand experience of what spending a night under open skies feels like, especially if it’s their first time. Also, as a parent, I’d know which of my kids react and feel about, making it easy for me to plan future trips.

Once familiar with backyards after spending 01-02 nights, I’d be more confident to bring my young army to conquer the wild. But there are still more things that’ll bother me.

Packings

Nothing is more frustrating than missing out on an extra pair of socks when your shoes are wet and dripping water, or you remember you forgot your favorite snack. While packing, I categorize my stuff into Protection & Nourishment.

In the Protection category, I’ll be packing the following items.

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Hand Warmers
  • Extra pair of extra socks (i mean it)
  • Headlights with spare batteries
  • First Aid Box
  • Hot Water bottle
  • Knife
  • Fire Starters

While in the nourishment category, I’ll be more than happy to pack high-energy food that can be eaten on the go, like chewable, dry fruits, biscuits, etc.

Since my elder daughter is fond of card games and puzzles, we usually have a game or two packed all the time, so she doesn’t get bored. It applies to any activity, stuff, or equipment that your child is interested in.

Remember, a happy child will daringly cross valleys and mountains with you; a fed-up one wouldn’t leave the couch.

Keep it Kid-Centric

I noticed that my daughter had a pleasant mood when she was given her due time to watch butterflies flying effortlessly over blooming flowers, and my youngest child took more heart in running sideways to check if there was another world aside from the trail.

Camping has never been more fun when I’m thinking about giving my children some time where they would be as free as butterflies in the garden. I generally prefer camping at short distances where we don’t have to rush to reach before dying daylight so children can stroll towards the destination playfully with a sense of achievement.

By walking at a slow pace, I found that I felt more contempt as compared to when I was rushing to the campsite. Furthermore, the children too took it as a game and enjoyed every step with me.

Bringing in Lots of Quality Food

My children, like any other kids, are always hungry for another snack. Often walking in the wood, we may feel down on energy levels due to the cardio, stretch, pull, push and run. For that, I ensure everyone has enough calorie food at their easy access. I bring some juice packets, fruits, nuts, and chocolates i.e strongly recommended if you’re camping with the kids.

My wife is very fond of hot soup, which is a delight to have on a cold night. My kids simply love it, and it has its benefits apart from being tummy-licious.

Keep Kids Warm & Dry throughout the Day

Like any typical parent, I am very strict with my kids when it is to camping in winter. But over time, I realized no matter what I did; I could not stop my kids from playing and sweating. It’s just a matter of an hour or two that my young one would spill his water bottle over his cloth or stumble into muddy waters.

Even if it’s 50┬░Foutside and one of the clothes is moist, chances are my kids will catch pneumonia in the coming day. So my rule of thumb to follow is three-layered protection that works every time for me.

You’d probably say I’m too cynical, but being a parent, I cannot watch my child suffer from the cold just because I didn’t care enough for him & probably no parent would ever like it as well.

Three layers of clothing work best for my kids and me too. Think of the first one working to keep the moisture off. It can be of any synthetic material but not necessarily too waggy or thick. The second layer is mostly insulation, winter shirt, sweater, etc., and at the end, something that guards against moisture or cold strong winds.  Any jacket or a coat serves as the best protection for kids.

Not only that, a pair of extra socks don’t weigh much but are worth much for me when camping with the kids in winter.

But still, it’s not enough; these little creatures get around all the time. So for that, I occasionally check if their hands or feet are cold or any sights of blisters. Mostly it’s okay, but even after all the carefulness, sometimes the inner layers are wet so we have to change it ASAP!

Actively Engage Kids

The only effective way I use to keep my kids warm, engaged, motivated, and under my watch is by actively engaging them in activities. For instance, when pitching tents, my youngest kid helps me shovel out snow or stomp out the tent sites (the best he could do) while my daughter helps collect small sticks for campfire or prepare skewers for the dinner.

But for all that, I make sure we reach the camp early so none of us are tired and everyone enjoys being a part of the plan. In the end, we have things done more quickly and efficiently than I’d have done alone, and the little nippers do feel a great sense of achievement as well.

A Great Tent is a Relief

Last but not least, I can compromise on my esteemed packing list but not on the tent, and that too when I’m camping with my kids, and it’s cold outside. I recommend my friends and readers to invest in a good tent that will be the primary protection for you while camping under open skies in winter. Sometimes saving money is a bad habit after all…wish I had anticipated that before.

I’ve had bad experiences with cheap tents that would turn over with one strong gust, leaving my wife and me uncomfortable for the whole night. I’d advise having a tent strong and light which is adept to the weather situations of the area you’re looking to encamp. Lastly, don’t forget to clear the ice below the tent on placing, so you and the kids have a cozy night.

Conclusion

After decades of hiking, and camping I’ve learned that I tend to enjoy it more by keeping my trip playful and safe. Especially when I’m camping with kids in winter, I’ve to make sure they’re not neglected and are heard and understood. Like me, anyone can have a great camping experience if the kids are not tired, well-fed, warm, and enjoying the outdoors; they will probably join you again on another winter camping trip. Good luck!

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