|Notice the small sturdy lamp on the
deck. It has a nightlight.
My family didn’t start right off with a month-long camping excursion. Not with five kids in tow. Nor did we have all the camping gear we have now when we started. We began camping with the kids on short camp trips to get them ready for longer excursions. And we camped locally first in case the kids really, really, really didn’t like sleeping in an old canvas tent trailer.
If you search the tabs at the top of this blog, you’ll find many tips for camping with kids. While I provide some information about camping equipment and how to begin camping with kids in a post entitled “Is Camping Gear on Your Christmas List,” I wanted to talk about a few things parents might not think about when starting to camp with children.
One of the most important things we realized with young kids camping was how they didn’t like to pee in the woods and they didn’t like the port-a-john booths. They wanted “a real toilet,” they said. “You know, Mom, the ones with water in them.”
“So who doesn’t,” I told them. “Think of it as an adventure.”
They didn’t want that kind of adventure. They were convinced that a snake or bear would get them.
|This is like what we have, a Century
6210 5-Gallon Portable Toilet. It’s
currently out of stock on Amazon.
So while I was able to get the kids to use the trees to pee when we hiked, if necessary, giving them a bag to put their used toilet paper trash in, we did buy a free-standing port-a-potty that sat on the camper floor. We kept it simple; two plastic tanks, one for clean water and one for waste water. They were connected in the middle with an open shut valve. You pump a little clean water into the toilet bowel, use it, and then open the valve to allow the waste to fall into the bottom tank while flush/pumping some clean water into the bowel. Then you close the valve. There is a gage that turns red when the waste water tank is full.
The toilet tanks are self-contained and come apart, so you can dispose of the waste water tank at appropriate waste stations at the campground or wait until you return home—if you aren’t far and the potty is not full—to dump the waste into your own toilet. We cleaned the waste water out after a day or two but always before we traveled to another campground or back home because we covered longer distances. We only used the potty at night or when there were no flush toilets available.
We bought our potty years ago, but when I looked online, I found two styles that are like ours and aren’t too expensive, the Dometic 2.6 gallon portable toilet and the XIMENG Portable Toilet. Both sit on the ground. You can find more information about camping potties here.
Another thing parents should be aware of is that it is usually very dark at campgrounds. If you have electricity available, bring a small nightlight to plug into an outlet in a camp trailer if you’re using one or a small sturdy lamp that can sit flat on the ground and has a low light to leave on during the night in a tent.
If you do not have any electricity available at your campsite, simply provide each child with a personal flashlight. Small flashlights seem to be available at most stores. You should narrow down the choices, as in brightness, size, LED, etc., and let the kids choose their own color or style from the approved selections. My kids had fun with this step. With five kids, they chose the slender, push-button lights in a rainbow of colors. Only give the kids the flashlights at nighttime. Store them away during the day.
Children usually feel more in charge of any situation at night if they can choose to turn on a flashlight when necessary. The important thing to tell the kids is to keep the flashlight pointing down at the ground when they turn it on at night. Explain how their eyes get used to the darkness, and they could temporarily blind someone with the brightness of their lights.
Of course, the kids will take longer to settle down at night if they have flashlights, no matter how much hiking you did that day. At least ours did. From flashlight beam tag to shadow shows on the ceiling of the tent, our kids entertained themselves—and kept my husband and I up—for hours when they were supposed to be going to sleep. With five kids, it got to look like the search lights of old Hollywood premiers in the tent. Oh, and the kids can find your bunk in the middle of the night to ask if you heard that owl or those tree frogs. And many times, they don’t have that “only flash the light on the ground” concept down pat. So be ready!
I hope you found these little tidbits helpful about camping with kids. Please share any experiences you may have about camping out with children in a comment here at Camping with Five Kids. It would be truly appreciated. Enjoy your spring!