The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids, by Helen Olsson
Review by Cat Croteau
Camping can be frustrating; camping with kids can be hazardous to your health if not done right. As a seasoned but struggling family camper I’m elated to have a copy of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids in my arsenal. Each chapter is packed with checklists and smart tips for picking the perfect campsite and planning meals, plus it offers suggestions for games and activities for the family to enjoy while camping. Even if you think you know all there is to know about camping with kids, I guarantee you’ll pick up a few new tricks.
Camping with Kids is divided into four main sections with several chapters in each section that delve into specifics. Since we already have a couple favorite camping spots around the hills and we’re already well stocked with gear, we were stoked to get to the second section and the camp grub chapter. Being responsible for feeding five others is a challenge in itself, add cooking at a campsite to the task and I’m ready to run screaming. Helen Olsson breaks it down slowly and painlessly with lists for what to plan, what to pack, and how to prepare it! Even the camp favorite, s’mores, gets a reboot. Of course, she includes the old standby “classic” s’more but also ups the ante with chocolate-cherry bombs, apple pie s’mores, candied s’mores, and my personal favorite, the shaggy dog. My three boys were in hog heaven!
Kids will really enjoy section three, which is filled with various outdoor activities and adventures for all ages. Give me a tree to sit under and a comfy chair and I’m happy for hours, but my boys get easily bored with lounging around the campsite. Besides the expected hiking, stargazing, and fishing suggestions, Olsson includes toy, book, and game ideas. Using her checklist for the scavenger hunt, my guys were excitedly racing around our tent and on the neighboring trail looking for items on the list. Favorite item to find… animal scat! Go figure!
If you find yourself skipping over some sections, please pause and thoroughly read the final section, hygiene, first-aid, and safety. No matter how much you know about tent season ratings and hiking with kids, it’s always good to brush up on wilderness first-aid preparedness. From dealing with sunburns and bug bites to handling big animal encounters, Olsson covers it all.
If you’ve never camped, only backyard camped, or even if you’ve taken the kids out on numerous excursions there is still much you can learn from Camping with Kids. My family loves this book and there’ll be space in the van for it on every camping trip.
Cat Croteau is an avid hiker, yogi, and mom to 4. Currently residing in South Dakota with her soul mate, Cat loves exploring the Black Hills with a baby on her hip and her family by her side.
Cat is a key member of the Women’s Adventure book club. Join her and more than 400 women from around the world as we read and discuss an adventure book each month here.