Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Tips for first-time campers

By Dena ROSENBERRY dena.rosenberry@gazette.com - Published: May 20, 2013

Summer vacation has arrived for many students in the Pikes Peak region, so it won't be long until families are flocking to the high country on camping trips. To ensure your trip is a smooth, successful voyage, here are some tips shared by Out There readers:

- Set up a tent in your backyard - or living room, even - for your first trip. You can get the kids to help you, if they're old enough, and everyone can practice the routine of campstove cooking, singing camp songs, no TV or video games and "lights out." (Be sure to fire up the campstove outside, for safety.)

- Plan your first camping trips with extended family or friends to ensure there are other kids around and adults to lend a hand and to make camping "normal."

- Don't travel too far from home for your first trip, in case someone has a total meltdown. And don't consider it a "failure" if you bail. Just learn from the experience and try again.

- Consider staying in a designated campground with picnic tables, grills, showers and bathrooms. You can wean yourself away from these conveniences as your camping confidence grows.

- Let your kids take small toys - action figures, cars, plastic animals - they can play with in the dirt.

- Explore the campground and beyond with your kids. Familiarize older kids with its layout so they can navigate a trip to the bathroom by themselves. Take books to help you identify flowers, animals and constellations.

- Take advantage of a campground's nature hikes or talks. Let your kids sign up for the Junior Ranger program.

- Take Frisbees, playing cards, games and musical instruments (plastic kazoos and harmonicas are fine). Play together.

- Make sure kids stay warm and dry. Pack as if it will rain.

- Let kids get dirty beyond all belief. They can take a long bath when they get home.

- Take them camping someplace they can fish - someplace they'll catch fish. It'll be more fun, and they'll want to do it again.

- Take bug spray, sunscreen and plenty of snacks and drinks.

- Take your bikes, scooters, skateboards. The kids will get more activity, and you probably will, too.

- Play charades, tell stories and sing around the campfire.

- Try geocaching. Your kids will enjoy the thrill of following "clues" (coordinates) to reach a "treasure" (a cache). If you're unfamiliar with geocaching, take a class. REI regularly offers classes in geocaching basics.

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