What do you get when you cross three dads with seven kids partaking in an offthegrid camping adventure? I’m not sure either but it offered up one helluva’ trip! Despite my little voice trying to sway my inclination, the planning was complete and it was, after all, what Sonoran Trails is about! It’s what we live for, it’s what we do. Parents may find it surprising that on this trip ages ranged from three to nine, and not once did we hear those infamous and narcissistic words, “I’m bored!” In this kid-laced, down and dirty submission, I hope to remove concerns of parents contemplating camping with their kids. While I’m at it, I’ll offer up a few tips from lessons I learned after exploring with my now seven year old since she was three.
To backtrack a bit, my first camping experience with my then three year old daughter was not that, how do we say, smooth. My Jeep was laden with every modern amenity I could fit and I was as nervous as a fly in a spider web, sweating and trying to remain calm, and anxiously wanting my daughter to have a great experience. The iPad was stocked with movies and games, as was my phone, favorite toys littered the front passenger floor board, extra pillows and blankets covered the tent on that cold, hard ground. There were also plenty of random food items I grabbed last minute.
I had everything covered until my Jolie stopped me in my tracks. We had backed into a developed campsite (where you won’t find me any longer) which I had reserved months in advance. As I was unloading Jo started playing in the dirt. I watched a bit and she asked in her toddler tongue, “Daddy, can I take off my shoes?” Huh? What? “Uh, of course you can!” I replied. For the rest of the trip, two nights camping, not one device was turned on or requested nor were her toys used. Dirt became mud, leaves became treasures, and small creatures in and on the ground were played with, caught, released, and exchanged. I say all of that, to say this, leave it at home. Your child(ren) will find the treasure outside that adults have long forgotten. Trust me ~
Brent and Jake with their four whippersnappers arrived about 3pm and Sonoran Trails CEO Josh Miller with his camper kid plugged in ’bout an hour later. Donnie with his two came up a day later. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word, “Daddy!?” said as often as I did over those few days. After several kid-shouting requests, each was met with a short, curt bark, “What?!” For the most part, each was in turn met with my favorite slogan, “Go Play!” Unless there was blood or a dire need for food, go play!
So what would persuade grown men to take their kids and go camping? It’s as simple as it is complex – for the kids to be outside, to participate in unorganized play, to avoid organized “activities”, satisfy curiosity, hmm…there’s certainly more but I’ll stop there. It’s definitely a time for me to enjoy watching my kid at her best. It’s also a time to enjoy her curled on my lap after supper, watching our camp fire as she points out constellations. It’s a time to just, “be.”
My daughter loves to go on hikes into the surrounding area. One particular tear-jerker…Jolie and I went for a short hike so she could continue to build on her “nature” collection. We stopped along the river where small boulders and rocks were barely exposed by the quietly flowing Verde River and over time had gathered into small pools. Jo began digging and flipping rocks, exposing little creatures, plant life, and new rocks. She was completely engrossed in her exploration, so I just watched. Without looking up she said quietly, “Daddy, I wish me and you could stay here forever.” This is where I had something in both my eyes. To the parents out there, I’m talking to you! Get your kids out and about. You won’t regret it.
That being said, I know what you are thinking!
- “But I’m not one to put up a tent and sleep on the ground.”
- “It’s too hard to get everything together.”
- “The kids will get bored.”
My answer to all of the above is a curt and resounding, “No!” You’ll know what to do, it’s not hard, and, trust me; I’ve yet to experience a bored kid when unleashed into the outdoors, especially with a stream nearby. So, how can we parents make it more enjoyable for everyone? At the behest of friends and clients, here are a few ideas I learned:
Make it comfortable!
The average family will spend upwards of $800 on one camping trip. This includes tent(s), sleeping bags/pads, hiking gear, cooking gear, appropriate clothing, any fees for campsites and a host of other items. After all of this is purchased it will probably sit in the garage when, in another couple of years, you decide to try it, “one more time”, only to find out the gear is mildewed, falling apart, or otherwise unusable. (Insert company info!) This is where Sonoran Trails can help by providing a fully outfitted Jeep JK Wrangler. Each is equipped with a roof top tent, sleeping bags, 12-gallon fresh-water cell, cooking equipment, storage, and a slide out tray for ease of access. Need some additional gear; Sonoran Trails can help there as well.
Make it easy!
If you’ve kept reading this far you’re trying to fain interest in this awesome camping idea! Sonoran Trails makes it easy for you to escape with your family. You rent, you pick up, and you drop off when your adventure is complete. You only need to add food and personal items to make things complete. Each rig also includes a cooler, but if you want the ultimate ease of camping, rent our ARB on board refrigerator. No icy slosh or wet bread!
Make it fun!
And the easiest piece, fun! Why? It’s automatically built-in. As long as my daughter is within reasonable earshot, there have been trips where I wouldn’t see her for hours. Sometimes adults just need to leave their kid(s) alone.
If that’s not enough, here are a few hard and fast planning guidelines I use:
- Prepare a snack box with the kids favorite treats.
- Fill up their favorite water bottle.
- Let them pack their suitcase. No need to bring a lot of extraneous stuff but let them pack and be a part of the planning.
- Plan meals for adults and meals for the kids. Jo loves the instant mac ‘n cheese when camping, so it’s a rare treat.
- If money allows, grab them a kid-size chair and their own sleeping bag. I recently did this for mine and she loves it.
- Buy a cheap hammock. We have one and they play in it for hours!
- Have them select a special container to collect what they find, i.e. special rocks, leaves, etc.
- Let them pick out a nice stick the size for hiking. I have several knives I use to trim off branches and debris when Jo finds her special stick. The tradition now is that Jo finds a “new” hiking staff and I carve it up to her liking. She loves it!
- Except for travel time, no screen time. No exceptions. Go play!
- I operate out of a weathered and now beaten Arizona Atlas – get one, or one for your locale. Great info! It has all of the developed campgrounds (which, again, I now avoid), as well as hundreds of miles of out of the way dirt roads and tracks that will take you to a plethora of camp sites that are off-the-grid.
- We generally try to stay close to a stream, just a shallow one. These are better than unleashing your kid in a Toys-R-Us.
There you have it! As is usually the case, taking that first step is the hardest. If you have let even a portion of this soak in, give Sonoran Trails a shout and let us answer your questions or concerns. Our company motto is, “Exit – Experience – Explore”. Not only can we help you do just that, we can help you enjoy the experience with your kids and family. It’s moments you will capture during these adventures that they, and you, will remember for the rest of your lives. Finally, Sonoran Trails will give you an opportunity to get out with their weekend drawing! Enter here for your Free Weekend Drawing!