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The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature

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Plan your family camping adventure! Whether you’re a first-time camper or a veteran backpacker befuddled by the challenges of carting a brood—and all the requisite gear—into the great outdoors, here you’ll find all the tips and tools you need to plan the perfect nature adventure with your family. Humorous and irreverent, yet always authoritative, this guide to camping with Plan your family camping adventure! Whether you’re a first-time camper or a veteran backpacker befuddled by the challenges of carting a brood—and all the requisite gear—into the great outdoors, here you’ll find all the tips and tools you need to plan the perfect nature adventure with your family. Humorous and irreverent, yet always authoritative, this guide to camping with kids, from babies through pre-teens, is filled with checklists, smart tips, recipes, games, activities, and art projects. Helen Olsson, a seasoned camper and mother of three, shares lessons learned over the years of nature outings with her own family. Learn the basics of family camping, from choosing a destination and packing gear to setting up a campsite and keeping little ones safe. Create the perfect camp menu with simple and tasty recipe ideas. Discover foolproof tips and tactics for keeping kids happy and entertained while hiking. Explore nature through clever and creative camp arts and craft projects. This guide is your game plan to unplugging from the digital world and connecting your kids to nature. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows around a crackling campfire or stretching out on a camp mat to gaze at the stars, the memories you’ll be making will last a lifetime.


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Plan your family camping adventure! Whether you’re a first-time camper or a veteran backpacker befuddled by the challenges of carting a brood—and all the requisite gear—into the great outdoors, here you’ll find all the tips and tools you need to plan the perfect nature adventure with your family. Humorous and irreverent, yet always authoritative, this guide to camping with Plan your family camping adventure! Whether you’re a first-time camper or a veteran backpacker befuddled by the challenges of carting a brood—and all the requisite gear—into the great outdoors, here you’ll find all the tips and tools you need to plan the perfect nature adventure with your family. Humorous and irreverent, yet always authoritative, this guide to camping with kids, from babies through pre-teens, is filled with checklists, smart tips, recipes, games, activities, and art projects. Helen Olsson, a seasoned camper and mother of three, shares lessons learned over the years of nature outings with her own family. Learn the basics of family camping, from choosing a destination and packing gear to setting up a campsite and keeping little ones safe. Create the perfect camp menu with simple and tasty recipe ideas. Discover foolproof tips and tactics for keeping kids happy and entertained while hiking. Explore nature through clever and creative camp arts and craft projects. This guide is your game plan to unplugging from the digital world and connecting your kids to nature. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows around a crackling campfire or stretching out on a camp mat to gaze at the stars, the memories you’ll be making will last a lifetime.

30 review for The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    There was a weird sort of anti-kid undercurrent to this purportedly kid-centered book, so when I got to "Use earplugs. I am not kidding about this." as a suggestion for how to deal with whining, or "Employ bribes" as a strategy for getting kids down a trail, I was not surprised, and nor did I want to read anymore. I mean, I get it, I've been there, but can't we be a little more inspired? I don't see how those strategies can foster connection, as the subtitle suggests. There was a weird sort of anti-kid undercurrent to this purportedly kid-centered book, so when I got to "Use earplugs. I am not kidding about this." as a suggestion for how to deal with whining, or "Employ bribes" as a strategy for getting kids down a trail, I was not surprised, and nor did I want to read anymore. I mean, I get it, I've been there, but can't we be a little more inspired? I don't see how those strategies can foster connection, as the subtitle suggests.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    I loved this book. It is fun to read and highly informative. If you are new to camping, new to camping with kids or looking for new ideas about how to make camping with kids better then this book is for you. I have recently read several books on camping, cooking while camping and cooking for kids while camping and this is the best out of all of them. The book comes with very helpful lists (I happen to love lists!). The lists are for packing equipment, packing activities for the kids, and packing I loved this book. It is fun to read and highly informative. If you are new to camping, new to camping with kids or looking for new ideas about how to make camping with kids better then this book is for you. I have recently read several books on camping, cooking while camping and cooking for kids while camping and this is the best out of all of them. The book comes with very helpful lists (I happen to love lists!). The lists are for packing equipment, packing activities for the kids, and packing and preparing food. There are very useful and basic but interesting recipes and food menus. Olsson includes very helpful information about what to do if it is raining/storming, what to do with the hours in between meals and sleeping, what to do on a hike when the kids become tired, what to do if you are far from a bathroom, and what to do when you have unhappy campers. Every page of this book has helpful tips, lists and I found myself highlighting parts on every page. What makes this book even better is Olsson's sense of humor and style of writing. The book opens up with a very funny camping before kids were in her life -- I have recounted that scene to several friends already. Olsson doesn't just give advice, she gives advice with examples of where she or a friend encountered the exact same situation and dealt with it poorly or perfectly. The personal anecdotes make this more than just a how-to-guide. In the end the book is inspiring and helpful. I highly recommend this book for anyone thinking about camping with kids or who regularly camps with kids.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julianne Vantland

    I grew up camping with my family and have the best memories of summer days exploring the campground and outdoors and nights around the fire. I’ve been wanting to introduce my own kids to this magical experience but felt daunted by all the details and supplies and variables. This book is a great help for all that! She breaks down each component of the camping experience from prep work to meals to hiking to first aid, and so much more, into reflections and manageable lists of steps or supplies. It I grew up camping with my family and have the best memories of summer days exploring the campground and outdoors and nights around the fire. I’ve been wanting to introduce my own kids to this magical experience but felt daunted by all the details and supplies and variables. This book is a great help for all that! She breaks down each component of the camping experience from prep work to meals to hiking to first aid, and so much more, into reflections and manageable lists of steps or supplies. It’s nothing that I hadn’t heard or done before, but having all of the tips and tools in one place makes this a great resource for a busy family who wants to try something new. I’m so looking forward to getting out with my kiddos!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bridgette

    This book is great! Well written and a pleasure to read. In addition to the checklist in each chapter there is a master list in the back. Great ideas for things to do with the kids when you are in the camping! We are long time campers, but have recently gotten back into camping with our littles. This book covers the basics as if you’ve never camped and gives lots of game and activity ideas for littles.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joelle

    I loved the helpful gear lists in this book as well as the practical camping advice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    So along with talking about how to diaper kids while camping there is a chapter on food has this reminder...don't mix up your oregano with your medical marijuana. Seriously? We're not even pretending it's for medical use? So along with talking about how to diaper kids while camping there is a chapter on food has this reminder...don't mix up your oregano with your medical marijuana. Seriously? We're not even pretending it's for medical use?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Skipped over most of the basic camping information but I liked the tips for hiking with kids and camp games that might keep them entertained. I'm feeling like my family needs a completely unplugged weekend sometime soon! Skipped over most of the basic camping information but I liked the tips for hiking with kids and camp games that might keep them entertained. I'm feeling like my family needs a completely unplugged weekend sometime soon!

  8. 4 out of 5

    J T. Ramsay

    This isn’t a guide as much as it is a pep talk and a call to action. I bought this book three years ago after an overnight camp in our local park, imagining it would unlock the secret to getting into the great outdoors. Turns out a book can only do so much. This week we spent an overnight in the Great Smoky Mountains and this book was the inspiration that made even a modest campout with my two boys was even possible. For that I’m forever grateful and look forward to the adventures ahead!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    While there were some good tips about camping with kids, overall I found this book geared more for beginner campers with no equipment or experience. I was hoping for some delicious, easy camp meals, and this is especially where the book fell short in my opinion. Still glad I read it as I have a couple new ideas for the girls this fall, but definitely not what I was hoping for.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    A decent review with some good tips and reminders, but more motivational than informational. I think the section with activities will be worth bringing along on the trip, and the packing lists should be a helpful resource when it actually comes time to head for the campground.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kit Feral

    I liked how this was laid out and it gave me a lot to think about. We will be attempting backyard camping this summer and I will re visit this next year before attempting a real trip (with two 5.5 year olds, a 3/4 year old and a baby under 1 ahhh)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This book is a great resource! It was also fun to read! The author's tone and humor is great! This book is a great resource! It was also fun to read! The author's tone and humor is great!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elyse

    Smart writing and useful information. I got this from the library and would definitely consider buying it when I have littles of my own!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Good overview of all the camping basics.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diego

    A little long winded, but it generally has pretty good tips and a comprehensive packing list that can get you started on getting ready to go camping with kids, making that process a little more efficient.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Ellermann

    If you don't know anything about camping, this book will get you through. Perhaps I should be more generous, but I was turned off by the cutesy prose. If you don't know anything about camping, this book will get you through. Perhaps I should be more generous, but I was turned off by the cutesy prose.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sara Thompson

    Camping with children can be difficult but Helen offers a simple guide to make the trip more successful for everyone involved. She starts with planning. Planning an outing is a tough thing to teach so instead she offers some points to consider when planning a camping trip. Location is everything and researching the campsite you are going to will ease surprises when you arrive. Prepare your children with fun books about camping and information about activities you can do. For me, gear is the hard Camping with children can be difficult but Helen offers a simple guide to make the trip more successful for everyone involved. She starts with planning. Planning an outing is a tough thing to teach so instead she offers some points to consider when planning a camping trip. Location is everything and researching the campsite you are going to will ease surprises when you arrive. Prepare your children with fun books about camping and information about activities you can do. For me, gear is the hardest part. Helen has nicely broken down all the parts that make up a great campsite and how to shop for them. She includes bringing along a play tent to keep the kids occupied while you set up. Then comes section 2, arrival at the site. Helen offers an amazing detailed description of setting up a campsite. I don’t think I have ever seen a better manual and I have read a ton of camping books. She offers a chapter on camp food with recipes. Then goes on to offer games and activities to keep children occupied. The book ends with a section on hygiene, first aid and safety. Camping is a daunting activity for any beginner. Add children and camping becomes forbidden. Helen Olsson has created a simple guide to break down those barriers and get the family out into the woods. I can see so much potential for this book from scouting groups, youth groups to just learning to enjoy nature as a family.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Breanne

    This is a great camping guide with a focus on caring for your kids in the wilderness. It has sections on what gear you'll need, food to prepare (including recipes), hygiene and safety, as well as many ideas for crafts, games, and activities. Each section comes with checklists so you can make sure you've remembered to pack everything, and the book is scattered with helpful "smart tips" that the author has picked up from experience - such as keeping a pair of sandals by the tent door for any midni This is a great camping guide with a focus on caring for your kids in the wilderness. It has sections on what gear you'll need, food to prepare (including recipes), hygiene and safety, as well as many ideas for crafts, games, and activities. Each section comes with checklists so you can make sure you've remembered to pack everything, and the book is scattered with helpful "smart tips" that the author has picked up from experience - such as keeping a pair of sandals by the tent door for any midnight trips to the bathroom. "Nobody, especially a six-year-old, wants to be tying laces in the dead of night." I originally only intended to peruse this book and scan the sections that I was interested in. But the author's friendly and playful voice lured me in until I ended up reading it from cover to cover, even laughing out loud a few times. "You want the kitchen to be as far from the tent as possible (within reason), because you don't want your tent smelling like blueberry cobbler. Bears love blueberry cobbler." There is a lot of good insight and experience here specific to camping with kids that you won't get from a normal camping book, and it's fun to read to boot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This is not something I would normally think of reviewing, let alone reading. Normally I read for fun, and this is not something one reads for fun. It's something you read out of desperation! If you're anything like me, you've been camping with kids, and have had various degrees of success... but mostly failure. I have run through my repertoire of kids games and snacks, and the kids are bored and tired. This results in whining, bickering and possibly some fighting that would rival the bloodiest M This is not something I would normally think of reviewing, let alone reading. Normally I read for fun, and this is not something one reads for fun. It's something you read out of desperation! If you're anything like me, you've been camping with kids, and have had various degrees of success... but mostly failure. I have run through my repertoire of kids games and snacks, and the kids are bored and tired. This results in whining, bickering and possibly some fighting that would rival the bloodiest MMA cage match. This book might have actually helped (I'll report back after our next trip, driving across the country for a week). From its recipe for "fire starting eggs" to various kids activities, and a full chapter on what to do in the case of whining (Olsson may or may not have recommended ear plugs...), this book is absolutely FULL of great ideas. I look forward to trying all of them!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    We are taking the kids on our first 'real' camping trip in June (last summer we camped in the backyard). I grabbed a few books from the library to skim for ideas. This book by Helen Olsson was a great guidebook for camping with kids. What I especially liked was her witty writing style, her ability to be truthful about kids and what/how they act, the great meal ideas and a wonderful packing list at the end of the book. I copied several pages out of this book and will put them to good use this sum We are taking the kids on our first 'real' camping trip in June (last summer we camped in the backyard). I grabbed a few books from the library to skim for ideas. This book by Helen Olsson was a great guidebook for camping with kids. What I especially liked was her witty writing style, her ability to be truthful about kids and what/how they act, the great meal ideas and a wonderful packing list at the end of the book. I copied several pages out of this book and will put them to good use this summer! The great thing was that she also referenced "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv - I read that book a few months back as part of our local book festival. It's need to feel like I'm 'well-read.'

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    This is the most useful book I've read in a long time, yet is still entertaining and fun. My husband and I are gearing up for an adventure with the kids this summer, and it's been a long time since I camped - so I felt like I had no idea where to start. This book walks you through everything - from planning your trip and choosing your gear to setting up and tearing down camp, planning, preparing, and cleaning up after meals, safety and first aid, and kid-friendly activities: all complete with ch This is the most useful book I've read in a long time, yet is still entertaining and fun. My husband and I are gearing up for an adventure with the kids this summer, and it's been a long time since I camped - so I felt like I had no idea where to start. This book walks you through everything - from planning your trip and choosing your gear to setting up and tearing down camp, planning, preparing, and cleaning up after meals, safety and first aid, and kid-friendly activities: all complete with checklists and practical guides. I have basically stopped buying books - a house can only hold so many, and my local library and librarians are amazing - but after reading this through, I bought it immediately. I know we will be using it for years to come!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tricia

    I started off thinking this book was not so hot in terms of advice for those who want to know a little more about camping with kiddos. I was extremely turned off by the little lecture about not letting kids wear flipflops while hiking. Well DUH! If you need a camping guide to give you that advice, I think there may be bigger problems you have to deal with. But overall the book was entertaining and gave good advice about little aspects of camping that we often take for granted out in the real wor I started off thinking this book was not so hot in terms of advice for those who want to know a little more about camping with kiddos. I was extremely turned off by the little lecture about not letting kids wear flipflops while hiking. Well DUH! If you need a camping guide to give you that advice, I think there may be bigger problems you have to deal with. But overall the book was entertaining and gave good advice about little aspects of camping that we often take for granted out in the real world. I would never have tried my Google Map on my phone if not for this book. Nothing else worked out there in the middle of nowhere, but the freaking Google Map.....awesome, yet just a little on the creepy side....

  23. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    What an excellent book. I gave up camping for six years after my first child was born - now I think perhaps I didn't have to do that. The book covers all camping from an overnight at a nearby campground to hiking out on a mountain. It was more than I needed, but it sparked a desire for eating s'mores next to a bonfire again. The author included several funny stories, all there to encourage you to go out and breathe some fresh air. The book was a little light on the recipe section, but the wonderf What an excellent book. I gave up camping for six years after my first child was born - now I think perhaps I didn't have to do that. The book covers all camping from an overnight at a nearby campground to hiking out on a mountain. It was more than I needed, but it sparked a desire for eating s'mores next to a bonfire again. The author included several funny stories, all there to encourage you to go out and breathe some fresh air. The book was a little light on the recipe section, but the wonderful craft and activity ideas included made up for it. The illustrations in the book were very clever. And the check lists for each topic were very comprehensive.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Preston

    There was some good stuff; some boring stuff. We're getting into camping but there was little I didn't already know in the first couple chapters. Some of the games/activities were interesting, and it's always a helpful reminder that bribes are allowed and may even be necessary to get a kid to finish a hike. Some of it was a little hard to swallow (propane camp stoves are necessary and the ONLY environmentally sound cooking method? I'll stick with my fire, one less contraption to buy/haul) but ov There was some good stuff; some boring stuff. We're getting into camping but there was little I didn't already know in the first couple chapters. Some of the games/activities were interesting, and it's always a helpful reminder that bribes are allowed and may even be necessary to get a kid to finish a hike. Some of it was a little hard to swallow (propane camp stoves are necessary and the ONLY environmentally sound cooking method? I'll stick with my fire, one less contraption to buy/haul) but overall I'm glad I read it for the worthwhile tips scattered throughout. And, I can't wait to try her s'mores variations!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Casey Miller

    This was a great introductory book on this topic. Of course, if you're an experienced camper and parent, this will probably not have a ton of new information. However, if you haven't done a lot of camping, or haven't done it with kids, this book has some great tips and ideas. The most helpful parts to me were the checklists of what to pack and the section about recommended gear. If you have kids and are looking to take your family camping, this is a great resource! This was a great introductory book on this topic. Of course, if you're an experienced camper and parent, this will probably not have a ton of new information. However, if you haven't done a lot of camping, or haven't done it with kids, this book has some great tips and ideas. The most helpful parts to me were the checklists of what to pack and the section about recommended gear. If you have kids and are looking to take your family camping, this is a great resource!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Packed full of information and encouragement, this lighthearted book is just the ticket for someone like me who is contemplating introducing their young child to car camping in the great outdoors. An easy read, it's laid out in short chapters with practical sidebars and checklists — there are even a few camping recipes. I borrowed this from my public library, but having seen how helpful this guide is, I plan to buy my own copy. Packed full of information and encouragement, this lighthearted book is just the ticket for someone like me who is contemplating introducing their young child to car camping in the great outdoors. An easy read, it's laid out in short chapters with practical sidebars and checklists — there are even a few camping recipes. I borrowed this from my public library, but having seen how helpful this guide is, I plan to buy my own copy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anna Rybicki

    I found this helpful and fun to read. It has a realistic approach that some reviewers didn't like, e.g. advice on employing food bribes to reluctant child hikers, but I found those moments in the book affirming ("See, even child camping guide authors do stuff like this. I'm an OK parent after all!"). I liked the packing lists that appeared throughout the book and the suggestions for nature based activities. It was nice to read an outdoors book by someone who writes well. I found this helpful and fun to read. It has a realistic approach that some reviewers didn't like, e.g. advice on employing food bribes to reluctant child hikers, but I found those moments in the book affirming ("See, even child camping guide authors do stuff like this. I'm an OK parent after all!"). I liked the packing lists that appeared throughout the book and the suggestions for nature based activities. It was nice to read an outdoors book by someone who writes well.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This is a great book for parents. I read this at the same time as the Camp Out book and they do play nicely together. This was written my a hardcore camper who seems to like any new bit of gear. Its overwhelming for someone who is just getting started but as a gadget hound I like having an experienced voice guide me through being prepared for camp.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    For families thinking about going camping for the first time, or seasoned campers who now have kids, this is a wonderfully thought out and thorough book. A must-have resource with lots of checklists, tips, and practical buying advice. I wish this had existed when we began camping as a family... It would have saved me from some uninformed decisions and time-consuming trial-and-error.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Mehhhhh...This book was okay. It wasn't bad but i wasn't great either. As someone with a strong camping background it really didn't provide a lot of new information. There were a few points I wished the author would have elaborated more on. i think the book would have been stronger/ more focused if she focused only on "car camping." Mehhhhh...This book was okay. It wasn't bad but i wasn't great either. As someone with a strong camping background it really didn't provide a lot of new information. There were a few points I wished the author would have elaborated more on. i think the book would have been stronger/ more focused if she focused only on "car camping."

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