How to camp with kids in Colorado | SummitDaily.com

How to camp with kids in Colorado

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily

There are many activities that try to claim "quintessential" summer status. While hopping on a bicycle, floating down a river and bagging a peak are all great summer pastimes, camping is perhaps one of the most beloved. It's the perfect combination of all sorts of good things: spending time outdoors; exploring a new area; chance encounters with wildlife; and, of course, s'mores.

But while it seems like no trouble at all for a couple or group of friends to throw some gear in the car next to the camping box, there's a perception that camping with kids is not such an easy task. However, take heart: This is false and is nothing but a pernicious rumor. Having kids doesn't mean that you have to eschew one of the highlights of summertime. In fact, there are plenty of tips and tricks for camping with kids without a lot of extra trips to the store.

Pitch a tent

My first with-kids camping excursion was a few weeks ago to a gorgeous open space above Buena Vista with views of the Collegiate peaks. There were between seven and 16 of us at any given time and the ages ranged from 7 months old to 40 years old and older. Hadley, the 7-month-old, is the daughter of two friends of mine with whom I have been on adventures in locations ranging from Pitkin Lake to Oman. But this was the first time Hadley had been camping — and my first time camping with a baby nearby.

It went way better than I had expected. She's young enough that she's not crawling or walking, so she spent a lot of time being bounced on knees or playing in an inflatable crib that her parents, Brian and Heather Blankenmeister, brought with them. Heather said she thought that Hadley's first camping trip was a success, though there were some obvious differences between camping with a baby and prior trips.

"I had to give up my dream of a cute little camping tent for two," she said, laughing. "Now we have the condo tent for the family."

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Dubbed the Tent Mahal, this tent has enough room to fit not only the two adults and the baby but also the crib and all of the other gear.

"Don't be afraid to get a large tent," Heather said.

And while the crib was nice to have, Heather said that she didn't need a lot of extraneous items to accommodate Hadley.

"You don't need fancy stuff," she said. "You can stay really simple."

Keep it simple

It was a common refrain that I heard from a lot of moms who camp with kids: Make do with what you have.

Sleeping is what most parents think about, whether at home or at a campsite.

Pack and plays, if they fit in the tent, are great to have, but can get cold, so add a blanket, recommends Jen Winkeller, whose kids are now 1 and 3 years old, but have been camping since they were 3 months old.

Snowsuits make great sleeping bags for babies, wrote several moms on Facebook in response to my query. Another suggestion? Audrey Carson said that they had success with a fleece bunting, large sleep sack and down blanket to help keep warm at night with their 20-month-old. Pack socks to keep on the baby's hands during the night to help keep them cozy.

Or simply shorten your trip. One family that has two daughters, ages 2 and 6, realized that the little one was simply not sleeping well in the tent. Instead of giving up camping altogether, they simply take single-night trips, which allow them to still enjoy the excursion, but keeps everyone happier in the long run.

Outdoor fun

For older kids, the tips and suggestions focused on how to keep them occupied and how to keep an eye on them.

"Two-year-olds are fascinated with the sticks, rocks and dirt," Winkeller said. "Bring as little toys as possible."

Buckets, shovels and small toys are easy to pack and can be used around the campsite with little fuss. Several parents suggested setting up scavenger hunts to get children exploring their surroundings; books on native plants and animals help organize the search parameters.

"And this is kind of random, but my kids love it so much — we have a piñata that we almost always bring (we just keep re-stuffing and re-filling the same one)," wrote Wendy Mason Goulding. "We fill it with a mix of candy and silly toys. Always a crowd pleaser."

Glow sticks are a go-to for many parents. They not only serve as a source of fun for the kids, but they can also be used as a nightlight and to keep track of the little ones (dogs included). Headlamps are also helpful for kids and adults alike.

And when the fun has finished?

"One of the best tricks I learned is to use one of the storage bins as a bath at the end of the day," Winkeller said.

Fun for everyone

Summers are too short and camping is a great way to let your kids run (a little bit) wild in the outdoors. One of the most common refrains that I heard from parents was to "let them get dirty and explore."

So don't think that camping is simply for grown-ups with fancy cook fire cuisine or elaborate site architecture. Grab a tent and some friends, no matter their age. The stars and the campfires are waiting.

Camping — baby-style

Snowsuit

Keep your child warm at night while summer camping with some winter gear.

Shovels and buckets

Many parents suggest bringing as few toys as possible when camping and letting the kids be fascinated with sticks, rocks and dirt.

Glow sticks

Another source of fun for kids are glow sticks — and they also help parents keep track of the kids after dark.

Storage bin bath

Jen Winkeller says one of her favorite tricks is to use the storage bins as a bath at the end of the day.

Get the gear

While you can camp with as much — or as little — as you like, there is some gear that is nice to have, specially sized for kids. Kelcey Everson at Ptarmigan Sports suggested the following items that they have in stock:

Waterproof clothing: Marmot Precip jacket and pants, available in sizes xs-xl and various colors. Jacket: $65; pants: $55

Footwear that provides support but can also tramp in and out of streams.: Keen Kids Newport H2 sandal, available in multiple sizes and colors. Price: $45-$55

Illumination that is solar, lightweight, waterproof, super bright and never needs batteries: Luci Inflatable solar lights, available in two sizes. Price: $14.95 and $19.95

A pack designed for kids but with adult features: Osprey Ace 38 and 50 Liter kids backpacks. Price: $140- $160

No-handed lights: Petzl Tikkina headlamp. Price: $19.95

Just the right size camp chair: Helinox Camp Chairs, Chair Mini. Price: $69.95