5 Steps to Surviving Family Camping


There comes a time in every family man’s life when he has to suck it up, bite the bullet, and do the dirty despicable deed.

I’m of course talking about camping.

For me and my wife, camping 7 years ago was the highlight of our year.  Late nights burning Jiffy-Pop and snuggling ourselves together until the late hours of the morning while the sounds of nature played like Barry White over romantic candlelight.

…oh, did I mention I have 3 kids and one on the way now?  You can forget all that luvvy-duvvy stuff and instead prepare for Hell complete with all the abstinence of an old-folks home for nuns.  Thus, I return from my summer break with my new-found knowledge of the 5 Stages of Family Camping.

1- Preparing and Packing

Seeing as any plans for this to be multiple nights of fornicating with your spouse are simply a fantasy of a bygone era, I realized I needed to familiarize myself with the art of fun-filled family camping.  No problem…I was a Boy Scout in my youth.  Granted, I was a completely incompetent Boy Scout and couldn’t start a fire unless I had access to a minimum of a gallon of gasoline and a full pack of matches.  But I had an ace in the hole: my old Cub Scout manual

…which turned out to be next to useless unless I was wanting to earn a badge in helping old ladies across the street, or learning “God Save the Queen” plus any number of pledges to corrupt, archaic political demagogues.

As for packing, my wife wouldn’t let me near the van.  Score one for me.

2- Arriving

The first thing I noticed is how utterly empty the campsite is.  No bathroom, no water…just a mound of gravel.  Kind of like a 5 Star resort in Uzbekistan.  Now any good survival guide will tell you that the first order of business is food and shelter.  So I went to work putting up the tent while my wife prepared meals as the kids waited eagerly, looking like an audition room for Oliver Twist.

3- Adjusting

This step will vary depending on your level of comfort with the outdoors.  I was practically raised by wolves as a kid and allowed to roam free on a rural Manitoba farm, so I was only in the fetal position weeping for only a few hours.   In contrast, the cast of Jersey Shore would likely resort to cannibalism within mere moments of arriving.

The first main adjustment will be your diet.  Now I lead a pretty strict regimen of kosher pseudo-vegetarianism, so burgers and dogs are out.  But trust me, the last thing you want is an entire family whose bowels are full of mechanically separated meat and then forced to sleep in a small enclosure.  Substitutions are in order.  For example, we used Mighty Tasty gluten-free instant cereal to replace our regular morning staple.

Now I’m not saying that the taste is similar to sawdust from a lumberjack’s boxer shorts, but I’m not denying it either.

Another thing you will need to adjust to is your change in smell.  This becomes obvious when your spouse holds her breath when you kiss her.  When you finally do a self-breath test, you discover that your breath smells like a tuna fish sandwich left in the hot sun on the dashboard of a car.  Don’t expect toothpaste to help.   I swear something in the woods is like an antidote to fresh breath.

4- Accepting

This glorious step should take place around your 8th trip to the outhouse.  For those unprepared for the smell of an honest-to-goodness outhouse, all I can say is you’re in for a treat!  Imagine sweet smelling roses fresh picked in morning air that smells like morning dew on a gulf course mixed with sunshine.  Got that image?  Good.  Now imagine a half dozen constipated skunks relieving themselves on your roses.  Yes, I can promise you that your sense of smell will die a little each day.

Add to that already disgusting experience the fact that when you have kids things get far more complicated.  Mine felt that the dark smelly hole led to a demonic underworld and wouldn’t go unless I accompanied them.  In other words…when the kids have to go, so do you.

But that’s actually the good news.  You see, when you have kids and nature calls multiple times in the early hours of the morning, a dark trek through bear infested woods to the outhouse is not an option for those of us who are not accustomed to fighting man-killing beasts in the dark.  Thus, welcome to your new best friend…the ice cream pail.

5- Leaving

Several days into your adventure, you’ll find that you will actually adjust to your new home.  This may have to do with the day to day roughing it, or the fact that you’ve been wearing the same underwear and socks for 3 days.  But the good news is that a time will come when you no longer weep like a homesick schoolgirl for home.  Yes, as time passes you will transform from urban wuss to a smelly, burly man of nature.

I am neither man nor beast, but now am one with the boreal forest expanse.  Hear me world!! Hear me…

…what, it’s time to go home?  YES!!!

Which brings me to my last piece of advice, save your last pair of underwear for the long ride home. Be good to yourself for getting through it!

© 2010 – 2011, Dysfunctional Parrot. All rights reserved. No reproduction of written material is permitted.

About Author

John Paul Parrot ( aka. The Dysfunctional Parrot ) is a disgruntled Systems Analyst who wanders the Canadian wastelands saving small villages with the power of Kung Fu.  His chair is also a little too close to the twenty year old microwave.  As you can well imagine, this has had certain side effects.