By Cammie Jones

 

Summer is almost here along with plans to help fill up those lazy, summer months.  Looking for something to do while still managing the effects of COVID-19? Why not try camping? Since I have never been a camper myself, I would not know where to begin in planning something like this, but when I delved into the wonderful Internet and asked some camper friends, I found a plethora of information which got me to thinking— why not plan a little something different this summer?

Rough it (but not too much)
There is no need to be Davy Crockett on a first-time camping experience. Choose a site that is easily accessible to your camping space. Hiking in and out may sound like an authentic plan at the time, but save that energy to set up the tent, start the campfire or gather supplies.

Although mighty active when you don’t want them to be, making your kids “hike” to the campsite could throw the vacation into a negative spin. Keeping things simple and easy is the way to go for the first-timers! Another good tip is to practice camping at home. Set up a tent in your backyard for the night and see how the kids do. Or, test out a local campground for the day to get familiar with the idea. This may give you a small glimpse of what to expect on your first overnight camping experience.

Plan Ahead
Many campsites book quickly. In the Augusta area, several sites near Lake Thurmond, Mistletoe State Park, Diamond Lakes Park offer reservations online. Choose a few dates that work and check availability. Know what you want ahead of time in terms of location and amenities.

Many of our local campsites are open March to October, but it is always best to refer to the site for details. The cost of renting a campsite starts around $20 and goes up from there depending on the season and length of stay. Study the site map for the best camping locations near water and next to bathrooms and showers.

Equipment
First-time campers don’t need the latest tent, sleeping bags and other expensive camping equipment. Try to borrow bigger items from friends or family. You can also rent camping equipment from online rental companies.  I found outdoorgeek.com is a good place to start. They ship anywhere in the U.S. and there is the option to purchase the equipment after using it.

Katie Blackstone, mom of Bridger, 10, and Bowie, 8, says her boys enjoy each having a flashlight when they go camping. Both useful and fun, a flashlight would be an easy purchase and incite a little excitement in the kids.

Pack Smart
Overpacking is not recommended. But, make sure you have clothing for all types of weather. Check the local forecast or follow a weather app. Don’t hesitate to throw in an extra rain jacket or poncho, more towels and a blanket based on the radar’s view of upcoming weather. Having a chair for each family member is also important, and don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen!

Devices
Going old school is a great way to ditch those electronics. You may not want to leave them at home, but why not keep them locked in the car for most of your vacation? Hopefully, service will not be top-notch where you are so there will be less arguing. Take this time to talk, relax and hang out together as a family without the everyday distractions of the television, computer or phone. Listen to music, tell stories around the campfire, swim, explore, read a book, play cards and enjoy the natural surroundings. An Augusta mom said her daughter and son loved to camp because they knew that their parents were giving them 100 percent of their attention since the normal distractions of home were not competing.

Meals
Stick to easy meals— hamburgers and hotdogs, cold cut sandwiches or meals prepared ahead of time are a great way for stress-free camp cooking. Have healthy options such as fruit and cheese for a quick snack or as a side to any meal. A cooler for anything that needs to stay cold is a must. Bring plenty of water and beverages.

Routine
If your kids are young, try to stick to similar routines of nap time, bedtimes and, hopefully, wake up times that will ensure a good night’s sleep for all. Keep in mind, though, to be flexible. A new environment is always a little disruptive so allow your kids time to adapt. From all the running around the campsite and physical activity they will be enjoying, a good nap and night of sleep may be welcomed.

Activities
Competitions between family members for the duration of your stay is always fun. Mom won Go Fish  =  one point. Junior completed the nature treasure hunt  = one point.  Have a prize at the end of your trip for the winner or let them rest during clean-up duty. If you are going with another family, divide into teams and compete.

Fishing, swimming, hiking, kicking the soccer ball, kickball, playing catch, etc., are all great ways to spend your time.  But allow for plenty of downtime, too. I don’t think we do enough of that on those lazy summer days!

This article appears in the May/June 2020 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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