Have you ever imagined yourself at one with nature; the ambient noise of a waterfall in the background. There is a slight breeze to cool your sun-warmed legs and as you sip your morning coffee, considering taking one of the many nature trails, you just about reach Nirvana when your child screams out “MOMMA, I HAVE TO GO POTTY!”
We have a camping trip coming up this week in Gooseberry Falls in Minnesota’s northeast corner, a little under an hour from Duluth. It will be my two girls and myself, my Dad’s girlfriend, and her daughter-in-law Bethany and granddaughter.
Bethany was the one to propose the trip. We are both teachers and the plan was hastily made during what was probably the most stressful time of year: state testing. Naturally, we needed a mental vacation as well as a physical one so the thought of spending three days in one of Minnesota’s best state parks held a magnetic appeal. So we picked a time and a place and hit “reserve.”
The trip will not be without challenges: a seven-plus hour car ride from our house to the campsite, one toddler who is not quite potty trained, and the threat of Minnesota mosquitoes which are perhaps the worst non-Malaria-ridden version out there. Residents have oft joked about calling it our state bird in place of the common loon (actually a bird, not a person though you never know considering what it takes to survive a winter here). In any case, the trip shall be a low-cost adventure and perhaps the highlight of our summer.
How to Minimally Pack for a Camping Trip with Two Toddlers from a Complete Novice
My children are afraid of forgetting their precious belongings at home. I think their whole idea of this trip is to make the tent feel like a replica of their bedroom. For me, I have an unreasonable worry about bringing too much on a camping trip. It’s camping after all, not moving in. I also hate the process of cleaning out the back of the vehicle after a family vacation. The whole process should take five minutes; any longer and I get hives.
It is almost guaranteed that I will be editing this list down the line once the trip is said and done but here it is.
- One large bin (and one small) that will serve two purposes (storage and sinks)
- 5 Large hand towels (use as oven mitts, table cloth, napkin, and drying towel)
- One camp stove that has been around since the Nixon administration
- One pot or cast iron skillet for cooking
- One teapot for what could be the world’s worst cup of non-instant coffee (see section titled “Adult Survival: Coffee”)
- One plate and bowl per person (use your own everyday dishes)
- Utensils (ones you already use on a regular basis)
- Cups (ceramic or plastic)
- A wooden spoon
- A lighter and matches
- Two lanterns
- Sleeping bags
- A tent with an extra tarp
- Mosquito spray and mosquito bracelets
- Games and activities for kids (see next section)
- Shampoo and soap
- Dish soap
- One cloth bag for dirty clothes
- Shoes for slippery surfaces
- Wet wipes
Am I forgetting something? Probably.
Games for the Kiddos
The point is to put the kids to bed tired. There will be hiking but I don’t trust that sections of the hike won’t be played out in the dramatic fashion of a Shakespearean tragedy. “Moth’r, I’m as thirsty as thine waterfall run dry. I require water or peradventure a flagon of apple water. Wherefore is the wat’rfall so far hence? I do beseech you to carry me thither. Didst thee seeth yon bug? AYE-EEEEH!!!”
So, here is my list of kid activities that will perhaps do the job of getting the kiddos exhausted enough to sleep through about any climate.
- a Velcro catch set (this is the only thing I actually bought for the trip and this set was highly rated by comparison to others)
- Camping Bingo cards
- Wilderness scavenger hunt cards
- My phone for Geocaching. Though if you ask at the state park office where you check in, they sometimes have GPS devices and Geocache drops that rangers have put in ALL FOR FREE!
- a backpack full of kid-friendly binoculars, a compass or two, and a couple of magnifying glasses that pose no threat to passing ants. I couldn’t find the exact one we have but this one on Amazon is pretty close
It is possible that we won’t need to use ANY of these things but I would rather be prepared…like a scout.
Adult Survival: Coffee
Ever heard of cowboy coffee? Yeah, me neither. When I looked up different ways to make coffee at camp, I came across some seriously complicated, fussy, and frankly expensive ways to make coffee over a campfire.
Enter “cowboy coffee.” Don’t no cowboy have no time for none of that there French press. The guy in this video is great!
So there you have it, a streamlined way of surviving a camping trip with the littles. I’ll check back and tell you how it all went.