Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken

A Curmudgeons Guide to Camping with Kids


Be careful, yuppie children – rocks are hard.

Why is it when you tell someone that you are going camping for a long weekend, the questions about your sanity begin immediately? At first it is only the moderately concerned, ‘For more than just a weekend?’ but it progresses quickly to ‘Are you taking your children?’ Finally, they arrive at true understanding: ‘So you going to go camping for FOUR days with your WIFE and your CHILDREN?’ Even more ridiculous is their incredulity a few moments later when you tell them you will probably not use a phone or computer all weekend.

After a fantastic trip (yes, I took my wife and kids), I offer this humble guide to those intrepid and stouthearted enough to brave the elements – and the insects – to go camping with your children:

1. “Then they loaded their donkeys [Chevy Tahoes] with their grain and departed.”

You need a new car. You do not have enough room. I do not care if you have a stretched Suburban; you do not have enough room. Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, dishes, drinks, coolers, foodstuffs, coats, clothing, pillows, a player piano… the list goes on and on.

2. “Ye shall know them by their fruits [Under-Armor t-shirts].”There is a new phenomena in the woods these days. Yuppie parents with their kids and the kids’ friends are flocking to the woods. Sadly, they have enough money to buy a different colored Under-Armor t-shirt for each child and every occasion. I hate to burst your bubble, city folk, but please wear your normal clothes when you are ‘visiting’ a rural area. It is much easier to identify you, understand why you are behaving so oddly, and prevent a serious amount of hidden laughter.  It might even make the natives more inclined to assist your moronic children as they attempt to smash their faces on large boulders.

In addition, there is something about modern city life that does not prepare you for country-chic. You will be surprised to learn the sleeveless ‘IBEW Local 49’ t-shirt does go with neon green framed faux  Wayfarers, cutoff jean shorts, and flip-flops.

3. “Lead them in paths that they have not known.”shades of death

Whenever you can, take the kids for a hike. It tires them out, giving you a great advantage at bedtime. A warning note for first time state park campers: the trails are always FAR easier than they sound. When you tell the kids you are going to take them on the ‘Shades of Death Trail’ that is described as ‘most difficult’ on the state park brochure and explain to them that shades of death refers to how dangerous an everyday hike like this was for pioneers (direct from the brochure), they get incredibly excited. When you get to the end of the hike and their response is along the lines of ‘I guess the pioneers didn’t have it so bad after all,’ you begin to question the validity of the trail descriptions.

4. “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

fdr rocks


Even at the campground, education remains the priority. From basic firemaking and fishing to pest control and field medicine, the woods are a great place to learn about living. Or you could leave it to state parks to educate your children. They will learn about what a nice man Franklin Delano Roosevelt was and how fantastic it was that he created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) whose entire mission seems to have been building dams and bridges where no one had found them necessary.

5. “Honor the Sabbath.”

Make sure you stay Sunday. There is a peace that comes with being in God’s nature. That peace is greatly enhanced by the exodus of the other campers. With proper planning, you can share the entire campground with only a few other stragglers.

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