Camping is a fun and inexpensive activity that lets your kids spend time with you and the great outdoors. But as with all things when children are involved, there are some challenges that lay ahead when planning a family camping trip.
One of these is getting children to sleep well in their tents, especially when they aren’t so used to roughing it just yet. So whether you’re a pro-camper bringing your kids along for the very first time or just looking to try something new with your family, here are five great ways to get your children to sleep easily while camping.
Plan to sleep well
Invest in lightweight, durable, and comfortable sleeping pads for you and your family, and make sure to plan out sleeping arrangements. For families traveling with toddlers, the Travel Channel recommends bringing along a pack and play to serve as a familiar bed for sleeping and as a playpen during the day.
Stay close to your usual bedtime routine
Kids tend to eat and sleep on a schedule, so be sure to stay close to their routines whenever you are camping. If they brush their teeth, get into pajamas, and read books while cuddling with you in their room before sleeping, make the necessary preparations so they can do the same when you are in your tents. Let them bring their favorite stuffed animal and blanket along to give them a sense of familiarity and make it easier for them to fall asleep.
Use white noise
Although some campers enjoy letting the music of nature lull them to sleep, young children and first-timers might not be as open to the sounds of Mother Nature’s critters in the dark. ParentMap Magazine suggests solving this issue by using a white noise app or music player to drown out unpleasant sounds and comfort your children as they try to sleep at unfamiliar spots. If possible, choose a campsite that’s well away from campsite entrances, loud gathering spots, or main roads to minimize noise.
Wear them out
Sleeping in a tent can feel a lot more refreshing after a full day of hiking, swimming, and playing, as opposed to simply relaxing around the campsite all day. Enlist your children to help set up camp with easy tasks and give them fun activities to play and explore nature. Set up a rock tower activity or nature scavenger hunt like what Bryony Sumner did with her kids. These are a great way to get them to rest naturally in the evening after a fun-filled day.
Have a fireside story time
Let your children wind down after the aforementioned activities by treating them to a fun campfire. Singing songs, sharing stories, and spending time simply gazing at the fire at the end of the day can help them relax and set the mood for sleep. To make the most of the evening and get better sleep, Leesa recommends keeping away all smartphones and tablets. Not only will this get them to be fully present during your family bonding hour, it also keeps them away from blue light that can mess up their body clock and keep them from sleeping later on.
Although camping with children can be daunting, kids can surprise you by how well they can adapt to their environment. With proper planning and the right attitude, your outdoor trip will be a success. And while you’re here, be sure to go through Camping For Women’s checklists for camping with children as well so you won’t forget anything!
Imagine you are out for a snowshoe or a backcountry ski, and you get lost, or a storm makes travel too dangerous, or your friend gets injured. You need a shelter, and fast. Luckily for you, you are surrounded by one of nature’s most convenient building materials.
Contrary to what your instincts might tell you, snow is a excellent insulator. While a snow shelter isn’t likely to get much warmer than 0° c, it probably beats whatever winter weather you are trying to hide from. Snow and ice shelters such as quinzhees, snow caves, and igloos have been used for millennia, and be rather roomy comfortable, but they also take a lot of time and energy to build.
Trench shelters are quick, effective, and can be built in many different snow conditions. They are not, however, very comfortable. If you have plans to stay overnight in a snow shelter for fun, I would recommend a snow cave or a quinzhee (see video below for how to build a quinzhee). With the right tools in your emergency kit, and maybe a little practice, a snow trench shelter should take less than an hour to build.
Some Helpful Tools
Mylar emergency blanket: I like to carry at least two with me, even in the summer. When wrapped around you, they will reflect your own body heat, preventing loss of precious heat. They can also be used to reflect heat from your fire, or can line the roof, walls, or floor of an emergency shelter. If you want to get creative, add tarp, signal, and fishing lures to a mylar blanket’s possible uses
Folding saw: This is a great addition to a winter emergency kit. Wood for making fires and shelters can be tricky since most of the dead wood is under the snow, and a saw makes collecting it a lot easier. You can make a trench shelter without branches, but they make building the roof and insulating the floor a lot easier.
Collapsible shovel: A shovel is a safety essential of you travel in avalanche terrain, but it can come in handy for any snow travel. I use mine to build a trench or a wall to protect myself from wind while I eat or rest. If you don’t have a shovel, bare in mind that it is important keep your hands warm and dry in a winter survival situation, so try to find something besides your hands to dig with, like a snowshoe.
Tarp: I carry a silicon 5’ x 7 poncho/tarp. A cheap alternative is to pack along one or two big, heavy duty garbage bag. An extra mylar emergency blanket could work too, though they aren’t particularly durable and could tear on a branch.
Step 1- Choose you Location
Choose where you want your entrance and what direction you want to lie. While sleeping with your feet close to entrance may keep you warmer, it will make for a slow exit if you need to get out quickly, so plan for your head to be near the entrance. You’ll want your entrance facing downwind, so take note of where any wind is coming from. A slight hill can make digging easier if the snow is deeper than six feet or so. Otherwise, find a level spot.
Step 2 – Break ground, err, snow
Dig a three foot hole where you want your entrance to be. Ground is a lot warmer than snow, so dig to the ground of you can.
Step 3 – Dig your trench
Now that you’ve gotten the right depth, it’s time to dig out the trench. It’s going to be up to your body to heat that space, so the smaller the better. Make it a little wider than shoulder width and around two feet longer than you body.
Pile snow up on the sides to make it a little taller (especially if the snow is less than three feet deep). If you have enough snow, pile it around the entrance as a windbreak too. If you get any big snow or ice chunks put them aside.
Step 4 – Lay the framework
Skis and ski poles make fantastic roofs, but even with them, extra branches will make it more stable and easy to work with. The important part here is to work with what you have or what you can find.
Step 5 – Lay down the tarp
If you have an extra emergency blanket, it could be a great addition here. Lay it down first. Try to spread your tarp so that the edges touch all the sides and secure it in place with anything you can find with weight; branches, ice blocks or packed snow will all work.
Step 6 – Bury it
Fluffy snow provides the best insulation, but use what you have. When I was building this trench shelter, I found a good ice layer, so I balanced them on my frame until the gaps were filled in, and then buried it in fluffier snow.
Step 7 – Add an air hole
Add a vent hole at the end or your trench by poking a stick under the tarp and wiggling it until it’s a inch or so in diameter. The entrance will probably provide enough air, but an extra hole for ventilation is still a good idea.
Step 8 – Insulate the floor
It may seem like it would make more sense to put the floor down before the roof, but roof building knocks down a lot of snow, so you’d likely find yourself rebuilding the floor anyway. Lay down green fir or spruce bows, or whatever you can possibly find to add space between you and the snowy floor. I used a sleeping mat for this shelter because I didn’t want to damage the trees in my yard. After the snow is totally covered, lay down your emergency blanket. It works best with some space between you body and the blanket, so add another layer of branches. They will also help the blanket stay in place.
Step 9 – Get cozy
Crawl in and fold any of the rest of the emergency blanket over you. If you have an extra, and it’s not in the roof, you can out it on top of you. Move you pack, or whatever else you can find, into the doorway to block the wind. Don’t make it airtight though; you need oxygen.
Never place the emergency blanket over your head. At worst, it could this cause suffocation; at best, it will cause moisture buildup that will keep you cold.
Some final thoughts
This could be modified for two people by making it wider, but still keep it as small as possible.. The closer you are to your friend, the warmer the both of you will stay.
As I mentioned, this is not a comfortable shelter. It’s hard to move around, or get in and out. Being alone in the dark, in a confined space, buried in snow is not something that I imagine a lot of people enjoying. Trench shelters do, however, get you our of the elements and give you something warm to lie on.
Another thing to remember is that no shelter will ever be the same. It will always depend on what you have with you, what your needs are, and what you can get from the environment. If you go into the backcountry in deep snow, it is definitely worth it to practice building snow trench shelters with the supplies you carry. The more you practice, the faster you will be, and the more ready you will be to improvise if need be.
Oh, and those mylar emergency blankets will never fold up again, so buy a few to practice with.
When we were packing up our house to set off on our camping adventure around Australia one of the things that shocked me the most was how many toys we owned! Our boys were only aged 1 and 2 at the time – so in just 2 short years we had gathered enough playthings to start a sub-branch of Toys-R-Us! And the ironic thing was that the boys were always at their happiest when playing in the garden, finding the longest stick, or pulling all the dishes out of the drawers for a pretend picnic.
I’m sure that we’re not unique in this – children thrive when using their imagination for play and it has been proven that the benefits of being outdoors go way beyond simply the goodness of fresh air. Playing in nature has shown benefits in all stages of childhood – from physical to social, emotional and cognitive development – and getting back out into the open was one of the top reasons for us deciding to hit the road.
As a family of four living full time in our bus and travelling Australia, storage is a big issue for us. We sometimes struggle to squeeze in the bare essentials – so when it comes to packing toys we have to be very selective. With this in mind we decided to pack as few as possible – we’ve got some Lego, cars and games for rainy days – but on a whole we depend on Mother Nature to provide our playthings. Here are some ideas that we use regularly that are great for camping and outdoor holidays – no extra packing required and the kids love them!
Nature Scavenger Hunt
This is a great game that can be tailored to suit all ages. If you have a pen and paper and your kids can read and write you can give them a written list to search with. As our boys are young we do this item by item – they go and search for one thing and when they bring it to us we give them the next challenge. This game works for all locations too – if we’re at the beach I get them to search for shells (you can do the biggest or smallest shell, the strangest looking shell, a round shell, a long shell etc) seaweed, coral, cuttlefish or sticks. If we’re in a forest they search for leaves, flowers, pine cones or nuts.
You can add an element of learning to the game by getting the kids to search for something beginning with a certain letter, or something of a certain colour, or collecting 3 of an item. You can add a time limit for older kids to increase the excitement – or if there are more kids you can make teams.
Build a Make Believe Camp
This is a favourite with the boys – they search for sticks to make a campfire, rocks to go around the outside, large leaves to make shelter, then they collect different pretend foods to cook on the fire. Their imaginations run wild and it keeps them busy for ages!
Getting creative with nature provides so many opportunities for crafty play – we have made pictures with the things we have found on bushwalks, used leaves to do different painting styles and made daisy chains and hats to wear from our treasures.
Rocks are an absolute delight to all our family – we love fossicking and finding different minerals and stones – and hubby even did a lapidary course so he knows how to polish them. When we are at a pebbly beach or at the river we always search for interesting stones – we make towers with them or build mini houses, and hubby has always been a fan of friendship stacks.
If we’re at the beach or at a playground where there is a sandpit we turn into pirates for the day! I draw a basic treasure map – and X marks the spot of some hidden treasure. We collect treasure first (big shells, driftwood etc), pretend it came from a pirate ship then I make the boys turn around (no peeking!) while I bury the items in the sand. They then have to use their buckets and spades to uncover the hidden loot.
There are a few toys that we feel need to be packed for every trip – a ball, frisbee and bats for sports games are always played with heaps, and a pack of cards can be used for lots of different games for all ages.
But the best games are the ones that cost nothing, fuel their imagination and get them back into the great outdoors!
When my partner and I go for weekend trips, we pack like this: throw everything we might need in a pile on the living room floor, transfer the pile to the back of the car, and start driving north.
Last week, as Friday approached, I knew I’d be adding one more thing to the pile: tampons.
Having your period can be rough. If you’ve already got cramps, low energy, and high flow, spending your weekend outside without access to a bathroom can seem daunting and miserable. But with the right preparation, your period doesn’t have to derail your adventures. Use this guide to get out there and show your period who’s boss.
Pack the essentials.
First, grab three Ziplock bags. The first one is for feminine products: pack a few more than you think you’ll need for the length of time you’ll be on the trail. (Click here for more information about menstrual cups.) The second bag is for toilet paper: a small roll will help keep things tidy on the trail. The last bag is most important: this is for packing out all your waste, including used feminine products, wrappers, and toilet paper. If you want to be more discreet with your waste bag, wrap it in duct tape to make it transparent.
Next, pack a few anti-inflammatories like Aleve or Advil to keep you cramp-free and comfortable.
Make sure to pack one pair of underwear for each day. Changing into a clean pair when you get to camp will keep things smelling fresh.
Finally, be sure to pack hand sanitizer. Things can get messy, so it’s important to clean your hands afterwards.
Plan a comfortable route.
You know your body, so if your period doesn’t usually inhibit daily activities, you might plan the same route that you would have sans period. But for some women, having their period can be debilitating, making it hard to even get out of bed. If you’re one of these people, don’t fret: plan a realistic route, and don’t worry if it’s not far.
Practice makes perfect.
When you’re on the trail and you think it’s time to change your feminine product, here’s how:
Tell your hiking partners you’re taking a bathroom break. You don’t have to tell them you’re on your period; just take your backpack and find a spot 200 feet from the trail (and water sources) to set up shop.
If you’ll be using the bathroom in addition to changing your feminine product, be sure to dig a cathole 6″ deep for solid human waste.
Start by opening all your Ziplock bags and having them accessible. Remove the existing feminine product and place it in the waste bag. Tidy up your lady parts with toilet paper and put the used TP in the waste bag. Insert the fresh feminine product and place the wrapper in the waste bag. If you dug a cathole, fill it in and place a stick or rock on top so the next hiker knows to avoid that area. Seal all your bags, wash your hands with hand sanitizer, and head back to the trail feeling fresh and clean.
Most outhouses ask that you only use them for going #2, because liquid waste slows down the composting process. Outhouses are a great place to change feminine products as long as you refrain from going #1 and pack out all your waste. Never throw used feminine products or wrappers in the toilet; trail crews have to dig through the sludge and pick them out by hand.
Hiking and camping while on your period is not only doable, but easy once you get the hang of it. Give yourself time to practice and be gentle with yourself if the first few times are awkward or frustrating. Pretty soon you’ll be an old pro.
About the author:
Krista Karlson is a freelance writer and curiosity follower based in Connecticut. Her latest adventures involve learning to camp with a dog. She is a contributor at Peak Explorations/Brown Gal Trekker.
Winfields Outdoors has released its best blogs for 2018 and what a fantastic resource this is for anyone who loves spending time in the great outdoors.
In all, Winfields Outdoors has recognized 136 blogs from around the world across the following six categories:
Best General Outdoor Blogs
Best Walking and Hiking Blogs
Best Camping Blogs
Best Caravanning & Campervan Blogs
Best Outdoor Activity & Health Blogs
Best Travel Blogs
Within the announcement of their 2018 best bloggers, Winfields has included a brief description and links to every one of the 136 blogs included so readers can easily check out all the outdoor blogs shown under each category. This makes a great page to bookmark so you can visit blogs that appeal to you. You can visit the page which includes all the links to each blog HERE.
There is no doubt you will find a lot of excellent information, resources and even entertainment from looking through such a comprehensive list of quality blogs.
Recognition of Camping for Women
Everyone at Camping for Women were really pleased to have been recognized as 1 of 7 blogs within the Camping category. Ashley McGovern on behalf of Winfields Outdoors said it was a “no brainer” to include Camping for Women as a result for their search fresh, exciting outdoors content. She said she thought our contributor’s writing was really informative – something thoughtful to share with their own adventure-happy audience.
Those we need to thank
Camping for Women is extremely grateful to all of its contributors who so freely share their own skills, knowledge and experience with fellow women outdoor adventurers the world over. This recognition is absolutely a tribute to their generous spirit to share detail of what they love so much.
We also really appreciate the loyalty of our subscribers and readers who interact so well with our contributors via the blog posts so positively. This level of communication between readers and contributors highlights very much of a community feel even though the people involved are often geographically half a world away from each other. We are nevertheless bonded by our shared love of nature and spending time outdoors.
It’s times like these when people outside your own immediate community recognize your efforts to make a difference for lovers of the outdoors, that you feel very grateful for all that are involved. We are extremely thankful to many for adding their voice, the latest being Winfields Outdoors.
About Winfields Outdoors
Based in Europe, Winfields Outdoors is a major outdoor retailer that can boast excellent outdoor and indoor displays across most of its 8 brick and mortar stores within the UKshowing tents, porch awnings, motor home awnings, campervan awnings as well as all the camping equipment, caravan accessories, outdoor clothing, outdoor gear and footwear. Established since 1971, they have strong relationships with leading manufacturers within the camping and caravanning industry and state that their advice and after sales service is second to none. Their website is https://www.winfieldsoutdoors.co.uk/
From the moment I started down the Hoh River trail carrying my backpack, I started to sweat. The place with thick with moist, hot air, like a tropical rainforest transplanted to Washington State. Drapes of moss hung from the huge branches of old-growth Douglas fir, Western Hemlock and cedar trees. Bright green ferns carpeted the soft, soggy ground. I breathed in, stuck somewhere between a steam room and a sauna, and tried to enjoy the stifling beauty of the Hoh Rainforest. My boyfriend and I were making our way 10 miles to our campsite on our three-day summer backpacking trip.
The Hoh Rainforest is gorgeous, located in the northwestern most corner of Washington State in Olympic National park. It gets a yearly total of 12 to 14 feet of rain, which is heaven for moss and ferns. The first part of the trail runs along the Hoh River, tinged a milky slate blue from glacial sediment.
When we first started our trek, we weren’t sure whether we’d do the entire 40 mile round trip hike up to Blue Glacier, which would mean 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in one day.
Usually, people spend their second night of camping at a campground near the glacier, but there were none available for us. So we’d have to set up in one spot and od the glacier as a day hike.
Our first day of hiking was an easy and mostly flat through the prehistoric-looking rainforest, and we found a secluded spot to pitch our tent on the gravel bar near the Hoh River. It looked like something out of Alaska, with mist that clung in the evergreen trees and an icy, fast-moving river. We hunkered down for the night with dinner and a fire, and decided that yes, we wanted to see the glacier. Neither of us had ever seen a glacier up-close-and-personal, and with the current state of climate change, we wanted to hike to a glacier before it was too late.
We got up early to prepare for the 17-mile hike and stuffed our daypacks full of food. The trail wound up, and up, and up, through the greenest forest I’ve ever seen. Gigantic nurse logs lined the trail, sprouting with ferns and baby trees. We refilled our water bottles with icy stream water fed from a glacier. We gained elevation like nobody’s business under a cloudy, murky sky.
Finally, by early afternoon, the clouds began to burn off. I started to catch small glimpses of the Olympic mountains through the trees; snow-capped, jagged grey peaks. The Hoh River rushed by in a deep canyon far below us, and I was reminded of just how high we’d climbed.
The trail started to get narrow and sketchy. I stepped slowly and carefully, very much aware of the gritty sand beneath my feet and the staggering drop-off to my right. At one point, we had to shimmy down a ladder into a canyon, then climb switchbacks up the other side. Meanwhile, the clouds had burned off completely, leaving an achingly beautiful blue sky in their place.
My legs were tired, and we still had 1,000 more feet of elevation gain to go. My feet burned inside my my rigid hiking boots. But I was determined to see that glacier. We paused to fill water and have a snack in a flower-filled meadow, and drank in the alpine beauty as we sipped in cool, refreshing water.
The last 500 feet were up a rocky cliff, some of it we we had to trudge through snow. When we reached the top, I was blown away by the beauty and immensity of blue glacier.
It stretched before us, pouring down the mountain in a gigantic river frozen in time, the ice fall tinged an icy blue. Above, the jagged summit of Mount Olympus rose, as if daring us to climb. We saw some mountaineers don helmets and start their trek across the glacier, most likely to camp for the night before a summit attempt.
It’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Thousands of years of glacier were at eye-level, and I stared at the expanse for a long time. Below us, a white mountain goat rooted around in the brush. I was so glad we’d hiked to see the glacier, but was dreading the hike back down.
It was 2pm and it was 8.5 miles and 5,000 feet down, down, down, back to our campsite by the river. We didn’t stay at the glacier long so we could get back before dark.
The hike was brutal. My muscles screamed with the effort, my feet felt like they were walking on pebbles. The balls of my feet and heels ached with the exertion and I practically ran the last 200 yards back to our site, just to take off my shoes, to find some sort of relief.
I collapsed on the sand after I pulled off my boots, letting the coolness soothe the fire in my feet.
But there was more work to be done. We had to gather wood and water, start a fire, cook dinner, empty our packs. We decided to fill one of our bear cans with water so we could take a hot shower. It was a painstaking process, heating two cups of water at a time to a boil on our Jetboil stove and then adding to the cold river.
When the water was warm enough, Tom poured it over my head and I scrubbed the sweat and dirt from my body and hair. Cold air hit my wet skin and I ran to dry by the crackling fire. I’ve never felt more alive than in that moment, feeling the cleanness of my hair, hearing the rushing of the river nearby, smelling sand and pine and wood smoke. I feel that backpacking takes us back to our senses, the feelings in our bodies. We connect to the earth and ourselves with a primalness that can’t be found in the comfort of an apartment, on a soft couch, in front of a TV.
Both of us felt wild and in tune in those moments after we taxed our bodies to the limit, then bathed by the warmth of a campfire. Nothing has ever felt better.
Sleep and rest also felt good. Once our bellies were warm and full, we crawled into bed. My blow-up camping pad and sleeping bag felt like a 5-star luxury hotel, a much-welcomed rest from the grueling day. I fell asleep thinking of alpine peaks, glaciers, the vastness of the sky.
The next day, we hiked back out another eleven miles. My feet were still sore from the day before, and by the end of the hike, I could barely move. Each step felt brutal, and I was thankful to once again be at the Hoh Visitor’s Center, at the car, pulling off my boots for flip-flops. It was 2pm.
We’d hiked to Blue Glacier and back in about 60 hours. Insane.
Sometimes I ask myself why we push so hard. One summer it was the John Muir Trail, the next this hike to Blue Glacier. And then this summer, we may hit the John Muir Trail again.
I think that in our mostly sedentary lives, it feels good to get out and test our bodies, to see just how far they can go. It feels good to be in the true depths of nature. It feels good to be rewarded with a stunning view, with a soothing, hot campsite shower. And I’m still rewarded today with vivid memories, with the knowledge that, “Yes, I can.”
About the Author:
Kristin Hanes is a journalist and writer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Besides sailing, she loves anything adventurous and outdoorsy, including hiking, backpacking and traveling. Besides staying active, Kristin also loves cooking, salsa dancing and drinking a good beer. You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.thewaywardhome.com
Camping with the kids can be a wonderful experience, but we all know that’s it’s not always easy. After all, it’s important to keep them occupied and entertained so that they don’t get bored – especially on rainy days or the evenings where adventuring through the woods is no longer an option.
Camping games are often the best course of action, and they not only provide them with masses of fun, but they can also bring everyone closer together.
To help you choose the best camping games to play with your kids, we have gathered the top five – and they can be played with children of all ages. Plus, we have made sure to keep the mess to a minimum so that you have less to worry about.
#1 Campfire Stories
This is a classic camping activity, and one that is perfect for the evenings just before you all settle down for sleep. It’s perfect for kids of all ages, and you can decide what kind of stories are shared around the fire.
Whether you are exchanging scary tales or want to keep things calm with some relaxing bedtime stories, the choice is yours, and the kids will love it all the same. However, we highly recommend that this activity is accompanied by roasting marshmallows or a healthy dose of S’mores!
#2 Camping Olympics
This game might end up with your kids a little muddy, but it is great fun for every member of the family. It’s a fully customisable game, but the objective is to split into teams and race to complete an obstacle course. You can choose how difficult it is, but things like weaving between cones and crawling through hoops that have been wedged into the ground often prove to be popular choices. You could even go one step further and use some netting for everyone to army crawl under.
#3 Scavenger Hunt
This makes a great activity for hanging out at the campsite, but also works amazingly for when you are out on the trail, and the kids are starting to get a little bored. You can buy insect and bird bingo books or make them yourself, but the aim of the game is to find and mark off as many as you can.
For older kids, you can even increase the difficulty and include specific types of plant or leaves for a bit of a challenge. It’s an educational game and will help keep their minds engaged while you hike.
#4 Rock Painting
Rainy days happen, and they aren’t always the best, but there are ways to keep the little ones (and big ones) occupied. Ditch the classic colouring books and take some time to gather a few smooth rocks when you arrive onsite. You can put these aside and use them for rock painting when the rain comes.
Rock painting is a lot of fun, and you can create an amazing range of animals and plant life on them. Plus, it will keep everyone busy for hours as well as make for a wonderful bonding activity. It makes for the perfect memento from a family holiday.
#5 Ring Toss
This is a classic game, and one that we have all played at least once. You can pick up loads of portable kits for ring toss that you can bring with you to the site, and it’s a great way to entertain the kids in the evening while they are waiting for dinner.
The game has simple rules, and presents them with a fun challenge, Plus, it allows for some friendly competition between family members, and it is a game that the adults can join in with too. You could even up the stakes with a children vs adults round.
Hopefully, you have a few ideas for what to do with the kids when it comes to keeping them entertained on your next camping trip. There’s so much to do, and these games are sure to help get rid of some of their boundless energy. We hope that your next family adventure is a brilliant success!
This new format is not limited by letters, questions, fears, worries, or problems; rather, it is expanded by them.
Let me explain.
You might remember how, for a while, I had the honor of answering questions through an advice column called “Ask Natalie.” I fielded letters about back-country ethics and front-country relationships, and every so often, I’d be delighted to receive a follow-up comment or two. When Nicole [Camping for Women] asked me if I’d like to make the column into a video series, I was nervous, but delighted, but so totally nervous. I have always been more motivated by fear of regret than plain ol’ fear, so I agreed, and off we went into the jungle of YouTube.
For a few wild and wonderful months, I was filmed answering the letters I received, and I got to read entertaining and kind comments from those who viewed each episode. As an advice columnist, I was having a ball responding to what was being said.
However, as someone who chose psychotherapy as a profession, I’ve always been keen on listening to what isn’t said. Often, we don’t talk about our most important questions, our strongest fears, or our most fervent dreams. We carry them in us, but for a thousand different reasons, they never make their way into words. I was reminded of this when the inevitable happened: Natalie the advice columnist ceased to receive regular requests for advice. At face value, I thought this was a lovely thing. I figured it meant that readers of the column were calm and content. Upon further thought, though, I wondered: What isn’t getting asked?
And so here we are. Each month, I will ask the questions, and I will answer them. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s exactly what we all do day-in and day-out: We have experiences, and internally, we run a dialog with ourselves. This happens even more often when we are adventuring and having new experiences. “What’s that?” we ask ourselves when we see something we’ve never seen before. “Wonder what’s going on there,” we’ll internally murmur when we glimpse a tense interaction between strangers speaking a language we do not understand. “Why is this happening?” we’ll silently wail when we face hardship on a hiking trail. We don’t often speak these questions aloud, of course, but we pose them to ourselves.
Your participation is what turns a silent musing into a true dialog. My hope is that I will open the door to some of the experiences we have as adventuring women, and you will walk through it with your own perspective and knowledge. I want to feature your written comments, video responses, and audio recorded thoughts. All of these forms of feedback are welcomed in the new “Ask Natalie,” and in that sense, you are as much an author of this new column as I am. (And for what it’s worth, if you ever do have a problem you’d like some advice on – we can still do that here!)
If I can be super candid with you all, I have to say, I’m very excited about this new direction. I’m excited for you to be even more involved with “Ask Natalie,” and I’m excited that as a journal of sorts, we can feature all sorts of media. I’m excited that I won’t feel as compelled to have makeup on when I send Nicole my contribution to the column! Mostly, I’m excited that we can create a little place where we shine light on those corners of our experience that aren’t covered in the outdoors and travel magazines.
We can talk about what it is like to be women facing new adventures and growing because of them.
Thank you for coming along with me on this new journey!
It’s been a fantastic weekend camping and you’ve made it home after a long car drive. Everyone is off to work or school tomorrow, you’re exhausted and there’s a car full of camping gear, some of it wet and dirty. What do you do?
Depends on the circumstances
Option 1: Forget about it until at least after work tomorrow, and preferably not even then. Just have a shower and go to bed.
Option 2: Offload the gear, then forget about it until you have time. Maybe just clear out the by-now festering cool box and find everyone’s toothbrushes, but leave the rest.
Option 3: Clear out the car, put dirty things in the laundry ready to be washed and hang out wet things to dry. Pack away food and other perishable items, but probably leave your home looking like a hurricane’s hit it.
Option 4: Sort out everything straight away, so the only evidence left that you’ve been camping is a few washed and wet things hanging on the clothes line.
Obviously in an ideal world, option 4 is what we are all aiming for. In the real world, it often doesn’t happen that way. The best option depends on how late you return.
Priority 1: Washed and fed people
If you arrive back home in the middle of the night, the most you’ll want to do is find your toothbrush, have a shower and go to bed. If you’re arriving back home with kids any time after mid-afternoon, probably the main goal is to get them fed, washed and in to bed. At least make sure you have what you need to get through the night and the next day.
Food-wise post camping, grabbing a bought meal on the way home is very attractive. It’s a good time to pick up any essentials you’ll need for the next day such as milk or bread. Good post-camping easy meals include eggs cooked in whatever way, baked beans on toast, or anything that is easy to heat and eat.
Priority 2: Unpack the perishables
Hopefully you’ve used up most of your food, especially perishable items. It’s good to unpack them as soon as you can. Unpacking a camping coolbox is not fun, but it’s even less fun if the food starts festering.
Chances are your plates, cutlery and cooking items will need a good home clean. This is not a huge priority, but should be done sometime, with everything packed again ready for the next time.
If you have bags of rubbish, put them out in your bin as soon as possible. Chances are they are already festering.
Priority 3: Wet gear and airing items
If gear is wet, it is a good idea to at least hang it out so it can dry and not go mouldy or musty. Unless you live in a humid climate, usually the next day is fine but obviously the sooner the better.
Wet tents are probably the hardest to dry. Ideally it’s great to pitch them in the back yard for a sunny day or so, but this is not always possible. Smaller tents can be hung from a decent sized clothesline, pegging the corners of the groundsheet to different lines so the inside gets a good airing.
Even if they’re not damp, it’s a good idea to air out sleeping bags. Turn them inside out or unzip them and place them in a warm sunny area for a day or so before putting them away. It’s best to store them out of their packing bags, well fluffed up. Self-inflating mattresses are also best stored inflated and flat.
Priority 4: Cleaning and repairing
When you have time and a little energy, just after a camping trip is the best time to clean or repair items. Any issues should be fresh in your mind. Undoubtedly you would have forgotten about it when you pack next time.
Priority 5: Get things ready for your next trip
Unpacking is the best time to get ready for your next camping trip. As much as possible, make sure everything is well packed with all the tent pegs, etc, so you can grab it and go next time.
It’s also a good idea to pack all camping gear together in one area. People who regularly go camping often have packed basically everything they need for their next camping trip when they unpack, apart from fresh food and anything they only can’t spare (eg spectacles).
This makes packing for the next camping trip a breeze.
The easiest way to get to Ladakh is by flying from Delhi to Leh (the biggest town in Ladakh). It’s a two day drive from either Srinagar or Manali and you will pass over some of the world’s highest motorable passes. Be prepared for road closures, altitude sickness, motion sickness, and at least a few adrenaline filled moments.
Carley Fairbrother, British Columbia Canada.
Carley is a self-declared nature nerd from British Columbia, Canada. She spent seven years as a backcountry park ranger in northern BC before becoming an elementary school teacher. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, cycling, climbing, wild foraging, snowshoeing, skiing and most things outdoors. She also runs a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching people about nature and inspiring them to get outside. She travelled Ladakh in the summer of 2017 with her husband, Clay.
Best time to visit:
Peak season in Ladakh is mid-June to August. The weather is warm and all of the roads are open. However, September and early October are less crowded, and monsoon season is over, making the roads safer and rivers on trekking routes easier to cross.
Climate/weather/temperature & appropriate dress
Ladakh, nestled in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, is classified as a cold desert. Winter temperatures average well below freezing. In Leh, summer temperatures can get into the high 30s (celsius) during the day, but nights are still chilly, and most treks will take you into higher elevations where temperatures are cooler. There isn’t much shade n Ladakh, so when the sun is shining, it is relentless. Expect a windchill of -20° celsius if you are going over 6000m.
Bring warm clothes, especially if you are trekking or climbing. Don’t forget a rain coat. June-September is monsoon season throughout India, even in the desert.
Leave your shorts and tank tops at home. While Ladakh can get hot, it’s important to note that local women, even the ones who wear western clothes, will rarely show their arms or legs. While nothing horrible is likely come from you wearing shorts, covering your shoulders and legs shows respect for the local culture. Plus you may save yourself a nasty sunburn. Bring light breathable pants and t-shirts.
Main attractions/Must dos
Just being surrounded by them may be enough, but here are a number of “trekking peaks” over 6000m. These peaks are advertised as non-technical, but usually require ice axe, crampons’, and rope, so unless you are an experienced mountaineer, they are best attempted with a guide. At 6,153 m, Stok Kangri is by far the most popular, but it is far from easy. It requires at least three days (usually 4-5) of trekking, a midnight start on summit day, a glacier crossing, some nerves of steel, and plenty of acclimatization.
If clinging to the edge of a mountain with an ice axe doesn’t appeal to you, there are many milder treks. The Markha Valley trek is a popular 4-10 day trek. It is one of the few treks in Ladakh that offer homestays the whole way, so there is no need to carry a tent or hire ponies. There is also lots of information available on the route and is easy to do without a guide.
Many people travel to Ladakh solely for the culture and history. Ladakh is sometimes referred to as “Little Tibet,” and is culturally and geographically similar to Tibet. There are plenty of ancient monasteries and palaces to explore.
Key Highlights for me
Sunrises at 6000 m
We climbed two mountains over 6000 m while in Ladakh, Stok Kangri and Mentok Kangri Both required midnight starts, so dawn hit as we were nearing the top. They were both extremely challenging, exhausting, and a little terrifying, especially when trying to navigate at night. Once the sun came up, we got our second wind and up we went.
Our trek through Changtang
Chantang is part of the Tibetan Plateau and home to the nomadic Changpa people. We spent seven days crossing it do get to the base of Mentok Kangri, our first climb. Among the highlights were the settlements of Changpa nomads, spotting the numerous kiang (wild asses), camping while surrounded by grazing yaks, ponies, donkeys, and goats.
I loved exploring the many old, crumbling buildings. My favourite was the ruins at the top of the hill above Shey Palace.
Things that make this experience different or unique
This is easily at the top of the list. No matter where you are in Ladakh, you are surrounded by breathtaking views. Be it giant mountains, windswept plateaus, or lush green valleys, Ladakh is the perfect blend of vibrancy and sparseness.
I found their honesty and kindness refreshing after the hustle and bustle of Delhi. I especially enjoyed the Changpa Nomads, with their genuine smiles and tendency to sing while working.
From the domesticated yaks and donkeys to the wild asses and blue sheep, I loved all the animals I saw in Ladakh. We didn’t see one, but there was always the chance of seeing a snow leopard.
Ladakh is home to most of the highest motorable passes in the world. They navigate steep mountainsides on narrow, bumpy tracks. They are often closed from landslides, and motorists often have to cross creeks, gullies, and washouts. By then end of the trip, I was sick of them, but they sure did get the heart pumping.
Things visitors should be aware of
Leh is at 3,500 metres, which is high enough to get altitude sickness. To travel most places, you will have to travel even higher. Be aware of the symptoms and give yourself lots of time to acclimatize. Consider bringing diamox to help you acclimatize.
High altitude can alter your stomach flora, which, combined with India’s reputation for water and food borne pathogens, can be a nasty combination. Be wary of any raw foods that might have come in contact with water, including fresh juices and ice. Bottled water is safe, but I’d recommend bringing a pump and treating your own water, as Ladakh has trouble dealing with all the empty bottles. Consult a travel doctor about antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea before you go.
Don’t count on internet access. In fact, count on not having internet. It can be down for months at a time.
Always have lots of cash stashed away somewhere. There are plenty of ATMs in Ladakh, but most of them don’t work. Look for ATMs with lineups.
If you aren’t on a time crunch, don’t book a tour until you get there. You can probably get a better price if you plan from Leh, and you’ll have some flexibility if a good opportunity comes up.
While here you should:
Trekking should be at the top of your list. It’s the best way to meet locals, spot wildlife, and get a feel for Ladakh.
Climb a mountain
If you can, don’t miss out on your chance to climb a Himalayan Peak.
Climb to the roof of Namgyal Tsemo Fort to watch the sunset over Leh.
Visit Thiksey Monastery, a short drive from Leh. If you go early in the morning, you can listen to the monks chanting and avoid the crowds. The 15 m statue of Maitrya Buddha is the biggest indoor one in Ladakh. Its intricate details are pretty.
Ride the bactrian (two-humped) camels in Nubra Valley. This ended up being more of a tourist trap than I’d hoped, but it was still completely worth it.
Ladakh is a good deal more expensive than the rest of India. Expect to pay 30-50% more for food and accommodation than in the rest of India. You can probably get good deals on the shoulder seasons (spring and fall).
Transportation is probably the biggest expense. Public transport isn’t as easy as the rest of India, so most tourists opt for taxis, which are unionized and have fixed rates. This means less stress haggling, but higher fares. Try to make friends at your hotel and share rides or keep your eye out on bulletin boards outside the many, many tour agencies for bulletins of people wanting to share taxis. Expect to pay around $100 -180 USD a day for a taxi and driver. Flights to and from Delhi cost around $100-300 USD.
A fully supported trip with a certified mountaineering guide, ponies, and a cook will cost around $50-100 per person per day, depending on how many people are in your group, your haggling skills, permit fees, and transportation costs. Be wary of price that are too good. You will pay less if you have more people on your trip. Just a mountaineering guide is around $25 a day. Trekking guides cost considerably less. Equipment rentals will cost around $12 a day per item. Trekking peaks over 6000 m require permits, which can range from $50 to $300 or more. Many places in Ladakh require inner line permits, but don’t panic – they are easy to get and cost a few dollars a day.
Medical – There is a hospital in Leh. Most larger towns have a small medical centre, and there are roadside medical tents at some villages and army checkpoints.
Transportation– The airport in Leh has scheduled flights to Delhi, Jammu, Chandigarh, Srinigar, and Mumbai. Taxis and public buses are easy to find and both have central stands near town. There are many motorcycle and bicycle rental shops.
Banks/ATMs – There are several banks on the Main Bazaar. The State Bank of India has the most reliable ATMs.
Internet – WiFi is available at most hotels and tourist restaurants. An internet cafe on Main Bazaar has extremely slow computers. Unfortunately, Ladakh experiences frequent region-wide outages.
Phone – Phoning home can be tricky. We needed to call home, and ended up using local’s cell phone because the internet phones were down. Satellite phones are available in some villages for emergencies. Cell service is surprisingly good along the roads, but SIM cards are hard for foreigners to get because of the proximity to the borders.
Tour Operators – There are hundreds of tour operators in Ladakh offering car tours, cycling, motorbike tours/rentals, cultural tours, bird/wildlife watching, meditation and yoga, white-water rafting, climbing, and paint balling (yes, paint balling).
Restaurants – Most tourist restaurants have similar menus with a variety of Ladakhi, Indian, Chinese, Israeli, and Western food. Take a short walk away from the tourist areas for cheap Indian food.
Shopping – Leh is absolutely packed with shops selling pashmina shawls, made from the wool of the adorable pashmina goat of the Changtang Plateau. There are also plenty of handicraft and souvenir stores selling hippie clothes, wool hats, and knickknacks imported from Nepal.
If coming here, don’t forget to bring:
A good first aid kit. There is a hospital in Leh anda few first aid posts in Ladakh, but if you hurt yourself trekking, you are on your own. Make sure you bring antibiotics for stomach problems and consider bringing diamox for altitude, though it’s definitely better to acclimatize naturally.
Good travel insurance. Check the fine print. Most travel insurance companies will exclude mountaineering injuries, and you can bet they’ll count any ascents of Ladhaki peaks as mountaineering. Also check if they will cover mountain evacuation and any other dangerous activities you plan on doing.
If it’s in your budget, a SPOT or DeLorme inReach will give some peace of mind to your family. These devices allow you to send messages and your location via satellite.
A Diva Cup, or a similar menstrual cup. Tampons and sanitary napkins can’t go into the toilets, and really shouldn’t go into the composting toilets on trekking routes. If you can’t stomach the idea of a reusable cup, bring your own tampons (they are hard to find in Ladakh) and put them in a trash bin or burn them.
A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses. Hats drive me nuts, but I learned the hard way and nearly fried my nose off on our first trek. After that, I got a hat.
Reviewer’s rating out of 10
I give it a 9. I loved the mountains, and the unique culture, but after six weeks, I really missed the forests and lush vegetation I’m used to in Canada.