Tips for camping with the family

Thanks for your article about camping. It can really be a great outdoor activity and fun, with a bit of planning, and the kids love it.

As a child we camped on our own, (my parents never camped) and we even did horseback safaris – when I was 10 years old, we went on my first horseback safari -  we were only 4 kids on our own, for about 10 days.

After I got married and the children started arriving, my now ex wanted a Land Rover (more for her image than anything else), so this was duly negotiated down to a Discovery and purchased. One thing led to another and yours truly put 2 and 2 together and saw it as an offroading and  camping opportunity too. So the use of the vehicle was negotiated – she gets it during the week and the boys (Dad and 3 sons) get it for offroading/camping expeditions – boys toys! (She did not like this idea, especially when the vehicle was returned to her on a Sunday night full of mud with only enough visibility through the windscreen where the wipers could do their job.)

We started off with the basics and over time added and added and added so now we almost move house if we go on a long camping trip! That said, we still do basic camping when offroading, but over Easter we move house when we camp at the damn for 10 days or more. (Because the boat is a biiig trailer.)

Nowadays camping is still cool. We have been camping and offroading since my 3rd son was 2 years old (nappies et al) – some 12 years ago all without my then wife (her idea of camping was a 5-star hotel so got freaked out by bugs) – yes, Dad’s can cope with 3 small children on their own if they want to.

So Dad and 3 boys would go off on a Friday evening for an offroad weekend with the Club, drive to the campsite – 2- 3 hours away, and set up camp in the dark – one big tent for 4 boys.

In the morning it was breakfast, then offroading all day to return to the campsite late afternoon or sometimes we even struck camp in the morning and re-erected at another campsite. It was a lot of effort, but the schoolteachers noticed a big difference in those kids who went outdoors and those who stayed indoors – it was worth the effort.

Nowadays, we still do the odd offroad trips and also camp at a damn over Easter, as water-skiing is part of our activities too. The boys are all teenagers and still have lots of fun and fond memories – it is a great bonding experience and they love the outdoors.

How do I do it?

Organisation is key – a single dad with 3 boys, camping for a week end and driving offroad takes planning.

1. Checklist – I have a checklist – it never fails. Pack into trommels and load the night before and only fridge stuff on the Friday – easy. Today I still use the checklist. (My kids travel a lot for their school sport and they pack all their own stuff - they have made their own checklists, etc.)
Friday night en route – spoil the kids at a fast food spot.
Saturday – early breakfast and prepare lunches for eating en route.
Supper is a braai
And so it goes.

2. Weather. Plan for it – one weekend we drove up the Cederberg to a remote campsite and a storm passed in the night. We knew bad weather was coming so tied the tent down well (even to a tree), dug the moat, etc., parked the landy on the upwind side and went to sleep. When we woke the next morning there was chaos – tents blown away, flooded, etc., but we were snug and dry.

3. Ablutions. Should be good quality, but take all your own stuff just in case.

So with a bit of planning, camping is great – also great to get away from the city for some peace and quiet at a very reasonable price.