Camping Sucks– Here are 3 Ways to Make it Better

Camping is ridiculous.

It’s beyond crazy that people pay good money, spend their vacation days, and lose precious sleep on something as miserable as camping.

What’s so wrong with camping? Why am I such a downer? Why do I hate nature? Here are a handful of reasons (believe me, this list is not exhaustive).

Packing. SO. MUCH. PACKING

The thing about camping is that you start packing stuff a week before you leave, and then keep unpacking for a week after you get done. When I was a kid, camping was the best. You know why? Because I didn’t have to do anything. I hopped in the car, got to the campsite, and only came back when it was time to sleep, eat, or roast marshmallows (and by roast marshmallows, I mean sit anxiously while my dad roasted them and then eat s’mores.)

Once you’ve packed all the stuff into every spare bag, bin, or box that you own, it’s time to put it all in the car, which is exactly like playing a depressing, sweaty, less enjoyable game of Tetris. What’s that? You packed the car and got the bikes on the bike trailer and then realized you forgot to put something in? That’s right, it’s time to unload all the bikes, unhook the trailer, and repack it all again, just so you can put in the bag of Potato Heads for the toddler. Oh, and probably go take another shower.

Vacations are for sleeping

Look, I’m 34. I get up early every morning for work. If ever there was a time to purposely get decent sleep, surely it’s my vacation, right?

Not if you’re camping! Instead of resting in your own room, you get to sleep with your entire family in a space the size of your living room at home (instead of tents, we camp in yurts, which for some people may invalidate the title of “camping” but those people aren’t people I want to be friends with anyway).

So your kids sprawl out in their noisy sleeping bags (why are sleeping bags basically made of the same material as a Sun Chips bag? Can we not make a quiet sleeping bag? Get on it, scientists!). Your toddler goes in the pack ‘n play, and you and your spouse are relegated to the bunk beds with the vinyl futon mattresses. You know what’s noisier than a sleeping bag? A sleeping bag on a vinyl mattress.

Also, you could discover that two of your children talk in their sleep, while the third sort of sleepwalks, so inevitably one of them will have fallen out of their sleeping bags, and you have to get up and try and stuff them back in while they’re half asleep.

Who needs sleep anyway?

Bugs. Bugs Everywhere

As a society, we have spent an ungodly amount of money and resources trying to keep bugs out of our houses. There are mega corporations solely devoted to eradicating bugs from my home. Thanks, Orkin Man!

So naturally, on my precious time off, I want to spend hours applying bug spray that doesn’t work (seriously, has anybody ever used a bug spray and had it actually keep the bugs away? If so, please go claim your Nobel Prize)? Then we still all look like idiots walking around slapping ourselves all day, and then for a week after we get home, we’ve got bites in places we didn’t know we had.

Yep, Camping Sucks… but….

Despite the pain of camping, there is a universal truth of parenting that goes something like this: we will do crazy things for our children. Things that make no sense. Things that, if we didn’t have children, we would mock other people for doing.

Camping is one of those things.

So how do we survive? How can we make sure that, even though we may hate the very thought of camping, our kids make memories and generally enjoy themselves? Try these 3 tips to make camping slightly more tolerable:

Go Camping with Friends

The only thing worse than camping might be camping alone. Especially if you’re haters like we are. You will inevitably forget something basic (my wife and I went camping after we got married and forgot an axe and firewood, so I tried snapping branches by stomping on them. That should’ve been a warning sign). But if you’re with a group of friends, someone else will remember to bring things like tablecloth clips, dish soap, or a bike trailer so that your kids can actually enjoy themselves. Winning!

The other added bonus to camping with friends, is that you don’t have to spend every waking second looking after your children, because they’ll have friends and other adults around to help shoulder the burden. That way, you can spend all the energy you would’ve spent on entertaining them on pretending you don’t hate being outside all sweaty and covered in itchy mosquito bites.

Make it a Tradition

Our family has a group of friends that go camping at the same place every year. There are 14 kids between us all, and the kids talk about it all year long. They start counting down the number of sleeps and plotting out every little thing they’re going to do while camping.

One of the things I loved about my childhood was that my parents made a huge deal of family trips, and they were big on traditions. From planning holidays to choosing which camp sites we would get, these traditions were a part of our yearly rhythm. We’re doing our best to establish the same sense of wonder and anticipation in our kids.

Loosen up.

Kids feed off of our emotions. So if we spend the entire time stressed out, talking about how we’d rather be home doing yard work, our kids are going to pick up on that. But if we decide to throw caution to the wind and embrace the mess, chaos, and noise, the kids will have a blast, and we just may have a bit of fun as well.

There isn’t enough wifi in the world to make me like camping. It’s just not in my nature. I prefer my Netflix, my espresso, and my sanity. I’ve come to grips with the fact that this is just who I am. But the things I’ll do for my kids just to make memories are apparently limitless. I’ll sacrifice sleep just to see the look on their faces when we stand and stare at the ocean. I’ll get bit all over by bugs to see their eyes get wider than their heads when we slap those marshmallows on the graham crackers.

Camping sucks, but with the right attitude, you can make it suck just a little bit less, and isn’t that enough?

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

Related articles