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Tent Camping – Our First “Real” Camping Trip


Trip score: 6 out of 7. We forgot a few things, and Dad didn’t sleep very well.

After our Hunting Cabin campout, most of us were itching to try some “real” camping. You know, the kind where you sleep in a tent.

And by most of us, I mean everyone except Vali. He was game but nervous about the wildlife. Bears, snakes, bobcats, etc. All of those types of animals do make appearances in our area, but nothing to be nervous about in my opinion. Just take them in stride. And have your camera ready.

We found a tent large enough to accommodate all seven of us. I ended up going with the Rumpus tent from Kelty, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

It’s technically a 6-person tent, but most of us are under the age of 10, so it was cozy but adequate. I didn’t want a massive tent that would be heavy to lug around and take up too much space in the car.

We got all our other gear lined up, including sleeping bags and insulated, self-inflating sleeping pads for everyone.


Vali got himself some bear spray. Just for some peace of mind.

We scoped out a camping place ahead of time and found a peaceful and secluded spot just a stone’s throw away from the hunting cabin on my uncle’s property. It’s on a grassy bend of the creek with a level area big enough for the tent and a cooking area.

We had originally planned to make it a two-day campout, but as we watched the weather approaching our camping weekend, we decided that just one night would be a good start to avoid the rain. So far, we’re happy to be fair-weather campers.

The forecast called for a sunny, warm day, with chilly overnight temperatures and rain moving in later in the afternoon the next day. Perfect.

Arriving and Setting Up

We couldn’t get out to the campsite until about 4 o’clock, so we didn’t have loads of time to hang out and play.

We were able to drive down the dirt trail right up to where we wanted to camp, so we didn’t have to carry everything far.

The first order of business was to get the tent set up. We had set it up in the living room prior to heading out into the woods, but hadn’t gotten the rainfly out because there wasn’t room in the living room (it’s a big tent!).


That turned out to be a mistake because the rainfly was the trickiest part of this particular tent. It took us a little while to figure out how to orient the rainfly, then stake it down. Directions had to be read over once or twice.

By the time I had finally gotten the rainfly on, I realized that I had put the main vestibule area closer to the creek, and farther away from our cooking area. Not a big, deal, but it meant we had to walk around all the guy lines every time we went in or out of the tent.

Next time, I’ll know which way the front of the rainfly is supposed to be.

Lesson learned: Fully set up and test all your gear at home before hitting the trail.

Cooking Dinner

Another item of gear we invested in was a camp stove. I’m not that handy at cooking over a fire, it’s more limiting in what you can cook, and it takes longer to get the fire going and to the point of being ready to cook over.

We wanted the option of turning a knob and controlling the flame precisely. The stove we went with was the Genesis JetBoil.

That lesson I just mentioned about testing your gear before leaving home comes into play again with the stove.

I had taken everything out to look at and admire, but I hadn’t taken the time to set it up to the point of attaching the propane canister and lighting the burner. Rookie mistake, again!

When we had finally gotten the tent up, it was was past dinnertime. Everyone was famished, the toddler was falling apart, and the rest of us weren’t too far behind. There I was, struggling with the stove, wondering what the secret was to get the burner to light.

I had attached the fuel link, put the canister onto it, and nothing happened when I clicked the spark starter. I couldn’t even hear gas hissing out when I turned the flame control knob.

After scratching my head over it for at least 10 minutes (that felt like 2 hours), I realized that I had put the fuel link onto the “fuel out” connector instead of the “fuel in” connector.


I fixed that, and we were in business. Despite that, dinner was still faster than having to start a fire and wait for coals to cook over.

Then we realized that I had forgotten to pack the can opener. Yeah, that’s a little cliche. But Vali managed to open the cans of beans with a knife without hurting himself or the knife.

Five minutes later, the hotdogs and baked beans were ready to eat, and everyone was returning to a happy place.

We also wanted to try that fried dough again, over the stove this time instead of the coals. I think my pan was too big for the amount of oil, and I hadn’t figured out the temperature adjustment very well, because I’d have to call round two almost as much of a flop as round one.

It took a really long time to cook, and still turned out raw in the middle. Not to mention the oil was scorching on my brand-new non-stick camping skillet, which later left a gooey residue. Grrr. I think I’m ready to call it quits on camping bread. Sorry Luke from the Outdoor Boys. You’ll have to let me in on your secret sometime!


No campout is complete without a campfire and something tasty cooked over the flames. So even though we didn’t need the campfire to cook our dinner, we still wanted the coziness of a campfire, and of course some s’mores.


The kids had collected tons of small branches and dead wood, so I had no trouble getting a fire going with the help of a paper towel and a match. Before long we were ready to roast marshmallows, which of course the kids loved.

Everyone had their s’more or two (or three), and enjoyed the glow of the fire and the warmth it offered in the cool evening air.

By the time we had gotten that stickiness cleaned up, and the fire had burned down low enough to easily put out, it was getting really, late – way past the little ones’ bed time. They had held up fairly well, but it was time to get everyone settled down.

We packed all the food and extra bits and pieces of gear into the car before heading for the tent and bedtime.

Time to Hit the Sack

As we were getting ready to get everyone into the tent, we realized that although we had unrolled all the self-inflating sleeping pads and gotten the sleeping bags into the tent, we hadn’t gotten anything arranged and in place.

In the name of keeping as many bugs, grass, and leaves out of the tent as possible, we didn’t want a lot of coming and going. The goal was to open the tent zipper once, get everyone in through the door, and be in for the night.

Because nothing was arranged, and it would have been chaos to get everyone through the door and then try to arrange everything, the kids were left waiting in the vestibule while I went in to get everyone’s sleeping pad, sleeping bag and backpack set up and in place.

Theoretically, the kids (at least the older ones) could do this on their own, but probably not without bickering (of course, my kids don’t do that!) so in the name of peace and efficiency, it was better to do the set-up myself.

Lesson learned: Put sleeping pads and sleeping bags in place while in tent set up mode. Don’t save it for just before bedtime and keep everyone waiting.

The kids finally got to come in, change into some jammies, and get settled into their spots. No one complained about the sleeping arrangement I had selected, but maybe they were just too excited about sleeping in a tent.

It took awhile for the kids to unwind enough to start getting sleepy, and it didn’t help that the cameraman was outside doing a photo shoot of the lit-up tent and wouldn’t let us turn the lantern off. It was getting close to 10:30 by the time eyes were closing. Past my bedtime, and way past the kids’ bedtime.


We would pay for it the next day, but it was still worth it.

Everyone slept fairly well, and all agreed it was actually a better night of sleep than in the hunting cabin. We were a bit too hot at the beginning of the night, but just right as the night continued to cool off.

The one slight discomfort was that we had forgotten to bring pillows. The kids did fine with sweatshirts rolled up for pillows, but I would have had a much better night with a real pillow.

All in all, I slept quite well, as did the kids. Vali found himself on a slightly sloping piece of ground, so he didn’t fare as well. That, and he was listening for bears.


The kids of course woke at the crack of dawn to the early summer morning chorus that the birds put on each day. They all tend to be early risers anyway, so we were up and out of the tent by 6:30.

The babbling of the creek that we had heard all night drew everyone down to the water first thing. We threw rocks, saw big wolf spiders, and stayed mostly dry (at least most of us) before tummies started to rumble for some breakfast.

We pulled out the tarp that was our picnic blanket for the day, fired up the stove, and cooked our favorite breakfast porridge, complete with toppings, honey and milk. Yum!

Camping gear wishlist: Camp chairs and a camp table.

We tried round two of the camp bread/fried dough, and it didn’t do much better than the night before. Sorry, I’m done.


We started leisurely packing up the bedding and tent, and getting it all stuffed back into the car, much less neatly than it had been when we rolled into the campsite. The kids read books, helped carry some stuff, and scratched bug bites until it was time to go.

This time, everyone said they wanted to do it again, so despite the few things we forgot and the bug bite souvenirs, I’d call the campout a success!

Oh, and no bears.