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Rustic Hunting Cabin Camp Out – Our First Family Camping Trip

Hunting Cabin Camp Out

Trip score: 6 out of 7 stars. Naomi said she’d rather stay in a hotel.

I did a little bit of camping in my college days and loved it. I always wanted to go on a family camping trip with my own kids. Vali did a little bit of youth group camping as a teen, but was less than enthusiastic about the idea of taking the family camping. In his mind anyway, there are too many unknowns in the woods.

But recently, we started watching the Outdoor Boys YouTube channel and were inspired to think that camping might be something we could try as a family. The kids especially couldn’t wait to try it out. Vali wasn’t so sure.

We decided to start small with our first outing as a cabin campout. My uncle has a rustic hunting cabin that he graciously offered for our use, and the best part is it’s just a few minutes’ drive away from home. Far enough that it felt like a getaway, close enough that we knew we could bail if we were miserable.

We borrowed some gear, rustled up the rest from my college days, and planned to use whatever was available at the cabin.

Cold Campout

Late April is not what most would consider to be camping season in Upstate New York, but we were impatient to try out this whole camping thing, and a few warm days lured us into setting some plans in motion.

The day of our planned campout was cold—the kind of April day when it’s sunny one minute and snowflakes swirling in the air the next. Undeterred, we packed up the car that afternoon and went to the hunting cabin in the woods. Everyone wore winter coats, hats, and gloves. They were definitely needed.

We arrived at the end of the paved road and debated whether to try to drive the muddy track up to the cabin. We compromised and drove part-way to the base of the hill.

Then we carried our sleeping bags, pillows, cooler of food, and bin of cooking gear up the short hill to the cabin.


Cooking Dinner

Even though it was only mid-afternoon, the kids were starving, so we decided the first order of business was to get the campfire going.


Using only scrap paper, matches, and the twigs and branches we found around the campsite, we easily got the fire going. A handy stack of firewood left at the cabin made it easy to keep a good fire going.

Despite cold fingers and smoke chasing us around the fire ring, everyone (except the toddler) enjoyed toasting their own hotdogs over the coals.


A pan of baked beans warmed over the open fire was equally delicious, if not cliche.

Not everything went so smoothly, however. We had been wanting to try out some of Luke’s (from the Outdoor Boys) fried bread dough, so we had made up the dough before leaving home, and brought along some cooking oil.

I put the cast iron skillet directly on the hot coals with the oil in it, and placed a flattened lump of dough in the hot oil.

It was way too hot. The dough immediately started to scorch. I flipped it, and it immediately scorched on the other side, while the middle was still raw and doughy.

I tried a second piece of dough, but the oil had only gotten hotter, with the result being worse than the first. The kids tried it anyway, and at least one of them got a tummy ache from eating the raw-burned dough.


By now, the oil in the skillet had gotten hot enough to burst into flames. We stood watching it for a few minutes not sure what to do. I definitely didn’t want to stick my hand in there to pick it up out of the fire, even with a towel or oven mitt.

Vali finally had the presence of mind to pick up the flaming iron skillet with the shovel from the wood stove and turn it upside down on top of a damp mound of dirt and moss. The flames immediately sputtered out, and he moved the hot skillet to another place farther away from the fire to finish cooling down.

Hopefully I didn’t ruin my uncle’s cast iron skillet. It scrubbed out okay after all was said and done.

Lesson learned: don’t try to fry dough directly on the hottest part of the fire. Spread some coals out to one side to cook on. Or use a camp stove. We did up some more dough later on inside the cabin on the butane cooktop, and it worked much better.

Evening Entertainment

About a mile away through the woods is the local University’s Equestrian Center. We could barely hear the sound of a loudspeaker coming from that direction and guessed that there was an event going on up there.

The kids, of course, wanted to check it out, so Vali took the four oldest on a little hike through the woods to see the horses. I stayed back with the toddler to keep an eye on the fire.

When they got back, we sat back around the fire for everyone’s favorite – marshmallow time! S’mores were a big, sticky hit.

After the s’mores were done, everyone was getting a little antsy, wondering what to do next, so I suggested some continuing stories.

Simple idea – one person (me) starts a story line, then passes it to the next person in the circle, until each person has had a chance to add a little piece of the plot line to the story.

We came up with some very silly stories about a chipmunk named Roscoe, a cloud named Lucille, and a rock that rolled all the way around the world several times. I think Chinese noodles made it into every story, too.


After that “we” tried to sing some songs around the campfire, but the kids didn’t know any of the songs I tried to sing, so it was mom’s solo time. I think we all enjoyed it anyway.

Lesson learned: Come with song sheets printed out so we can have a sing-along, not a mom-solo. Also, come with other around-the-campfire activities in mind – stories to read aloud, games to play, etc.

Cabin Time

By then, it was getting dark enough to think about going to bed, so we moved it inside the cabin. Vali had started a fire in the wood stove, so it was nice and toasty inside the cabin. Everyone was thankful to take off hats and gloves and warm up by the cozy stove.

There’s no electricity or water in the cabin, but a small, handy solar-powered light gave us a little light to see by.

We also brought up our Anker portable power-station. If we were going to stay for a few days, it would have been perfect as a place to charge phones and cameras, but as it was, it was way too heavy and cumbersome just to serve as a lantern.

We got everyone changed into warm jammies and figured out the sleeping arrangements. There is a bunk bed in the cabin, but I decided the top bunk was just too high (with no railing) for any of the kids to sleep on top. Dad got the top bunk.

Naomi and Sofia got the bottom bunk, and everyone else found a place on the floor. We only had one insulated air mattress, so we spread that width-wise under everyone’s torso.

How We Fared the Night

After several potty trips out into the cold night, a half-hour watching a wind-down show on the iPad, and a few more potty trips, everyone settled down to try to fall asleep.

It was way past all the kids’ bedtimes, and of course, being in a different setting makes it hard to sleep, but finally, we all dozed off with the light of the flickering flames in the woodstove.


Partway into the night, Vali got up to put more wood on the fire and, being overly enthusiastic, put two more big logs on. This turned out to be a mistake because the cabin got way too hot for everyone’s outdoor sleeping bags.

By morning, I had changed places with Naomi, who had fallen out of the bunk onto her sister below her on the floor and then been too hot from the over-stoked woodstove. The fire had also all but gone out by morning, so Anna and Zoe, sleeping on the floor, complained of being too cold.

I do have to say that the bed was quite comfy, and I slept much better there than I did on the floor.

Lesson learned: An insulated air mattress for everyone on the floor and less wood at a time in the stove would have helped everyone stay regulated and sleep better. Also, kids on the floor, parents get the bunk beds!


We all woke up with the birds singing and light coming in the windows around 6:30. We got breakfast started right away, with the aim to be packed up and back to the house to shower everyone in time to leave for church.

Breakfast was our favorite breakfast porridge of overnight soaked oatmeal topped with honey, walnuts, shredded coconut and raisins. The porridge cooked up quickly over the butane cooktop in the cabin, and the milk had kept nice and cold in the cooler on the cabin porch.


A few more pieces of fried dough (cooked on the burner this time) nicely rounded out our breakfast.

We made short work of packing up the sleeping bags, tidying the cabin, and getting everything packed up and back to the car. We even had time to get everyone bathed or showered before heading to church, and a Sunday afternoon nap was definitely in order when we got home.


Expert Opinions

Even though no one slept all that well (too hot, too cold, falling out of bed), everyone had a lot of fun. The kids all said they wanted to do it again, except Naomi, who said she’d rather stay at a hotel. But she did say she would have had more fun if she slept better.

It looks like we may be getting hooked on camping. The next step is to try out the tent camping experience!


  • Don’t try to fry dough directly on the hottest part of the fire. Spread some coals out to one side to cook on. Or use a camp stove.
  • Come with song sheets printed out so you can sing along. Also, come prepared with other around-the-campfire activities—stories to read aloud, games to play, etc.
  • An insulated air mattress for everyone on the floor, and less wood at a time in the stove will help everyone keep their temperature regulated and sleep better.

Essential Gear List (for this campout)


  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Air mattress


  • Skillet
  • Pot
  • Stove
  • Cooking fuel
  • Matches/lighter
  • Can opener
  • Sharp knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Marshmallow/hotdog skewers
  • Wash-up tub
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge


  • Plates
  • Spoons
  • Forks 
  • Knives
  • Cups
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bag


  • Water (4 gallon jugs)
  • Hotdogs
  • Buns
  • Camp bread dough
  • Frying oil
  • Butter
  • Honey
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Chips
  • Pickles
  • Baked beans
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • Chocolate
  • Porridge
  • Trailmix toppings
  • Milk


  • Porta potty
  • Potty bags
  • Poo gel
  • Toilet paper


  • Power pack
  • Flashlights
  • Camera