John Pasmore's Occassional Blog

Camping with the 3-year-old by John Pasmore

Camping can be tricky. Many of us like the idea, but the execution is usually considerably more dusty and full of surprises. I wasn’t surprised that my wife wasn’t enthused with the prospect of taking our toddler out. So, when she went to Atlanta, I took the little guy for a dry-run camping at Dutch Springs, in Pennsylvania for a quick overnight. Here’s a couple of tips:

1. Don’t camp with a 3 year-old – wait till 4 or 5 I think. At least not in a tent and not without another adult. In the one-on-one scenario you’re tethered pretty close and 3 year-olds (especially NYC 3 year-olds) have very little backwoods DNA.

2. Go somewhere with other kids. Saved the day, literally.

3. Assume that the child will run off in the woods without thinking about how to find you, or just without thinking period. Time to disappear would be generally under three minutes (so tethered).

4. For some this is blasphemy, but consider car camping — like car is within 150 yards from where you camp. Given the amount of stuff that you have to bring for a toddler that they can’t carry, you might as well hold off on the harder-core camping options until you have a person who can carry at least some portion of their load.

5. See # 2

6. I put a two hour drive-time limit which evaporated before we even got thru the Holland Tunnel. Sounds like an exaggeration, and I have done this drive in close to 90 minutes, but after leaving downtown 3;30ish I thought we might miss the 8pm cutoff for campers. Made it, just, and had 20 minutes of fading light to toss up a tent with child on verge of insanity. Hit the road early or stay home.

7. Critical Equipment: large enough tent, inflatable mattress or very, very good sleeping mat (“s” – plural do not attempt to share sleeping bag and/or mat), favorite toys (goes without saying), bug spray, comfort food, wipes (lots), and you should know the rest. Again, do not attempt to share sleeping bag and/or mat – your child may be fine, you won’t.

Dutch Springs is really ideal as a destination to understand what you need for anything more ambitious — I’m sure there are other places, but having been there twice, and it’s in no way perfect, but would suggest you toss it on the list.

In the end it was definitely worth the effort. The boy had a great time. And I understand what it will take to smooth out some considerable wrinkles, and it would have been a serious, serious problem — no more camping for life problem — if my wife had been witness to those wrinkles.

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