Tent & Car Campers Handbook

Kristin Hostetter, co-author (with Buck Tilton) of Tent and Car Camper's Handbook: Advice for Families & First-Timers, offers advice for parents of young children:

  • "The ultimate camp pillow? My kids call them 'squishees'—those new-fangled, brightly colored puffballs filled with tiny silicone beads that mold to your every pore." Says Hostteter.. "I found them for 3 dollars a piece at a discount store and bought one for each kid, one for each grownup."
  • Mom's best friends: baby wipes (even if your kids are out of diapers), plentiful paper towels, and a good supply of cotton bandanas. The latter can be soaked, wrung out, and stored in zipperlock bags so you'll always have something damp on hand to wipe peanut butter from smiling faces. Just wash and hang dry each night, then reuse the next day.
  • Equip each kid with a mini flashlight attached to a lanyard necklace. They're great for getting around camp at night, plus making laser shows and shadow puppet plays in the tent.
  • The night before your trip, raid your recycle bin for used plastic water bottles (12-16-ounce size). Wash them out, and fill almost to the top (liquid expands when it freezes) with your kids' favorite juice. Freeze overnight, then pack in your cooler. The frozen bottles will help refrigerate your food, and once they thaw your kids will have cold juice to guzzle.
  • Give each kid a homemade naturalist kit in a Tupperware box, as simple or as elaborate as you want. Things to include: tweezers, magnifying glass, notebook and colored pencils, empty film canisters, sandbox toys (shovels, sifters, etc), plastic baggies, even children's nature guides.
  • "When we hit the woods, I always dress my boys in quick-drying nylon pants or shorts (available at any department store or clothing store like Old Navy for about $10 a pair)," says Hostetter. "Cotton jeans get filthy and wet, but I can rinse and hang dry the nylon jobs over and over again."
  • A great hiking game for kids: devise a treasure hunt! Give each child a large zipper lock baggie and a list of items to find: a pine cone, a bug, a white rock, a flower, an acorn, a bottle cap, a red or yellow leaf (in fall), a berry, etc. etc.


—Adapted from Tent and Car Camper's Handbook: Advice for Families & First-Timers by Buck Tilton, M.S., with Kristin Hostetter, $17.95, paperback.

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