Camping Trips Create Great Family Memories

Tammie Ostdiek, Extension Educator - Food, Nutrition and Health

The great outdoors offers an abundance of adventures for the entire family, and health benefits both physical and mental – less stress, exercise, sunshine, improved moods, fresh air are just a few of the rewards of spending time camping and getting away from external distractions.

Preparing and packing
Preparation is important to ensure a positive experience. Make a list of essential items such as a tent, flashlights, sleeping bags – and remember fun items that will add joy to the experience.

Think about the amenities that will be available in the camp site. Will there be a place to go fishing and will a license be required? Consider activities such as canoeing, horseback riding, bike rides or playing tennis. Plan fun activities such as playing games by the campfire, setting up a scavenger hunt, outdoor yoga or singing campfire songs while someone plays guitar or harmonica. Bring along binoculars and a camera.

It pays to be prepared for the unexpected. Take along first-aid supplies and appropriate clothing and shoes for activities and weather conditions.

Fun and healthy food ideas
Food seems to taste better when prepared and enjoyed outdoors.

Camping food should be healthy, easy to prepare, and delicious. Save time at the campsite by prepping some ingredients at home, such as scrubbing and chopping vegetables or mixing dry ingredients together for pancakes so you can just add milk and eggs before cooking. Keep cold foods cold and store food safely by using separate coolers for raw ingredients and ready-to-eat items.

Remember to pack the supplies needed to prepare meals. A camping Dutch oven, made from cast iron, can be used to prepare macaroni and cheese, stews, or peach cobbler over charcoal or wood embers from a campfire.

Foil packets with a variety of vegetables and a hamburger patty are easy to assemble and cleanup is a breeze. One-pot meals featuring fresh vegetables, canned chicken or tuna, pasta, and a creamy sauce is easy to pack and makes a simple but delicious dinner.

Kabobs made with marinated beef or shrimp and layered with vegetables can be made to suit individual preferences. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows is usually a fun experience for children and adults.

Trail mix is always good to have along for a quick snack or to pack for longer hikes.

Getting the family involved
Great memories are made when the entire family contributes to making camping a fun experience. Give kids chores – children can help gather sticks for making a fire, help set the table, and be involved in food preparation. Nature hikes to bird watch, search for wildlife or find a waterfall are fun and a great way to get exercise.

Slow down
Build in time to relax. Set up a hammock and enjoy the sounds of nature. Watch the sunrise in the morning, walk along the beach at sunset, or stargaze at night. Enjoy the bounty that Mother Nature provides.

Happy camping!

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