Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Camping Tips & Tricks

My family is headed out on our first camping trip of the season this weekend.  My kids LOVE camping, especially playing with the fire, eating junk food, and running around outside.  If I didn't love my little pyromaniacs so much, I probably would never camp.  I am extremely attached to my cozy, comfy bed and air conditioning.

In order to make this year's camping trips more enjoyable, I thought I would put a little more thought than usual into planning some fun activities and meals.  I've done a little round-up of some of my own ideas and others that I've found online.  Hope you find something useful!

Camping Activities
We will be staying at a lake with waterfalls, so a lot of our activities will be around the water.  We'll bring inflatable rafts to play in the water.  We'll also hike and explore the state park where we're staying.  Depending on the area, bikes or at least scooters for the kids can be a good idea too.

It's always fun to throw around a ball.   We'll bring a football, a softball and gloves and a frisbee.

I'm planning on having the kids do a scavenger hunt.  All you need is a list of items and a bag to put them in.

We usually bring journals, pencils and crayons.  The girls can write about our trip and draw pictures of what they see.  Leaf rubbings are also fun and simple. 

My girls love this game that only takes pencil and paper too.  Each person has a sheet of paper and starts the game by writing a sentence.  Everyone passes their paper to the left.  The next person tries to draw a picture that goes with the sentence.  Fold over the sentence, so the picture is the only thing showing.  Pass your papers to the left again.  The next person looks at the drawing and writes a sentence that goes with the drawing.  Fold over the paper so that only the sentence is showing and pass again.  Keep going for as long as you want.  At the end everyone unfolds the papers and reads/shows the sentences and pictures.  It's hilarious to see how the original sentence got interpreted through the drawings and accompanying descriptions.  It's kind of like a visual game of "telephone."

Plaster of Paris Souvenir.  This activity is a little more involved, but could make a nice keepsake of the camping trip.  What you do is mix up some plaster of paris and pour a 2 inch layer in a shoebox (one shoebox per child).  The kids could make their handprint in the center and then surround it with treasures they've found at the campsite...leaves, pinecones, sticks, etc.  The kids can take a stick and write their name, date, and location too.  This link tells you how to make a plaster of paris cast of animal tracks, but I doubt we'll find animal tracks.

How about a marshmallow shooter?

My kids are in a huge UNO playing phase right now, so I must remember to bring the cards.  The fire is also a huge source of entertainment for my kids.  The love to roast just about anything, which leads me to FOOD.

Camping Food
My best tip for food is to PLAN and PREP.  Doing these things before you leave home makes camping mealtimes so much easier and more delicious.  It's also key to make things that don't involve lots of clean up.  The fewer pots, pans and utensils used, the better.  We usually cook over the fire, but we also have a small camp stove and we usually bring our electric griddle too.
Breakfast Ideas:
Pancakes - make the batter ahead of time and put in a plastic bag.  Or, buy a mix that only requires adding water for a super simple breakfast.  Don't forget the syrup!  Last year, the girls were bored, so they tried cooking apple slices in cinnamon and sugar on the griddle.  These were delicious on the pancakes too.
Scrambled eggs and bacon can both be cooked on the griddle too.  If you want to get fancy, throw this in a tortilla with cheese and salsa and you have a yummy breakfast burrito.
Omelets in a Bag - Homemade Ginger has a simple recipes for these.  Basically throw some eggs and toppings in a plastic baggie, boil in a pot of water for 13 minutes, and then you have a nice breakfast!

Be sure to cut up your toppings ahead of time and have in plastic containers or bags so you don't have to do a lot of prep at the campsite.

It's always nice to have precut fruit in tupperware too.  It's perfect for snacking and makes a nice light breakfast when paired with yogurt.

I never deep fry anything, but I saw this recipe for simple scones (basically fried dough).  They look delicious, especially when paired with some strawberry freezer jam!  I might have to break my no-deep-fat-frying rule for these.

Lunch/Dinner Ideas:
Tinfoil dinners - have you heard of these?  I made these for the first time last year and they were delicious.  Take a meat,  seasonings, some veggies, potatoes, cream soup (Don't skip this!  It makes a gravy and keeps everything moist.) and wrap it into a tinfoil packet.  Throw the tinfoil packet on the coals to cook.

I made ours like this: thinly sliced potatoes on the bottom (these take a long time to cook, so the thinner the better); ground beef shaped into a patty seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic; carrots and onions; and then some cream of mushroom soup.  Each person gets their own individual packet, so you can personalize it to their tastes.  For more ideas and detailed directions, check out One Sweet Appetite.

Once again, these can be totally prepped at home.  Get all of your packets ready and pop them in the cooler.  Then you just pull them out and cook.  Easy peasy.

This salmon looks like a great variation on the tinfoil dinner too.

Marinated Meat/Kabobs - Once again, this can be customized to your tastes.  I'm planning on freezing some chicken breasts in our favorite Soy Vay teriyaki marinade.  I like to freeze the mead ahead of time so then I don't have to worry about it being raw and spoiling before it's cooked.  I will also have cut up veggies, such as peppers and onions and some pineapple that I prepared at home.  Thread these on a skewer and cook over the fire.

Taco in a Bag - Cook your taco meat at home and warm it in a skillet at the campsite.  Cut open the tops of Doritos or Fritos bags and put some of the seasoned meat on top of the chips, add whatever toppings you like (lettuce, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, avocado), and eat!

Quesadillas - tortillas and cheese plus whatever else you like.  Cook it in a skillet over the fire.

Sandwiches - always good for lunch.  Pack some bread, PB&J, and cold cuts and you're set. 

Hot Dogs and Bratwurst - grab a stick and roast these over the fire.

Chili - Prepare at home and reheat.  Chili dogs anyone?

Salads - Rather than lettuce salads which tend to wilt and get soggy, think couscous salads, bean salads, and pasta salads.

Corn on the cob - soak this in water in the husk and then just throw it on the grill, with the husk still on.

Campfire Potatoes

Cut up veggies and dip - for a snack.

Classic S'mores - need I say more?  But, I've been seeing lots of variations that I want to try.  Here are a few examples of desserts that can be made over the fire. 
Strawberries dipped in marshmallow fluff and roasted over the fire.

Campfire cones:

Banana boats:

Campfire Orange Cakes - cakes baked in an orange.  I haven't tried this, but it looks interesting.

Bars or cookies - prepared at home.

Now, I just need to keep repeating my mantra "Camping is fun.  Camping is fun.  Camping is fun."

Do you have any tried and true camping tricks, tips, or recipes?

Linked here: Serenity Now; Home Stories A to Z


Kim said...

Oh, this makes me want a do-over!! We used to camp with my girls when they were little ... some of the most wonderful moments with them! I was not nearly as creative or organized. Your family is VERY lucky to have such a great mom!! Have a wonderful time!

Simone Wilson said...

Hey Suzy.. It is the best time for camping now. Thankfully, I am subscribed to Thatsnotcamping site and I get latest Camping updates.

micki @ ADD housewife said...

we are avid campers. DH has this crazy set up. Anyway, I LOVE the taco in a bag idea! so creative and less cleanup!

Lisa at Shine Your Light said...

Wow Suzy, you actually made camping sound attractive to me! (I'm all about the food.) We have made those omelets in a bag at home, they are so much fun, plus everyone's omelet is ready at the same time seeing as the bags can all go into one pot of boiling water. I love all these great ideas and will have to keep them in mind for our backyard camping we plan on doing this summer (I know - that's so lame compared to what you're doing this weekend! But I'm taking baby steps with the camping!) Have a FABULOUS time!! Take tons of pictures!!!

Cathy Wall said...

Wow this is some great stuff Suzy! We are big campers but we are not nearly so creative. Hope you have a wonderful time...camping IS fun!

Judy said...

We made muffins in the foil wrapped orange. They were very yummy!

Crystal said...

3/4 of the pictures are not showing up

Parker said...

One trick I learned about camping with the whole ones in the can! They cook soooo much faster than raw potatoes!

Anonymous said...

I was looking for a few suggestions on how to entertain my family on our next camping trip and stumbled upon this page. Some helpful tips here!

Camping Guide

zionriverresort said...

Great tips! I have to admit, when it comes to camping, I'm an RV girl.

Zion National Park Camping

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