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The Great Outdoors: Fall Family Camping
by Suzanne Arguello

The Great Outdoors: Fall Family Camping

Written by Suzanne Arguello

This article is courtesy of ParentLife.

Autumn has just begun, but the pressure of busy schedules already is mounting. Time for a family getaway! Cooler temperatures and brilliant foliage make fall the ideal season to camp with your kids. However, camping requires an understanding of some basics. 

The Basics
Where to go. 
Autumn leaves crackle underfoot along a wooded trail. But which trail do you choose: a path meandering through a local state park or a trail deep in the backcountry? 
• Match your destination to your outdoor experience and your children’s ages. 
• Never slept in a tent? Invite seasoned campers along on your first outing to show you the ropes. 
• Find out what to expect at your destination. Is the area family friendly? Are any services or facilities available? 
• Before you leave, tell someone your destination and when you will return in case of an emergency.

What to take. 
With one blow, the tent peg bites securely into the earth. At least that is what the salesman promised. 
• Practice pitching your tent at home before attempting it in the wild. 
• Check your equipment: Is everything complete and in good repair? 
• Try out new or borrowed gear. 
• Have you packed auxiliary essentials such as fresh batteries, waterproof matches, a multi-tool, and propane for the camp stove?

Plan ahead. 
Snow blankets the earth. Your fingers and toes feel numb. Sudden, unexpected weather changes occur in the fall. 
• Listen to weather reports. 
• Choose sleeping bags rated for below-freezing temperatures and bring air mattresses or pads to cushion the cold, bumpy ground. 
• Dress in layers to shed as the day warms up. 
• Pack rain gear, hats, gloves, warm socks, and waterproof footwear. 
• Sunglasses, sunscreen, and bug repellent are a must.

What to eat. 
Yummm, nothing beats a crisp apple after an invigorating hike. 
• Plan healthy, satisfying meals and snacks in advance to avoid spending excessive time cooking and cleaning. 
• Keep perishable foods thoroughly chilled until needed. 
• Bring plenty of clean drinking water. 
• Do not forget openers for canned goods and pots for heating their contents. 
• What about plates, cups, and utensils? 
• Trail mix — the classic snack of nuts, raisins, and candy pieces — is a choking hazard for young preschoolers. Choose fresh fruit instead. 
• If your menu features roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, check area restrictions on open flames.

Neglect Creates Havoc
Planning is essential because neglect creates havoc. 

Fire safety. 
Every child is attracted to a fire’s glow. But in a moment’s inattention, fingers can burn and clothes can ignite. 
• Keep your toddler restrained around the campfire. 
• Mark a ring of stones several feet out from the fire that young children may not cross. 
• Stress fire safety constantly. 
• When you finish, thoroughly stir and douse your fire until no trace of heat remains. 

Discarded grocery bags flap in tree branches. Camping generates trash. 
• Your responsibility to the outdoors is to leave no trace of your presence. Anything you bring – packaging, leftovers, even toilet paper – must leave with you. 
• Trash-strewn trails are not only unsightly; they can attract unwelcome visitors.  

First aid. 
A painful crunch rises from your twisted ankle as you skid down a trail. Fortunately you planned ahead. 
• Stock your first aid kit with instant ice packs and elastic bandages, as well as Band-Aids®, antibiotic ointment, pain medicines for kids and adults, tweezers for splinters, medicine for simple allergic reactions, and an emergency handbook for treating more serious conditions. 
• Review first aid procedures at home.

Getting lost. 
Imagine how fear would grip you if your loved one was lost in the woods. 
• Arm yourself with area trail maps and guides. 
• Choose hikes appropriate in length and skill level. 
• Obtain a reliable compass and learn to use it. 
• Enforce a stay-together-and-on-the-trail rule. 
• Give each child a whistle. If a child does get separated, teach him to stay put and blow the whistle.  
• Cell phones may not work in remote areas, but if you have one, bring it.

Making Memories
Even imperfect camping adventures can claim an honored place in family lore, but time spent planning helps ensure that those memories will be happy ones. 

Remember: Camping requires understanding; neglect creates havoc. 

Suzanne Arguello is a wife, mom, and freelance writer living in Colorado Springs, Colorado.