Is there anything better than heading to the hills with the kids for a night or two of sleeping under a canopy of stars? If there is, I don’t know what it is.
The great outdoors are a wonderland of life lessons and mind expanding experiences for the young person. Getting away from the hustle, bustle and stress of modern urban living is a great way to encourage a healthy lifestyle and introduce the nippers to the magic of Mother Nature’s bounty.
There is one thing however that will ruin a camping trip quicker than bumping into a a grumpy grizzly bear and that’s if the little ones have a bad night’s sleep. We all know how cranky kids can get when they don’t get sufficient slumber and when you are out in the woods trying to herd a group of overtired youths up a hill can, well, for want of a better phrase – be an uphill challenge.
If that’s ever happened to you then I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. If it hasn’t, then lucky you! Believe me, it’s tough.
Below I’m going to let you in on seven tried and tested ways to increase the odds your little campers get a good night’s sleep while camping. Read on.
1. Pack Wisely, Bring Spare Hats for All
It might be the middle of summer and the days are long and warm. That doesn’t mean that the nights aren’t going to be cold and even longer. When the last rays of sunlight fall behind the ridge the woods can get very chilly very quickly. Especially when you are sleeping so close to the ground.
Ensuring you are equipped with decent sleeping bags and roll mats is essential. A camping trip with the kids is no time to be stingy when it comes to buying equipment. Picking up some poor excuse for a sleeping bag in a bargain bin at the gas station is a false economy. A good bag might cost a few dollars more but it will pay for itself time and again if your kid falls in love with the outdoors and makes the hills his second home.
Remember also, just because you’re warm in your sleeping bag doesn’t mean your kids will be. Chances are you might’ve a little bit more meat on your bones than your offspring. Probably something to do with your fondness for beer!
2. Be Ready for Rain
We all know how unpredictable the weather is. How many times have you trusted the weatherman, left the house without an umbrella and returned home tens minutes later soaked to the skin. It’s annoying when it happens in our regular life, it’s a nightmare when it happens on a camping trip.
Being prepared to get wet is one of the most essential components of any camping trip. This means packing rain gear, that you’ve tested in advance, to try and keep you and your merry band dry.
3. Always have A Dry Set of Clothes
Sometimes all the rain gear in the world isn’t enough to keep you dry in the woods. If it isn’t torrential rain, it could be slipping when crossing a stream or simply sweating under the weight of a pack.
Bearing this in mind it is essential to ensure that everyone has a spare set of dry clothes carefully wrapped up in their packs should the inevitable happen. Dry packs are great for this but so is a common refuse sack.
Sleeping in damp or wet clothes will see the wearer become very cold, very quickly, when the sunsets. Moisture evaporates and as it does it will draw heat from the skin. This can lead to an uncomfortable of shivering and in the worst case scenario – hypothermia. Having a dry set of clothes for the kids to change into come nightfall is not only sensible it’s also safe.
For more top tips on how to get the kids to sleep, whether in the woods or just at home, check out the Sleep Advisor blog.
4. Bring Enough Snacks
Going to bed on an empty stomach is not fun. Hiking in the hills with a heavy pack on your back is hard work, especially for kids. On a trip like this they are likely to burn far more calories than normal. This means they are going to need a good feed before bed. Packing sufficient calorie dense food is vital to achieve this.
If the temperature drops during the night having a midnight snack is a great way to help your kids bodies fight the cold. The boost in energy helps kick their metabolism into action and will keep them toasty from the inside out. Cereal bars or a few bags of trail mix make a great choice as they are easy to transport and full of energy boosting ingredients.
5. Limit their Liquid Intake before Bed
It’s obviously important to keep your kids hydrated, especially after a hard day on the trail but excessive drinking in the hour before bed will just mean the little ones will be up and down every five minutes in the night needing to pee. After all, they only have little bladders. Try to limit how much they drink right before bed.
I find that sharing a couple of cups of hot cocoa between the group is a great way to warm everyone up before climbing into their sleeping bags. Sharing a hot drink means the kids are more likely to sip small amounts than gulp down too much.
6. Don’t Tell Ghost Stories
While I know telling scary stories around the campfire is a time-honored tradition it’s also a daft one. If you pride yourself on being able to conjure up a bloodcurdling tales of terror and enjoy scaring the pants of your troupe of kiddie campers, then to be honest my friend you only have yourself to blame if they can’t sleep.
The woods at night are dark, really dark, and full of a lot of unusual noises. If you send your kids into their tents with a head full of ghosts, goblins, axe-murderers and werewolves then you are almost guaranteeing that they aren’t going to be getting much sleep tonight. A child’s imagination is an incredibly powerful thing and it’s your duty as a responsible adult to try and reduce nightmares not encourage them.
7. Don’t Let Them Watch Any Scary Movies the Week before Your Trip
Successfully resisting the urge to unleash your favorite ghost story around the campfire will have no impact if for some crazy reason you allowed junior and their friends to stay up the night before watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the Blair Witch project.
Scary movies have the power to stay in with the viewer for a long long time. I still remember the first time I was home alone after seeing The Shining for the first time. It was terrifying, every bump and creak set me off. And I was 30 at the time! Seriously.
Think about some of the scary movies you’ve seen and how images have stayed with you for ages afterwards, now imagine that’s your kids and your about to take them into the deep dark woods. My advice, stick to nice colorful family friendly movies in the run-up to your big camping trip. Especially avoid this list of camping related horrors. What not stick on The Mighty Ducks?! Who doesn’t love The Mighty Ducks I ask you?
Well there you go my fellow camping fan – seven ways to turn a camping nightmare into a tent-based dream. Give them a whirl and your days in the woods will be a more wonderful time for all involved.