Ok, before any hardcore outdoorsmen get too far in on this post let me clear things up. This is not about really camping like Les Stroud, but more about giving your kids a real adventurous camping trip where you can feel and act like Survivor Men (or women)!
In case you’re not familiar with Survivorman, it is a reality tv show that has been on and off the air since 2005. Survivorman follow Les Stroud as he goes into different surroundings around the world with nothing but what is on his back and survives for 7 days. This means putting up with bugs, finding food, making a shelter and finding a source of water. I inserted a clip below for those who are not familiar.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to go all out survivorman style with my kids, but there are definitely a few things you can do to spice up your next camping trip and make it feel like a true adventure.
Create Your Own Shelter
Creating your own shelter is far and away the funnest way to be real survivors with your kids (and earn some serious cool parent points). This could be setting up some sticks, leaves or how I like to do it, bringing a tarp and some rope. I’m not suggesting actually sleeping in this shelter, but your kids will definitely think it is fun to set up a “fort” style shelter none the less.
Cook Your Food Over The Fire
If you can plan at least one meal to cook over the fire, your kids will think it is the coolest. Avoid cooking all of your meals over the camp stove or grill and get your kids involved in a fun meal cooked over the open flames. With younger children you can help them or do it for them while older children should be able to cook their own food with adult supervision. A super fun (although not 100% rustic) idea is to use pie irons for your cooking. Our pie iron pizza calzone is one of our most popular recipes on Beyond The Tent.
Start Your Fire Without Matches or a Lighter
Our kids have loved trying to start a fire on their own. What we have done is let them take guesses as to how they could start the fire. This usually leads to them rubbing sticks together and quickly realizing they are not getting anywhere, that’s when the adults can step in.
A fun method for kids to try is to use a coke bottle and a chocolate bar. This involves rubbing the chocolate bar on the bottom of the coke bottle and shinning up with a rag & repeating 3 – 4 times. This should get the can to an almost mirror like finish. Next, use the shined up coke can and direct a focused beam of sunlight into a pile of lint or tissue. I’ve never gotten this method to work, but it is definitely fun for the kids.
Another method is to create friction with two sticks. This is actually incredibly hard and requires preparing some different pieces of wood. Check out the video below for more info.
If you want a simpler way to create a fire without matches, simply pick up a magnesium fire starter like the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter. All you will need with this technique is some dry tinder to catch the sparks and ignite.
Go On An Adventurous Hike
Simply taking your kids on some heavily wooded hiking trails can feel adventurous and fun. When we have stayed at state and national campgrounds some of our families funnest times have come when we have done long hikes and found some amazing scenery.
Find Your Own Water Source
With a quality water filter such as the Life Straw or the Life Straw Family you can find and drink your own water. A bit of advice though, even with a good water filter, try to avoid drinking from non running water and down stream of beaver dams (speaking from giadia experienc!).
Sleep Out Under The Stars
This last one is easily my favorite. Assuming the weather is nice and the bugs are under control, sleeping out under the stars with no tent is an amazing experience that many people (even campers) have never done. Your kids will absolutely love it. A bonus is that if it is a clear night you will get some amazing star gazing away from the city. Having your tent set up in case of emergency is always a good idea as well.
A good second option is to leave your rain fly off your tent so you can sleep within your tent but still enjoy the stars. Finally, another fun option is to go hammock camping. This involves sleeping in a hammock, perferrably one with a screen net and even a rain fly. A great high quality hammock for this is the Skeeter Beeter Hammock!
Enjoy Life, Go Camping
In the end, just getting outdoors with your child is going to create life long memories. So get out, go camping and enjoy life!