Camping With Kids, volume 1: Tentsile Camp Out at Cooks Valley! Plus, Saturday Color Challenge, SaturdayIndigo!
It's a twofor!!! Sorry... I couldn't resist.
The beauty of the deep, indigo blue and green river, nice warm summer days, a little hard work and sweat, fun times, good food, campfires, s'mores, coffee, more coffee, live music, tree-climbing, family memories. What's not to love?
These shots are from one of the most recent camping trips in July 2017 that my husband and I took with our kids-- the U.S. Tentsile 2017 Camp Out, at Cooks Valley Campground in Piercy, California. I am combining this post with the Saturday #ColorChallenge because when contemplating the color indigo, this trip and photos immediately came to mind. I love the combination of colors in these first couple of shots - my super-awesome husband and kiddos all decked out in deep and brighter blues with pops of color, combined with the greens and blues of the sky and river, the beautiful trees, enjoying tubing and swimming in the Russian River. Wonderful fun and silly memories were made. We got to meet and hang out with the founders and employees of Tentsile, sleep in one of their tree tents for a couple of nights, and there were plenty of fun activities to keep us busy. Sharing this experience is long overdue!
If you've never heard of Tensile, you should check them out. You can see their official blog post about their U.S. and Eurpoean Camp Out events HERE .
They make awesome tents that you suspend above the ground using three points (they can be used on the ground, but are much more fun in the air). They are also known as "tree tents." These tents are literally like hammocks that are fully enclosed, with full rain protection options, many different sizes and styles, screen and platform tent options... there are so many ways to use these babies, it's kind of mind-blowing. They can be used in any season with the right set-up. They are INCREDIBLY comfortable to sleep in (the company lent one to anyone who didn't already have one of their own!). Check out this "tower" rig that they set up to demonstrate some of the ways you can combine the different tents. This was a crazy, cool multi-story hang-out!
Concerned about the trees? Fear not, fellow camper and nature lover: these tents are "leave no trace" and do not harm the trees at all if they are properly rigged! With that said, you do currently need to make sure that they will be allowed wherever you are going to use one, i.e. you should probably check in with the ranger or the campground BEFORE going on your trip. There is currently a "blanket rule" against rigging anything in trees in most public state or national park spaces, this is because the thinner ropes and cords or paracord often used for hammocks can cut into the trees and damage them, causing disease or even death for the tree. That's bad... Thus, it is currently at the ranger's or host's discretion as to whether or not to allow a camper to use a Tentsile tent. The good news: Tentsile tents are different! they use a special webbing and thicker strapping system that does not permanently harm or cut into the trees. The company is becoming more well-known (and deservedly so!), but there are still enough folks who don't know that these tents do not hurt the trees that it may help to have a discussion with the Ranger and/or camp host at your intended destination, to assuage their fears and make sure you'll be able to rig your tent up. ;)
Currently there are other options in the States for camping and backpacking where you can use them (wilderness, BLM land, private settings and campgrounds such as Cooks Valley, etc.). Additionally, I am informed by the heads of the company that they are negotiating with Park services to try to get some sort of official brand new "leave no trace certification" system off the ground, to allow their tents to be rigged up in various National and State Parks in the U.S. How cool would it be if Tentsile is able to get this worked out? Someday I would LOVE to be able to use one of these tents in one of the State and National parks that my family camps in. We are saving up to buy one or two of our own and hope to do that this year, probably both a "stingray," as well as one of these ones:
I swear, most of the kids in camp spent the majority of their time playing trampoline on these net hammocks. They were pretty rad.
Overall, we loved this campground and the experience at the Camp Out was so much fun. There were a lot of other kids with other families so our kids made some friends and had a great time. This was the first multi-night trip we did alone with our kids-- now that Baby Kitty Cat is 4, my husband and I felt up to taking a trip without one of the grandmas with us to help us keep an eye on him and his older brother ;) We love camping with our family, don't get me wrong! We would also like to be able to get the kids more used to camping with just the two of us, so that we can go on more frequent short weekend and eventually longer trips. One of the nice things about having this weekend solo-camping-with-the-kiddos experience here was that we had a huge community to hang with, lots for the kids to do, and it was also affordable. Much of the food and cooking was provided, which ROCKED, so we were able to work on figuring out our system.
Of course, camping with kids always presents challenges. Here are two things we learned on this trip, and about taking our kids camping in general:
Bring a "base-camp box" (a large, heavy duty tub) which is stocked with all the little (and bigger!) things you might need on any trip. Keep it stocked year round, and keep it handy at home. This can double as your earthquake supplies or emergency preparedness kit - never a bad idea to always have on hand, ready to shelter-in-place OR grab and go if needed! On this trip, we did have our base camp box, BUT here are the things we missed/wished we had, which I will make sure these are always in our box moving forward:
- A small clothesline and a few clothes hangers or clips. Kids = often needing to handwash something, especially if you packed light on the clothing front!
- An extra container each of a natural sunscreen, insect repellant, lotion or cream, comfrey ointment, a small nail brush, and lip balm, that can all just live full time in the box... because, if you forget one of these things in your regular pack, or if you find you've run out, you won't kick yourself later!
- An extra pair of wool socks, one for each family member, and an extra couple of hats. Dry socks are incredibly important. This was a dry trip, but what if it had rained? We were missing a pair of socks that disappeared... Having an extra would have been good. Also, wool socks can become warm mittens in a pinch. The nights were a bit more chilly than I had expected, and I wish I'd had mittens. I won't forget this again!
Never underestimate the importance of sleep. Seriously! There were cool events to do each night... campfires, live music... but, one night when I stayed up just a tad bit too late, I was pretty tired the next morning. This may sound like common sense, but just remember that if you are on your own you can sleep in, but when camping with kids, it's like they have radar for knowing you are underslept--and they WILL pick that morning to wake you up at 6 am. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;D
Camping with the family, especially with young children, means some planning, but it doesn't have to be stressful. If you come prepared, it can go smoothly and you'll create sweet memories that your kids and you will cherish. This was a magical trip. I hope Tentsile decides to do a campout next year, if so we will definitely plan to go. In a future post, I will list all the things we keep in our basecamp box, and I will share more tips for having great experiences taking your kids camping.
Please leave a comment, upvote if you want to, or just feel free to enjoy! All images are mine. Share your thoughts or questions in a comment if you liked my tips, or share your tips and ideas with me-- I would love to connect! Thanks always to @kalemandra , the creator of the Color Challenge, for inspiring me to share these photos and memories from last summer. Her #colorchallenge is open to all - check it out, many people post awesome art and photography every day.
Good night, dear Steemians. Maybe someday we can plan some sort of crazy Steemian Camp Out, to connect, relax in the trees, and share cool gadgets, etc... just a thought. I'd be totally on board. Any takers? Any shout-outs from California or West Coast Steemies?