The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature

The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature

by Helen Olsson


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Plan your family camping adventure!

Whether you’re a first-time camper or a veteran backpacker befuddled by the challenges of carting a brood—and all the requisite gear—into the great outdoors, here you’ll find all the tips and tools you need to plan the perfect nature adventure with your family. Humorous and irreverent, yet always authoritative, this guide to camping with kids, from babies through pre-teens, is filled with checklists, smart tips, recipes, games, activities, and art projects.

Helen Olsson, a seasoned camper and mother of three, shares lessons learned over the years of nature outings with her own family. Learn the basics of family camping, from choosing a destination and packing gear to setting up a campsite and keeping little ones safe. Create the perfect camp menu with simple and tasty recipe ideas. Discover foolproof tips and tactics for keeping kids happy and entertained while hiking. Explore nature through clever and creative camp arts and craft projects. This guide is your game plan to unplugging from the digital world and connecting your kids to nature. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows around a crackling campfire or stretching out on a camp mat to gaze at the stars, the memories you’ll be making will last a lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590309551
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 04/17/2012
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 590,408
Product dimensions: 6.36(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Helen Olsson is a freelance travel and skiing writer and a regular contributor to the New York Times Travel and Escapes sections, where she writes about family outdoor and adventure travel. Among the camping trips she's chronicled are llama-trekking in Colorado's backcountry and a canoe-and-kayak trip in the Niobrara River Valley of Nebraska—both taken with three children under nine. Visit her at

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Olsson provides a comprehensive guide to car camping with children, from infants to preteens. Through her extensive advice, greenhorn parents will quickly evolve into knowledgeable campers, capable of offering their children rewarding experiences in nature that will last a lifetime.”—ForeWord Reviews

“A treasure trove of information and ideas that would be a fine addition to any camper’s bookshelf. The author’s conversational, first-person approach feels like a chat with a friendly neighbor. Her well-crafted prose is sprinkled with a humor that parents will particularly appreciate.”—The Deseret News

“This book is an incredible resource for families just beginning their outdoor adventuring.”—Eco Child’s Play, 

“I love the author because she is a mother herself, as well as a very organized one!  Perhaps the most appealing parts of the book are the numerous checklists. The illustrations are clean and simple and they fit with the whole retro theme of the book. Perfect for your kids to browse and learn from. Olssen makes it easy for busy moms and dads to plan, pack, and execute an amazing camping weekend.”—Natural Family Today, 

“The book is packed with enough detail to allow someone who has never camped in their life to venture confidently into the woods, but even veteran backcountry campers will find plenty of useful tips on everything from first aid to making camp.”—The Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)

“If you’re like me, no matter how much you plan, the Wing It factor always comes into play when you go camping with children. But now there's a book that can help you tame the chaos of mushing your whole family and a ridiculous mountain of gear into a single tent. You won’t find a more comprehensive how-to on the subject than The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids. Olsson leads you through practically every decision you need to make—from where and when to go, to what to bring (less than you think), to what to cook (single best compendium of s’mores recipes ever), and how to keep the kids out of your hair (berry paints! photo safaris!). Because it’s so sensible, the guide is great for everyone, from seasoned backcountry veterans who want to learn a few new shortcuts to families that have never once set up a tent or banged a stake into the ground. Olsson’s tone is chipper yet informative, and never condescending. The book is crammed with handy packing checklists, simple but clever camp recipes, and lots of genuinely helpful advice, like always bring your bikes and orient your tent door to the best view.”—Katie Arnold,

Customer Reviews

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The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
ReginaR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It is fun to read and highly informative. If you are new to camping, new to camping with kids or looking for new ideas about how to make camping with kids better then this book is for you. I have recently read several books on camping, cooking while camping and cooking for kids while camping and this is the best out of all of them. The book comes with very helpful lists (I happen to love lists!). The lists are for packing equipment, packing activities for the kids, and packing and preparing food. There are very useful and basic but interesting recipes and food menus. Olsson includes very helpful information about what to do if it is raining/storming, what to do with the hours in between meals and sleeping, what to do on a hike when the kids become tired, what to do if you are far from a bathroom, and what to do when you have unhappy campers. Every page of this book has helpful tips, lists and I found myself highlighting parts on every page. What makes this book even better is Olsson's sense of humor and style of writing. The book opens up with a very funny camping before kids were in her life -- I have recounted that scene to several friends already. Olsson doesn't just give advice, she gives advice with examples of where she or a friend encountered the exact same situation and dealt with it poorly or perfectly. The personal anecdotes make this more than just a how-to-guide. In the end the book is inspiring and helpful. I highly recommend this book for anyone thinking about camping with kids or who regularly camps with kids.
SDPogue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Camping with children can be difficult but Helen offers a simple guide to make the trip more successful for everyone involved. She starts with planning. Planning an outing is a tough thing to teach so instead she offers some points to consider when planning a camping trip. Location is everything and researching the campsite you are going to will ease surprises when you arrive. Prepare your children with fun books about camping and information about activities you can do. For me, gear is the hardest part. Helen has nicely broken down all the parts that make up a great campsite and how to shop for them. She includes bringing along a play tent to keep the kids occupied while you set up. Then comes section 2, arrival at the site. Helen offers an amazing detailed description of setting up a campsite. I don¿t think I have ever seen a better manual and I have read a ton of camping books. She offers a chapter on camp food with recipes. Then goes on to offer games and activities to keep children occupied. The book ends with a section on hygiene, first aid and safety. Camping is a daunting activity for any beginner. Add children and camping becomes forbidden. Helen Olsson has created a simple guide to break down those barriers and get the family out into the woods. I can see so much potential for this book from scouting groups, youth groups to just learning to enjoy nature as a family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Streamer More than 1 year ago
This book offers a lot of information that’s good for people that have perhaps never camped before, but doesn’t offer much to people who have been doing it for a few years. There are some things conveyed by the author that made me think that if the reader needs to be told or informed of such things, they shouldn’t be trying to camp. I also thought that the suggested activities chapter (games, crafts, activities, etc) was one to be glazed-over. Anyone going camping with their own kids should already know what needs to be brought along for entertainment. If they don’t then the parents need a lot more help than this book can offer. A better title for this book would be “How to prepare your family for camping in a tent and hiking.” Camping is not exclusive to sleeping in a tent. There was nothing in this book pertaining to camping in an RV. As a parent of kids and having RV camped with the kids for a number of years now, I was rather disappointed reading this book. Very little of the content pertained to my situation and I would have been disappointed with the book had I purchased it. I hope that anyone needing a beginner guide to camping would not be going beyond camping itself, let alone hiking for multiple hours with children.