Camping teaches important survival skills and provides opportunities to sharpen them.
Summer has been super crazy and super busy for my family this year. Unfortunately, it means we haven’t been able to go camping or hiking yet. My husband can attest to the fact I get a little high strung if I don’t get a camping fix. Luckily we live right outside a national forest so our first free weekend we’ll be calming my crazy.
My family didn’t camp much while I was growing up. If you have kids you know why. I am determined that my family will grow up being comfortable camping and hiking. It’s work, but it’s so worth it! Our outdoor adventures are our most treasured memories and traditions. It also didn’t take me long to realize that the value of camping goes beyond family bonding.
Most people choose not to go camping because it’s hard, and stressful. Often downright frustrating. Being cold and hungry while trying to start a fire will test anyone’s patience. Tent instructions aren’t that dissimilar to Ikea’s furniture pictograms. Let’s be honest, camping provides opportunities to learn how to deal with stress and frustration. Sometimes LOTS of opportunities. Luckily that’s often when we learn the most, not just about survival, but ourselves and our families.
Camping for Preparedness
A disaster is really an opportunity for an outdoor adventure. Camping and backpacking is a great way to prepare and practice for a disaster. Camping teaches important survival skills and provides opportunities to sharpen them. It prepares kids for the physical demands of work and survival. Post-disaster housing and living situations will be rough and most comforts will no longer be present. Learning to embrace life without those things and endure difficult living conditions will be invaluable in a post-disaster situation.
Camping and especially backpacking tests and builds endurance- physically and psychologically. Both will be necessities for healthy coping and recovery after a disaster. A child’s confidence in their capabilities is key to resiliency, outdoor adventures provide ample opportunities to build and reinforce this. A child who faces the rigors of nature has a foundation to lean on and say “I did that, so I can do this!” This is why many outdoor programs have such amazing results and benefits for kids who are struggling. Heck, scouting is a perfect example of how outdoor adventures build resiliency.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It may not seem like it, but your camping experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly) will give you all something to laugh about in a disaster. Memories of flooded tents, burnt food, exhaustion, and frustration will be comforting once you have mastered it. Laughter is really the best medicine. Having established camping traditions can bring an extra measure of comfort and security when a disaster forces your family into a camping situation. Camping can strengthen family bonds through working and playing together. These bonds will be needed throughout all the disaster recovery stress and healing from any trauma.
One of the most important reasons for using camping as a preparedness tool actually has nothing to do with physical preparations, it’s mental. Emotional and mental preparedness, especially for children, relies on having an expectation of an event. Kids are afraid at their first doctor’s visit because they don’t know what to expect. Fear of the unknown, the unexpected, is really what drives most stress.
We can prepare kids so they know what to expect in a disaster, but we often neglect to prepare them for daily life after a disaster. Camping provides a great way to set up a post-disaster expectation. If they already understand and accept how to live without all they are normally accustomed to, then their emotional and mental health will not be under as much stress. If camping is familiar and comfortable to them, then what would have been a source of discomfort and stress has now become a source of comfort and strength.
How to Get Started Camping
There are lots of great resources for beginner camping and backpacking. I recommend starting with a camping trip in your backyard or somewhere close to home. It may take a few tries just to make it through the night, and figure out what you’ll need without forgetting something. Many state parks offer a beginner camping program. Oregon’s program is called Let’s Go Camping. These are ranger lead camping trips which include borrowed camping equipment and a complete guide for everything from setting up your tent, to cooking, and how to have fun.
Make a list of supplies as a discover you need it. Work your way up to longer trips further from home, adding gear and skills as you go. I recommend keeping a list and everything in a box (I call it my chuck box). Store all your camping gear together so it’s available quickly in a disaster. This can also be handy in a disaster or evacuation situation if you have the time to grab it.
If you’re up for backpacking (once you’ve mastered the camping) you can take your 72-hour kit backpacking or just keep your backpack stocked and ready as your emergency kit. Backpacking supplies can be pricey but you’ll be completely set and comfortable in an emergency. You’ll also have one set of supplies instead of all your camping gear AND your 72-hour kits. It’s a great investment, and you get to see the best parts of the country this way.
I promise you the earlier you start the easier it is to get your family (especially yourself) used to it. Remember it’s normal for lots of “Can we go home’s.” Stick to your guns and finish it out. It’s best to push your limits by your own choice now – then to have your limits overwhelm you later. We create special rewards for after hikes and during or after we go camping. These “super trooper awards” help the kids push themselves instead of us dragging them along, while also reinforcing the positive aspects of our adventures. In no time your kids will be begging you to go camping!
Hopefully, I’ll see you out there!