Tuesday, March 31

Coronavirus Family Activity: Camping Out

camping in jax
I'll begin this with my usual diatribe about why I hate camping. The human race has spent ions perfecting our dominion over nature, so why would I want to be sweaty/dirty/freezing/smelly/buggy/sleepless? I wouldn't, but I camped out for several years because my son wanted to be in Cub Scouts. Covid-19 and staying at home has provided our family with the perfect opportunity to use our camping equipment, even if not all of us actually spend the night in the tent. 

We started off with setting up the tent, which I'd only done zero times alone. I had the help of a scout leader in Kansas and then two other parents another time. When someone borrowed the tent, he accused me of having lost the instructions, which are attached to the carrying case (not that I knew that). Anyhow, it was nice to be able to take my time in the middle of the day to set up the tent, as anyone who has ever stumbled into a campground at sunset with a complicated tent will attest to. Also, it seems a similar Coleman tent might be better than the Wenzel I have, but mine was a Menard's special for about have the price elsewhere. If you are a pro at camping, you probably aren't doing it in the backyard. 

air mattress jax
We used the very nice Intex Mattress that we finally bought after years of trying to make thin airbeds work. Even for houseguests (unless you want them to leave), this mattress is worth owning. In about half an hour, the tent was ready for the kids and dog, as they moved in all the stuff they would need. 

This being Jacksonville, I got a baseball bat ready, and my wife said something about having owned pepper spray at some point, but I used my imagination and decided the kids should not have access to pepper spray. However, next time I'll remember to give the kids each a personal alarm, especially since the worst they could do to each other is toss one in the tent and run out, hopefully without permanent hearing loss. I eventually forgot the bat, mace, personal alarm, and we even (seemingly for their own good) confiscated their phones. But they had a dog with a big bark, so whatevs. And I slept in the living room with the door open to the screen. OK, I know it sounds excessive, but even a big city like Milwaukee simply doesn't have the number of roving teenagers looking for open car or house windows, so you probably need to be prepared for the wildlife in town if you're going to camp out. 

roof open to sky jax
I made a fire in the backyard fire pit. Ours is similar to the one linked, only rustier. In Jax, it's always a good idea to know if there's a risk of fire. You wouldn't want you yard camping experience to burn down the neighborhood. We made Smores, which my son couldn't even do his last year of Cub Scouts because some kids were chucking hot marshmallows at each other, which does not even sound like fun to me. 

If you really want to go nuts with the bug spray and sunscreen, go ahead and plan an outdoor meal with those plastic plates you never use, sitting on that patio picnic table you never use. We ate inside and then went out after dark, but it was still easier than setting up in the twilight. 

Luckily, the dog was OK with sleeping in the tent, and the kids quieted down after about an hour. Because there was no chance of rain, I left the weather guard covering off the tent, so it was probably an amazing view while falling asleep. And 70 degrees overnight, so better than the 30 degrees I was forced to camp in with my son for Cub Scouts. 

I hope this article reminds you of the camping equipment you have in the garage and that it could be a back yard adventure for your family this Coronavirus season. Oh, and if you have a dead tree in the yard, avoid sticking the tent close to it if you don't want to worry about wind all night. And make sure your fire is extinguished. And no throwing hot marshmallows. 

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