The summer after I turned 13, my parents announced that we would pile into our beloved, orange Volkswagen bus to drive across the U.S. and back. Because we were on a budget, we would camp all the way — two adults and three kids under 13 in a big, heavy (especially when wet), canvas cube that hung from fat aluminum poles.
When we set out, we weren’t completely inexperienced campers, but we were definitely novices. Unsurprisingly, with camping’s low barriers to entry, that changed quickly; we settled into a rhythm that lasted through 60 days of American summer, some three dozen states and a whole lot of ordinary camp-stove cooking in truly extraordinary places. Boiled hot dogs never tasted so good!
For me, the trip was a revelation. Already a passionate map-reader, I was the trip navigator. As part of charting our route, I also helped scout out campgrounds. We stayed in national parks, state parks, private parks and, in a few cases, remote places that we decided were park enough, even if they weren’t so designated.
I remember how fun and empowering it was to make so many family decisions. My two younger siblings also stepped into their own responsibilities too. Today, as a father, I try to imagine how my parents must have felt and I take to heart the words of Mike Gast, Vice President of Communications at Kampgrounds of America, the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds: “Seeing your kids experience fishing or making s’mores for the first time is priceless, but as it turns out, it’s also priceless for the kids.”
Though long, my family camping experiences are substantively the same as those of hundreds of thousands of other families. After all, family travel and camping go together like summer and vacation!
So, to help keep the family camping ball rolling, here are three important reasons why I believe everyone should do it: family camping is natural, family camping is about togetherness and family camping promotes freedom.
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