Thursday, August 31, 2017

Packing for a Family Camping Trip (Adventures in Family Camping: Part 3)

Packing for Camping

Now that we had our campsite "secured" (read here), it was time to PACK.

This trip is the longest we've been on as a family, and besides from a 2-night camping trip with very ill children (fail), this is the very first time we've all camped together. What could go wrong on a 13 day trip? Turns out, not much! In hindsight, we did pretty awesome at packing, which is a point of pride for me because I usually forget quite a lot.

Perusing Pinterest for camping hacks and checklists offered up a wealth of posts and articles. The most attractive was the "bin system". I tweaked it to cater to our family's needs, as we wouldn't be tent camping because we have the tent trailer. My mom emailed me a "master list" that my uncle had put together over the years, plus I also used the checklist from my favorite Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids book and the very adorable and helpful Camp Sunset that I borrowed from my neighbor (affiliate links, love both these books.)

So, here's the thing. I never knew it cost so much to prepare to sit in the woods! Simplistic, but it felt like we had nothing. We had a trailer, and a propane stove, and a few odds and ends. Being that we were on a budget, I also couldn't spend a lot. Being as low-waste as possible was also a high priority so I went through what we had in our kitchen that we could use as opposed to purchasing a new item.

Caveats to this list:

1) We have a tent trailer, so things you'll need for setting up a tent aren't lists. We also did not need air mattresses or sleeping pads, which i'm guessing you'll want if sleeping on the hard ground.

2) We are camping in bear country. Camp has to clean of any food, food scraps, dishwater, handwashing water, or scented toiletries EVERY time we leave. Kitchen gear is kept to the minimum.

3) I wanted to be as low-waste as possible, so we didn't buy any disposable dishware or utensils. You might want these, though! I actually ended up just bringing our daily Fiestaware dishware and figured if one broke, it was high time because we've had them for 10 years and not lost one yet. None broke!

I bought 2 heavy-duty bins from Costco and emptied out 3 rubbermaids that we had at home. I printed out my lists, divided by box, and taped each list to the top of the appropriate lid.

Links shown below take you to the actual product I personally purchased on Amazon. Bless that 2-day shipping!

Bin 1: Campground Box

Safety whistles
First Aid Kit
Bear Spray - get the one with the holster to keep it close
Headlamps - one for ea. person
Solar Lantern
Pocket Knife
Bungee Cords
Duct Tape
Emergency Blankets
Big bucket with lid for wastewater - this was a last minute grab at our house and it ended up being ESSENTIAL. Grab one at a hardware store.

Bin 2: Kitchen Box

Foldable Dish Bin for washing/rinsing dishes (I bought this one. I'll buy this one next, though.)
Biodegradable Dish Soap (Dr. Bronner's or I hear Dawn is biodegradable, too)
Dish Towels
Dish Gloves
Hand santizer
Chainmail Scrubber for cast iron pan
Trash bags
Paper Towels
Plastic Container w/spigot for handwashing
Pot holders
Stove Fuel
Cast iron pan(s)
Pasta Pot
Tea pot (or just use the pasta pot)
Cooking utensils
Cutting board
Tin Foil
Biodegradable Soap
Broom & Dustpan
Serrated Knife
Kitchen knife
Kitchen scissors
Vegetable Peeler
Can opener
Collapsible colander
Collapsible Mixing Bowl
Tablecloth w/fasteners
Coffee Gear
Camp mugs
Reusable plastic cups
Plates & Bowls
Silverware (1 set per member)
1 box Ziploc bags
Marshmallow forks

Bin 3: Kid's Box

Art & Coloring Supplies
Velcro Paddles & Ball
Canteens (a present from Grammy and a huge hit with the girls!)
Coleman Kids Nature & Adventure Sets: Binoculars, magnifying glass, etc. (also a gift and very popular with my kids)
Sunglasses & Sunhats
Swimsuits & Rashguards

Bin 4: Toiletries

Baby Wipes
Natural Bug Spray
Toilet paper
SPF lip balm
Biodegradable liquid soap (Dr. Bronner's)
Hard soap in soap container
Toiletries for each
Hand sanitizer

Bin 5: Dry Foods

All the dry foods we organized in this bin. And I was actually pleasantly surprised (ok, shocked) that we forecasted pretty well as to what foods we'd need. Besides traveling, we only ate out twice! when we were staying in Glacier. That's pretty good for us!

Duffel Bag:
Sheets, Pillowcases, Extra Blankets
(If you are tent camping, you could put all this in a bin.)

Propane Stove
Camp Table - super handy!
Camp Chairs
Sun Tent/play tent
Bikes & Helmets
Inflatable Standup Paddlboard (This is ours, we LOVE it!)
Kids' Sleeping Bags

This list served our family beautifully. Sure, there are ways we will tweak, add to, and subtract from it in the future. For sure, I've got a camping wish list going. But for our first outing together for two whole weeks, we barely needed to buy anything, besides new sleeping bags for the girls in Kalispell and new ice every day. Good job us!

What did I miss? I'm sure quite a bit. I'd love to know your list must-haves, too!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Finding a Campsite in Glacier National Park (Adventures in Family Camping: Part 2)

Finding a Campsite

After we settled on heading to Glacier National Park we had to assess the campsite issue. Due to our lack of early planning, we couldn't find any open reservations and would have to take our chances on the first-come, first-serve sites. Due to the fact that Glacier is estimating another record-shattering number of visits this year, I was more than a little nervous that we would be out of luck.

Taking a gamble on the campsites was feeling stressful for both of us - what if we drive 10 hours only to find that there is nowhere for us to stay? Luckily, the National Parks has a real-time campground status website that shows each campground and what time it filled up that day. Then you can click on a specific campground icon and find out detailed and pertinent info you'd need to know.

This was really helpful for me as this would be our first visit to Glacier, and you can look at a map as much as you want (and I did, I practically memorized it) but you still don't really know what it will be like until you get there.

Glacier National Park Campsites

The other issue was that we would be towing the tent trailer, so the primitive and hike-in spots weren't an option. We also wanted a campsite that would be convenient to some amenities - we'd need ice for the coolers every day - and was more centrally located so we wouldn't have to spend unnecessary time driving to and from for day hikes and other trips.

The campgrounds in Glacier that can accommodate a trailer are: Apgar, Fish Creek, Avalanche, St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine (Technically, Bowman Lake doesn't "allow" towed vehicles because it's a long dirt road, but we did see a tent trailer and a little camper up there! So you could take your chances). 

Since we'd be coming to Glacier from the West, we decided to start the trip out in the west side of the park. This meant our options were Apgar, Fish Creek, Sprague Creek, and possibly even Avalanche. 

After looking at all the campground photos I could find online, Apgar looked like it would be the best fit for our family. It is walking distance to Apgar Village and Lake McDonald, so we wouldn't have to drive if we wanted a day close to home. Ice, ice cream, and the Nature Center with ranger talks would also be walking distance. 

To get to the campsite in time to get a spot, we'd stay outside the park the night before and Andy would get up bright and early and head in to secure a site. 

(Spoiler: While there, we made a point to visit almost every campground we could get to and we were both ultimately super pleased with Apgar as our choice.) 

GNP Campgrounds - the National Parks Service and for making SOME camp reservations in advance. Some of the campgrounds above are only first-come, first-serve. Again, you can check the status of all Glacier campgrounds HERE, updated daily.

Campground Options Outside the Park

There are quite a few campgrounds outside of the park that would a good option to a) stay at the night before, as we planned to do and b) stay at your entire trip to avoid vying for a spot. This means a bit more driving, though.

Glacier Campground  

We were lucky enough to get a campsite at Glacier Campground a few miles outside the park and it was the LAST one available. You have to call them, too, no email. I'll post more about this campground but it was a lovely spot with a great cafe and a playground, and cheaper than the KOA. We'd definitely stay there again.

KOA West Glacier

I looked here too but it was fully booked and it was more pricey than we were looking for. We did visit this campground on our hunt for a laundromat after Dylan had some nightly accidents (more great memories!) but you have to be staying here to use their facilities. It's very clean with a pool, ice cream shop, laundromat - everything you'd expect from a top-notch KOA.

Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments!

Next up: Packing for a 2-week camping trip with a family of five (are we crazy? we might be!) 

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