July 6, 2007

Roughing It

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"Where did you put the coffee singles?" my husband snapped.

"What do you mean, where did I put the coffee singles?" I said, a caffeine-withdrawal headache already taking hold. "Where did YOU put the coffee singles?"

My family loves to camp, and when we camp, we like to rough it. We pitch tents, get dirty, and cook with fire. We enjoy unplugging from our computers, TV, and telephone, and we like working together as a family in the great outdoors.

Some of our most cherished family memories center around our family camping trips. Both of our kids, Sabrina, 12, and Jake, 10, have fond memories of camping: the time we read CHARLOTTE'S WEB aloud around the campfire; the time we rented inner tubes and spent the afternoon floating down-river; the first time we took our Black Lab Sally with us and she almost tipped our canoe.

But that doesn't mean we're always happy campers. Once, we forgot the matches and had to beg for some from a neighboring camper to make our S'Mores. (My husband, a.k.a. Mr. Swiss Army Knife, was so embarrassed!) Another time, it rained, and we realized we hadn't packed enough towels.

And on this infamous chilly morning, it was the coffee that we forgot. We awoke to the kids already clamoring for a canoe adventure. Content in the knowledge that an entire no-work, no-errands day stretched out before me, I unzipped the tent and dashed to the outhouse, taking just enough time for my husband to boil the water for our morning coffee.

But when I returned, I couldn't help but notice the absence of mountain-grown aroma — and that my husband was digging frantically through our box of dry goods. It turned out that neither of us had put the coffee singles anywhere — because we hadn't brought them.

So instead of leisurely sipping our coffee and going for a peaceful paddle, we loaded our two complaining children into the back of the car and drove into town to buy coffee.

The experience motivated us to come up with a great solution to our forgetfulness problem. After that trip, we typed up a Master Camping List and saved it on our computer so we could re-use it from year to year.

Later, I laminated a copy, which we now keep stored with our camping gear. As each item is packed, we check it off with a dry-erase marker. The laminating plastic keeps the list dry and keeps it from tearing. After each trip, I can wipe off the markings and re-use the list.

Yes, I'll admit it, when we see a bus-length RV with a satellite dish on top, we feel a little proud and mutter things under our breath like "That's not camping!"

For us, the family tent — and the master camping list — are all we need to be happy campers.

How do you keep your family happy campers? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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Roughing It

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