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Get back to the basics with a camping trip

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Get back to the basics with a camping trip

When faced with financial challenges like those posed by the recent economic downturn, families tend to react to their decreased discretionary dollars by getting “back to basics.” They pursue different leisure activities and ones that offer quality time that can bring them closer together.

While the jury is still out on exactly how many families will forgo their traditional, theme park destination vacation in lieu of a staycation – the more eco-friendly option that is closer to home – for those that do, they will find plenty of good news. Not only can staying closer to home be fun, but it’s relatively inexpensive, too. And unlike the typical blow-out summer vacation, staying close to home takes only a little bit of sensible planning, imagination and budget.

One of the best imaginable vacations for families is a return to the great Canadian camping experience. For those who really enjoy roughing it, there are terrific products out there, but if you are among those who are shedding the conveniences of a hotel room for the first time and are seeking a more comfortable experience, consider these top tips for a fun camping trip:

1. Pick the right campsite
Backyard or back woods? Chances are, your backyard is a wonderland that you’ve never truly experienced, and camping there allows you to do so without forfeiting your creature comforts. And it’s free, making this a great first option. But if you’re in the mood for a little more adventure and the idea of getting away inspires you, check out your local campgrounds and parks at for Canadian and US camps. Many campsites are available, including prime waterfront sites if the deep woods are not your thing, with basic fees of less than $20 per night.

2. Choose the right gear
Borrow or buy? If you’re camping for the first time, borrowing camping gear from a friend is a great idea. It will allow you to try it out without risk and gain a better idea of what features you like when it does come time for you to buy. If you are ready to buy, remember that although purchasing gear is the most expensive part of camping, it is just a one-time expense and with care, your gear will last for years to come at little or no additional cost.

Tents: Whether you’re going to be staying at a local campground or in your own backyard, choosing a quality tent is key. Resist the temptation to buy an inexpensive one; with tents, you typically get what you pay for, and if your bargain tent ends up leaking during a sudden storm, you’ll regret the entire experience and be less likely to camp again.

To be safe, choose a tent from a well-known manufacturer. When shopping, remember that size is very important. Manufacturers typically list tent sizes according to how many sleeping bags or camp pads can fit inside, so if you need to store extra gear, you’re better off choosing a tent that sleeps more people than you need or that includes added storage space.

Sleeping bags: Purchase a sleeping bag that is rated to the lowest temperature you’re likely to be in and let the kids take part in the selection. There are several fun and colorful sleeping bags sized just for them on the market. To make the campsite more user-friendly and comfortable, consider adding camp pads beneath your sleeping bag and additional furniture such as tables, folding hammocks, cots and chairs.

3. Bring the right essentials and be creative.
With the destination set and the gear selected, the rest of the essentials can be quite simple for a brief weekend trip, and often they’re items you already have at home. So, be creative.

For example, because camping makes even the most mundane chores fun, even the kids will want to help, so make cooking a family affair by bringing your own portable grill and easy camp recipes from the web. Let the kids share in the cooking fun by toasting marshmallows and making s’mores for dessert.

For personal care, most family campgrounds offer basic amenities, although sometimes they can be limited, so stick to bringing the basic toiletries but skip the extras, like blow dryers.

Lastly, remember to bring these inexpensive items that become absolutely priceless in the outdoors: first aid kit, flashlight, pocket knife, charcoal and starter fuel, trash bags, dish soap and for the kids – cards, books, board games and ghost stories for having fun no matter what the weather brings. For more ideas visit (ARA)