I received a copy of Helen Olsson’s new book, The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids, at the beginning of camping season here in Canada and I can’t believe it’s almost mid-August already! I figured it was about time I get my book review written and let you all know why you absolutely must buy this book before next year. Buy it now, put it on your Christmas List, or make a note to get it while you plan out next season’s camping trips – just make sure you go grab yourself a copy because this kind of resource guide for families who love camping is unparalleled.
There are a lot of outdoor books out there but I’ve never seen one so fully devoted to the topic of camping as a family. Helen’s book covers it all from what to bring, how to make camping more enjoyable for the whole family, how to make a gourmet s’more, crafts, games, camp etiquette, first aid, to even a complete list of the best camping themed books for children. I’ve actually bought or borrowed each one of her suggested books for preschoolers this summer and they’ve come on all of our camping trips. We’ve had great story times thanks to her resource guide.
Below are some of the thoughts I had while reading this book:
- I like the nostalgic look of the book. The retro photos remind me how camping is an age-old tradition and part of our heritage that we should be passing down to our children.
- I love how Helen says the book will blend the irreverent and the authoritative – now I’m excited to read it! (I need my resource books to have humour or I’ll never make it through the first chapter)
- I love that Helen is an overzealous planner (her words, not mine) and that she fills the book with check lists to help you with your packing and organizing.
- Parts of the book read like a novel due to Helen’s gift for storytelling. I feel like I’m sitting around a camp fire swapping stories about adventures gone badly.
- I Love that Helen doesn’t believe you have to buy the most expensive gear on the market to have a successful camping trip.
I found the book to be a great resource for novice outdoor families. Each chapter is full of side bars with smart tips and check lists. This is also great if you don’t have time to read the whole chapter or just want to skim topics that you might feel more confident about. Beginners aside though, I think the book has much to offer the more experienced camper as well. Myself, I took many great ideas from the book and have implemented them on our camping trips this past summer. The best idea I may have gotten is to take the campground map and a pen around on a little hike while you jot down your favourite sites, where you’d like to stay next time, or where you definitely don’t want to stay in the future. I’ve started doing that this year and I think it’ll help me with campground reservations next year. Of course if the campground doesn’t take reservations it might not help you too much; You’ll just be happy you got a spot!
There are plenty of other great reasons a more experienced camper should still read Helen’s book as well:
- Instructions on how to make your own fire-starting eggs or tinder
- Recipes including homemade granola bars
- Tips for motivating kids to hike (and suggestions on how to make it fun)
- The fabulous chapter on craft ideas
- The resource guide to websites on all things related to camping and the outdoors
- The resource guide to camping-themed books – worth getting the book just for this chapter alone in my opinion!
- The gourmet s’mores recipes
- The chapter on boredom busters and games to play at camp
- Instruction on basic outdoor skills such as how to brush your teeth in the wild, how to recognize poisonous plants, what to do if you run into a wild animal, etc.
I brought the book with me when I was camping this summer and enjoyed reading a camping-themed book on our trips. I’m grateful for the new tips I picked up from the book and my son loves the books we’ve been reading all summer thanks to Helen’s research on children's outdoor books. Helen even listed a few hiking themed books and they get read almost every night before bed.
Thanks very much to Shambhala Publications for the copy of the book. It’s been very much enjoyed and will get read each season as I grab fresh inspiration and ideas to make our camping adventures successful and FUN!