Preparation is Everything

One of the first times Josh and I went camping together, we forgot our eating utensils. All of them. We’d planned on cooking a 24-ounce can of baked beans over an open fire and roasting bratwursts on sticks. How were we going to open the beans and eat them? Apparently we skipped that step.

We’d both camped our whole lives, but for some reason getting organized enough for that first trip of the season eluded our young selves. Fortunately, Josh had a pocket knife he used to pry open the cans and whittle us spoons out of pine branches. The hint of sap gave our maple beans just that little forest spice I’m certain someone would pay big bucks for.

We’re older now, and keep a well-stocked box of plates, pots, pans, spices, and yes, forks, knives, spoons and a can opener in the garage ready to go at a moment’s notice. After more than a dozen years together, we feel like we’ve mastered basic outdoor excursions without (embarrassing) hiccups.


Then we introduced a child.

I’ve been a vocal proponent of taking kids outside since before we had our daughter 18 months ago. It seemed critical, even fundamental.

Nature makes people happier. Fresh air clears our heads and lowers stress. And special places need advocates, so they need visitors, which means kids need to be exposed.

I was that obnoxious person who told people to bring their toddlers with them with absolutely no idea what it was like to camp with a tiny maniac that walks like a drunken sailor and seems attracted to anything dangerous — fire, water, ledges.

A year and a half later, I can still say take them with you, but I get that it’s trickier. I often feel like I’m 22 again eating beans with a stick-spoon.

But like we eventually learned when we were younger, we need to plan. Her backpack always carries gloves and a hat. Nonperishable snacks are stored everywhere — and I mean everywhere.



We check the weather before we go, and bring toys we can play with in the vehicle when temperatures drop lower than forecast.

And we embrace feeling a little out of our element. Eventually we hope to get the hang of it again, and worst-case scenario, I’m sure she won’t mind an occasional freshly carved utensil.

-Christine Peterson

Christine PetersonComment