Doug and I had camped many times before the girls were born. But that camping was so much different than what we did this past weekend. You see, before the girls came along we did very rustic camping (read: no running water, no electricity, no toilets). What we did this past weekend with the girls was almost like camping in luxury.
Don't misunderstand, we were in a tent- a very nice tent, but still a tent. What made it nice was the campground. We stayed at Pammel Park, just south of Winterset, Iowa in Madison County (as in “The Bridges of”, about 30 minutes south-west of Des Moines).
The campground is set up for RVs with water and electricity but also has “tent only” sites without those amenities. We chose an RV site and went to work setting up camp. The girls helped in their “this is a game” way but overall it was painless as the tent went together easily and I brought chairs, drinks and snacks to keep the girls occupied.
Close to the campsite was a play area (a must with my girls) and a modern restroom (with a shower). Each campsite also has a fire pit and picnic table.
Pammel Park was one of Iowa's first State Parks and is full of history and adventures. We spent time exploring the park around the Lodge (built in the 1920's), playing in the ford across Middle River (I have yet to meet a kid who can't spend hours throwing rocks into water) and hiking through the wide expanses of parkland. Brenna even toasted her first marshmallows.
With all the fun we had there are a few things that would have made our stay better. I found this great camping checklist online but have some necessities of my own to add to it:
- I pack for camping in plastic totes (like Rubbermaid or Sterilite). Why mess up nice luggage? These also come in very handy for keeping your food safe from small critters (or larger ones).
- The new SpaceBags Cube are perfect for condensing heavy bedding. (And if you have an airpump for an air mattress you can repack everything quite easily.)
- Don't forget towels if the park has showers.
- Always pack one or two spare sets of clothing “just in case”
- If there is electricity available don't forget a long extention cord with plenty of outlets
- If you plan to be inside your tent in the afternoon for naps (and you have electricity available) bring a fan. Yes, really. You'll thank me for that tip!
- Don't forget the marshmallows!
- Even if it's summer bring jeans, socks and long sleeved shirts if you want to hike through the woods.
- Baby wipes are a life-saver (even if you don't have a baby!)
- More blankets than you think you'll need. You'll want them for padding under sleeping bags (or get a mattress pad), to lay on top of an air mattress (or, again, a mattress pad), and it can get chilly even in the middle of summer out in the wilderness.
Camping is a great family adventure. It's also very affordable- you don't need a big RV and you don't have to travel across the country to have a good time.