Helen Olsson Q&A: Author shares tips on camping with kids

Author Helen Olsson chatted with SNEWS prior to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market about her book, "The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature." She shares her tips.
Author:
Publish date:

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

The more Helen Olsson’s children play with digital devices, the more determined she is to get them outdoors.

The Boulder, Colo.-based journalist and author recently penned “The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature.” The book sprung from a New York Times travel section article she wrote several years ago about llama trekking near Silverton, Colo. with her husband and children, ages 4, 6 and 9.

She tells us there are always adventures to be had when you camp, and the intent of the book is to entertain, inform and inspire families to get connected to nature through camping.

What are some of the main ways camping with kids is different than with just adults?

It’s easy to be spur-of-the-moment when you camp with adults. You can just grab a few necessities and wing it when you’re heading off for a weekend in the woods with your college buddies. When you camp with kids, you have to be tactical. Kids have certain needs (like woobies, binkies, nightlights, ketchup and Hello Kitty Band-Aids).

What’s your most vivid memory camping as a kid?

I loved camping as a kid. Those trips were hugely formative for me and have defined my family folklore. On one particular trip to the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, sometime in the late 1970s, a trio of skunks came sauntering out of the woods as my brothers and sisters and I were roasting marshmallows. We were sitting in those metal folding chairs (the ones with the plastic ribbons woven like pie crusts) and we lifted our feet up and held our breaths. The skunks circumnavigated the fire, right under our toes. Then they disappeared into the night, thankfully without incident. I’ll never forget it.

What did you find as the biggest barrier for families to go camping with their kids?

People tell me they worry about comfort, bugs and gear. They are afraid they’ll be uncomfortable sleeping on the ground. If those folks had the opportunity to lie down on a mackdaddy 2.5-inch thick, extra-wide sleeping pad, they’d be hooked. Perhaps the most effective tactic at the moment, however, is to get behind the movement to green up our kids. There’s a lot of momentum and messaging out there about getting kids unplugged from the digital world we live in and back to nature. There’s the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour, Richard Louv’s Children and Nature Network and more. The industry should ride this wave. Parents want what’s best for their kids. If they think a weekend camping in the woods transcends recreation, that their children’s health, development, creativity, imagination and all-around well-being will benefit, parents will be more motivated to get out there and camp with their kids.

QA_HelenOlssonBookCover.jpg

What’s your advice to families when kids want to bring their electronics camping?

I say, put your foot down. Our kids used to whine about wanting to play digital games, but we make it an absolute. No screen time when we camp, period. To me, the beauty of camping is that you unplug completely, immerse yourself in nature, and bond with your brood. You can’t see a bald eagle soaring when you’re playing Angry Birds. Our one concession is that the kids can watch DVDs on the way to a campsite if it's a long drive. Every family needs to make a plan that works for them. When we were packing for a five-day paddle trip a few summers ago, my kids made an elaborate plan to bring our big screen TV and an enormously long extension cord. They not only survived without a single electronic device, but they had the time of their lives. We all did.

--David Clucas

Related

QA_KOA_Jim_Rogers_Headshot.jpg

Q&A: Jim Rogers, CEO, KOA Campgrounds

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and ...read more

Q&A Roswell Brayton, CEO of Woolrich

This summer Woolrich celebrated its 175th anniversary, as 2,000 people, including customers, employees and their families, gathered in Woolrich, Pa., to honor the country's oldest continuously operating apparel manufacturer. Any company that lasts 175 years sees dramatic changes, ...read more

QA_ConradAnker.jpg

Conrad Anker Q&A

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and ...read more

QA_ToddJannettaLitzman.jpg

Todd Litzman Q&A: Helping to build outdoor brands

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and ...read more