Our First Anniversary! Enter to win $50 at REI

**Giveaway has ended. Thanks for all those who participated!**

Yep. We made it. This blog has officially been alive for one year!  It all started with a post about minivans and a whole slew of people willing to share the site with their friends.

Do you know what the best part of this blog has been for me?  It’s provided a new way for me to ‘meet’ moms and dads who care as much about incorporating the outdoors into the lives of their children as I do.  I’ve learned so much from you folks, and enjoy every chance I get to interact with you.  We can’t thank you enough for being a part of this blog.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and talk about trivial things like $50 REI gift certificate giveaways, here are a few stats from our first year.

29,341 – # of individuals who visited our website

∞ # of thanks we owe all the aforementioned visitors

136 – # of posts we published

1,349 – # of comments left by all you lovely visitors

1 – # of blessed, blessed blog-saving contributers

211 – # of times our most popular post (make your own hammock) was shared on facebook and twitter

252 – # of days I’ve spent pregnant

22,290 – # of times the video How to Turn your Minivan into an RV has been viewed

50 – # of dollars you could win to spend however you wish at REI

Please note that ‘smooth’ segue into our one year anniversary giveaway…

So yes. Let’s giveaway a gift certificate to REI! To enter you MUST leave us your best camping tip. Just one simple tip will do. This can be something having to do with food prep, cooking, camping with kids, camping with dogs, storing gear, organizing it in your vehicle, pre-planning, etc… The possibilities are endless. Winner will be chosen at random.


  1. You MUST answer the question (above) to be eligible.
  2. You must supply me with a valid email address when you enter.
  3. You can only enter once.
  4. You must be 18 or older.
  5. The contest starts now and entries must be date stamped by our server no later than Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 10:00 PM Pacific Time to be eligible.
  6. The winner will be chosen using the number generator at and announced on this blog Thursday, March 29th.
  7. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only (sorry, we ran into ordering restrictions).
  8. Winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to reply to my notification. If I don’t hear back, I’ll pick another winner.

75 Comments so far

Comments Feed
  1. Faye S.

    Create “The Bin”, The Bin has everything you need for your camping trip with mini-bins inside separating your camp area essentials (matches, lighters, rope), your washing station (hand sanitizer, soap, sponges), your mugs, your coffee maker of choice, camp kitchen knife and plates, paper napkins and emergency TP. everyone needs a The Bin! I have two: one for backpacking which has all my gear so I can pack easily and quickly, the other for car camping, which we take with us.

  2. Go often. The more often you go, the easier it is to actually get out the door because you have to establish some sort of a routine to actually get out the door!

  3. Glowsticks and headlamps for kids. Makes them easier to spot in the dark, plus makes the dark that much more fun for them. Woohoo for a year of OutsideMom!

  4. Simplifying your meals and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. We do a lot of foil packs on the campfire.
    Congrats on a great first year!

  5. When camping with kids, I highly recommend going with another family. Everything seems a little more manageable when there are more hands on deck.

  6. Rachel

    Wait until the end of the day to clean up and change the kids clothes. It is inenvitable that they will be dirty!

  7. Put all your gear in big totes for easy storing, loading and protection from rain. AWESOME giveaway by the way…I couldn’t miss out on this one!

  8. Brian

    Make a list before you go. We have a list that we print out before every camp trip so we don’t forget anything…or wonder the entire drive to our destination if we forgot anything. Nothing worse than going on a car camping trip and forgetting your pillow.

  9. Christine Anderson

    Don’t worry too much about kids getting dirty. Let them explore and have grand adventures. Baths can always come later. :)

  10. MicK

    Don’t focus so much on finding the “perfect” place to go, or the “perfect” place to set up camp. Our little guy could care less…he is just so happy to be there and taking in everything around him!

  11. Sarah

    I don’t have any tips, that’s why I read your blog! haha. Okay, a tip.
    Never underestimate the power of a “bribe”
    For real. I don’t ever bribe my kids in everyday life, but in our outside life I’m full of them. Half the time I forget this and find myself on the eternal walk of doom (the 1/4 mile between the parking lot and the beach) saying things like “Come on, PUHHLLEEASE!”
    When climbing, I didn’t think about a bribe and ended up putting my keys up on the wall for him to climb for. It worked, but imagine how much better it would have been with gummy bears.

  12. Chrissy meyers

    I loved everything about the valentines day van party. Letting kids plan the events and decorating, just genius!

  13. Lauren

    Congrats on a great first year! We are certainly soaking in all of your (as well as your followers’ excellent advice!)

    Well, I have to agrees with those above who mentioned “the bin” system. I live by it. It makes camping life so much easier. But, a tip of my own…frisbees make great plates and obviously provide other fun functionality as well and always have duct tape on you…weather car camping or backpacking. It’s too easy to have a bit of it wrapped around your water bottle or stashed and it almost always comes in handy. I mean, what can’t you fix with duct tape? :)

  14. Priscilla

    Always check the drainage of the spot you plan to set up the tent. Make sure it isn’t a low spot or where water would flow through if it rained. No food in the tent either! :-)

  15. Congratulations! The Mountain House raspberry crumble dessert makes a fantastic breakfast treat (bribe for staying in the tent a bit longer!) when mixed with healthy hot cereal.

  16. Katie Wewer

    Be flexible with everything. Distances, trails, times, everything. Then you won’t be disappointed.

  17. Congrats on your first year blogging! My tip is to bring little plastic bug catchers and magnifying glasses. These simple tools have provided my kids with hours of entertainment.

  18. Misti

    One year already?! Awesome! My tip is this: When holding your daughter to pee in the wilderness make sure you’re aiming for the down hill slope of the terrain…and keep your feet spread wide enough away to reduce splash effect.
    And don’t worry if you get a little on ya…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (smelling).

    • Misti – Thanks for the tip. I’m gonna have to remember that in the next year or two. This kids (i.e. girls) peeing in the wilderness thing is going to be a whole new ball game.

  19. Congratulations on your Blog-a-versary! You’ve already gotten some great tips. I would add to be flexible, pack a deck of cards and know a few old-school card games, and enjoy campfire stories or other things you don’t normally do at home.

  20. Katie

    Just get out there. There is never going to be a perfect weekend, with no chance of rain, nothing on the calendar, and everyone in perfect health. Take the days (and nights) when and where you can and make the best of it.

  21. congrats on one year! My advice is to start the kids young, go often, and make outdoor adventure a regular part of your life.

  22. lacey mcnary

    congrats!! my tip is to go close to home so you can be home early on sunday to put everything away and enjoy the last beer from the cooler while the kids run around the yard..

  23. Kelly

    If you’re taking little boys, a toy dump truck is essential. We also like checking out audio books from the library and downloading them onto an MP3 player. It can help with the ride to the campsite as well as when kids have trouble falling asleep (although all that running around outdoors should tucker them out).

    Ooooo… you make me want to go camping again. We haven’t been in over a year and I’m itching to go, even with new baby.

  24. Susan Sedenik

    Congrats on the anniversary! Well, not sure how useful this tip is but for our family, it has helped. I love to make a HOT breakfast – home or camping – I am not into the cold cereal kind of meal in the morning. Whenever we camped we used to make our standard pancakes or breakfast potatoes etc…which required more time prepping, cooking, cleaning up. By the time breakfast was done, it felt like the whole morning was gone and with 2 little ones to get ready, we had like 2 hours to play (maybe) until time to make lunch and do the nap. SO, I finally realized that the only day I should make the panckes and all that was the day we were leaving! We could spend the whole morning cooking and eating a wonderful meal and then, just toss the dirty pots in a container and wash at home. (The day we leave we are usually gone for home by noon anyway) I have now settled for yogurt and fruit on the first day or 2 of camping and then we have little to no clean up. We can eat and then get right to hiking, kayaking, etc…
    I know, not a big “wow, what a great tip” moment but it’s the little things that make a big deal sometimes! Again, congrats on your blog – I love it!

    • Susan – We do this too!! And we make sure all the dirty dishes end up in the cartop so we’re not smelling eggs and bacon all the way home.

  25. Keep all your camping stuff in one spot so you can just GO. And like someone else said, go often. You get better at packing. Summer 2010, Forrest would pick me up from work and at 5pm on Friday we were GONE headed for points in the Bitterroots, Rockies, etc.

  26. patty b

    If you go camping and want to bake a cake over the fire, a dutch over works great! Heat the dutch oven up on a moderately warm fire before adding your cake batter (which we brought pre-mixed in a tupperware) and dump hot coals on the lid to heat the lid too. Its very important that the lid be hot as well or the cake won’t cook evenly.

    Also, we recommend bringing lots of garbage bags for all things wet and dirty because you know there will be many wet and dirty things by the end of a camping trip. And extra towels just in case. We were so glad we had extra towels last time we went camping when we ended spontaneously jumping in a river and then had a car sick baby on the ride home.

  27. Tim

    My biggest tip is to turn the phone off. My second tip is if you’re trying to bury a body, October is the best month to do so.

    • Cristina

      Ha ha, that’s funny…I mean, I hope it’s a joke… but I completely agree about the cell phone. Best tip ever.

    • Time – And you know this because…

  28. Cheap yet priceless mess saving camping gear…Coghlan’s Squeeze Tubes:
    Mix your pb and j in a bowl at home, put it in the tube before you leave, never deal with a nasty knife or jar while on vacation or camping again. Sandwiches in 5 seconds time when the kiddos get hungry.

    • Dan – Genius! I’m going to do that with PButter and Honey. Thanks!

  29. Tarynnr

    Keep some sort of barf bag in the tent for emergencies. Yes, I am speaking from experience… a really gross and cold experience.

    • Tarynnr – Haahaa! I know it probably wasn’t funny, but lesson learned for all of us. Thank you! I might also add that you should remember to make your young kids go to the bathroom before the fall asleep in the tent. We had a similar cold and gross experience with urine…

  30. GottaRun

    a bar of dark chocolate can serve many little pick-me-ups when the little ones get down.

  31. Jana

    My best tip for camping is always bring a camera. You will always have those special memories from a photo to look back on.

  32. Andree' Walker Bravo

    Lower your expectations. A day playing in the dirt for a 2 year old can surpass a hike to a lake anytime. And, plan to get dirty! We often laugh at how filthy everyone and everything (humans, dogs, cloths, car, socks) is when we get home. They are great memories.

  33. Let the kids help at their level of capability. Even very small children can help gather sticks for a campfire or help dig a trench around a tent when it rains. Older kids can pack their own gear and help plan food. Having a job to do really helps build self-confidence, responsibility and independence.

  34. Ellen B

    Duct tape can be used to repair most everything on a trip. Use it to patch
    tents, mend poles, hold up schedules, patch torn shoes, hold poles for
    mosquito nets to cots, etc.

  35. Mami2jcn

    Bring the grandparents along for extra help with the kids.

  36. Megan A

    I’d say my best tip is to try not to plan too much. Some of the most fun trips I’ve been on are when nothing is really planned and i’ve done some exploring on my own.

  37. Trisha P

    If you have little ones – become a babywearer. If your young ones learn to love the Ergo or whatever type of carrier you have – they’ll feel at home no matter where you are. It’s an essential when we go camping. Great for freeing up the hands, keeping the little ones close or simply relieving tired little legs.

    • Trisha – Yes! And I might also add that occasionally co-sleeping with your child or soothing them to sleep at home makes for much better sleepers while camping. They learn to sleep happily anywhere near you.

  38. The best thing to take camping is a plan. A plan if things go well, a plan if they don’t. You can’t do much if it suddenly starts pouring rain, but if you plan for it, you’ll be ok.

  39. Make sure you bring PLENTY of food. Nothing worse than hungry campers (especially with kids!)

  40. Shana

    Stop and smell the roses! (or watch the bugs…we spent about 20 minutes in Costa Rica watching an army of ants carry little pieces of leaves across the trail…Bugs Life up close! ) And my kids are 11, 14, 17 and 46…never too old.

  41. andrea

    Take care of the environment to keep it beautiful for future campers!

  42. Cristina

    Bug spray, mole skin (two of the best inventions EVER), and a laminated list of things you brought (I guess you could also just keep it in a plastic sleeve). I have a specific list for each situation like when I go camping near water, when it’s in the mountains, or when I go backpacking. That way it’s easy to prepare (even with the little things you get a the store that sometimes you forget about) and pack and you don’t forget anything. Then when you pack to go home you don’t leave anything there. I would love to have you write about making biodegradable soaps and shampoos, etc, or which ones you use. I hope I win! I hope I win! P.s.- I have pinned several of your posts on Pinterest and there are a lot of people who have started following you because of it :)

  43. For camping (or even for dayhikes) bring along a simple laminated field guide so kids can have an outdoor “scavenger hunt.” For our toddler we have pictures of: a couple of common birds, a couple of leaves, a rock, a lake, a deer, a squirrel, and a chipmunk. It’s on a 4×6 index card, “laminated” with packing tape.

  44. Caitlin

    Charge the iPad and download movies that you can watch while you are wrestling the kids to bed at midnight and you are dead tired!

  45. Tim

    Double sleeping bag to keep you and toddler warm in th Utah Dallas and springs.

  46. Camp near a water source – it enhances the entire experience (particularly with children present).

  47. Karen

    Getting a tarp for car camping. Just in case it rains.
    Congratulations on your blog’s first year!!

  48. Solducky

    A good cast iron pan is essential. You can make anything awesome in one over the fire.
    soluckyducky at gmail dot com

  49. Kim

    Practice, practice, practice. Go hiking, camping and biking a lot so that the outofdoors becomes second nature. Start with small trips but make them regular and consistent. I have friends who formed a hiking club with other families in their community and every week they meetup and go hiking so their kids (of all ages) get used to the fun. Eventually it becomes a habit and the hikes get longer and more exciting. And the camping gets easier because you create a system and par down to the essentials…I like the dump truck advice in an above comment because that’s easy to pack.

  50. Kate Hagan

    Treasure hunts! Name a special rock or tree, bury a little bit of treasure…so much excitement!!

  51. My biggest tip is to just do it. Start small as each camping trip need not be a journey. We started last year by just participating in the Great American Backyard Campout. My tot got hooked and we’ve been camping a dozen times since them (once in a wildlife park with eagles, bears, caribou, etc.). I tell others that are worried about the commitment, planning, or fearful of “worst case scenario” to just start in the backyard and grow from there. Baby steps!

  52. Josh

    Have a ready-to-go camp kitchen stocked with quick non-perishable food for dinner and breakfast (e.g. spaghetti and pancakes). That way, you can just grab your dedicated gear and go. Makes packing easy.

  53. Claudia

    Camping with children tip #1: Manage your expectations. We used to go camping and run around the whole time: climbing routes, mountain biking, bouldering, summitting mountains… With kids, the ONLY expectation is to be camping. We don’t even expect to sleep….

    Love your blog, Linds. Nice work!

    • Claudia – And this is why I can’t wait to be camping with you guys again!

  54. Stephanie Viselli

    Carry Wagbags-the completely biodegradable, enzyme infused, all-in-one, bathroom. It saves your campsite from getting smelly, animals from seeking you out, and your dogs from digging up gross things later!
    Completely portable and just throw them in the nearest trash can-if your car camping, the PETT toilet is pretty awesome too, especially if you have kids.

  55. Heather

    Don’t plan too much! One of the best parts about camping with kids is remembering how it made you feel when you were a kid (and didn’t have as much stuff available to do) Explore with your kids, write your name in the dirt with a stick, watch bugs, listen to loons, dip your toes in the water, catch fireflies, collect leaves, find constellations in the stars. You’ll be amazed at what you all come up with to occupy yourself when you don’t have all the “STUFF” to get in the way.
    Connect with your family and with nature.

    • Heather – I loved this tip! Your absolutely right, minimize the “stuff”.

  56. Deliamo

    What helped our 3 year old on her first hike-in overnight camping trip was to totally talk it up before-hand (she was going to walk herself this time) and make it seem like such a “big” girl thing that she could do this on her own – that we couldn’t carry her this time because we’d have too much gear. And we gave her own little backpack, which she loved. It was a completely successful trip, and now she begs us to go camping as much as possible!

  57. Although we have yet to take our 4 month old camping, The first time we do I am going to remember to bring a sense of humor!
    I’ve really enjoyed your blog and am already introducing our little one to the outdoors a little at a time.

  58. Trieste

    This is kind of a lame tip… But good food is important! Keeps everyone happy and full! I am so glad for the blog!

    • Trieste – This is actually a great tip and one I fail at all the time! When we camp with friends I’m always the lame Mom with the health food and my kids end up hovering around everyone else’s snacks. I need to be better about bringing more exciting food. Maybe I need to have Joe do the shopping…

  59. Denise

    Prepare as much of the food as you can ahead of time and store in organized and labeled containers so that meal prep at the campsite is as simple as possible!

  60. When camping with kids bring your patience, bring a sense of humor, leave expectations at home and most importantly have fun!

  61. kdog

    As sort of an amateur camper, I think my best tip is to tag along with someone else who knows where they’re going & what they’re doing. We discovered some amazing camping beaches when we lived in So Cal only because we were lucky enough to have cool friends who invited us to tag along.

    • Kdog – Aaaaand as soon as we live closer, you better be our tag along!

  62. Shasta

    Setting out a check list is always a sure fire way to remember everything!

  63. […] Note: Some comments were combined and most have been shortened, for details on these ideas read through the comments on this post. […]

  64. […] we had our giveaway a few weeks ago one of the most mentioned camping tips was to make some sort of camping box. A […]


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

    I don't blog alone! Meet outsidemom contributer Olivia