The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids:

How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature

By Helen Olsson

Roost Books (April 2012)

Use coupon code 30DOWN for 30% off.


Illustration by Scotty Reifsnyder

For parents of young children looking for a supremely economical family vacation, camping is the way to go: no matter where you live, you can pack up the car and drive to a nearby campground–with a week’s worth of campsite fees totaling less than one night in a nice hotel. But while today’s generation of parents may have backpacked through India and shot class IV rapids in Idaho (or seldom strayed from their office cubicle), when it comes to the thought of changing a diaper in a tent at midnight—much less amassing, organizing, and packing the requisite kid gear—anxiety and trepidation can easily set in

This book, by a seasoned camper and a mother of three, is a humorous and often irreverent introductory guide to camping with kids, from babies to pre-teens. Eschewing the encyclopedic, author Helen Olsson writes from a parent’s point of view, giving readers a clear plan—and plenty of encouragement—for an enjoyable family camping experience.

The book covers basics like choosing a destination, packing gear and food, setting up the campsite, planning menus, and keeping safe, all with an emphasis on the needs and concerns of parents with younger children. Each chapter features checklists, including items dedicated for babies and toddlers. Other features include stand-alone tip boxes and sidebars on topics like renting gear, the best high-tech and natural clothing fabrics, “Top 5 Ways to Curb Whining,” and the ever-important etiquette for pottying in the woods. A section on camping activities includes detailed arts and craft projects for kids, with materials lists and illustrated step-by-step instructions. The book focuses on car camping but also touches on the art of backpacking with kids.

Like a trusted friend (albeit one who can haul a 30-pound toddler in a sled on a winter hut-camping trip while pregnant), Olsson shares first-person anecdotes and lessons learned over years of camping with her family. With its authentic, can-do voice and contemporary design, The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids will appeal not only to first-time campers but to veteran campers befuddled by the challenges of carting their brood into the woods.

You can see more of Scotty’s illustrations at See Scotty.