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The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature Paperback – April 17, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“For the uninitiated—or else panicked—Boulder-based freelance writer and New York Times contributor Olsson offers this thorough and accessible guide that covers all the bases. From slathering cotton balls in petroleum jelly as firestarters (love it!) to freezing stews ahead of time and letting them double as ice packs, Olsson has you covered. This would make a lovely addition to a display on summer adventures and is enthusiastically recommended for all public libraries. Bring on the dirt.”—Library Journal, starred review

“Olsson provides a comprehensive guide to car camping with children, from infants to preteens. Through her extensive advice, greenhorn parents will quickly evolve into knowledgeable campers, capable of offering their children rewarding experiences in nature that will last a lifetime.”—ForeWord Reviews

“A treasure trove of information and ideas that would be a fine addition to any camper’s bookshelf. The author’s conversational, first-person approach feels like a chat with a friendly neighbor. Her well-crafted prose is sprinkled with a humor that parents will particularly appreciate.”—The Deseret News

“This book is an incredible resource for families just beginning their outdoor adventuring.”—Eco Child’s Play, www.ecochildsplay.com 


“I love the author because she is a mother herself, as well as a very organized one!  Perhaps the most appealing parts of the book are the numerous checklists. The illustrations are clean and simple and they fit with the whole retro theme of the book. Perfect for your kids to browse and learn from. Olssen makes it easy for busy moms and dads to plan, pack, and execute an amazing camping weekend.”—Natural Family Today, www.naturalfamilytoday.com 

“The book is packed with enough detail to allow someone who has never camped in their life to venture confidently into the woods, but even veteran backcountry campers will find plenty of useful tips on everything from first aid to making camp.”—The Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)

“If you’re like me, no matter how much you plan, the Wing It factor always comes into play when you go camping with children. But now there's a book that can help you tame the chaos of mushing your whole family and a ridiculous mountain of gear into a single tent. You won’t find a more comprehensive how-to on the subject than The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids. Olsson leads you through practically every decision you need to make—from where and when to go, to what to bring (less than you think), to what to cook (single best compendium of s’mores recipes ever), and how to keep the kids out of your hair (berry paints! photo safaris!). Because it’s so sensible, the guide is great for everyone, from seasoned backcountry veterans who want to learn a few new shortcuts to families that have never once set up a tent or banged a stake into the ground. Olsson’s tone is chipper yet informative, and never condescending. The book is crammed with handy packing checklists, simple but clever camp recipes, and lots of genuinely helpful advice, like always bring your bikes and orient your tent door to the best view.”—Katie Arnold, Outsideonline.com.

About the Author

Helen Olsson is a freelance travel and skiing writer and a regular contributor to the New York Times Travel and Escapes sections, where she writes about family outdoor and adventure travel. Among the camping trips she's chronicled are llama-trekking in Colorado's backcountry and a canoe-and-kayak trip in the Niobrara River Valley of Nebraska—both taken with three children under nine. Visit her at www.maddogmom.com.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Roost Books; Original edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590309553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590309551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've read or skimmed other books providing advice on camping with kids over the last decade, and most are either boring or just don't add anything to the mix. They seem to offer nothing to anyone who has slept in a tent for more than a night or two. I started off camping with my parents in diapers, and have been car camping and backpacking most of my life. Once we had children 10 years ago, I started doing it with my kids. Our first couple of trips, despite what I thought was my abundant wealth of knowledge and experience, were nothing short of disasters! Where was this book then?!

The book by Olsson is fun, funny and helpful. I now know way more than I did 10 years ago about camping with kids (having learned the painful way), but there is much in here I did not know and everything in here is what is wish I HAD known. It is that good. The book included humorous stories from her camping days as a kid and with her own family (and who doesn't enjoy a good camping disaster story!). My favorite was the one about the sister who used poison ivy to wipe her backside after a pit stop in the woods. I have vague recollections of a similar error. Mixed in with the entertaining anecdotes is plenty of solid advice. The poison ivy story is followed up with guidelines for avoiding poison ivy, for treating a poison ivy rash, and for getting the oil out of your clothes. The author isn't afraid to let us learn from her mistakes. Isn't that the best way to learn something - from someone else's mishaps? It's a refreshing take on camping with kids.

The book is packed with the basics on gear, planning, and food (great recipes for a new kind of s'more), but there's also beefy chapters on arts and crafts and games and activities to keep the kids entertained at the campsite.
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Format: Paperback
I've read a few books on camping with kids over the years, but none emphasizes the importance or explores the full landscape of preparedness more than this new one I picked up the other day. Olsson is a list maker, and there is perhaps no better trait you want in someone who's planning or helping you plan a trip. As I've mentioned before, the motto we lived by in my scout troop was "A prepared scout is a happy scout." This is true in for all campers.

In this book, Olsson answers all your questions about camping with kids. There are sections that deal with having all the right gear, from boots to tents. Later she gets you prepped and ready to camp with her signature lists--Little Tykes Gear Checklist, Software Checklist (that's clothing), Camp Kitchen Cleanup Checklist--before explaining in the next section how to setting up camp, prepare meals, keep the site clean, etc.

The third section is my favorite. Anyone who has planned a camping trip knows the risk of over planning the sleeping and eating to the neglect of the other 14 or so hours in the day. You have to have something planned, be it hiking, rafting, fishing, throwing horseshoes, collecting flowers... something, or your family will go nuts and take you with them to the funny farm. Olsson's final section has you covered enough games, activities, and crafts to keep your brood happy for a month in the woods.

But that's not all (trying hard not to sound like a infomercial), there's a lot of sound advice here. Smart Tips are scattered to nearly every page with sage guidance that will make your trip as smooth as a well-swept tent floor (she has advice on that too):

Save some cash by buying kids' hiking boots used. (They're going to outgrow them before they outwear them.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great camping guide, thorough and well written. The book is in a very easy to read format and I especially appreciated the checklists provided by the author. Being a suburban mom to two young boys, I really related to the author's anecdotal and easygoing style. It really inspired me to think I could take my children camping and make happy memories for them as well! We are now planning our first camping trip for the boys and we'll definitely take this book with us.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm in my 30s, I've never camped except once in Girl Scouts when I was 9. Anyway, that's awful. So I want my kids to grow up with camping and we are starting this summer. This book is awesome! Yeah, it's probably all common sense to people who have been around this their whole life, but to me it was very interesting and informative. Love it.
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Format: Paperback
As a parent who has done quite a bit of camping with my two young daughters, I was skeptical when my wife picked up this book in the store. But as we paged through and read passages, I was pleasantly surprised by the many thoughtful ideas and the way they are presented in witty, personal stories. Having now read the book more thoroughly, and having employed many of her tips on, for instance, coaxing the kids up the trail, I can say for sure that the book is loaded with good advice, creative solutions to common issues, and wise assessments of gear. The personal tone of the writing makes it fun and funny to read, but also let's you know the content is born of experience in the outdoors with kids.

My wife and I marveled at how often the author's tales exactly reflected our experience, and in several cases how her advice aligns with practices we learned the hard way. If you plan on camping with kids, this book is well worth buying and reading.
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