Tal and I are anxious to create some traditions with the kids. Traditions of our own, like any new family. Camping is something we both have vague memories of doing as young children, but neither of us had camped in decades!
My childhood camping memories are flashes of curling up in a sleeping bag on the ground of a tent, listening to armadillos rummaging around just outside; having to pee in the middle of the night, so Mom had to find the flashlight and walk me to the nearest comfort station; canoeing down a river, sincerely terrified that snakes were going to fall out of the trees into our boat.
That was all from tent camping at Fort Wilderness, Walt Disney World’s campground. In my later childhood years, we actually owned an RV and traveled all over the country several times… but that’s an entirely different kind of camping.
Tent camping is what we want to do.
The good ol’ fashioned, sleep on the ground, no electricity, grill hot dogs and s’mores, look at the stars kind. Well, maybe with a few upgrades since the early 80’s.
We found a great deal on a tent at Aldi, along with blow-up mattresses and lanterns, so we snatched them up!
People keep telling us we’re crazy to tent camp in the summer in Florida, but honestly, when else are we going to go? It’s summer-hot here for 6 months out of the year. At least. If we wait until it gets even remotely cooler, we’re talking November, December… The kids are out of school, bored out of their minds, driving us crazy right now. We’re doing this.
But before we headed out on a road trip to find a campground, we thought we’d better do a dry run in the backyard. We wanted to see what it was like to put up the tent and blow up the mattresses, find out what we needed to bring with us and what we would have no clue we needed until we got there (scotch tape for a very unusual reason… keep reading), and most of all see if we could survive the night without killing ourselves or each other. This was a commitment-free camping trip — if we needed to bail at any given moment and run back inside to the comfort of our air conditioned, mosquito-free beds, so be it.
Let the tent-putting-up commence!
First thing’s first — read the instructions.
Teamwork is the way to go. Jillian is always up for helping, so we put her to work!
Trevor, on the other hand? Not so much. Best to find something to keep him occupied and out of the way…
All set up! That wasn’t so hard.
It really wasn’t. I had never put up a tent myself, and neither had Tal. We were both children the last time either of us saw the inside of a tent. The instructions weren’t that great, either. Vague directions and crappy pictures, but we figured it out. And now we’ll know for next time — it’ll be a snap!
Our tent was described as a “two-room tent,” which I envisioned to mean it would have a divider right down the middle: one side for Tal & me and the other side for the kids. Perfect!
The divider goes off to one side, creating a small area that could hardly be called a “room.” A dressing room, maybe… that’s the only thing we could figure it could possibly be good for. If someone needed a place to change clothes in “privacy” (the privacy of a thin, white piece of fabric that doesn’t quite reach all the way in any direction), you could hang this up and sort of block yourself from the view of others. Sort of.
We talked about the possibility of using it for a baby in a pack ‘n play, but the thought of that baby waking up from a nap only to be surrounded by a sheath of white and blue on all sides butting right up to the crib just gives me the heebie jeebies!
We took the divider down.
Time to blow up the mattresses. We bought two queen sized air mattresses from Aldi, and each came with their own battery-operated pump.
Make sure you bring enough batteries! We had to raid our lanterns for these guys.
OK, tent up. Check.
Mattresses blown up. Check.
Sheets, blankies, pillows, books, toys, lanterns, waters, iPhones, iPad gathered. Check.
Time for a dip in the pool to cool us off before we attempt sleeping.
Now that we’re wet and semi-cooled off, we changed into our jammies and headed into the tent.
Oh my goodness, it’s going so much better than I thought! Look, the kids are reading each other bedtime stories! Awwwwww!
Well, that bliss didn’t last. Bedtime stories were fun for a while, but then it was time to actually go to sleep. Far off thunderstorms rumbled and lightning flashed in the distance. Poor Trevor and our dog, Star, were scared out of their wits.
The random pop-pop-popping of July 4th fireworks didn’t help soothe them, either. Go figure. Why did we decide to try this on July 3rd?
The wind was intense, too. Our tent was super sturdy — no problem there. But I didn’t realize just how noisy it would be inside with the wind blowing, and the tent material flapping, and the zipper pulls clinking together…
Bring on the scotch tape!
Next time, I’m bringing tape to fix those dang zipper pulls on all of the windows and the door so they won’t clink every time the wind blows. It drove me insane! Just a few pieces of tape to wrap around them and quiet them down. That’s all I needed.
Let’s recap: we’ve got lightning flashing, distant thunder rumbling, popping of fireworks, tent tarp crinkling, lantern swaying, zipper pulls rattling, Trevor is now crying.
And then it starts to rain.
This is the point where I almost bailed.
We had fixed the tarp where it was only pulled halfway off the top of the tent because DANG it’s hot in there with no breeze! But when the drip, drip, drip of rain started in on us, we had to jump up and reattach the tarp all the way across the tent.
I hopped back in, not too wet, laid down and contemplated grabbing the kids and the dog and just giving up.
But before I could make up my mind, somehow we all fell asleep.
And next thing you know, it’s morning!
Holy crap, we made it! I really, really had my doubts.
But we stuck it out, and this is what we woke up to…
Overall, I was quite impressed. With all of us, really. A few quiet tears from Trevor, yes, but other than that, no one complained (other than me silently groaning in my own head a few times).
And I was really surprised with how much space we had in the tent after we blew up the mattresses. I had envisioned them butting up to each other, taking up every inch of floor space. But nope! We had plenty of room in the middle to walk through, plus a good bit on each other side. Not bad!
The wind was crazy, though. Our bamboo tree had blown all over the place, eventually falling over the deck like this…
Luckily, we set up the tent under an orange tree, under the bamboo, so at least it didn’t collapse on top of us during the night! That would have been a most-definite bail moment.
Next step: find a campground at a Florida spring a few hours away and tent camp for real. Have any recommendations?