Let’s take a step back in this saga, before we proceed. Why am I camping like a newbie and why don’t I have deluxe camping equipment at my age? Good question. I can explain.
Though slightly embarrassing to admit, I’ve never taken my kids camping outside the backyard. At age 14 and 11 they haven’t slept in a tent in a National Park. There are a couple reasons. Firstly, my free time in the summer is extremely limited. I’m lucky to get one week off in the summer, so I really want to make the most of that time.
The marketing lure of Disneyland trumped camping one year. Cheap summer flights to the Caribbean and my intense desire for beach and turquoise water won a couple other years. Both these types of summer vacations were much more attractive than camping because camping was too much like home. (We lived on a beautiful acreage, surrounded by trees.) But now that we live in the city, the boys are missing “home” and the trees/wildlife they grew up around.
My oldest son Riley is keenly interested in wilderness TV shows, and survival videos on YouTube, and as I mentioned in a previous post he wanted to borrow my credit card to buy camping survival kits online.
So it was crystal clear to me that THIS was the time to plan a camping adventure. It won’t be long before he loses interest in family trips and becomes too strong willed to let me lead or teach. But let me say, I LOVE this age. While he’s still willing to hang out with his mom, I’m going to take every opportunity to make it memorable.
The next several instalments will be about our National Park adventure on the east coast of Canada.
Dollar store camping success stories… The tools in action!
There’s no point theorizing. If you don’t take it on the road, you don’t truly know. So… we went camping. Here are the things we bought from the dollar store/ Dollar Tree and how we rank them.
Paper plates: Huge win. Use, then burn in the campfire. You can have spiderman birthday plates, or 50th Anniversary. It does not matter. Theme your camping and feel extra special.
Re-usable plastic cups: 2 for $1. Big win. Think wine cup.
Cutlery multi-pack: Win. Much better than asking for extra cutlery with your baked potato at Wendy’s.
Cotton balls: Riley used them for sparking the fire, with his flint. Made him feel boy-scout-ish. So, personal win for Riley.
Deck of cards: Weak. Didn’t get used. However, I think if it were raining and the campground didn’t have WIFI it would have been a big hit.
Tablecloth: YES! So good. Picnic tables are old and beat up and have bird poop. Table cloth and you’re set!
Solar puck light: I could not believe how well this worked. We charged it in the sun on the car windshield as we drove. It glowed all night in the tent.
“Copper” bowl with handles: YES! Another great one. I cooked soup, water, and even sauted scallops and spinach over a camp fire. It held its shape. The handles were effective. WIN! $3
Oven mitts: We used them once. Could have used a towel instead. And while we could have used them to lift up the copper cooking bowl, we chose to lift it with a marshmallow stick threaded through both handles, because it was more fun. So oven mitts….waste of $3.
Tin foil: Yes, the rolls are fairly short for $1.25 but they were perfect for campfire cooking. A no-brainer. Grocery stores charge $3 or more for the same.
Bubbles: For blowing. Lame. I should have bought dish soap with that money instead. Maybe with toddlers, they would be a hit, but a fail with my teens.
Giant marshmallows. They were gross. You could’t even cook them thru. Fail.
All things considered, the Dollar Store/Dollar Tree had several things that were very useful for camping. If I could only take 5 things, or $10 worth, they would be:
Lately my teen son Riley has been talking about camping and wilderness “survival.” I listen intently and try to mold his thinking towards a family-friendly summer outing. I think, “camping could be fun, I went camping with my family when we were kids. I can do this.”
But he ups the ante in a very modern way. “Mom, I found this survival kit subscription on-line and for just $40 a month (US funds) I can get a surprise box of survival tools.”
As you might imagine, I retorted pretty sarcastically and with a big NO. It went something like this…. “give me 40 bucks, even Canadian funds and I’ll go get you a mystery box of survival crap from the dollar store. And I can do this every month until you beg me to stop.”
I said, “I’m serious.”
I think all he really heard was “go to dollar store, buy crap.”
“Let’s go now,” he says. “Let’s do this!
Since I’m quite willing to put my money where my mouth is, I offered up $10 for each of us. I insisted he use his math skills to solve the next step and tell us how much we could buy.
“Seven things!” he says. “We can each buy 7 things at Dollar Tree.”
True. At Dollar Tree, all items are $1.25, plus applicable taxes would get us to $9.90. So we each took $10. Literally, $10. No debit cards or any extra cash. This was a survival challenge after all. LOL
He suggested we meet at the register in 10 minutes. It was now a bit of a race too! On our way, we did agree that 3 things would already be included in our challenge…. tent, food & matches so no need to try to buy those.
He bought fishing lures, fishing line and weights. Plus twine, a pocket knife, cotton balls and birthday candles. He explained that he’d use a knife to harvest a stick to make a fishing rod. The cotton balls are to use with matches to start fires and the birthday candles were to keep the fire going and to transfer flames to multiple fire sites. I couldn’t help but laugh at the birthday candles. I suggested they would also be great if a spontaneous birthday celebration broke out at the campsite. We could even celebrate some stranger’s 50th and still have spare candles. His regret, after thinking it all through… was wasting so much on fishing gear, after all we did say food was included.
I bought a tin foil cooking pan and a long handled bbq fork. I also chose a tarp, a first aid kit, a little hacksaw and a tropical scented jar candle (What I really wanted was bug repellant or a citronella candle but I couldn’t find anything and was running out of time so I grabbed this one.) My last choice, or my luxury item as I call it, was either going to be a bubble blower toy or a deck of cards. I went with the bubbles to be a bit of a rebel, plus it was in a Star Wars package. Hours of campfire enjoyment I thought. Riley agreed the tarp was a good choice, very versatile. He laughed at my Dollar Tree hacksaw and suggested the first aid kit was well paired with it. I tend to agree. Regrets? I have none. I stand by my Star Wars bubble blower and thin blue tarp.
It was a fun experiment. The best part was the show and tell session when we got home with our loot. We laughed a lot!
As you can imagine, Riley is planning the next step. He wants the Dollar Tree hacksaw to see some use. He’s currently in the other room searching out campsites on-line. So, I guess this chapter and this little adventure, is to be continued!