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Adlen Robinson: It’s that time of year — time to go camping
Adlen Robinson

Even though I grew up with three older brothers, we were never much of a camping family. In fact, as a family, we went camping exactly once. It was a disaster. 

We always had a boat and grew up going to the lake a lot every summer. One summer somebody had the brilliant idea of going camping on an island at the lake. As a young girl, I was thrilled. 

My parents were not the organized type, and since neither were campers, this was not a good combination. I don’t remember all of the details, but with this brief description, you will likely get the picture. 

After enjoying a fun day boating on the lake, we found a quaint island to set up “camp.” Have you ever boated on a lake in Alabama in July? Similar to Lake Lanier in July, it is scorching hot outside. The sun is hot. The water is warm. The sand on the beach is scalding. And there we were — struggling to set up a few tents. 

I do remember there was not enough food. I am sure we had hot dogs, but since we didn’t have a grill, we had to roast them over the fire. I doubt we had paper plates … my brothers quickly ate the chips. There was plenty of beer, but not much water. I longed for air conditioning.

The night was worse. It was a breezeless night, so sleeping in the tent was impossible. A few of us ended up sleeping in the open air in the boat. Trust me when I tell you it was not a big boat. 

In the morning, all six of us enjoyed one Poptart, some orange juice, and eagerly “broke camp” and happily headed home. That was the end of my parent’s camping careers.

So, it might surprise you to learn how much I loved camping with our children when they were growing up. Being something of an organizational nut, I meticulously planned our camping excursions and almost never forgot anything — certainly not something of super importance.

When Paul took the kids camping without me, the big joke was always what he forgot. It was always something of super importance. Once he took the boys camping and brought giant steaks for dinner. Guess what he forgot? Steak knives. Our oldest son happened to have a pocket knife, so they made do. I imagine there were some caveman-like dinner manners that night.

I highly recommend you consider taking your children or grandchildren camping in the great outdoors. Make it a no-device event. Here are some of my top camping tips for a successful trip.

• Plan, plan, plan. Regular readers know my love of list making, and this is one of the best occasions to make several. Since food is so important to our family, definitely plan out each meal, including snacks. List ingredients you need to buy, as well as ingredients and utensils you need to bring from home. Don’t forget to list things such as dish soap, scrub brush, bucket for washing dishes, paper plates, plastic utensils, skillet, coffee pot, clothesline and clothes pins, plastic baggies, trash bags, condiments, salt and pepper, etc.

• Bring plenty of water. Those 5-gallon plastic jugs are not too expensive. You can never have too much water.

• Make sure everybody has a chair. Even if your campsite has a picnic table, everybody will want a chair to sit in around the fire at night.

• Check the campground about their firewood policy. You can usually bring your own firewood, which is much less expensive than buying it at the campground. Don’t forget to bring the s’more ingredients.

• If your tent is big enough, opt for an air mattress. This makes a big difference in sleep quality. At the very least have a few mats you can sleep on. Real sheets are also nice to have.

• Pray for sunshine, but plan for rain. Pack some good old-fashioned games — think cards and/or board games. Remember there will be no screens, so you need to be ready in case you are confined to the tent.

• Use clear plastic tubs with lids to pack food, kitchen tools, and everything else.

• Purchase or borrow a cooking stove. Don’t forget the propane and a lighter. Most camp sites have a grill — don’t forget the charcoal. Also, don’t forget the grilling tools.

Lastly, don’t be stressed out. You are creating a lifetime of memories for little ones. Check out my food column this Friday for some recipes that are perfect for your camping trip. 

South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” Email her at