The Lost Art of Family Camping
Every summer my parents took us camping. Without fail. It was literally the
highlight of the entire year. We would each get to pick our favourite sugar cereal to
bring for early breakfasts. Mom would bake bins of cookies and biscuits that we
would only have during camping. Dad would by a number of chocolate bars to divvy
out and we would bring a lot of board games. Each year my parents would pick a
different part of British Columbia or Alberta to explore – that is until we happened
upon the Okanogan Valley, and then we started camping there every summer.
I remember sitting in the top of the camper, looking out the window and counting
tunnels as we drove through Roger's Pass in British Columbia. At other times, I
would put a cassette tape into my Walkman, sit in the back seat of the truck and just
look at the majesty of the mountains and await the adventures ahead of us.
Upon arrival, we would set up camp, eat snacks, grab out our bicycles and explore
the campground. We had to see what the campground had to offer, where the best
places to explore would be, and of course, what candy we could buy with our
My parents were big into photo albums and the climax of each album was always
the camping trip, the hikes, the beaches, the ice cream and the adventures we had as
Now, I have a family of my own and we continue this tradition. However, the culture
has changed. This past summer we headed out to camp on Manitoulin Island, ON.
Now, by camping, I mean sleeping in tents, tarps, camp stoves, hauling water, no
electricity and so forth. We arrived, set up our tent and took the time to get our
bearings of the campground. There were only four other sites with tents in the
entire campground. Every single other site had motorhomes, holiday trailers,
massive monstrosities with the glowing blue light of the television coming through
the windows. We were an anomaly.
By the third day, the weather brought us rain. The entire campground dove into
their luxury trailers to avoid being outdoors. With no luxury trailer to sit and watch
movies in, we put on our raingear and played Frisbee in the rain. When the rains
subsided and the other kids were allowed back outside, my children biked around to
find them. A group of boys walked by our campsite each holding a tablet and
discussing their video games. My kids didn't fit in. They came back and we pulled
out our novels and sat by the fire with some pretzels and read.
We fought waves of raccoons attacking our coolers that we didn't fit into our tents.
The fourth night I stood in the middle of the campsite at 1:30am waving my ax at
four raccoons as they tried to rifle through our gear. We awoke with the sunrise
lighting up our tent and went to sleep as it got dark. We heard the breaking of branches, the wind, the birds, the waves on the beach, the rain pounding on our tent
and slept soundly.
The adventure of camping and exploring is a memory I hold dear. It formed me, but
the family vacations were also a way we marked the years and our narrative as a
My point is this:
Take a family vacation every year even if you can't afford it.
And, in my biased opinion, the family vacations are more memorable, the simpler
they are – like when you are camping.
Kenton E. Biffert