Camping for Two Weeks Without Killing Your Family

I love camping. I love playing in the mountains, exploring, seeing new country, and doing activities that toughen myself and my children. With six kids, spending time in the outdoors can be a challenge. Whining, filthy little brats tax your patience, and yet spending the quality time is a great way to see them learn and grow.

I say two weeks, as that is about as much time as I have done. However, several years ago, my brother lived with his family at our 5 acre campground, without power, running water, or cell phone coverage for about 7 months. During that time, I saw a dramatic character improvement in his three kids. They built zip lines, panned for gold, built a cabin, rope swings, and cleaned up the camp. The boys went from typical suburbanite video gamers, to some really cool kids. The girl developed cooking and crafting skills. All of them became more personable.

Sleep Well

Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than a cold, sleepless night because you bought the cheap Walmart sleeping bag on the thought that you don’t go very often so why spend the money? What happens is, if you don’t get a decent sleeping bag, you will dread camping and you will not use it. Get a decent $60 sleeping bag and an inflatable mattress. At the moment, we have 14 sleeping bags for the eight of us, some are older, but all are decent quality. If your kids don’t sleep well, you don’t sleep well.

As for me and the missus, we have a queen sized inflatable mattress, two good quality identical rectangular sleeping bags (they can zip together if they are identical), and a tent for privacy. The boys get a tent, the girls get another. We put the baby in a foldable playpen with heavy sleeping clothes. The kids don’t need an inflatable mattress, but a foam ground pad will help in colder climates.

Everyone Has a Responsibility

As the dad, you will be tempted to run the show with all chores. If you do so, you will become a servant, rather than the leader and teacher. Make sure all capable kids are doing their part, even if it takes them twice as long. We go out one several short weekend trips throughout the year, and the kids can set up their tents, clean up camp, collect firewood, or whatever. If it is simple food like hot dogs or oatmeal, they can do that too.

Hygiene and Laundry

If you are going for an extended trip, hygiene is vital. Not showering for a couple days at home is one thing, when you are in the dirt, sweating, or sitting over a campfire, the need to get yourself clean takes on a whole new meaning. Have a hygiene bag and clean yourself up daily if possible, not to exceed every three days.

Laundry is a huge part of it, especially with the kiddos. They love to play in the dirt, get chili down their shirt, or whatever. If they are kicking off their shoes and going around like that, take the shoes away and keep them stashed and available for when you are going in public. I don’t know how many hours we have spent looking for shoes.


Keep it simple stupid. Many fall into the trap of getting the latest and greatest gadgets for everything. No, you don’t need a campfire heated popcorn or a wind up radio/walkie talkie/flashlight/corkscrew/generator. The modern comforts are nice, but they are one more thing to haul, one more thing to worry about getting broken, one more thing to set up. Often, we will crash on the side of a lone highway with no more than a bed roll after getting a sub sandwich at the last grocery store.

Relax and Enjoy It

Camping is a great way to allow kids to be kids. They are naturally curious and will explore and try out new things, so long as you confiscate all electronics. Let them have fun, let them get hurt a little. So long as they are not annoying the neighbors, or doing something life threatening, they are going to learn new boundaries. Meanwhile, you can relax with your wife by the campfire.

Push Them a Little

Best thing about camping is to be in a place that you can explore new territory. A simple creek can offer new sights and wonders to behold. I try to avoid the popular sites where thousands come to take their picture and move on. Instead, get off the beaten path, and look for smaller features that offer more isolation.

Although more intense, I love backpacking with my kids. Every year, we will go to some lake, some canyon, or some mountain peak that pushes them. It helps them see their capability, and helps them improve their self confidence.


Near Zion National Park in southern Utah, is this place called Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Unknown by most everyone except the local residents, I thought this offered more opportunities to hike around and explore than the main attraction where you are confined to the parking lots and crowded hikes where you go, take your picture and drive on.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Often, the unnamed logging roads, the canyons that are overlooked, and the vast expanse of National Forest or BLM land offers more opportunity to see what you want, that is a growth in your kid’s character.

Often, we are tempted to plan out our trip to the point that there is little room for freedom. Part of the fun of camping trips is doing unplanned activities because something looks fun.


Last year, we stopped at the rim of Glenn Canyon at this overlook. I walked up there, and noticed this sandy bank about 4 feet below the edge, out of the view of my family. I told them to take my picture. As my wife had the camera, I backed up and pretended to trip off what they thought was a 1000 foot drop. The screams were hilarious.

Another time, we were driving on this lone highway in northern Idaho. We stopped at this out-house to have lunch at. My son who was about 10 at the time was in the outhouse taking care of business. I threw in a pack of lit firecrackers while he was on the pot. He comes out all mad. The funny thing was, it wasn’t 2 minutes later that some maintenance worker drives up to clean up the site. He opens up the door and all this black powder smoke rolls out, he looks directly at me and says “looks like somebody was playing with fireworks”. I love being a turd.


While tiring, and often expensive, family camping is often one of the funner activities you can do. It offers many real life experiences to your kids and helps you grow closer together as a family. Plus, you sleep well when you get home.

Author: Jim Johnson

As a man in his early 40's, I grew up on a dairy farm in an irreligious home. Disgusted with the choice of women out there, I looked into religion to find a worthwhile mate. At 23, I joined the LDS (Mormon) faith, married, became a civil engineer, and now have six children. My favorite things are puppies, long walks on the beach, and the color blue (not really).

127 thoughts on “Camping for Two Weeks Without Killing Your Family”

  1. I’m half expecting a Blair Witch Project style video from you, Mr. Johnson.

    Personally, I’d sleep much better when I don’t have to worry about insects crawling into my ears or wild beasts eating me in my sleep.

    1. Maybe it is just me, but it is a rare occasion that I have a scary experience camping. Once a friend and crashed out in the meadow without a tent, and woke up to a cougar about 20 feet from us. The only thing I had was an axe, my friend didn’t have anything. Since then, I got a 44 magnum revolver to keep the critters at bay.

      1. I had no idea cougars were into camping too. Nothing scarier than waking up and seeing one that close. If I were you, I’d take a fully automatic shotgun…

          1. Who cares where it ends? This wouldn’t even happen if you don’t go camping in the first place!

            But to be honest, I don’t think ugly old hags have the stones to bring guns.

        1. A fully automatic shotgun!?! Heh. Intend on destroying all living things in a 100 yard radius are you? heh

          A .44 mag works great and is much more portable.

          1. No, man. There is nothing worse than camping alone at night and waking up to find wrinkly hag who has a thing for handsome, vulnerable men sitting right next to you.

            1. This situation can usually be avoided by not bringing alcohol on the trip. They’re attracted to it naturally and of course once you have a few belts of Scotch into you, your defenses weaken.

      2. Having a firearm is a good rule of thumb whenever outdoors. When I was a kid in Alaska my father and I were trout fishing and luckily didn’t have any fish. A grizzly walked right behind us without a sound and we weren’t alerted to the bear’s presence until after he tried getting into the park trash cans. At this point he was between our vehicle and the dock we were fishing from. Had we had a pistol, we could have fired in the air to spook it away. Luckily another fisherman came by and honked his car horn.

    2. Just remember that those wild beasts are more afraid of you than you are of them.

      That might not be very good wisdom though because they’ll still kill and eat you just because.

      1. A good friend of mine from British Columbia (about 1000 miles north from me) tells me that a grizzly bear, for most people will maul but not eat them, but if that individual is a vegetarian, the bear will go ahead and eat them, I guess they would smell different. I haven’t found any validity to that, but it makes sense.

        1. That’s interesting. I’ve heard that the bigger types of bears such as grizzlies/kodiaks/polar bears can be a lot more aggressive. Here in California, we have a pretty healthy black bear population and there’s only one attack that comes to mind. That was because a hunter had wounded and cornered the bear though.

        2. I asked a park ranger about grizzly bear safety while hiking. He told me to carry pepper spray, wear bells on my boots to warn them that I was approaching and to look for fresh bear droppings. So I asked how to identify bear droppings. He said it’s easy, they will have bells in them and smell like pepper spray… 😉

    3. Was camping once, and guess my head was pressed against the tent wall while asleep. A raccoon apparently thought it was a source of entertainment, as I was awakened by the little bastard slapping the top of my head through the tent like bongos.

        1. They will take out your entire batch of chickens in one night if they get into your coop. Tear them up and leave them dead.

      1. Andersen sells them with standard sights for $435. Armalite for $450, with 4 sided rails. Colt and Bushmaster a little higher..

        1. Colt pls…
          Made my Dad a KISS build with PSA and AIM parts for around $500. Much nicer than the entry-levels being sharted out right now.

          1. Andersen has been a supplier for Colt and Bushmaster for years they just never put a complete gun together or manufactured the barrel. For most people, they wouldn’t know the difference, including myself who just goes to the range once in a while and rarely hunts. However, I am one to pay for quality…I would rather spend $1300 on a high precision weapon from these guys than $500 from a cheap supplier, especially for something that can harm me during a malfunction.

    1. I strongly suggest a tank proof structure with an ample supply of flame retardant.

    2. Cheap for a reason. People have died relying on .223 to save their pork and beans. I’m a caliber snob after a fashion, I want my round to penetrate and then kill, not scramble around inside and leave the guy alive. Plus I like something that isn’t afraid of a little body armor. I’m totally down with 7.62×51 for all of my killin’ needs. .223 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’d even take .243 or 22-250 over .223.

      1. a retired friend of mine got shot in the shoulder, by accident, while in the Navy, .22LR . The bullet entered the shoulder area, tore up his collar bone and muscle, bounced around, and shredded a lung. A .45 straight through the shoulder and out the back would have been less damaging.

        1. Oh absolutely. I don’t want shit to be still alive when I shoot it. I tend to buy *really* expensive 7.62×51 that expands like a charm when it hits so I’m not worried about the person/zombie/Pauly Shore getting up again after being shot.

          1. your 7.62 rounds would sure TKO Rodney King. I bet we could use super soakers on Antifa protesters and still knock them down.

      2. True, smaller long range rifles like .223 have their place, and self defense is not one of them. They are nice if you are hunting antelope or other smaller big game in open country where you can see for miles. Other than that, not so sure.

        1. serious question, why did the US Army drop the 308 for the 223 in their rifles for infantrymen?
          (M14 to M16) always wondered this.

          1. I would expect a similar reason a person could be thought of as smaller big game at long range. A 308 is overkill, heavier ammunition, heavier weapons. If you think about it if you seriously wound an enemy soldier rather than kill, you are forcing another to take care of them.

  2. Going camping with six kids for two weeks? Good lord, man. I have a hard enough time figuring out how I’d get by for that long by myself.

    1. It isn’t like you are stranded on a desert island. You get 4-5 changes of clothes and the gear you need (we fit it all in a van) and you go. If you are hungry, you make food and eat, If you need to do laundry, you do it. If you need to wash up, there is water.

      1. It just seems like you’d need a lot of patience to make sure everything you need to get done is getting done. My hat is off to you though, sir!

        1. The worst is cleaning up camp and getting everyone in the van. The kids drag their feet in getting everything put away. That is why I say to keep it simple. Less mess to clean means more time to explore.

  3. Excellent primer for the uninitiated.
    I’ve been “Opting into Homelessness (as a cynical friend puts it)” since I was about 6 years old and it remains my go-to vacation activity.
    The minimalist nature appeals to me as a source of relaxation, and the last thing I want is to be served or entertained.

    Until it rains – then you’ll find my soggy ass in the nearest diner these days.

      1. Dude, for the helluvit, I googled your avatar name. Right on!

        “There are two days when a woman is a pleasure: the day one marries her and the day one carries out her dead body.”

    1. Last January I tried to go camping with this hot little babe. Find out that my tent wasn’t really the cold weather kind, so we head to the store where, thankfully, they were having a sale on tents and I picked up a nice double wall cold weather tent for 50% off! We head out to the camp site and settle down and have a fantastic time of canoodling under the deep cold sky. Yes, that was truly the winter of my discount tent.

  4. I backed up and pretended to trip off what they thought was a 1000 foot drop.

    Pass. Once the deception was discovered, my wife would likely finish the job manually.

      1. Ha, well, you should, because it’s a great story.

        It kind of sucks, because doing things like that is pretty much instinctual. Hiding, stalking, surprising, and the like, but it’s become clear such shenanigans aren’t appreciated. Can’t wait until the kids get old enough to do it to them. Just don’t tell mom.

        1. My mom was like that, totally sucked. My dad loves to tease and he was suffering withdrawals after we all moved out. Takes it out on my wife whenever we visit.

    1. Well if you don’t want “make them think you’re dead” levels of deception, I find that food deception is also fun. Tell the kids that the jalapeno peppers on the plate, that they’ve never tasted before, are sweet and taste like candy, for example

      Not that I would ever do this. I just heard about it, this one time, from some guy. Really.

          1. Nope, I suppose if they take it well it’s fine. Come to think of it, I did do the habanero challenge with my son and some other boy scouts. He puked all over the sidewalk.

  5. I go camping with the wife all the time (at least 10+ times a year) so I have a pretty good system in place. I don’t really rough it anymore, I glamp. KISS is good, but here are my tips to take your weekend out to the next level:

    Dutch oven – great for cooking family size meals that taste good. Mountain House is for hunting and emergencies.

    Shortwave radio – fun at night to sit in the glow of the lantern and listen to radio from around the world. I regularly hear North Korean propaganda, Radio Havana, New Zealand, and Thailand.

    Games – there are a ton of portable size games now. We prefer Yahtzee and the card game Dutch Blitz.

    Thermacell – the absolute best bug repellent I have found.

    Camp slippers, comfy chair, and peculator – hang out, drink a cup of coffee, and watch the kids and dogs play.

    Also, check around and look for public use cabins. They are usually dry, but are great for extended stays and require a lot less gear.

    1. I am getting older, and thinking about getting a trailer or camper. Haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but maybe next time I throw out my back.

      1. We go enough that I am thinking the same for next year, especially as the boy child is due in December. Up here, even in summer we often sleep with an extra quilt on our bag and in hoodies and beanie hats.

        You can find pretty good deals on used campers. Most people only use them a few times. I heard on an average summer day we have like 30,000 r/v’s on the road in the state.

  6. I spent a lot of time in the woods and camping as a youngster. Being a family of modest means, that meant primitive camping. That means I learned to get by with the bare minimum in camping gear.

    We seldom think about how important these skills are when we are insulated in our cocoon of modern comforts and conveniences. Peel away our thin veneer of civilization and you will discover that that what you have learned through ‘voluntary homelessness’ may mean the difference between life and death. Being able to improvise shelter, start a fire, obtain potable water and food as well as dealing with sanitation under field conditions are skills I believe every man should have.

    Passing these skills on to your offspring is also an important component of ensuring the continuation of your genetic line. Plus it teaches your children not only how to endure a certain amount of hardship, but that it possible to thrive and have fun while doing so. The memories and lessons learned, both good and bad, will stay with you and your children for the rest of your lives.

    1. That’s cool. This summer, my oldest son became infatuated with starting a fire without matches. The magnesium/flint method is fine, if you have those available. We spent hours working on the bow/friction method, never got it to work. Batteries/wire is great, if you have a battery available. He is getting old enough that we may try some more intense survival skill stuff in the coming years. For the most part, it is keeping your wits about you when things aren’t as planned. Break down when you are 50 miles from civilization, what do you do? Seriously injured 15 miles out in wilderness, what do you do? Snowmobile breaks down 20 miles out, what do you do?

      1. Never had to walk 50 miles before but I’ve come close to covering 20 a few times before cellphones because of being broke down. That’s the main reason I have one lol.
        In the early-mid 90s I was deer hunting alone on a week day about 100 miles from home.
        When I got back to my truck I got in, put it in reverse and something popped loudly in the transmission, then it wouldn’t pull. It was about 15-20 miles to the nearest town and about 7-8 miles back to our hunting club camp and no homes close by. I had already got my rifle out of the truck and while walking down a dirt road heading to a lightly traveled highway I had decided to walk back to the camp and hot wire a fellow members atv to ride to town so I could call for some help. After walking 3-4 miles a guy that cruised timber came down the dirt road and picked me up, he had one of those old cell phones that mounted in a vehicle that he let me use to call some help and gave me a ride to camp so I could wait on someone to come get me. This was around 10 am and I had to sit around until about dark before anyone could come get me.
        My legs aren’t as strong as they were prior to cell phones because without one there’s no telling how many more times since then I would have been stuck in a similar situation. I could always figure out something to do before but now I don’t have to, ha!

        1. Same here, had about 25 miles once, I was riding with a college friend in the Cascades in Oregon, got locked in the woods (Boise Cascade property). Had to walk until we found a phone. Started at about 11am, didn’t get to a phone until about 3 am, but it was this farmhouse, so we waited until about 7 to knock on the door to call for a ride.

          Another time, we went down this river on canoes, about 20 miles in, it got into this canyon with water that was too rough to go through safely. Had to walk out. We came back the next day with rope so we could pull the canoes up out of the canyon. We carried the canoes about 1 mile and then dropped them back into the river and finished our trip.

          1. It wasn’t a u-joint, it was a synchronizer shaft in the transmission. No choice but to walk. I’m rarely lucky enough for it to be something simple lol

      2. I don’t know what tools and shop equipment you have on hand, but your eldest son may enjoy forging and tempering his own steel for use with a piece of flint or chert. I fashioned my first fire steel when I was about 15 with nothing more than a piece of high carbon steel (an old file will work), a propane torch, a hammer, a small anvil (a vise back will do) and some motor oil. It’s a great project and gets you in touch with the way our frontier ancestors had to start fires. It’s quite high tech compared to the fire bow, lol.

  7. We live in a very rural area, I never got around to taking my kids camping but we spent a lot of time out in the woods together over the years.
    I never cared much for camping more than one night because I don’t like shitting in the woods.

    1. I live back in the woods you see, the woman and the kids and the dog and me. I got a shotgun, a rifle and a 4 wheel drive. Chances are, I’ll survive.

        1. I couldn’t think of a song that mentions shitting in the woods, so I had to default to living in the country.

          There’s really a niche to be filled here regarding songs about where to take a shit. You’d think somebody would have filled it by now.

            1. Suffering diarrhea in the middle of the woods is a problem at least an order of magnitude worse than merely having to shit in the woods. Essentially, this means there are two different niche genres to be filled.

              1. When we did that Kings peak trip, I was coming down the mountain around 12000 feet, when my body said I couldn’t hold it anymore. Near the top, there are all these hikers, and NO private places to go. I hiked at least 200 yards from the trail and squatted behind the biggest rock I could find, still making eye contact with all these people. I picked up another rock and placed it on my mess. Horrible experience.

      1. This country boy will survive, as long as I don’t have to do my morning glory in the woods!

  8. Here’s some information for people who have never been camping from somebody who appreciates nature and the outdoors but has only been camping once ever.

    Everything is fake. I remember hiking on one of the trails and the ground felt and sounded hollow. As if the ground was man-made. There are designated zones for sleeping, shitting, walking, hiking, etc. it felt like I was in the Truman Show. So I said fuck this. I dove into the jungle. And man, what did I find? This basin of putrid water with a 15 ft drop all around, like a perfect cup. It was gorgeous. The water was green, mosquitoes and flies abounded as the jungle of trees and branches surrounded the opening. And I might’ve seen the shadow of a large-ish animal, coyote maybe, on the other side. I’ll never forget the sight.

    So heed the advice of Jim and get off the beaten path.

  9. I am disappointed there wasnt a Clark Griswald-esque freakout on day 13- you can make shit up to enhance your story you know. there are zero fact checkers on the web

    1. Don’t need fact checkers cause you can’t put it on the web if it’s not true, really!

  10. I don’t know, I’m approaching the same side (to a point) as the Hippo-man on this one. Killing my family!? I’m more likely to kill myself if I decided to camp anywhere. Unless we’re talking about proper camping that includes: running water, modern amenities, and showers without dirt as the floor. 🙂

    1. i plan on camping outside Hippos recommended nightclubs at 12 pm on a Monday afternoon waiting for the doors to open .

      1. Such a scheme is doomed to failure. You have to show up late, and pass by the lines for maximum effect. 🙂

  11. I once took my family on a surprise camping trip. The wife was bitchy mainly was the reason. She didn’t deserve to be left home with conveniences and luxuries – or food that she didn’t kill. She was getting spoiled and entitled. She’d wouldn’t willingly agree to camp rough so we did a drive with the kids to Chick Fila to eat. It was closed. Oh yeah it’s Sunday I said.

    So we meandered out in the middle of nowhere to a small state park with cheap $8 fee that covers entry/camping where you poke your money into a slot at an unattended booth. We drove in looking for snack machines but found none.

    Luckily I had sneekily packed 2 tents, air mattres roll, cans of beans, rice, water jugs, fishing gear and small inflatable canoe all covered up in the back of the van. We stopped to admire the lake and then went looking at campsites. The park was in between two mountains with zero cell phone coverage. We considered camping later in the season so we parked and eyeballed a nice shady campsite with plenty of nearby firewood and secluded with no one else around for at least a mile (no one could hear you scream).

    The wife wanted to soon leave to find an open restaurant but the van wouldn’t start (because the ignition fuse was in my pocket). Even she couldn’t start it but lookee here I said. I was going through stuff and just remembered I got all the camping stuff in the back – tents, everything. Looks like we’re camping. I’ll diddle with the motor. I think I know what is. Meanwhile you run down to the lake and fill up some water jugs to cook I told my wife. The kids gathered a pile of firewood.
    At first my wife screamed and ran in circles trying to flag someone. She even yelled at a jet airliner with comtrails at 30,000 feet. Silly. But no one could hear her screams. I told her “You wanna freeze and get eaten by bears? Go fetch some water woman.” Geez did that bitch need a crash course in roughing it or what?

    I could afford to run the ‘vacation’ for a week with the supplies we had, but I wanted to get the two fishing poles actively producing first. My sons caught seven frogs by hand. The legs are the only edible part and she’d be eating them for sure after three days if she didn’t kick it in gear and get doing the survival haunch boogie. My older son, a tween, cut the frogs hind legs off with a pair of fiskars scissors and tossed the rest of the live frogs into the bushes. Everything including 2 bass we caught and cleaned, we wrapped in foil and put on a small grill held over the fire by a coat hanger attached to a stick teepee.

    It actually turned out to be a three day camp and the wife now likes grub worms. She loves them with salt and luckily I had some old bay rub and garlic salt in the van. She acquired a taste for new things when she was literally starving. Ten grub worms have the protein of one fried egg. This is funny but I haven’t eaten grubs yet but she couldn’t stop once she started. Haha.

    That camp was years ago but we camped there quite a few times since that ‘surprise’ trip.

    1. That’s quite the story. I decided I liked my wife through a date where some friends and I took these girls cross country skiing. I could tell she genuinely loved the outdoors so I focused my attention on her

  12. This article was fantastic! We camp at least 3-5 times a year and generally do one week long trip to some cheap cabins somewhere. The ones we found last year were 3 hours away and sleep 16 for 30 bucks a night. NFS has some cool campgrounds. We stayed at one that was free for a minute (4 year old thought it would be fun to touch a burning hot coal)that was totally free(donations accepted but not necessary)with drinkable water, nice sites and clean privy toilets. I’m just itching for the two year old to make it to four so I can go tubing on one of our many beautiful rivers here in Missouri. If I get pregnant again I am gonna ask my husband if we can go rafting. I miss hanging out on the river. You are a far braver soul. I could not imagine camping for a solid two weeks with kids except at a KOA or Jellystone. I am such a freak after about two days and dirty clothing from 6-7 people I start searching for a local laundromat so I can have soft, clean smelling clothing!

    1. Yeah, about 3 days is all I can do before I need to get cleaned up. So we stop by a laundromat and maybe some swimming pool one afternoon, restock supplies, then head back out. Making it completely solid is gluttony for punishment. I used to be a scoutmaster where we would do 50 mile hikes in six days, five nights. By the time you get back you are miserable.

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