A Green “Staycation” Your Family Will Never Forget
As the weather warms up, and the prospect of family get-aways looms ahead, deciding how to spend your summer vacation can add extra stress to your already hectic life. There are so many considerations: the cost of transportation – gas prices vs. airline or rail fares; food prices to feed the family for several days; hotel rates, special attractions tickets…the list goes on and on. And what if your kids are still young enough to tire easily of traveling and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings.
Before you throw up your hands and decide to give up altogether on a family vacation, consider this: you have been wanting to get your kids outdoors more; you want to share the fun of camping with your family, but are not sure your progeny are ready for the real wilderness; and unpredictable weather can put a real “damper” on roughing it without a handy backup plan. What about backyard camping? You get the best of both worlds…set up all the trappings of a campground in the deep woods, but with all the conveniences of home, should the weather change or somebody gets a little spooked about the sleeping outside thing, and if you run short of marshmallows or hotdogs, you can always sneak off to the closest grocery store for backup provisions.
It’s perfect really. You give your kids the experience of camping out, in the security of their own backyard. Set up the tent, pull out the sleeping bags, build a campfire, and watch the magic begin. Listen to the night sounds, gaze at the stars, and share some stories of your own childhood camping memories in the glow of the campfire.
After a couple of backyard campouts, you might find your family is ready for the real thing at a nearby state or national park. Camping is a great way to spend time together as a family, to enjoy the fresh air, and work as a team. Give your clan a trial run with a backyard camping trip they will never forget. (And remember, if the weather takes a turn for the worst, you are as close as the backdoor to warm, dry beds.)
Keep your camping “green,” at home or away.
Even if you are camping right in your own backyard, practice these “green” camping tips to make sure you “leave-no-trace” behind on the environment. For more about “Leave no trace” principles, visit www.lnt.org.
Camp nearby. If you are camping in your own backyard you get a gold star for meeting and exceeding this eco-friendly tip. Cut down on travel time and emissions by camping close to home. Search the U.S. National Park Service website for a park or national forest near you, or check out local and state parks where camping is allowed.
Buy used gear. If you are not a frequent camper or if you want to “test the waters” so to speak about how your family will take to camping, why invest a lot in new camping equipment? Look for backpacks, tents and other gear at second-hand stores or search for used gear on sites like craigslist. The one exception I make to the used gear idea is sleeping bags. Call me crazy but I prefer one that hasn’t been previously inhabited by a stranger.
Leave your gadgets at home. Whether you are in the middle of nowhere or in the backyard, the point of camping is to unplug. If you have a sleeping pad or air mattress that needs to be inflated, use a foot pump. Instead of bringing a radio or DVD player, listen to the sounds of nature or pack a book. Two exceptions to this rule are a flashlight and a cell phone. Pack a crankable or shakeable flashlight so it won’t lose charge and always have a cell phone handy in case of an emergency.
Stay on the trail. Minimize your impact on the environment by following the signs and trail markers so you keep on the beaten path. Trailblazing and wandering off the marked trail can trample native plant life and lead to soil erosion. It can also get you lost and lead to unnecessary expense of human energy to find you.
Build a safe campfire. Sitting around a campfire is at the heart of the camping mystique, but be sure you abide by fire safety rules so your campfire doesn’t get out of hand.
• Be aware of any bans or fire restrictions during forest fire season. (This applies to neighborhoods as well.)
• Keep the fire contained in a fire pit. If there’s not one at your campsite, construct a basic fire ring using large stones. (Use a portable fire pit in your backyard if you have one.)
• Build the fire away from flammables like tents, clothing, backpacks or sleeping gear.
• Keep the fire small to ensure you can keep it under control.
• Don’t burn food because you may attract unwanted guests like skunks and bears.
• Put the fire out at least 45 minutes before you leave the site or go to bed. Pour water on the coals and stir the ash several times to ensure the flames are out.
Take your trash with you. Ever heard “Take only pictures, leave only footprints?” This adage truly embodies the principles of leave-no-trace camping. When you leave your campsite, make sure you take all your trash and recyclables with you and dispose of them properly. If you find litter along the trail or scattered about your campsite, do your part and pick it up.
Source: Mother Nature Network