Reconnect as a family It is mid-summer; have you fit in some camping trips yet?  If you are like my family, you set high hopes for plenty of weekend summer camping trips when school lets out, but by the end of summer, only a few have come to pass. If the 93 days of summer are slipping by too quickly, pull out your calendar right now and mark off some weekends, even if you’re not sure where you’ll go. With more than 4,000 campsites in Colorado State Parks alone, your options are pretty much endless. It’s true that the logistics of camping can be work, but the payoff of family bonding and frolicking together is well worth it. Here are some ways to lighten the load and add in some extra fun.

Do a practice run in the backyard

If you have young kids or you are new to camping, give it a try for a night in the backyard, first. Sure, you’ll have access to a working toilet, but you will be teaching your kids how to pitch in, while they pitch the tent. Have them help put together poles, pound in stakes, unroll sleeping bags, and stock the fire pit with kindling and wood. Even consider cooking dinner outside. It gives you a chance to resolve issues—and make sure you have all the gear—before the real thing.

Pack light, pack wisely

Remember that when you camp you often wear the same clothes over and over again, so pack light. Bring flip-flops or slip-on shoes for easy on-off in the tent and for late night bathroom trips. Pack food that needs minimal cooking, or can be cooked in one pan. If you are bringing meat, pack it frozen so it stays fresh longer. If you can, do meal prep before you go by throwing together salads, cutting up veggies for meals or munching, and mixing spices before you go. Don’t forget these items, claimed to be what people most often forget when packing for camping, according to Jellystone Park Camp Resorts: Wood, batteries, wet wipes, duct tape, ice, trash bags, and a hatchet or hammer. I’d add toilet paper, spare zip-lock Baggies, rain gear and bug spray to that list.

Chores first, fun second

Set the precedent that when you arrive at the campsite, no one goes anywhere until the setup is done. Kids will be itching to go explore, so use that as a motivator to get the tent set up and sleeping bags and tent gear ready, kindling gathered for the fire, kitchen area established, and sunscreen and bug spray on. The same precedent needs to be set for packing up and unpacking once you get home—the hardest chore of all.

Go old-style with games

The best part of family camping is slowing down and connecting with each other, so leave the electronics at home. Go old style instead with games. Rehash these golden oldies to play around the campfire: Telephone (starts with one person whispering a funny phrase or two and passing it around the circle, with the reveal by the last in line), Twenty Questions (One person thinks of something, the others get 20 questions to figure it out), The Winking Assassin (Everyone closes their eyes, one person stealthily selects someone to be the assassin with a tap on the shoulder. Once eyes are opened, the assassin “kills off” others, who slump over dead, by winking at them. Can the assassin kill everyone off before someone catches him or her?) Don’t forget the graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate for s’mores! 

 Veggie package for grill

Try this easy way to grill veggies. At home, cut up your favorite veggies to grill. Lay out a large sheet of tinfoil and pour olive oil in the middle. Add the veggies (potatoes, peppers, onions, whatever appeals), season and toss. Wrap up, overlapping foil to create a neatly squared and sealed package. Put it in the cooler ‘cuz it’s ready for the grill!