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Taking the Kids: Camping

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Who cares if you get dirty? Who cares if you wear the same T-shirt for three days? No wonder most kids love to go camping!

Take your pick of where to sleep — a tent, RV, a hammock strung between the trees, outdoors under the stars.

“My favorite way to camp is in a tent because it’s easier to enjoy camping when you are in nature all the time,” said Jaden,12, a camping kid from Montana and one of the dozens of kids I talked to for my new Kid’s Guide to Camping book, a partnership with Kampgrounds of America (available from Amazon $14.95 and $10.99 for Kindle and at other retailers). There are lots of tips from camping kids, as well as fun facts, games and suggestions for the adults. (Did you know corn chips or Doritos make great kindling for your campfire?)

Of course, the best part of camping is getting outdoors away from crowds this pandemic summer — hiking and fishing and biking, exploring national parks and famous and not-so-famous places. Here is your chance to climb to the top of a waterfall or explore a cave. Maybe you’ll catch dinner in a nearby river. You’re certain to make new friends.

“You always get to meet kids at a campground,” said Stella, 10, from Colorado.

“There aren’t any distractions when you are camping and it’s really nice to enjoy what’s all around you,” explained Kennedy, 10, who is from Montana.

 

Last year, there were a whopping 86.1 million households who identified as campers, according to the 2021 North American Camping Report.

If you are a new camper, you have lots of company. There were more than 10 million first-time camper households — a growth of a record 3.9 million with 60 percent from non-white groups. And while more than half of first-time campers said they were motivated by the pandemic, two-thirds say they are likely to camp or are considering a camping trip this year. They also can afford other kinds of vacations as more than 40 percent report making $100,000 or more.

“One of the most encouraging trends of this year’s data is the continued growth of diverse communities engaging in camping for the first time and becoming even more engaged, like Black campers having the highest intent of all camper sub-groups to purchase an RV this year,” said Toby O’Rourke, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America (KOA), which produced the report and is the world’s largest system of privately held campgrounds with more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada.

O’Rourke notes that first-time campers could brush up on campground etiquette: Walk around campsites instead of through someone else’s; remind the kids to use “inside voices, especially during designated quiet hours and early in the morning. Always leash your pet, pick up after them and Leave no Trace when you depart. Communities that host many of these new campers also must grapple with the influx and their impact.

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