Popup Camper Maiden Voyage

April 30, 20130

One week after picking up our new popup camper, I talked (or maybe tricked) my wife into boondocking for our first trip. The full story on our maiden voyage is below, including the many benefits of a popup camper for camping with the kids.

The original plan was actually to stay in a KOA Campground. My wife wanted a shower for the 3-day period, and frankly, I thought it might be a good idea to stay close to town in case we experienced any problems with the camper.

But as we got closer to town, I started having second thoughts and dreamed about boondocking out in the forest instead. After pulling through the campground and seeing how dirty and noisy that particular KOA facility was, we decided to try and find a dispersed campsite in the national forest.

Waiting for coals to roast smores

Instead of the crowded, urban setting at the KOA, we ended up finding a secluded and peaceful spot just 30-40 yards from a flowing creek with a hiking trailhead a quarter mile away and vault toilet just a mile down the road. In addition to the beautiful view you see in the picture at the top of this post, there was an established picnic table and fire ring. Boondocking was the right decision!

Playing in a sand beach on Dry Fork Creek in Northwest Utah

After setting up camp, we drove back into town to grab some sand toys from WalMart so the kids could play in the nearby creek. A bag of small plastic buckets, shovels, rackes, and other sand toys is now standard equipment in our camping gear since even campsites not located near water often have sandy areas for the kids to play in.

As I recall, we ended up grabbing dinner in town too since we had underestimated how long it would take to find the site and set up the new popup. This wasn’t our first camping trip with the kids, but adding in a new variable like the popup changed our routine. Even though one of our primary goals with camping is to enjoy meals outside in nature, we take no shame in grabbing food from a grocery store or restaurant on the drive to the campsite or even while we’re in town doing activities if time is running short.

Kids sleep better when camping off the ground

Bedtime routine for that first night was quite exciting for the kids. Their bed area in the popup camper was much bigger than their bedroom at home. Sleeping on a mattress also seemed much more luxurious than a sleeping bag pad.

While the kids fell asleep pretty easily that night, we learned a few lessons before the sun rose again.

First, while the canvas tent material in a popup camper is waterproof, it can be fairly breezy. We thought a few blankets and the popup’s heater would be warm enough for the kids, but they got pretty cold. That next day, we ran back into town to buy some more blankets and grab some Reflectix for the bunk ends to provide better insulation from the cold and breeze.

Second, one kid easily wakes up the other when sleeping next to each other versus having one of us in-between when tent camping. While at the store for those extra blankets, I grabbed a black sheet to hang between them over the bunk end pole that did wonders.

Kids at the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor’s Center

For anything longer than a single overnight camping trip, we try to camp near activities for the kids. This particular trip was close to Dinosaur National Monument. The kids really enjoyed both the indoor museum-like setting and the outdoor park area.

Kicking Back Creekside

My favorite part of the trip was being so close to the creek. In addition to the sand and wading activities for the kids, it was very peaceful to hear the small rapids noise each night when going to sleep. This was also the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a cold beer.


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My dad took me camping as a kid at least monthly, from Cub Scouts through Eagle Scout. I realized the importance of camping with kids after taking ours at the age of 3 years and 18 months and hearing them talk for weeks about building campfires, going potty in the woods, and roasting marshmallows. 5 years and 100 camping nights later and our kids have learned to help set up the campsite, navigate a topographical map with a compass, and so much more . For our kids, camping is about more than staying the night in the wilderness but also teaches them valuable life skills, respect for nature, and mechanical know-how.

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