Backyard Camping Like A Dad


If you have young kids, you have either already started camping, or you are thinking of it. Camping is the perfect adventure for so many reasons. I grew up with camping. Our family hit most of the Provincial Parks in Ontario during my childhood and I loved it.

Now that we have two little guys, camping is on our radar. There are some areas to overcome, like my wife not liking tents, to what age should the boys be before we really start.

But thanks to my parents buying Harrison a tent last summer, we have begun the camping train – slowly.

We have done living room camping before but that does not count. So, we started with backyard camping this past weekend and it was a lot of fun. Short-lived, but fun.

Nova Scotia is full of beautiful parks and places to camp. You can’t argue with that.

But before we go deep into the woods and get our “roughing it” on, I set up Harrison’s 2-man tent up in the backyard.

We went all our with the camp site. There is a sand box for playing, an umbrella for shade, the tent, a hydro hookup and of course a comfort station (the house) just up the stairs. Our neighbour even threw in a toddler camping chair to complete the look.

Sunday during the day was all about setting up. As the day progressed, we were building up a pile of stuff that was somehow going to fit into a tiny tent. You know the important stuff like cars, trucks, books, blankets, pillows, lego and an assortment of other non-camping gear.


Once dinner was over, it was time to start thinking about getting ready to camp out over night.

This was not that part I was looking forward to. Not that I am not a camper, but I was not prepared for ground sleeping.

Our air mattress was missing a part and our old futon mattress probably would not of fit.

So while Harrison had a comfy sleeping bag to sleep in, I was going to be on the hard ground.

We set up our beds, got comfy and by 8 pm we were in for the night.

Here is a rough account of how the evening transpired.

8 pm: Zipped up the tent to keep bugs out. Harrison was hyper.

8:15 pm: starting reading books and trying to get comfortable. I switched our spots once because I did not want to be on the hilly part.


8:20 pm: Katie came down from house to wish us a good night. Harrison asked if she wanted to get in and she politely declined. I mean, she did have a quiet house all to herself now.

8:45 pm: A few books had been read and we moved on to reading games on the Samsung. Harrison played those for a while as I worked my bed in to get comfy.

9 pm: The sun was almost down, so it was time to call it a night with the gadgets. I put my head down and surprisingly was tired enough that I did not care that the ground felt like cement.

From here on, the times get fuzzy as I was not always checking.

9-10 pm: Guess what? Harrison reads in the dark. He was holding his books in front of him and whispering the words to himself. Now, he is not actually ready, rather reciting, but it was still pretty cool to listen to. The kid memorizes his books like I have never been able to do.

Had to listen to weird conversations from people walking on the trail behind our house.

Our neighbours had their deck door open and were watching TV. From what I could tell, they were watching a Chinese American Idol of some kind.

12:10 am: I woke up. Was it morning? Did I survive? Holy Christ I was sore. Oh man, only midnight?

12:11 am: I also realized it was raining and everything touching the edges of the tent were getting damp. I can handle noise, hard ground and cold but I HATE feeling damp.

Harrison was out cold in his sleeping bag. I could almost hear his brain telling me how happy he was.

12:45 am: Still awake, still uncomfortable and dreading not sleeping all night and having to meet Charlie at 7 am. Harrison, kind of snoring at this point and with a grin on his face.

1 am: Okay time to call it. I was dying out there. I got out and walked through the rain and wet grass into the house. I went to the bathroom and let my body uncoil before planning what was next. I wanted to leave Harrison out there. He was sleeping and loving it. But he would freak out if he woke and I was not there.

1:15 am: I woke him up and negotiated a trip back into the house. It was tough. He was almost crying to stay in the tent. But the rain sold it. I grabbed our stuff and him and we went into the house. I have to say, the tent retained heat pretty well.

1:30 am: Base camp was now in the living room. I was on the couch and Harrison was on the floor in his sleeping bag. This was much better. Still not great, but way better than the ground. I could not sleep.

2 am: Harrison whispered to me, that he wanted to be in his bed. Jack pot! We were up to be in minutes. But he wanted to flick on his light and read. No, no, no. So to keep him sleepy and dark, I had to lay in his bed for a bit. Again, not comfortable but better than the ground and the couch. I was slowly upgrading.

3 am: I woke up almost falling off the bed. Harrison was out cold. So it was off to bed for me. Of course standing in front of the window in our room scared the crap out of my wife. I made it, I was in my pillow-top bed, with my blankets and pillows. Heaven. I think Katie went back to sleep in minutes and I was not that much far behind.

6:30 am: The normal day started for Katie. Getting ready for work. But, the boys slept in which was a bonus for me. Charlie slept until 7:30 am and Harrison was sleeping until 8 am. My sore and tired body was truly thankful.

So there you have it. Our first night of camping. Yes, it was the backyard, but it was still in a tent and on the ground.

Harrison loved it. From talking to him the morning after, he was tickled at how much fun he had. The best news for him, is that we will try it again. Just with more comfort.

The camp site is still up and hopefully the rain will let up so we can have another night out there again soon.

It was a lot of fun for me as well. Just to see Harrison’s smile grow and grow and watch how his mind works when it is time to get ready to camp.

He is going to love it one day when we do it for real as a family. Maybe we won’t all be in tents, but we  will be a family spending some quality time together and that is all that matters.

Have you gone camping with your kids? I would love to hear about it.