Camping is second nature to Phil Williams. He grew up vacationing on campgrounds
and pitching tents in his Bay Village backyard. Now he teaches children how to do
the same as program executive for the Boy Scouts of America's Greater Cleveland
Council. We ask Williams to shed some light on backyard camping — a convenient and
inexpensive way for families to recharge. "[It] allows you to get out of your normal
routine and connect with each other and nature," Williams says. With the nationwide
Great American Backyard Campout June 22, break out the s'mores and start planning
your outing with Williams' advice below.
» GEAR UP. Purchase a water-repellant tent that is larger
than what it is rated to accommodate. "A two-person tent can comfortably hold two
people without gear. A family of four should consider a six- or eight-person tent,"
Williams says. Tents are $50 or more, depending on size, brand and quality. Lay
a foam pad or thick blanket on the floor of the tent for support. Sheets and blankets
are preferable over sleeping bags, so you can layer according to the temperature.
"Pillows can come outside, but if you really want the camping experience, bundle
clothes inside a jacket," he says.
» GET COOKING. If you're a novice camper, consider using
a camp stove for cooking, rather than building your own fire, as the open flame's
temperature can't be regulated. "You can cook anything outside that you can cook
inside with a camp stove," Williams says. Plus, certain municipalities have special
fire regulations, so check first with your city before foraging for branches and
building your tinder bundle. One-pot meals or the traditional hot dogs and s'mores
are easy, tasty and make little mess. Store leftover food in coolers and immediately
dispose of garbage in trash cans, as animals — especially in the suburbs — are used
to searching in the garbage.
» POWER DOWN. One of the best benefits of camping, Williams
says, is the ability to disconnect from the fast-paced technological world and everyday
amenities. Parents and children should make a commitment to leave their smartphones
inside. "Pull out the playing cards or a board game, or sit around and tell stories
and sing songs," Williams says. "Camping is a really good way to remind us of what's
important: family, togetherness and sharing a meal."