Helen Olsson draws on and shares camping experiences she has had — as a child, as a single adult and now as a mother of three children — in her new book, “The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids” (Roost Books, $17.95).
“It was a very fun book for me to write because as I wrote I was reminiscing about my past camping experiences,” Olsson said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. “I included anecdotes for their educational value — bears, blisters and mosquitoes.”
The author’s conversational, first-person approach feels like a chat with a friendly neighbor. Her well-crafted prose is sprinkled with a humor that parents will particularly appreciate.
In the book’s introduction she writes: “I grew up in a family of six kids. Our parents regularly stuffed us into the back of a red Ford station wagon with a hodgepodge of gear and food and carted us into the wilds of New Jersey and upstate New York. We hiked in our jeans and slept in an enormous canvas tent that had the water-repelling capabilities of a kitchen sponge. (How my parents mobilized half a dozen little campers remains a mystery to me.)”
“A book about camping has the potential to be really boring,” said Olsson, a freelance writer and lives in Boulder, Colo., and who blogs at maddogmom.com. “I wanted to make it fun.”
The book promotes camping as practical, inexpensive way to reconnect with ourselves and nature.
“I’m more than a little uneasy about the amount of time children spend with electronic devices,” Olsson commented.
Olsson said that as her family planned for a multiple-day camping trip, her children wanted to take the TV — along with an extension cord.
After the trip — without the TV — her children’s evaluation of the experience? “That was the best vacation ever!”
“Sometimes I think we adults might be worse than the kids,” Olsson added. “Adults need to unplug, too. Most of us are constantly checking our email, Facebook and Twitter. Our smartphones and iPads are always at our fingertips. We are constantly connected to a digital world of our own. Really, it’s the whole family that needs to unplug and reconnect with nature and one another. And camping is the perfect vehicle to do it.”
Along with detaching from the digital world for a few days, Olsson said she has taught her children a lot about being good stewards of the land. And it is having an effect.
Recently, on a high mountain hike with her 8-year-old son, Olsson said they saw a rock covered with orange lichen. Olsson suggested that her son take a small lichen-covered rock home with him as a keepsake. His response: “We shouldn’t pick rocks in nature.”
Divided into four parts and 10 sections, the book covers everything a family needs to consider in order to have a successful camp experience — whether it's car camping or roughing it in the wilderness.
The four parts are titled: “Getting Started,” “In the Field,” “Activities and Adventures” and “Hygiene, First Aid and Safety.”
Within each of the four parts, the sections cover details about selecting camping gear; selecting, preparing and packing food; cooking tips, recipes, games, crafts, activities and safety tips.
“Smart Tips” are set off in boxes and provide frequent snippets of hard-earned advice based on the author's experience camping with her children. Simple illustrations give the reader an idea of what the various kinds of gear, clothing and knot tying look like. Another nice touch is the quotes from poems and books about camping that begin each chapter.
The last few pages of the book offer end notes, plenty of packing checklists, resources and an index. There are a few brief references to adult consumption of alcohol.
Overall, it is a treasure trove of information and ideas that would be a fine addition to any camper’s bookshelf.
if you go ...
What: Helen Olsson book signing
When: Saturday, March 31, 4 p.m.Comment on this story
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at www.dramaticdimensions.com.