Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: The greatest adventure ever had: camping with toddlers

Published: Tuesday, June 3 2014 3:25 p.m. MDT

Beckham, Briggs, and Boston in the great outdoors.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

My husband and I decided to take our 5-, 3- and 1-year-old boys camping over Memorial Day weekend.

It was my idea, actually. My sons love being outside, exploring nature and all things adventurous, especially “sleeping over,” which means sleeping anywhere but their bed. This can include sleeping on the floor, the couch, with Grandma and Grandpa, or in a hotel.

Camping is the ultimate adventurous sleepover. Because of their ages, I guess I figured we’d wait a few years before introducing the whole “let’s be homeless for a night” concept. But for some reason I got really excited to try it out on the unofficial First Weekend of Summer.

To begin with, I figured we needed a tent. That was kind of important. We had a tent but one of its poles was broken, so I hauled the boys in the car and went to a sporting goods store to find the perfect one.

About two hours and 25 phone calls to my husband later, I found the perfect one — on sale! — only to discover it was out of stock. At this point, my 3-year-old had decided he’d had it and decided to camp out right on the floor of the store, kicking off his shoes, sprawling himself across my feet and beginning to cry. A bunch of well-meaning customers tried to help me cheer him up, but in the end, we walked to the car with one shoe on, one shoe off. I listened to about an hour’s worth of more screaming and kid-cursing. (“Stop it! No! You’re mean!”)

I handed the task of finding an outdoor dwelling place over to my husband, which he took care of during his lunch break ... easy as pie.

Then it was on to yet another sporting goods store to find sleeping bags for the boys. You would think that would be another easy task, but so many stores were either out of bags, had only one or two styles left, were too expensive, too big or too girly. Finally, after the 53rd phone call to my husband, I found the perfect ones at the perfect price.

Once again, into the car, and now on to the grocery store to get food, firewood and marshmallow skewers (perhaps the most important item). After all, what’s camping without s’mores?

Halfway to the store, I reached down to grab my phone and call my husband for the 103rd time that day. It wasn't there, and out of nowhere, a fuzzy image emerged of my hot pink phone lying on the bottom of the forest green shopping cart.

I had left it, outside, in the cart. And it was beginning to rain.

By the time I turned the car around and drove back to the store, the cart — and my phone — were gone. I hurried in to customer service and frantically asked if anyone had turned in a pink phone. No one had. I tried calling on the store phone, but no one answered.

I was getting all ready to officially freak out when all of a sudden a very pregnant woman came “running” over to me, waving my phone in the air.

“Is this it?” she asked, huffy and out of breath.

“Yes!” I exclaimed, thanking her profusely.

I finally made it to the store. I got (most) everything we needed. Later, we packed the car and drove up the canyon with some good friends of ours. We tried two campsites before finding the perfect one.

It was now dark. And bedtime. My 1-year-old was over it. We hadn’t even pitched our tent.

I looked at my husband and said, “So, is this worth it?” He just laughed and said, “We’ll have fun.”

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