Camping 101: Activities for Everyone

There is a lot of planning involved when going camping.  What gear should you bring?  Do you have enough food?  What about clothes?  It's easy to get lost in the chaos of planning what to bring and completely forget about another vital aspect of camping ...

What are you going to do when you get there?

Now some of you may be spontaneous and plan to improvise activities along the way, and that's fine, but even for those on-the-fly campers it's a good idea to have a few backup ideas planned out ahead of time.  If the weather changes, for instance, and you find yourselves confined to the tent, having a set of cards or a board game available may make all the difference.

Today, we would like to cover some of the activities that you and your family and/or friends can do while camping.  While choosing activities, keep in mind the ages of those camping, their skill levels, their interests, as well as things like cost or accessibility.

Girl playing in sand

Water Activities

If water is easily accessible at or near your campsite, you should definitely consider how you plan to utilize it.  Swimming is a classic camping activity and many campgrounds have beaches, which may or may not have lifeguards on duty.  Plan ahead and bring appropriate PDFs for kids while swimming, for everyone while enjoying boating activities, and for your pets if they will be joining you on the water.  Ask at the check-in desk for information about rentals if you don't have canoes, SUPs, or kayaks of your own.  

  • Swimming
  • Canoeing, Kayaking, or SUPing
  • Boating
  • Personal Watercraft (Jet Skis)
  • Skiing, Knee-boarding, or Wakeboarding
  • White-water Rafting
  • Sandcastle Building
  • Snorkeling
  • Fishing
  • Water Sponge Fight*

* Instead of water balloons, which make a mess, why not use sponges instead?  In my family, we cut a few sponges into strips, line them up side-by-side, and tie the strips together in the middle to create a "sponge ball" that can be reused again and again.  More fun, less mess.


Adventure Activities

For those camping at primitive sites or off-grid areas, your campsite might not have much to offer in the way of activities.  You can still fill your camping trip with plenty of exciting adventures.  Just make sure to be safe, plan ahead, and bring appropriate gear.

  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Rock/Mountain Climbing
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt
  • Wildlife Art/Painting
  • Photography
  • Map Making
  • Geocaching (see earlier post to learn more)

Playing Cards

Tent Activities

No matter how well you plan, Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate and there are times when you may find your fun-filled weekend cut short by a rainstorm.  That doesn't have to mean the end of your fun, however, and if you plan ahead even those rainy days can produce some amazing memories.

  • Cards
  • Board Games
  • Stories
  • Coloring/Crafts
  • Puzzles
  • Reading
  • Play Music/Sing

Painting Outside

Campsite Activities

Sometimes it's nice to stick close to the tent rather than travel to an activity.  Be sure to avoid entering other campsites or disturbing other campers.

  • Hide-and-Seek
  • Tag
  • Play Catch
  • Have a Friendly Competition
  • Limbo
  • Yoga*
  • Drawing in the Dirt
  • Treasure Hunt
  • Bug Hunt
  • Painting/Nature Crafts

* Get the whole family involved by taking turns creating new poses inspired by things found in nature.

Playing Guitar

Nighttime Activities

While camping, don't think the fun has to end when the sun goes down.  Besides the classics, like making s'mores and telling ghost stories, there are plenty of other family fun activities to do after dark.  Just be sure to follow any quiet hours your campground has in place and remember to be careful exploring the dark as it is easy to get lost.

  • Stargaze
  • Build a Fire
  • Tell Stories
  • Sing/Play Instrument
  • Capture the Flag
  • Shadow Puppets
  • Hide-and-Seek/Sardines

We hope that this list gives you a few new ideas for your next camping trip and helps you to create fun-filled memories that last a lifetime.  Have fun and get camping!

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Camping 101: Introducing the Next Generation

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes camping.  Some can head out with little more than a hatchet, flint, and granola bar and last for weeks on end.  Others prefer to roll in to a campsite with full hook-ups and free wi-fi.  However you camp, camping alone, camping with adults, and camping with kids require different levels of preparation and execution. 

Today, we're going to provide some tips and tricks for introducing the little ones in your life to the camping life.


1. Practice

This is a vital step, especially for those with young kids.  There are a lot of unexpected differences when sleeping in a tent outside.  For one thing, the sun sets later than most kids' bedtimes and rises long before they typically wake.  It's also a shock at how quiet it can be when sleeping outside.  The normal drone of furnaces, AC units, and appliances is replaced by silence ... with an occasional hoot or howl to spice things up.

To make it easier, take your kids on a test run in the backyard.  Explain the types of noises they will hear and what they are and what they mean.  Don't be surprised if they wake you up a few times through the night.  Don't dismiss their fears, but do your best to explain exactly what they heard and remind them that you are still safe in your backyard.

And if they can't last, don't be ashamed to retreat back to the house.  With young children, it can take a few tries before they are comfortable with the sounds of the outside world during the night.  Sometimes letting them bring a treasured item to sleep with (like a blanket or a favorite stuffed animal) can ease the transition.

2. Let the Kids Sleep in the Middle

This may or may not be an issue depending on your children's ages, but it is an option to consider.  Sometimes, letting the kids sleep in the middle of the tent provides a sense of comfort.  It can also keep them warmer, prevent them from rolling off their sleeping pads, and ensure that they don't wake up in the middle of the night and, in a sleepy state, slip outside to return to their bedroom (it happens).

3. Keep the Bedtime Routine

Sometimes when everything else has changed, this the only aspect that you can keep the same.  Having a familiar process before bed, even if the bed and bedroom have changed, may help kids adjust to the camping life easier.  So remember to bring some bedtime books, sing those songs, or whatever else you normally do at bedtime to ease kids into the process.


4. Make Meal Time Fun

Camping can sometimes feel like more work than it's worth, especially when you have kids.  Meals still have to be prepared, dishes still have to be washed, and your menu is often limited.  Get the kids involved by planning meals where they can help.  Getting a cast iron pie cooker allows you to make toasted sandwiches over the campfire  Experiment with the fillings and let your kids make their own (help them with the actual cooking).  They also make great dessert sandwiches with things like chocolate hazelnut spread and sliced bananas inside (tastes a bit like chocolate chip banana bread).

And, of course, don't forget the s'mores.

5. Bring the Binoculars, Magnifying Glasses, and Telescopes

One of the great things about camping is the easy access to nature.  Why not let your kids explore it in a new way by bringing along special viewing gear?  Have them try to spot wildlife in the distance or check out the fuzzy underside of a leaf. 

On my last camping trip with the family, my daughter spent nearly 30 minutes sitting on a rock with a pair of binoculars scanning the opposite mountain for dinosaurs.  She was convinced that if dinosaurs still lived, they would live out there in the remote mountains.  Instead, she saw two deer, a flock of turkeys, and another hiker visiting the same valley.

6. Buy Them a Camera

I've mentioned this in another post, but it should be addressed again.  Children are often fascinated by cameras and love taking pictures of things that interest them.  Just as you take photos to remember your favorite times and places, allow them the chance to do the same.  Kid cameras are built to be bumped around and can be found at a reasonable price.  Plus, in this age of digital information, seeing the pictures doesn't have to cost you any more than the price of a reusable SD card.

Then, when you return home, you get to experience their joy again as they show family and friends the pictures they took while out exploring.

Kids on Carts

7. Let them Choose an Activity

Often it's the parents who set the agenda for any vacation, but why not let your kids make a few choices?  Letting them choose an activity to do will often get them far more excited about the trip itself.  If they aren't sure or if options are limited, pull together a list of activities for them to choose from to help.  Letting them make some of the choices also helps to boost their confidence and comfort with trying new things.

The best part?  This applies to everyone in the family.  Teenagers who seem less then enthused to be dragged along on a family camping trip may perk up a bit if they find that they can choose an activity. 

8. Start Small and Close

Like most new things, kids can take time to adjust and accept, so with that in mind just be sure that your first few trips to the wild are short and close.  Plan a single overnight trip to a familiar place like a family member's yard.  Then try a short weekend trip to a nearby campground.  Work your way up slowly and let your kids get used to the camping lifestyle before you tackle a week-long trip to a primitive spot in the mountains.

9. Surprise Them

It's always fun to surprise your kids, but especially so during a vacation.  When planning, keep a special activity quiet until you arrive and save it for a day when they need a little pick-me-up.  Whether it's a fun-filled activity, a trip for ice cream, or a special project, surprising your kids with the unexpected is sure to keep them talking about this vacation for years to come.

Girl Sleeping

10. Give Them a Day to Recover

This goes for parents as well.  Vacations can be exhausting.  Your sleeping schedule is often tossed out the window, your activities can be physical exhausting, and when you get home, you still have to unpack.  Knowing this, why not plan your vacation to end a full day before you have to return to normal life?  Giving your family and yourself that extra day to recover can make all the difference.

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10 Reasons to Visit Idaho

10 Reasons to Visit Idaho

Idaho is definitely one of those states that gets overlooked, which is a shame when you consider just how much it has to offer.  For those looking for adventure, wanting to escape into the wilderness, or just planning to enjoy the view, Idaho needs to be your next stop.

Here's why ...

Indian Tunnel, Craters of the Moon

1.  Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

A mouthful, but this is guaranteed to offer a unique experience.  There are plenty of hiking trails for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the unique terrain features formed by lava flows.  Or, for the more adventurous (and experienced) types, there are five caves to explore.  Some are difficult to traverse, so be sure to grab a cave guide at the trail head.  The Indian Tunnel (pictured above) is rated easy and has steels stairs at the entrance.  At over 40 feet high and 800 feet long, it provides a great chance to explore a cave without the claustrophobia.

2.  Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail

This 15-mile route crosses the Bitterroot Mountains between Montana and Idaho.  It passes through 10 tunnels and goes over 7 high steel trestles.  The best part?  It's all downhill with a shuttle service to take you back up to your car.  The "Taft" Tunnel stretches for 1.66 miles, so remember to bring a headlamp or other flashlight.  If you don't have a bike, don't worry.  You can always rent one from the Lookout Pass Ski Area (which offers great skiing come winter).  This is a prime example of how we can reinvent pieces from history - the Milwaukee railroad went bankrupt in 1977 and in its place the Route of the Hiawatha was born.

Sawtooth Mountains

3.  The Sawtooth National Forest/Recreation Area

Considered to be the "crown jewel" of Idaho, the Sawtooth Recreation Area has over 700 miles of trails, 50 peaks topping 10,000 feet, and nearly 400 alpine lakes, many of which have no trails to access them.  There are plenty of opportunities for adventurers - hiking, horseback riding, snowmachining, downhill skiing, camping (at campsites or dispersed), and more.  This area has made headlines as being part of the first dark sky reserve - making it one of the best places for gazing at the night sky.  

4.  International Selkirk Loop

Not into camping?  Prefer a scenic drive instead?  This has got to be on your bucket list.  The loop itself crosses the border into Canada, so be sure to have your papers in order, but the extra red tape is definitely worth it.  You'll be able to view stunning mountain vistas, crystal clear lakes, caves, rivers, and don't forget wildlife.  With plenty of options for staying overnight, you can take your time and enjoy all the Loop has to offer - cruises, wine tasting, canoeing, wildlife viewing (including some amazing bird watching), skiing and sleigh riding, horseback riding, fishing, and more.

Minidoka Internment Camp, Idaho

 5.  Minidoka National Historic Site

During World War II, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced 120,000 people of Japanese descent to leave their homes, jobs, and lives in order to be moved to one of ten internment camps around the country.  Minidoka is one such camp and allows visitors to see what life was like inside the camp.  It's a powerful place to visit, one that echoes the words of those held there - Let it not happen again.

Climbing Bread Loaves in City of Rocks, ID

6.  City of Rocks National Reserve

Get your hiking boots, climbing gear, and sense of adventure ready.  Here you will find unusual geological features that inspired the pioneers passing through to call this region the "silent city".  There are over 600 routes to follow, or you can scramble around on your own.  Don't own climbing gear?  Don't worry.  Try their Climbing Experience Program where all gear and training is provided.  If climbing doesn't interest you, there are over 22 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous throughout the park.

View of Lake Pend Oreille from Sandpoint, ID

7.  Lake Pend Oreille

It's 43 miles long with nearly 200 miles of shoreline and, at its deepest, is 1,158 feet deep.  Surrounded by mountains and national forests, much of the lake offers pristine shoreline with sheltered bays and plenty of open water.  Stop in to Sandpoint on the northern end of the lake and consider taking a cruise.  Visit Farragut State Park (Idaho's largest state park) on the southern end of the lake to enjoy camping with easy access to the water.  While there, visit Bayview and stop by the Tree to Tree Adventure Park and experience a truly unique adventure up in the treetops.

 8.  Ghost Towns ... Need We Say More?

Although we can't guarantee actually seeing a ghost, Idaho offers several chances to visit ghost towns.  Most were constructed during the gold rush and were just as quickly abandoned when the mining stopped.  If you want an interactive experience, try visiting the Custer Ghost Town where many structures were restored and workers provide historical information about what it was like to live there.  If you want a more raw experience, check out the Gilmore Ghost Town which used to be a silver mining town.  Now, eight log and frame structures remain in their original state (except for pieces added for stability and safety).

River Rafting, Snake River

9.  Snake River

It's the largest tributary of the Columbia River and spans over 1,000 miles beginning Wyoming and ending in Washington.  Besides the obvious benefits of visiting a river (swimming, boating, fishing), the Snake River offers a few unique opportunities.  One - Hells Canyon is 10 miles long and almost 8,000 feet deep, making it the deepest river gorge in North America.  Besides its beautiful vistas, it offers some excellent rafting experiences.  Two - Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey.  A mouthful to be sure, this national conservation area boasts the nation's (if not the world's) largest concentration of nesting birds of prey.  

Fun Unlimited on the Spokane River just outside of Coeur d'Alene

10.  Lake Coeur d'Alene

This lake truly has something for everyone.  Bring your golf clubs and check out their famous floating green.  Stop by Sherman Street for a bit of shopping, fine dining, or just to enjoy the view.  Hike or bike along the North Idaho Centennial Trail, Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, or Tubbs Hill.  And, of course, stop by to see our sister company, Fun Unlimited, in Post Falls, just down the Spokane River from Lake Coeur d'Alene.  There you can rent SUPs, kayaks, PWC, and boats to take upriver and enjoy all the lake has to offer.

Or just stop in to say hi.  We're always glad to make new friends.

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6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

Technology is wonderful, right?  No more paper maps (that never fold back the way they are supposed to), no more clipping coupons, no more waiting for ... well, anything really.  With the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips, just one tap, swipe, or voice activation away.

And yet, technology pulls us away from the world.  We see everything through a screen and are bombarded by information, most of which we never actually wanted.   Rather than watch an event we pay hundreds of dollars to attend (like a concert), we watch it through our phones.  We see birthdays, first steps, and even our food through the lens of a phone.

Taking picture with smartphone

This new world is our children's world.  And frankly, I think it's a terrifying one.

Not that I'm against technology.  I love streaming movies just as much as the next person, but as we connect with the rest of the world, we disconnect from the world itself.  You know ... trees, grass, dirt, nature?  Sound familiar?  Most of us have memories of playing outside as children, letting our imaginations run wild as we create pirate ships out of fallen logs, slay dragons with our mighty broadsword branches, and do all the things kids are supposed to do.

Now, instead of playing pretend, many children are checking their social media accounts, watching YouTube videos, and are growing up far faster than ever before.

Is that a good thing?  Time will tell, but many are saying no.  No it is not.

So how do we fix it?  How do we disconnect from the world of technology and reconnect with the world around us?  Stillwater Outdoors has a few suggestions to help you and your family get started.

Man hiking down trail

1.  Lead by Example

This one can be hard, but it is by far one of the best ways to get kids excited about the world around them.  Schedule some technology-free time for yourself and do something that interests you - ride your bike, visit a park, read a book, take a walk.  If your kids see you doing it, they'll be more likely to do it as well (or at least may groan a little less when you make them do it since you're following the same rules).

Kids making crafts

2.  Plan Themed Activities

Pick something that interests your kids and then for that week/month, plan activities around that interest.  If your kids like water plan a visit to the local pool, a trip to the aquarium, a craft activity creating fish out of various materials.  Letting your kids pick the topics or activities gets them involved.  Utilizing the same theme for a longer period of time allows for a more in-depth look at the topic and more time for fun activities.

United Way, Volunteering

3.  Community Service - As a Family

This one is perhaps one of the most important ways to reconnect.  It helps to teach kids compassion, empathy, and kindness (and parents as well).  Although there is nothing wrong with donating to a local shelter or food bank, it can be beneficial to go one step further and donate your time.  Having children work to help others, to see how their efforts can change someone's life, is truly an awe-inspiring experience.  It lets kids know that what they choose to do in life does matter, that they can make a difference, and that everyone, regardless of background, deserves respect.

United Way helps communities all around the globe by focusing on education, income, and health.  On their Get Involved tab, you can search for volunteer opportunities right in your community.

kids splashing adult with water

4.  Visit Somewhere New

This is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.  Have the family choose a new spot (or take turns picking the next location) and go explore.  It could be a park, a national forest, a beach, a library, anywhere really.  Set boundaries early on (miles from home, cost, and so on) to keep things fair.

This is a particular favorite of mine as I tend to frequent the same places again and again.  It's not that I'm adverse to change, but habit oftentimes gets the best of me.  By choosing new locations to explore, I'm expanding my comfort zone, having new experiences, and am showing my daughter that the unknown doesn't have to be frightening.  Sure, we may have no idea where to park, how to participate, or what to buy, but by figuring it out as we go, we are teaching her how to solve problems, be flexible, and, most importantly, have fun.

dragon fruit, cut to show inside

5.  Try Something New

This could be a new type of food, a new game, or even participating in a new event.  As I mentioned before, it's easy to slide into the same routine day after day, week after week, so why not schedule one day where the family does something different?  Food is an easy way to start.  Pick out a new recipe, have everyone help make it, and then try it out.  Not every choice will be a winner, but it's a great way to spend time together and make a few memories.  If you don't know which recipe to start with, why not have your kids choose an ingredient to give you a starting point.  It helps make grocery shopping a little more exciting when they get to choose the secret ingredient.  Then have the kids research what it is, how to cook it, and pick a recipe.

children visiting grandparents

6.  Visit Family

I know, I know ... it's not Christmas.  Or Thanksgiving.  But when did it become the rule that visiting family only happens on holidays?  Go visit a family member you haven't seen in a while, but go with a purpose.  Do they have a particular skill that the kids might find interesting?  Do they have family stories (even embarrassing ones about yourself) that the kids might love to hear?  As a child, I used to love sitting around the campfire, listening to the adults in my family tell stories from their youth.  There is something oddly satisfying in learning that your father used to tease his sisters as much as you tease yours.


There are a million other ways to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the actual world and what works best for you and your family may not work for others.  Hopefully, this list will give you a few ideas to try the next time you see your kids staring at a screen or hear them complain about being bored. 

We'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for reconnecting.  Contact us today or join our mailing list for more information.

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