Traveling in and living in a camper with two kids has its ups and downs, as would be expected. So far, we have the smallest rig of any family we’ve met on the road, which puts into perspective what we’ve taken on during this trip.
“Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.” – Erin K. Kenny, Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way
Our vision for this experience was to live outdoors with our children. We are nature-lovers, and our kids thrive when they can be outdoors. When COVID hit, we felt even more grateful to be living in the Hudson Valley. We have easy access to a beautiful state park and private preserve, rock climbing, hiking, secret (and not-so-secret) swimming holes, skiing, biking. It’s bliss.
That said, our new COVID normal was draining. As with many families who have two incomes, Nolan and I had to split our schedules in order to complete our work while also supervising and spending time with the kids. That meant we had to clock in and clock out at precisely the hours we’d set. We had almost zero personal time. We also chose to homeschool in order to minimize exposure to our high-risk family members, and we had no childcare. Nolan and I spent a whopping total of maaaaaaybe 5 hours together out of the house, without kiddos, throughout the pandemic.
When we planned to take a 6-month adventure in our camper with the kids, we were wildly excited and a little nervous. How would we pack our life into a 140 square ft? Where would everything go? How do we handle roughhousing and play-fighting in a small space (spoiler: go outside!)? How would we stock enough food to satisfy all of our big appetites and preferences?
The short of it is that it was definitely an adjustment. We had a tricky journey south where we encountered lots of rain and cold weather, which meant we were not mostly living outdoors, but huddling inside to keep warm and dry.
That said, one month into our trip, and this lifestyle finally feels like the new normal. So, what is the new normal? Here’s the rundown:
1. You’ll Need to Get Organized and Stay Organized
In camper life, Tetris isn’t a game, it’s a lifestyle. Everything has its place, and sometimes getting to that place requires rearranging, taking things out, putting them back, you get the gist. At first, it can be incredibly irksome, since we’re used to everything being easily accessible. But on the road? It’s just what you do and it’s no big deal. Storage bins and baskets will be your new best friends, and it’s just a matter of remembering what goes where (and putting it back, for god’s sake!!!!).
2. You’ll Go Food Shopping Often
If you’re lucky, you can get a camper with a normal-sized refrigerator. But others can run as small as 2 x 3 feet. If that’s the case, you can bring a small cooler for additional items. But generally, the lack of fridge space requires more frequent trips to the grocery store. It’s important to have a meal plan and shopping list each week so you can zip in and out of the grocery store. And everything that’s not in the fridge? That lives in various boxes in the car and a couple of cabinets. All in bins, of course. 😏
Learn how to Stock Your Camper Pantry.
3. A Compostable Toilet Will Make Life Easier
When you have kids, you know that when they have to go potty, they have to go NOW. So you’ll want to avoid the risk of not having access to a bathroom, especially in a pandemic. It’s also nice to have the option to stay in state parks or dry camp (camping on land that doesn’t have access to water or a black water dump station). The solution? Invest in a compostable toilet (this is what we have)! It will be a learning curve, to say the least, but we’ll spare you those yucky details, or save them for a separate post! In the end, you and the kids will really appreciate being able to use your camper bathroom instead of the gas station restroom. 🤞💩
4. If You Have Boys, Rough Housing is Usually Expected
Boys (at least ours) LOVE to roughhouse. It’s in their nature. They literally cannot help touching each other (a.k.a. aggressive hugging, kicking, hitting, rolling around). At home, it’s generally ok as long as no one is getting hurt, but living in a camper? 🙅♀️ It will be tough to navigate, but a general rule is: you roughhouse, you go outside. Does it work? Debatable.
5. Keep Cooking Simple
At home, you’re blessed if you have a gas range with four burners and an oven. On the road, it scales down to a tiny gas stove top with two burners so small that you can’t use both at the same time. An outdoor Coleman stove is also a welcomed addition. Try cooking one-pot meals that have easy clean-up. Honestly, the worst thing about cooking in a camper isn’t the cooking, it’s the cleaning up. The sink is tiny, water can be scarce, and the drying space is tight. Minimalist cooking is key here.
6. You’ll Shift Your Mindset about Personal Hygiene
If you’ve done long camping trips before, you’ll be no stranger to going a few days without a wash. At home, we all shower or take a bath at least every other day, but the kids don’t seem to mind the lack of it on the road. Keep baby wipes on hand, and take proper showers when driveway surfing or at campsites with showers. Some campers come with an actual bathtub and shower head like ours, but showers drain the fresh water tank quickly and fill up your grey tank quickly. For life on the road, it’s honestly no big deal. You’re not dressing to impress these days anyway! 😂
7. Outdoor Time is Time Well Spent
One of the biggest reasons most families embark on a road trip journey is to spend more time in nature. Camping and living in a camper basically forces you to live outdoors. Sure, you’ll snuggle up inside and read or watch a movie at night. Occasionally, you’ll even eat meals indoors when it’s too cold or raining. But the bulk of your time is spent outside putzing around the campground, eating, hiking, rock climbing, playing, or exploring. We can all agree that this high dosage of the outdoors feeds our souls. 🌱
Making a Major Family Life Change is an Adjustment
Not everyone adapts well to living in a camper. Camper life has both its advantages and drawbacks. But once you’ve done your research and considered all the expectations we’ve listed, you’ll have the tools necessary to make a decision. Talk with your family and list out the pros and cons of life on the road. Can’t live without indoor plumbing? This might not be for you. Are you game for adventure? Then this is your jam!
What we’ve listed above are probably the most significant differences we’ve experienced when living in a camper compared to life at home. But we’ve found that so long as you have each other and communicate clearly, you’ll easily adapt and truly enjoy family life on the road!
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