Since we’ve moved, I’ve really wanted to get my oldest son involved in as many different things as possible to allow him opportunities to make new friends and fall in love with his new home. One thing my brothers did here when we were kids was Cub Scouts, and when my mom suggested it, I immediately knew I had to sign him up. Their mission is to teach boys how to be good humans, kind, helpful, encouraging, and respectful. I had no idea what I was getting into, and little did I know that the first outing of the year was an overnight camping trip.
Oh crap, did you say camping? Our very first overnight Cub Scouts adventure
Okay, so when I found out the first big outing after joining Cup Scouts was an overnight camping trip, I was feeling pretty out of my comfort zone and several things crossed my mind.
First, I knew my son would have the time of his life. This was totally his kind of thing. Some of the activities they mentioned included BB guns, archery, chopping wood etc. and my son lives to be exploring the outdoors. I knew this was something he needed to do.
Secondly, I’ve never camped other than on a boat. My family growing up was not a “camping” family. My dad was adventurous, loved the outdoors, and we took many vacations to the mountains to ski, hike and bike, but when it came to sleeping, my parents enjoyed the simple pleasures of a warm room, bed and bathroom. This was way out of my comfort zone, especially seeing it was in the middle of October in New England.
Third, this was the kind of thing I really wish I had a supportive husband and involved father of my children for. I anticipated being the only mom without a dad there and that made my heart slump a bit. My ex loved to camp, but even if he was still a part of our lives, he would never go with a group. He was anti-social and avoided all kid/parent activities and it always bothered me so much. I always thought if he had more “good dad friends” in his life he would have found so much more joy in life and appreciated having a family and being a dad.
Fourthly, this is the kind of thing my ex would always tell me I couldn’t do. On more than one occasion he mentioned wanting to take my son camping, but did not want me to go, because in his exact words, “You wouldn’t survive a night of camping Ashleigh. You’re not meant to camp, and I have no desire to go camping with you.” THIS: This always made me so angry. Who is someone else to tell someone what they’re capable of in life, what they can and can’t handle. Your partner is supposed to be your cheerleader, your teammate, and you’re telling me I can’t survive a night in the woods?! I always found this rather funny seeing that in comparison to most of my girlfriends, I am extremely low maintenance. I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis, I don’t have a lot of fancy accessories. Do I prefer a bathroom? Yes, but I’m one tough cookie and I can do anything I set my mind to. It was when I thought of all this, when I realized I had to do this with my son. I didn’t need a man to help me set up my tent, I could do this. I could do all the things with my boys, not just the ones that I was more comfortable with.
Lastly, my son and I needed this one-on-one time so badly. We went through all the hell my ex caused us together, it’s been a lot to overcome, and we still have a way to go. He’s had to go through so much change alongside of me and it’s been so hard with my youngest to find time to bond just the two of us.
First time camper: What oh what do I bring and pack?
Once I signed our names up on the signup sheet, I knew we were committed. I had a little over a week to find all the things we needed for an overnight camping trip. Camping gear is not cheap and on a limited budget I really didn’t want to purchase things I wasn’t knowledgeable on, especially not knowing if this would be something I would want to do again. Thankfully, I reached out to one of my brothers to see if he had any gear, he could set up us with and he hooked us up with a tent, and two sleeping bags. It was recommended by the pack to bring a mattress pad for underneath the sleeping bags since the ground would be wet and hard, flash flights, chairs, and some reusable plates.
Our very confusing at first 2-person tent
So, my brother gave us the tent in its bag but didn’t have time to show me how to set this up. We had a week of rain leading up to our trip, so I wasn’t able to bring it out to the back yard to try and set up. TIP: Set the tent up ahead of time. I was getting so anxious not having any clue what was inside that tent bag so the day before I pulled it out inside the house. I took one look at all the parts, and I wanted to quit right then and there. Stress overwhelmed me and I pictured myself on the campsite, with all these dads with their sons knowing what they were doing, and fear started to take over. There weren’t any directions, and I had no clue where to begin. Thankfully my brother was able to find/google a manual (for one very similar) and text it to me and my loving mom who also took one look at it and said oh crap, was willing to help me out. Sometimes it takes having just someone’s there as another eye to figure something out. It was like a puzzle, and it took us a while to figure out where all the clips went, but eventually we figured it out! And when I arrived at the campsite, I looked at my pictures and set this bad boy up in 10 minutes. One of the dads of a mom I’m friends with was looking out for me and came over to ask if I was doing ok, and I was so proud to look at my tent and say, “Yah I think I’ve got this.”
True camping, non-battery/electric Mattress Pad
When someone recommended bringing one, I immediately went to Amazon, looked for a double one with good reviews that would come in a day or two and clicked purchase. It wasn’t until I took it out of its bag that I realized this was a non-pump blow up mattress pad. Once again, no directions and I sat there for several minutes thinking, what? How the heck to I get air in this thing without busting along. Don’t you just love YouTube? The bag that this thing came in is used at the pump. You open it, shake it to get air in it, seal the bag and then pump the air from the bag into the pad. It took about 10 minutes to pump, and I must say, I was pretty amazed by it. It was super comfortable under the sleeping bags, and I really think without this we would have been cold, damp and uncomfortable. You can find it here at Amazon.
Fun hanging tent lights
My mom had a flashlight and a small lantern, but I wanted something else for the tent. I found these LED lights on Amazon, and we loved them. They came in a set, of 4 different colors and had little clips to hang on the hooks inside a tent or, as my son did, clipped them to his shirt and used it as his flashlight. It had three different light modes. Highly recommend these, linked here!
Gear I wish I had brought and plan to bring next time we go camping
All and all, there wasn’t too many must have items that we didn’t bring on our first camping adventure. If we had been going for more than one night, it would have required bringing more things. The pack provided dinner and breakfast so that was huge. I did wish I had some better camping shoes, and some camping cups and plates for things like hot cocoa etc.
A young boy’s dream place: Archery, wood chopping, fire building, bouldering, BB guns and more!
We camped at the New England Base Camp and this place was amazing for teaching kids’ outdoor survival. They had 4 hours to explore all the activities they had to offer; BB gun shooting, archery, bouldering, propelling, learning how to make a fire, chopping and sawing wood, rope climbing, and building forts with logs. My son had a BLAST. They were wonderful about teaching them proper safety with all the activities and I believe it definitely takes a special person to work at a place like these. Little kids with weapons, fire and axes?
I was amazed at how much not only the kids learned but grownups too. I was able to saw a fun piece of a fallen tree off that I plan to turn into some sort of memorable. This may seem like something so insignificant. But when my son started to saw this piece of wood and was having difficulty, I so badly wanted to finish this. It was like another urge of independence came over me. Sawing this wet piece of wood with an old saw became something I just had to do. So, I stood there for 15 minutes, and I sawed away, determined to reclaim my independence in life and I’m so proud of this little piece of wood. I plan to write something special on it and turn it into a Christmas ornament for Brayden.
I learned that for shooting I’m right eye dominate, and I now know how to build a fire in the woods without any matches. My favorite part of all was just seeing all these boys run around in the woods, being little boys, exploring and making new friends. They were all in their element, with sticks, fires, flashlight tag, rock climbing and just running around being who they were meant to be. I had my first walking taco for dinner (surprisingly super tasty), made some wonderful new friends, and learned that I can without a doubt take my boys on a solo camping trip. I’m actually surprised to say that I’m looking forward to doing it again!
My son had the time of his life, made some wonderful new friends, and earned his Bobcat badge, the very first badge of his cub scout journey :-). Looking forward to all the cub scout adventures ahead. I will finally admit that I’m 100% exhausted. The prep, the loading, the dragging all the stuff…I was hoping for more help from my oldest, but he was too excited to run around with all his newfound friends to do too much, and how could I not understand that. So tonight, I’m enjoying the first world comforts of a warm house, a glass of wine, and looking forward to a soft bed to sleep in.