RV Podcast #331: The Amazing Power of Family Camping

 RV Podcast #331: The Amazing Power of Family Camping

Family Camping, whether in a tent, pop-up camper, a towable trailer, motorhome, or any other type of RV, unites families through great memories!

That's what we talk about in this 331st episode of the RV Podcast.

And through our special podcast guest – a Mom and Grandma who has passed along a love for the outdoors and family camping to her children – and the remembering of Jennifer and me with own experience with our kids.  We hope that this article and our podcast will inspire newcomers to try it out and cause others to rekindle a love affair of the great outdoor and family camping.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below or scroll down this page for shownotes and a transcript of the interview, plus links and resources about all the things we talk about. 

There is great power in family camping

Jennifer and I have camped our entire married life.

I grew up in a family that hunted and fished but we never really camped. When Jennifer and I got married, one of the first things she insisted on was that we would be a camping family. She grew up camping and spent family vacations in tents and trailers along the shorelines of our Michigan Great Lakes.

 The first big expense we made as a married couple was a 13-foot Shasta trailer. As we started having kids, we replaced it with a Coleman pop up camper.

And although we camped in state and county cames every time we could, our preferred style even way back then was boondocking – though no one called it that then. It was truly off the grid, with no hookups, down a rough two-track carved out of the woods in Ogemaw County and along the Rifle River.

a photo of the popmup we used for our family camping
This Coleman Popup was what we used for family camping back in the '70s. That's our favorite spot along the Rifle River in northern Michigan.

My sister and her family owned a bunch of raw acreage up there and even in this empty nest stage of our life, we take our RV to the exact same spot as often as we can.

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Photo of the tent Jennifer and I used from the 80s through the 90s

Our three kids grew up camping and the memories we made around campfires, hiking deer trails, taking innertubes down the swift-moving river, and being together made memories that we all still laugh about today.

After our kids went to school and grew up, Jen and I sold the popup and turned to tent camping for many years. We've been in small Class B and Class C motorhomes since 2012.

Our daughter, Wendy camps in a tent with her family and has passed her love of family camping to her husband, Dan, and daughters, Elizabeth and Rachel. Son Jeff didn't have to work to convince his wide Aimee to camp, She, too, grew up in a camping family and they camp every chance they can in a travel trailer with their kids Jovie and Jax.

And all of us get out a couple of times a year for big family campouts. Our third child, Scott, along with his wife, Lauri, and grandsons Zachary, Nick, Matthew, and Jacob, lives in Nashville. And while he is not doing much camping these days because of work responsibilities, we expect him to do so. 

Here's a video of one of those summer family campouts we do with our grown kids and grandkids, this one from Silver Lake along Lake Michigan.

That was from a couple of summers ago. Here's our latest family campout, this one taken just this fall, right around Halloween time.

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The benefits of Family Camping

Here's a list of 7 camping benefits that Jennifer and I can quickly identify:

  1. Disconnecting from devices and connecting with one another
  2. Having quality one-on-one-time away from the daily routines of home, work and school
  3. Learning about God's creation, the natural world, wildlife, and the seasons not from a book but by seeing it and living in it
  4. Learning how to handle challenges together, be it mechanical problems on the road, sudden storms, or sorting out personal issues. There's nothing like being in a confined space together to quickly get to issues that otherwise may simmer and build resentment.
  5. Working together setting up camp, planning meals, gathering firewood, taking down camp
  6. Appreciating each other. When there are no shopping malls, social pressures, work or school distractions, and competing activities, family becomes so much more than a word. The ties formed from camping last forever.
  7. And – perhaps the most important benefit – understanding that life is not all about me. It's us. We're all in whatever it is we are in… together!

An Interview about Family Camping: Nancy Einheuser

photo of nancy and her three kids on a family camping trip
While her husband had to stay behind each summer running the family business, Nancy introduced her three kids to family camping when they didn't know the meaning of the word “vacation.”

Our guest to talk more about the power of family camping is Nancy Einheuser. Nancy has been a camper all her life who introduced her husband, Robert, to camping and then their three children. She is a member of our RV Lifestyle Facebook Supporters Group and shares with us what camping has meant to her and her family.

Mike Wendland:           Joining us to talk about that power of camping for a family is one of our Facebook supporters and one of our regulars on our Facebook group and all of the RV lifestyle stuff we do, Nancy Einheuser. Nancy, first, thank you for being willing to share your story and offer some encouragement for the people out there who are wondering, “Should I start this? Should I do it?” Tell us about camping and your family, how far it goes back, and what it means to you?

Nancy Einheuser:          Oh my gosh. Well, thank you, Mike. Thanks for having me. And yeah, you've touched on a tender spot in my heart because my camping history goes back to being a little girl, one of five, and my dad had started the camping.

He actually was self-employed, like a lot of self-employed people, overworked. He had a medical issue, popped him in the hospital for a while, and he had a lot of time to think about what he wanted to do differently with his life.

Family Camping was a priority

When he came home, that was the first thing he did is made sure that we took vacations together, and our vacations every summer involved camping, and camping pretty much in Michigan. We found enough to do in Michigan that we never felt that we were lacking to go anywhere else.

We went somewhere different every year until we got very fond of a particular spot. And as we became teenagers and we're having jobs and getting our own cars, we would congregate there together. Dad would go up, put the home-base base camp down, and then we would come in as we could, from school or job.

Mike Wendland:           Now, I was taught a long time ago, never to ask a lady her age. So, I'm not going to do that, but I am going to ask you to help us understand how long ago this was that camping became a part of your life and-

Family camping started at a very early age

RV Podcast #331: The Amazing Power of Family Camping 4

Nancy Einheuser:          Okay, well, I have no problem saying my age, even though I am a lady. I'm 62 and my father started taking us camping when I was about four. My brother was an infant, my younger brother. I have an older brother and two older sisters and I was the fourth of five. So, the youngest one was in diapers, he was my younger brother.

Mike Wendland:           From your earliest memory, camping must have played a pretty big role in that. And what kind of camping was it? 

Tent camping with 5 kids!

Nancy Einheuser:          Mostly tent camping with five kids. My dad went through first a large, large family tent and a large screen porch for the area where we would cook and keep our coolers. And he was a fisherman. My father loved the water, loved boating.

And if it weren't that my mom would get seasick, he would have lived on a houseboat, for sure. He loved the water, but we started out with a camp and we would always get two sites, one for the tents and the cars, and then we'd have one for just the fire pit and the cooking and the picnic tables and so on and so forth. So, that's how we started out

Then came the pop-up camper

I do remember him getting a pop-up and it had the slide-outs with the big beds and he'd stack us like sardines on one side and mom and dad on the other. He snored hard at night. He drove during the night a lot of times, and he worked long hours and he would be so tired and he would just snore so loud.

We would throw our flip flops at him during the night to get him to turn over. We would take turns, trying to sound like our mother saying, “Dave, turn over.” So he could stop snoring.

But during the day we played hard. We just had the… It's sort of like a Huck-Finn-type of life, camping. We just, we had the best time. We were free to go. Kids don't have that kind of lifestyle today at all. There was no necessary check-in. We were just home before it's sundown, whether that was at home or when we camped, but camp adventures, the adventures were just far and wide.

Mike Wendland:           So, that was as a child.

Nancy Einheuser:          As a child.

Her husband didn't have the family camping tradition…but soon embraced it!

Mike Wendland:           And then you married and had children of your own. And how did camping continue? Did your husband camp? Was he a camper at first?

Nancy Einheuser:          He never really was a camper. He had done camping with the Scouts program. He was not real excited over it. And when we first got married, of course, I already had all of my own equipment. I had been camping with girlfriends and on my own from the time I was old enough to drive.

So, when we first married, one of our first trips was to take the Jeep and throw the tent in and go camping. And unfortunately, we had a rain cloud follow us. We went through one of those situations where we'd take the top down, we had a soft top, and we'd get on the highway and the rain would start.

So, we'd pull under a tree or off the side and put the top up and we'd get back on the road, get ahead of that cloud. And we went back and forth, back and forth. And we were just soaked by the time we got there. So, he ended up taking us more to… His family had a farm down in Virginia. So, we would end up taking this huge trip all the way through Niagara Falls and then down to Virginia to go to the farm.

Her kids didn't know what the word “vacation” meant…

Because he really was more fair-weather camping. And I just camped. I was used to camping and I took whatever. Whatever the weather was, that didn't matter, you're camping. But we started out when the kids came home and wanted to know about what the word vacation meant. We're self-employed. Both of us working hard.

Mike Wendland:           How could they not know what vacation means? But now you're explaining it. You were both working. Yeah.

Nancy Einheuser:          Yeah. We've owned our own business. We both work it very hard and mega hours. Our kids would go with me to the office. I called them the three Musketeers. “One, two, three, follow me, all for one, one for all.” They learned very young that we all work together and I learned the same with my family.

Mike Wendland:           So, they did not know what a vacation was?

Nancy Einheuser:          No, they did not know what the word vacation was in early grade school. And our oldest son came to us and said, “What's this word that all the kids are saying?” He was too embarrassed to say, “What's a vacation?” in front of everyone because obviously everyone knew except him.

Mike Wendland:           What was your reaction to that?

It was time they all went family camping!

Nancy Einheuser:          Awkward. Oh my goodness, Mike, it was so awkward. I felt so guilty. And yet I was like, “Okay, this is my opportunity. Maybe I could get my husband to take some time off so we could take the kids on a trip.”

So, I just told my son, “I'll kind of get back with you on that. It varies. Vacations kind of are defined by the family that takes some sorts of things.” So, that evening after I put the kids to bed and my husband and I were in our bed, I started the conversation.

And immediately, I felt so bad because my husband said, “I have to work. I have to work summers. I just can't take summer off.” Because, unlike my dad, he had employees, he had a handful of employees and he would work for them to make sure they got their summer's vacations. And he rotated through every employee, all, as soon as the vacation time season started to right into school.

And so our family for, while they were really little, we really didn't get to go except for the first year when my daughter was a baby, we went because we had a partner then, and then our partner asked us to buy them out. And all of a sudden, that whole responsibility was ours and we didn't have anyone to cover us.

Mike Wendland:           So back to this, your kids didn't know what vacation is. What did you do? What did you do then? What was decided?

Nancy Einheuser:          My husband, he is a sweetheart. And he said, “Just because I can't leave, doesn't mean you and the kids can't go. By goodness, all means, you guys take a vacation, take them on vacation, take them. You can take them to the farm.”

And I thought, “Oh my word, I'm not going to go all the way to the farm by myself.” And maybe later when they're a little older, but I immediately thought camping, because whether it was a tight year or a better year, I knew I could swing it. And I was familiar with Michigan and all the fun spots that I had childhood memories of going with my siblings.

Mike Wendland:           So, this first trip you did alone then?

Nancy Einheuser:          They never camped. They were pumped. Oh my gosh, they were so excited. And of course, they watched me put the tent together in the front yard and spray it with the water repellent.

Mike Wendland:           Oh yeah, been there, done that.

Nancy Einheuser:          I made sure each of them had a solid pair of hiking shoes. I actually bought them hiking boots and they had never had hiking boots and comfy tennis shoes and flip flops and [crosstalk 00:09:46]-

Mike Wendland:           They were how old? How old were these kids?

Nancy Einheuser:          I think my daughter was about four or five. Not even that. She was probably about 11.

Mike Wendland:           So, your kids camped. And then I would assume this continued all through their childhood, but every kid reaches their teens and they say, “Oh, I'm not sure I want to go camping this year.”

The kids grew up camping

Nancy Einheuser:          Actually, every year, from the time our youngest was about four, I took them camping every summer. And if we could go twice, it was like the best year. And we camped right into their really heavy activities. All three of them very involved and active, but the boys were into sports and competition BMX.

And the oldest one actually for years was playing both soccer and hockey. And then by the time he was in college, there was a bus that took him to the games and the tournies.

Mike Wendland:           So, there did come a time when you didn't camp as much, obviously when they got that older-

Nancy Einheuser:          Actually, no, I kept camping. The boys drifted away from the camping because they were busy.

They mixed camping with her kids' sports and tournaments

Mike Wendland:           Did your husband join you then at that point?

Nancy Einheuser:          He would join me when it was the national competition. Like the Oakland U Grizzlies team went to the nationals.

Mike Wendland:           I'm talking about camping, camping. Did he join you camping?

Nancy Einheuser:          We camped to go to these things.

Mike Wendland:           Oh, I see.

Nancy Einheuser:          Well, I would take the trailer, the pop-up or whatever, and go to the tournaments. And he would drive out to the finals after so many weeks of the playoffs and he'd come join us for a day or two on the weekend when he could try to get away then. But he didn't come those years when the kids were little. We did it. I did it myself with the kids.

Mike Wendland:           The thing that's neat about this is that camping is not an expensive activity-

Nancy Einheuser:          No, not at all.

Mike Wendland:           And it is so powerful. Now, your kids. Let's fast forward before we run out of time, your kids have all grown.

Nancy Einheuser:          Right, right.

The family camping tradition continues

photo of the rv nancy now uses for family camping
New family camping memories will be made in this Class C motorhome they bought last fall – a 2019 Coachmen Concord

Mike Wendland:           And do they camp now?

Nancy Einheuser:          Every one of them.

Mike Wendland:           Every one of them. So do mine. Well, all but one. All but one. Should say, that one doesn't.

Nancy Einheuser:          Well, they love it. They all have tents. And it turns out my youngest, the daughter. The boys ended up using a lot of time in our camping trips as they got older to participate, like I said, in their sports, when we went out of state and competed in tournies, and when that happened, it left just my daughter and I.

So we just loved to travel, mom and daughter, girl time. It was like chick trips. And we would take our little dog and just have the best time. She can start a fire in the fire pit better than I can, and I miss her because she's now married. So I love it when we can camp as families together, because I'm always like, “Okay, I don't have to do that. She's really good at it.”

Mike Wendland:           Now, how about now for you and your husband?

Nancy Einheuser:          No.

Mike Wendland:           I know you're out of a tent because you sent me a picture. Tell me what you camp in now and what it means to you now?

Nancy Einheuser:          Well, yeah, everything has evolved through how we started to get a vacation with kids to doing the sports and then the kids going their own way because they're grown. And then they circled back and said, “Let's do this as adults together so we get more than one site.” And I transitioned when I was just girl-camping into an ultra-light. 

Mike Wendland:           For those newcomers, an ultra-light is a towable trailer, a small little trailer.

Nancy Einheuser:          Correct, it's a lightweight. You can tow it with just a smaller vehicle. I actually towed it with a Jeep Unlimited.

Mike Wendland:           So, now what are you in?

She's ready for the 2021 camping season!

Nancy Einheuser:          We haven't quite gotten into it. But we, during the pandemic at the end of the year, bought a motor home, new to us, used motor home, and didn't even get to camp in it yet. It's winterized in storage.

Mike Wendland:           What is it? What kind is it?

Nancy Einheuser:          I love this one. I like the floor plan. It's a Coachmen Concord 300 TS. And it's the Midnight Edition.

Mike Wendland:           That's a Class C, I believe, right?

Nancy Einheuser:          It is Class C, but it's streamlined down. I like it because it's not the full bunk over.

Mike Wendland:           Yep. Like a B-plus, as they sometimes go.

Nancy Einheuser:          Yes, but it's long. So, it definitely is a Class C. It's not on the same chassis. So it's a 4,450 and about a 31 feet.

Nancy's advice to everyone…

Mike Wendland:           So this is, I just want to bring this now to those folks who think that they want to go camping, that they want to get an RV and the power of it, for as a family. And I would imagine now, as your kids grow, with grandkids, with family reunions.

Just briefly give an example or some encouragement to those folks about the power of camping as a way to keep your family together.

Nancy Einheuser:          Goodness, that's a great question. And well, it absolutely has happened with us because all of our kids love to go camping in any form, but they are using tents for now. And for the people that haven't camped ever, my mom was one.

She had never camped before, and she picked a year when she had five kids, all young, with a baby in diapers. And she took to it right away because you get that fresh air. You sleep so sound at night, you hear laughter. Of course, you have your good days, bad days, like life anywhere. But-

Mike Wendland:           It does rain sometimes.

Nancy Einheuser:          The memories are awesome.

Mike Wendland:           I say it does rain sometimes.

Nancy Einheuser:          Sometimes, it does rain. Well, the years that I tented, it rained, Mike, every time I took the tore down. Never rained when I set up or during the week. But the day we had to leave, it always poured, just poured buckets.

Mike Wendland:           And it's all worthwhile. And I wanted our audience to hear your story. And even the infectious joy in your voice, Nancy, as you talk about what camping has meant to your family. So, I can't thank you enough for sharing that but I think we'll get many other people to think about this. And I know that we've rekindled a lot of memories in the veteran campers out there too. Your story is typical and-

Nancy Einheuser:          Sure, it is.

Mike Wendland:           … it is an awesome one.

Nancy Einheuser:          Yeah, thank you so much.

Mike Wendland:           So, I can't wait until we meet you on the road someday.

Nancy Einheuser:          Well, I look forward to it, Mike, and I will have my hubby along with me.

Mike Wendland:           That's awesome. Nancy, thank you for sharing your story on the RV Podcast.

Nancy Einheuser:          Thank you, Mike.

Looking for places to go family camping and make your own memories?

RV Podcast #331: The Amazing Power of Family Camping 5

Try our RV Adventures Guides! There are instantly downloadable eBooks that show you the best things to see and the best places to camp, with maps and lots of photos. We have them for the most popular regions of the country, places where you can make awesome family camping memories of your own. Check them all out individually or in money-saving bundles. CLICK HERE for info! 

RV Podcast #331: The Amazing Power of Family Camping 6
We love camping season!

 

Curious about the gear, gadgets, accessories, and RV products Mike & Jennifer use and recommend?

On this RV Lifestyle Travel blog, our RV Podcast and our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel, we mention all sorts of RV-related products and gear that we use, So we created a special page links to them. We update this all the time.  CLICK HERE to go to it directly. 

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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