No, I'm not talking about IRA's or savings accounts. I'm talking camping equipment. Or our general lack there of. J. and I did a lot of camping with the first 4 or 5 children. We even took M. camping when she was three months old. (Camping is super easy with little babies.) And then we camped at least once or twice a year after that (assuming we didn't have a newborn). Camping is a great family vacation and a big plus in our book is that it's affordable. Believe me, once you get a certain number of children, affordable and vacation are two words which rarely go together.
But then, something happened. We had more children. Five more to be exact. And for various reasons we didn't do a lot of camping. The trouble is, if you don't camp regularly, then you don't add to your camping equipment as needed. Suddenly, you wake up one day and realize that even if you wanted to go camping, you can't because your supplies do not in any way meet the needs of your family size. The only way we could make the camping trip to New York work two years ago is that we borrowed a lot of stuff from friends. That's great for a one time trip, but it becomes awkward if you're always borrowing it.
Well, something had to be done. We want to be able to vacation with our family, but camping is about the only affordable choice we have. (And we like to camp.) We didn't want to sit around several years down the road and bemoan the fact that if we had just gone ahead and restocked our supplies, we could have been enjoying those supplies for many years. I don't like to spend money, but I also don't like regretting a decision, and regretting not making a decision is even worse.
Thanks to all those sleeping bag-less children, our income tax refund is a very pleasant number. I usually save this for those unexpected expenses which show up during the year, but this time we have decided to invest in our vacationing future. J. and I spent a good portion of our Memorial Day sorting through camping stuff in the basement to figure out what we actually owned and then searching for good camping equipment deals online to round out our supplies. That part was actually fairly easy and not overly expensive. We were already well-stocked, but needed bags and pads for several children and a larger tent. That's all done.
The complicating factor in camping with a family our size is that we drive a 15-passenger van. What's the problem you ask. Surely there is more than enough room with a vehicle that size. To which I say, "Ha!" For all its hugeness, there is precious little storage room. Even squeezing the weekly groceries in it is tricky. Filling it with children (and we have to use all the benches now) and then trying to squeeze all the needed equipment in as well is pretty much impossible. Our choices are limited. We either pick a couple of children to leave behind or we think about getting a trailer.
I bet you know which we chose. The trailer part is still a work in progress. We think we have found a small enclosed trailer within our budget thanks to Craig's List. Of course, it also means that we have to have a hitch installed on the van as well. These are the two really high ticket items. But I think we'll be very, very glad that we did. It means that we will be able to make camping whenever we want with our large family a reality.