We are very fortunate to live in an incredibly dynamic region, so we have the opportunity to play in a variety of spaces and ecosystems — forests, mountains, the ocean, lakes, rivers, rocky beaches, sandy beaches, wetlands, tidelands, waterfalls, etc
Some of our favorite summer activities include picnicking at a river about 20 miles outside of town, and playing along the sandy riverbank, as well as splashing in glacial runoff and silty mud a little closer to town. We had quite the heatwave last week (for us), with record temps nearing the 90s. Generally, we are spoiled with weather in the mid-seventies on our hottest summer days, but many days hover around the mid-sixties. Living in a very temperate climate helps with getting active and outside more often, as we’re not usually miserable from the heat, and can still comfortably hike, bike, or kayak without melting. Last week, however, we were treated to some beautiful sunshine and hot, dry temps.
We took advantage of this by taking the kids for a riverside picnic. It’s so rare that they get to feel hot sand between their toes unless we’re on vacation, but they thoroughly enjoyed it. I find that in summertime, keeping a plastic tote in the car full of our beach gear eases the stress of packing for a longer beach trip. Using a tote means easy carrying from the car to our picnic spot. Everything is in one place, and it’s still small enough that one of us can carry it alone.
Our tote usually holds the following:
Sunscreen | SPF 15 for me, and SPF 55 for the kids
Insect Repellent | I love DoTerra’s TerraShield for the smell and how well it works. It’s easily transportable too, since the bottle is so small and concentrated.
Life Jackets | My husband is a commercial fisherman, so we spend a lot of time on or near the water. Our life jackets are a staple in our Adventure-Ready Tote for quick trips to the boat, lake, or river. Kids Don’t Float, and life jackets save lives! Even if the water is only 2-3 feet deep, life jackets are not optional in our family.
Spare Clothes | Usually just for the kids, but occasionally for myself too. In the summer, I opt for the ease of dresses for the girls. This use to include a pack of diapers (or 4-5 cloth diapers), but we are recently potty-trained now!
Extra Shoes/Boots | Always extra shoes with these kids. One pair inevitably gets drenched to the limit, but it’s not worth stopping the fun. We always keep spare boots and sandals in the car. I buy them secondhand on eBay and at thrift stores to save a bit, since we tend to be pretty hard on our shoes.
Quick Snacks | These usually get thrown in the tote at the beginning of every outing. Some days its apples or bananas, or sliced veggies, but lately my girls have been digging homemade moose (yes, moose) jerky. I made a big batch several weeks ago in the dehydrator and keep smaller bags of it stored in the freezer so it’s grab and go for us. The kids do better with protein throughout the day, so this is a helpful one to have on hand.
Towels | Even if we’re not going somewhere wet, somehow we always end up needing a towel.
Water Bottles | These always get thrown in at the last minute, as well, since we enjoy taking fresh water with us. We love the Camelbak Kid’s Eddy and the Eddy for the grown-ups.
Sunglasses | Storing these in our tote helps to keep these from getting lost. I keep the girls packed away until we need them, and try my hardest to return them to the tote when we’re done.
Trash Bag | Even if we don’t bring anything that makes our own trash, we usually find some litter when we’re out and about, and we believe in teaching our girls to leave everywhere a little better than you left it. On our last outing, we picked up half a trash bag full before we started playing. Paper plates, plastic flatware, soda cans, and beer bottles were the worst offenders.
Picnic Blanket | Our picnic blanket is a lovely woven wool throw that we bought in Mexico when our oldest was a baby. It shakes out well, washes well, and of course has sentimental value. It’s bulky, but since it stays in the car and isn’t for a backpack, the size isn’t an issue. It’s also nice for fall evening campfires when it’s a bit more chilly than we planned.
There’s a few other things we tend rotate in and out, but the list above is our staples. We don’t usually bring beach toys for the kids, as they’ve never had a problem finding their own entertainment with sticks, rocks, and mud.