Changing from Family Day Park Visits to Family Camping Experience

Last year I participated in American Latino Expedition and it changed my life. Cliché much? Es posible pero it really did. Prior to ALEx14, I knew I wanted to create more outdoor experiences with my family. I just didn’t know how or where to start beyond our regular visits to a nearby park, going to a festival, or hosting a family bar-b-que. Bottom line was that I was only getting to the familiar and nearby outdoor places without doing much of any exploring.

Outdoor Festival in San Antonio - QueMeansWhat

When I returned from ALEx14, experiencing the outdoors became a calling, a necessity, and a passion that I wanted to share with my family. Below is a photo of me over looking the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone National Park. Right after that photo was taken, I began to make a video to share with you about how breathtaking the scenery was and then, I just started to weep. I was and I still am so incredibly grateful to get to experience this natural beauty that is our’s – our country, our home, our land. I had come to realize the powerful, natural connection that I had with mi tierra. Through my tears I knew that I must share the beauty of outdoors with the people whom I love the most – mi familia.

Grand Canyon at Yellowstone National Park - QueMeansWhat #LetsCamp #Hazloepic #Alex14

It took some time but we finally made it to Big Bend National Park this summer. I was super excited to get to take my family on our own great outdoor adventure to a national park! And we did have fun. We stayed at Chisos Mountain Lodge and we hiked various trails, took a guided jeep tour and finished our weekend with a gorgeous scenic drive. This adventure planted a tiny seed for love of the outdoors in my kids’ hearts. It’s up to them to let it grow. Meanwhile, I’ll do all the watering that I can. This is the beginning of our outdoor adventures beyond our local parks. It’s where I hope to teach my family that the national and state parks are our’s, too, and that we have a responsibility to protect them as much as we have the honor to enjoy them.

Summer Trip to Big Bend National Park -

When REI came asking if I wanted to partner for #LetsCamp/#HazLoEpic campaign, I was excited and eager to get on board. If I can help just one other family enjoy the outdoors, I’m willing to play. This campaign would allow me to share our first-ever camping trip with you.  REI provided my family several items for our beach camping trip which you can read about in my post: We Conquered Beach Camping and We’re Ready for our Next Adventure! Not only did we survive our first-ever camping trip, we are already planning our next family camping adventure for the Fall. More exploring!

How to Transition to Family Camping

After conversations with many friends and others, I’ve come to realize that the main reason that families don’t spend more time outdoors, especially camping, is because families just don’t know where to begin. If your friends and family aren’t going or talking about camping, you probably aren’t either. In the Latino community, we trust what our comadres y compadres say more than any website, magazine or ‘expert’. So, queridos, let me encourage you to go camping! Let me encourage you to enjoy YOUR national and state parks! They are your’s, too. Let me encourage you to take your family on a great outdoor adventure!
Hiking Hollywood Hills - QueMeansWhat.comCamping (or any outdoor adventure) doesn’t have to be scary. To get started, visit REI either in person or online. They are the experts (take it from your comadre, they want to help) who can determine what you may need for your adventure.  From my recent visit, we talked about the things you may need to go camping from a sleeping pad to how to build a camp kitchen. I already had my REI tent but if you need to learn more about which tent you would need, they can help you determine that as well.

You may not know if you want to go backpack camping or car camping. Backpack camping means that you pack everything in your backpack, choose your hiking trail and hike to your campsite. This is much different than car camping. You must consider the weight of everything you pack in your backpack. Car camping is when you can drive right up to your camp site. You don’t have to be as concerned about the weight of your supplies because you can pack everything in your car. You still have to take many other things into consideration like how to keep your food cold and your sleep comfort level. This is why it’s refreshing to have outdoor experts like the people you will find at REI.

Visiting REI for Camping Gear - QueMeansWhat #LetsCamp #Hazloepic

My biggest tip to you would be to plan in advance as much as possible. This will allow you to make a few visits to the store, if needed. You won’t feel compelled to buy everything at once because you won’t be in a hurry. It will give you a chance to talk with more than one expert. Different people ask different questions and that’s a good thing. The most important thing is GET TO CAMPING!

You can also find local resources and classes at REI like their educational classes on various topics such as Bike Maintenance, Find Your Park and Travel Photo Basics.

Queridos, where will I see you outdoors?!




Melanie Mendez-Gonzales

Original content creator for ¿Qué Means What? Texas Latina mom blogger celebrating culture in education, entertainment and family life.

15 Responses

  1. Candy o says:

    I love that you and your family are getting out there! I hope that once E gets bigger we will be doing more outdoor things too.

  2. susan says:

    I have always wanted to go camping with the family. It just seems like such a memory maker, and I am sure we all would have a blast. Looks like you did.

  3. I love the outdoors too, it’s one of the reasons why I love where I live – I never get tired of the view or take it for granted! I love the photo of you at the Grand Canyon, just stunning! I’ve never been camping, though, so when it finally does happen I’ll have to check out REI first!

  4. Jason Nail says:

    Yes and yes. There is nothing in the world more than I enjoy than taking my people camping. Nothing else even comes close.

    • Melanie Mendez-Gonzales says:

      That is awesome, Jason! I think Christmas while camping would be close but then you’d have all the gifts to deal with. Lol!

  5. This is such a great idea! I feel like (I don’t have kids yet) but the main “go-to” for family trips now-a-days seems to be day parks. growing up my dad took us to see a lot of the Texas “historical” parks and sites and I hope I can do the same with my children. I love Big Bend and we used to go every year! Looks like you had a great time!

    • Melanie Mendez-Gonzales says:

      I’m so glad to hear that your dad took you to Big Bend every year. I hope to make it an annual trip for us as well. It’s absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much, Anali!

  6. Stephanie says:

    I love day trips but enjoying the natural beauty around us overnight is not something I do often. However, I love hearing recommendations!

    • Melanie Mendez-Gonzales says:

      Threes nothing wrong with day trips. We still take them often. Many times it’s all we can schedule in. Check out for parks near you. Thanks, Stephanie!

  7. Looks like you had so much fun. My family enjoys the outdoors, but we’ve never been camping. I hope to do this when the kids are bigger.

    • Melanie Mendez-Gonzales says:

      Yeah, I don’t know how I would have done with my boys if they were any younger. This is a good age now.

  8. Connie Gomez says:

    We LOVE camping. My kids are already excited for our next camping trip hopefully this Fall. It’s so much, such a great family bonding experience. Excellent moment to teach the kids basic life skills and just relax and have fun! Great post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: