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Dirtbag Family Bash– the Super Official Recap


Over 40 families from all over North America flocked to Moab, Utah this fall to be a part of the first-ever Dirtbag Family Bash, AMI’s camping and adventure festival for families. Each family came bearing unique perspectives, dynamics, outdoor backgrounds, and interests. Without a doubt though, new connections, skills, and experiences were acquired for parents and kiddos alike.

PC: Todd Beer

The festival took place on October 5-7 at the Gold Bar Campground, a stunning venue nestled between the mighty Colorado River and massive sandstone features. Festival attendants had the luxury of spending nearly 3-full days entirely off the grid without electricity, wifi, cell reception, or running water. For many, this level of extreme digital detachment was foreign and to experience it as a family was even more novel. Without a screen to look towards, families soaked in the joys of being outside in nature and connection and camaraderie developed with haste. Families helped one another set up tents and camp chairs, held one another’s babies and beers, shared meals and stories.

The first couple of hours as people began arriving were a mix of palpable excitement, controlled chaos, and general shenanigans. Upon check-in, parents were greeted with a set of helping hands and a beer from Upslope Brewing. RVs were backed into place, a literal tent city was erected, and dozens of kids with energy pent up after a long day of travel were finally let loose within the campground. It was bliss.

That first night, everyone met around a blazing campfire, decked out in their patched puffies and trusty beanies, beneath a sky full of desert stars for the initial welcoming. In that assembly, the first set of instructions shouted out by the event team as they stood perched on their picnic-table-stage were, “Take care of one another. Look after each other’s children. Lend a helping hand. Offer support when possible. LET’S BUILD COMMUNITY THIS WEEKEND!”

After a fun and engaging intro to Leave No Trace by a master LNT trainer came role call and swag bag divvying. The team shouted out the names of each family which was then met with an eccentric whoop, flamboyant dance, group chant, or in some cases, a subdued “…here…” Families were kitted out with more than $100 in product and discounts from our amazing sponsors like Lifestraw, Cusa Tea, RedBudSuds, PepPod, Dermatone, Big Agnes, Kuju Coffee, Discover Utah Kids, and KidThingz.

PC: Todd Beer

After a few rounds of smores, beers, story swapping, and laughter, families shuffled back to their respective basecamps by headlamp, many with kids, old and young, asleep on their shoulders. Some opted to securely tuck in their littles before sneaking back out to the campfire for one last uninterrupted smore; others curled up in their tents, glad for the opportunity to come and go with the rhythm of the sun.

Despite being in the Moab desert, an arid region known for being devoid of much rainfall, precipitation settled in Saturday morning and persisted through pack-up on Sunday– go figure. In salutation to the rain, the event team gerryrigged a series of tarps to the large covered pavillion on-site  to provide a dry space to congregate. It was properly tied up with cordelette, propped by a series of strategically placed SUP oars, and fortified with duct tape!

Rain can be challenging to manage as an adult in the backcountry; add a horde of wild children into the mix and rain can become downright overwhelming. But watching these families adapt to less than ideal weather conditions was absolutely incredible. The parents brought out rain shells, rain shells were promptly ripped off by the children, and everyone continued enjoying themselves. Tents were reinforced, rogue socks were tucked beneath vestibules, key items were strategically placed beneath the pavillion– it was a tremendous feat of communal solution-focused action.

To negate any ill effects of the rain, the event team worked overtime to produce hot water throughout the day. A hot, delicious, and quick breakfast was provided by Mountain House and coffee, hot chocolate, and tea was streamlined with presses and canisters donated by Bru Trek.

Throughout the weekend, some families opted to hike on nearby trails while others enjoyed a mix of on-site activities. Saturday was scheduled full of presentations and activities. The various speakers adapted to the rain and everyone hunkered down beneath the tarp-clad pavilion. The discussions ranged from water safety for families to smartphone photography. Presenters built climbing anchors that doubled as rope swing anchors which were then demoed by a line of eager kids. AMI Ambassadors hosted conversations on maternal wellness, personal adventure, and self-care. Volunteers lead crafts, facilitated yoga, and played yard games enjoyed by both kids and adults. Canyonlands Field Institute was onsite to share their knowledge of the natural area and there were plenty of sand toys placed in a fleet of Light Speed tents, balance bikes available for sharing, and ample open space for outdoor play.

In true dirtbag style, a series of Bliss Hammocks were strung all around and occupied by a mix of napping and playing children. A Tiny Big Adventure slackline with a kid-friendly guideline for extra balance was assembled between the pillars of the pavillion. There was a child, or 5, on that slackline at all times, despite the rain.

By the time late afternoon rolled around on Saturday, costumes and ridiculous outfits were beginning to debut. There was a family of narwhals, an astronaut, princesses, Harry Potter characters, superheros, animals, and more. As group pictures were snapped, everyone collectively howled like wolves, the sound amplified and echoed off the nearby canyon walls.

After some amazing costume-clad obstacles and races, it was time for the silent auction, raffle, and giveaways. Companies like United by Blue, Big Agnes, Carve Designs, Goal Zero, Granite Gear, Pep Pod, Cusa Tea, TailGate Tire Table,  Bliss Hammocks, RedBudSuds, BioLite, and Outdoor Tech sent over so much amazing product to be demoed and shared with the AMI community.

The event team soon brought out Outdoor Tech speakers and the campground bumped to a collection of classic 90s tunes and more through the pitch-in style dinner illuminated by a mix of BioLite lanterns and headlamps. It was utter shenanigans.

As the event came to a close on Sunday, the frenzied clean-up process was expedited by the countless families who hung around to contribute in whatever way they could. Within a few hours, the tarps and tents came down, vehicles were loaded, and the site was expertly scoured for trash.

PC: Todd Beer

In most cases, goodbyes were long and filled with big hugs and promises to stay in touch. There were undoubtedly many future plans, adventures, and travels dreamt up over the course of the weekend.

The Dirtbag Family Bash is a one of a kind family festival that attracts some unique characters, that’s for sure. Spending a weekend with virtually no cell reception, no wifi, and no running water camped alongside a hundred plus people you just met isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. But there’s so much value in these sort of experiences, whether someone considers themself outdoorsy or not. It’s not a quantifiable or monetary value accrued in free swag, food, and beer but rather experiential value. There’s value in putting aside the screens and prioritizing a tangible connection established beside a campfire. There’s value in being able to say yes to the kids as they run, yell, and play uninterrupted in the sun, or in this case, the rain. There’s value in novelty– the novelty of sleeping in the sand and cooking on backpacking stoves. There’s value in smelling fresh air and campfire smoke, in seeing clear desert stars and towering sandstone cliffs, in hearing rushing water and birds caw. There is real value in pursuing outdoor adventures like this.

The Dirtbag Family Bash wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t traditional. But it was a hell of a lot of fun.

We’d like to shout out to the slew of amazing companies that supported our little desert party including Upslope Brewing, Mountain House, Life Straw, Carve Designs, PepPod,  Big Agnes, Bliss Hammocks, Dermatone, RedBudSuds, BioLite, Outdoor Tech, KidThingz, Light Speed, Cusa Tea, Summit Nutrition Strategy, Bru Trek, Discover Utah Kids, United by Blue, Goal Zero, Granite Gear, Kuju Coffee, TailGater Tire Table, and Tiny Big Adventures. Y’all are the best, THANK YOU! Please, SUPPORT THE COMPANIES THAT SUPPORT WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN.

We’d also like to extend a HUGE thank you to our event photographers Arika Bauer of Zion Adventure Photog and Ali Marie for sharing their passion, talent, and time with Adventure Mamas Initiative and with all of the families at the Bash. Having such beautiful visuals to take away from the experience is so meaningful, thanks Arika and Ali!

And finally, one last bit of lovin’ to the incredible people who volunteered their time and energy to make this event a reality including Meghann and Todd Beer, Steph Feller, Michael and Justine Nobbe, Kristi and Chris Field, Tanya and Nate Bates, Brooke and Eric Mitchell, Amanda and Kellen Edmonds, Cristen and Matt Jester, Kelsey Carlson, Stephanie Medina, RyAnn Peverley, Scott Schissel, Sachi and Chad Thornley, Janelle Thomas, Shawn Crawford, and Shay Dye. We  recognize and appreciate each of your unique contributions. Sending you some serious digital hugs right now.


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