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Father / Son Toddler Backpack
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Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 11/01/2008 07:49:53 MDT Print View

Hello all,

I wanted to share a trip my son Henry and I took this last summer. He's now 2 1/2 and has been on 6 backpacking trips but this was the first one where it was just the two of us. We did a short hike into Lake Olallie in the Cascades and dayhiked from there. Because of UL gear, I was able to carry Henry and all of our combined gear and still have a pack that was around 45 pounds (including a 30 pound kid!).

We used a Terra Nova Competition tent which was great for an adult and toddler. We both used BPL quilts but he only used the footbox. :-) A Torsolite is the perfect size for a 2 year old full length pad. Enjoy!








Edited by djohnson on 11/02/2008 23:12:07 MST.

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE:"Father / Son Toddler Backpack" on 11/01/2008 08:13:39 MDT Print View

Great pics and memories for both of you. Nicely done!

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 11/01/2008 11:36:17 MDT Print View

Doug, its good to see that you are starting him out right. Long ago I took one of my boys to Olallie, the difference was he was 12, carrying his own stuff of 35 lbs and I was carrying 48 lbs! We were no more comfortable then you looked, but we were totally worn out with all that weight on a 3 mile trip!
Its so nice to be under 15 lbs now, no matter how far I go.
Keep taking pictures, kids grow up very fast (take more then you thing you should, you will find you can never have enough picture when your children get older).

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
RE:"Father / Son Toddler Backpack" on 11/01/2008 21:04:30 MDT Print View

I have always loved tent photos with kids. That was a good spot to take him to!

Enjoy it while you can...... Mr.Stinky is SO getting his own tent next spring. 11 they run through deodorant. I miss the sweet toddler/little kid stage ;-)

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Father/ Son Toddler Backpack on 11/02/2008 00:02:36 MDT Print View

DSCN0287Nice pictures and thats what father/son bonding is all about. What a great setting to spend time with you son.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Father/ Son Toddler Backpack on 11/02/2008 22:02:29 MST Print View

Thanks everyone! It doesn't get any better than that. Of all of my trips- rapelling slot canyons, kick stepping on glaciers, mega PCT days, trips with friends and solo, I've got to say that watching Henry cruising down a rocky trail saying "that's a good line!" over and over just about tops all of it. I'm so glad that lightweight gear makes this possible (and enjoyable!)

We talk about this trip all the time now. He says, "remember Lake Olallie, remember Lake Talapus...different than a telephone!" Then I ask him if he remembers Rainbow Lake, which we dayhiked to from this camp, and he says, "remember dancing at Rainbow Lake". This kid dances everywhere!

I'll have to see about when he's 11- maybe he'll get his own hammock! ;-)

Best, Doug

Edited by djohnson on 11/02/2008 22:04:44 MST.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Further advice? on 11/02/2008 23:11:15 MST Print View

That's really cool. I've got a two-year-old and I've been toying with this idea, but I'm a little unsure still - my one attempt to car camp with him at 1 was a sleeping disaster. (Bright orange tent + long Pac NW days = no sleep.) Any further advice about the experience or equipment or anything else that you've picked up along the way? My boy's in diapers still, but will be closer to three by next summer, so that may change.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Father/ Son Toddler Backpack on 11/02/2008 23:11:37 MST Print View

Great picture Jay! Thanks for sharing!

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Further advice? on 11/03/2008 06:51:21 MST Print View

Hi Eric,

Here's a report from Henry's first backpack at 11 months.

Might be some useful info there.

Yeah, sleep is the big challenge. But I figured that the outdoor experience was worth it (even if it meant that I didn't sleep). However, he did fine.

Two things that worked for me- long walks with him in the backpack. This is where most of his naps occurred. Next we went with the sun cycle- dark, sleep, light, wake up. We also put a sleeping bag on the tent for shade and leaned up sleeping pads, jackets, etc.

It was never perfect, but was worth it!

A=For a family of three, check out the Tarptent Rainshadow- great ultralight family tent.

Diapers have not been an issue for us. We carry them in and carry them out along with wipes and an old cloth diaper for a changing table. We usually keep trips to <5 miles which makes runs to the car for more diapers and wipes a possibility.

Next summer should be a great time to get out for a trip. Happy to help as you get closer to your first backpacking adventure!


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
As for sleep on 11/03/2008 08:24:29 MST Print View

It does get better as they get older - once they are walking you will find they ask to go to bed! ;-) Makes life so much better! At first Ford would demand I was in the tent with after all these years he could care less if I am around when he is tired - nice as I can have adult time with my friends and he still comes with us :-)
So guys? Keep taking them! It gets better every year!

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 11/03/2008 08:25:37 MST Print View

Doug, good on you for passing the torch early. You and Henry will have lots of good years together. - Sam

Chris Brown
(Falkon) - F
Awesome! on 01/15/2009 07:42:13 MST Print View

Doug, that is awesome! My son is just turning 2 and I plan on getting him out for an overnighter in the Spring. I've got to say, you are pretty ballsy getting out there with a toddler though. Any issues you could share with another Dad to be aware of that you ran into?



Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 01/15/2009 09:15:58 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 02/25/2015 09:14:02 MST.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 01/15/2009 12:40:58 MST Print View

Wonderful trip, photos, and experience.

My first trip with 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son was last summer. Great trip and we are planning a couple big trips for this year.


Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 01/15/2009 13:06:08 MST Print View


Hat off to you for getting your son out there with you!

I remember your original post a while back and think that your son is sooo lucky that you are exposing him to the outdoors at an early age.

I really think that BPL should have a section just for the topic of Parent/Backpacking with Kids.

I took my daughter out when she was 2.5 yrs old and she is comfortable outdoors, but I don't she has a passion for it.

Her passion is Ariel and T.V., but she does have fun when we car camp and take short 2 mile trips out on the trail for overnighters.

She is too heavy to carry now at 5.5 yrs and she is really not mentally able to do much longer distances, but the point really is just about trying to get her out to have fun.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your photos of your family and experiences!

And yes, there is nothing better than being outdoors and seeing your little one grow and enjoy the outdoors.


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 01/26/2009 03:17:54 MST Print View

Great trip report...the smiles say it all.

Here are a few photos of 1-on-1 trips I've taken with my two oldest kids.

My daughter & me tarping on the AT

My son & me tarping on the AT

James Dubendorf

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 01/26/2009 07:52:21 MST Print View

What a great argument for going light. Thanks for sharing. Brings back memories of my earliest backpacking trips- apparently I always wanted to stop, take off shoes and socks, and wade in every stream. Not exactly fastpacking, but I still like to dip the paws in cool water any chance I get!

Brian Olson

Locale: Orange County
Another toddler at Ollalie on 03/05/2014 20:59:18 MST Print View

Ollalie Lake

Looks like fun! We took a night hike to Ollalie with me, my wife, our 1 year old, and my teenage sister in law. our Tarptent Hogback 4 person worked nice except the toddler is so excited about camping that she ran around the inside of the tent all night. We have taken her camping about 10 times and having her be so exposed to it has made her love to go camping or hiking.

Eric Osburn
(osb40000) - MLife
Pack on 03/06/2014 16:09:39 MST Print View

What child carrier are you using? My wife and I have an 18 month old and a 2 month old and would like to get back into the swing of the things this summer but we need to pick up a second child carrier that can actually hold some gear.

Your trips are very inspirational, thank you for sharing!

Re: Father / Son Toddler Backpack on 03/06/2014 20:57:10 MST Print View

Fantastic Doug - I'm off to read the other trip report.

I have a 9 month old who is already a car camping veteran and has a few good day hikes under his belt, but I am really looking forward to an overnighter with him.

Funny you should mention a Rainshadow - we've had one for a few years now and part of my reasoning when choosing it was as a little family backpacking tent :)