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Backpacking life after children
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Elena Lee
(lenchik101) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 13:03:28 MDT Print View

Looking for a serious and experience based advice on how your backpacking life has changed after having kids. Were you missing your freedom? How long did it take before you went on a multiday trek after having a child? did you take them with you and pros/and cons? What were the challenges? What is your advice to keep the backpacking life as interesting, spontaneous and adventurous while being a parent?

I"m really open minded and have pretty progressive views on raising children, so please don't hold back if you have some non-conventional views!

Thank you for sharing.

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 13:28:12 MDT Print View

Hi Elena,
I have a 3.5 year old now, and I still haven't taken her on an overnight. I'm trying to take it slow and let her make her own decisions about whether she is interested in making backpacking part of her life. Having said that, she IS getting into hiking - and she and I have done several day hikes together in local state parks.

She can't physically do more than a mile or so at a stretch (we take lots of breaks and plan stops accordingly), but it is quite inspiring to see her getting excited about trail signs and blazes and asking questions about rocks and plants and animals we meet on the trail. You should hear her admonishing my wife for not walking on "durable surfaces"! She even has her own trekking poles (LL Bean Juniors) and a little hydration pack (kids pack from REI).

Recently, she has started asking about going camping... she loves when I set up a tarp or tent in my yard... so I'm planning a weekend overnight with her later in the summer to ease her into stuff without any danger. We're going to go to a state park here in Connecticut where there is decent but not too strenuous forest hiking and clean, not too busy, designated camp sites.

Ultimately, I really hope she gets into it in a big way as she gets older and more independent, and can handle more distance - my dream is to take a summer off and thru hike the AT with her when she's a teenager!

Would love to hear your approach... do you have kids or are you planning your new life with kids???

Peace, James.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
A few options on 05/27/2010 14:32:33 MDT Print View

With young kids there's definitely a new set of challenges, but there are options...

-- Start with some car camping to find out what it's like to go camping with a baby or toddler. It's a unique problem set and you may be thankful for the additional supplies in the car.

-- One parent goes "ultralight", while the other carries the baby. It's possible to gear up so that you have ultralight gear for the family, which might put you into a 20 or 25 pound base weight. Then one of you carries the kid in a carrier while the other carries all the gear.

-- Canoeing - Gear weight is not nearly as much of a concern when water is doing most of the work. Canoeing can be an awesome way to get into the deep wilderness while still bringing some of the additional supplies needed for the kiddo.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 14:38:43 MDT Print View

Having kids is a big responsibility, and is more important than your recreational activities.

But you can do both.

I began small BPing trips with the kids when they were around 5. My daughter did not care for it, and my son enjoyed them. As a family, tent camping, car camping, and then tent trailer camping were more enjoyable for everyone, and we did that a LOT.

I did continue to BP, but less frequently. Actually when they were little, I often did a snow trip every year between Christmas and New Years. Plus several 2-3 day trips yearly. When the kids got into Jr High, sports and other activities garnered most of their attention, and my free time. All good stuff. Both graduated from college. Sports paid for 1/2 of my son's college education. My son still backpacks.

No epic trips when the kids were at home. It would not have been appropriate. And now I am BPing much more since they got out of high school. Not as much as I would like, since my wife won't sleep on the ground. But we hike together almost every weekend most of the time. She is fine with my BPing a lot if I like, but I prefer spending most of my vacation and liesure time with her... that is why I married her.

So... I get out a lot, and manage to keep my life in equilibrium.

Bottom line, kids come first. If you can integrate BPing into your family life, and even become a backpacking family, all the better. You do not have to give up either.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 14:46:37 MDT Print View

In all aspects, your life will be different!

We had one family here go on a trek through the Pyrenees with a three-months old daughter. She got along just fine. They did finally decide to abort the trip, not because daughter was having problems but because the terrain was becoming rough enough that they were worried about safety.

IMHO, introducing your kids to backpacking and making sure they learn to love it is one of the best things you can do to insure the future of our wild spaces! That means you have to hike the kids' hike, not your own, for many years to come. When they're younger, you'll be doing lots of really short trips and lots of base-camp style trips. Somewhere in the demarcation line between child and teenager, they will suddenly start leaving you in their dust! Then they'll leave the nest and you'll be backpacking on your own!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 14:56:53 MDT Print View

I have talked pretty openly about my experiences with son #1 who is now 12 1/2. My outdoor life never suffered much.

But here is a key part - Ford loved going. Not all kids will. Some kids will wail or not be much of a hiker.

Most people don't have a great drive to get out right after having kids - but that is the same with any hobby and having kids.

I have a now 2 month old second son, Walker. Have we backpacked yet? No. Why not? It is COLD! and wet ;-) I'll take him later. No point in suffering. I suffered a lot with Ford (going out in rain, snow, etc) and see no reason to go through that again ;-)

The best age was when he could hike next to me, from 4 years and on. The years of 7 to 11 were the best of those - he had energy and didn't talk back. Hit 11 and got a mind of his own. I let him chill the past 2 years and he is getting the love back. Teen years can be good or bad I hear...hoping mine leans to happy - but I won't force him.

Your adventures? It depends again on you. I took Ford on crazy trips. I probably won't with Walker. I am older now...and that drive isn't in me anymore. I am happy with milder trips with the kids. I have become more interested in plants and animals rather than hauling son 2 on multi day trips. I changed basically more than anything.

As for freedom? I don't know. You are never the same after having a child - and more so you change with each additional child. Being spontaneous isn't easy once you are a parent (especially when they get to school age) but if you are like me, well you find that is OK, you don't miss it.

I get out a lot these days, as much as ever, but just in different ways. For example, Walker doesn't like a front pack but will sit in his car seat happily. So we go for long walks on rail to trails, his car seat installed in a BOB Revolution jogger stroller. I get out, I get miles. Fresh air and scenery. And I am a few months he will be in a back backpack and we can hit the trails once again.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 15:02:03 MDT Print View

Love the pic of Walker's intense interest in the world around him!

I forgot to mention that I have started this process all over again with my grandchildren!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/27/2010 15:02:44 MDT.

Elena Lee
(lenchik101) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
Re: re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 17:28:38 MDT Print View

James your daughter is adorable on the picture!

well, i don't know of my approach yet... i guess i have to think in terms of age. I know most of my friends wouldn't leave their child with grandma/grandpa over several nights until they are about age 2. That means that the only options for the two of us would be either go separately or go with the baby. i don't see any problem for the kid to stay with just one of the parents for a couple of days if the other one needs a fresh re-charge now and then. we also plan on some extensive support from grandma and grandpa once the baby is a little older so hopefully we'll have some time on our own to make up for all those traveling and dream trips that we still wanted to do while we were young. my parents live overseas and i don't see them often, and i'm sure they would love to take care of their grandchildren since they don't have demanding careers. i remember being sent off to a grandma for several months in the summer and i loved it. once they grow up a little , i plan on doing the same (if my parents are still well and on board with this idea:), and also so that my kid has different cultural experiences. I also plan that my mom would come and stay with us during summers so that we can have some freedom of movement. Of course this is all what would ideally happen, but of course life makes its own corrections in our plans : )

Elena Lee
(lenchik101) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
Re: Re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 17:50:48 MDT Print View

Sara, you have some lucky children! he is only two months old and has such a thoughtful gaze! I hope i do have the energy and patience to do as much outside as you did.

Nick, i agree that children come first. but i also want to emphasize one of my own beliefs that i would like my children to be a part of our lives, and share our lives together fully, rather than making them the center and the pinnacle of everything. in my case, my husband is pretty enthusiastic about involving our future kids into everything we do, so our motto is "life doesn't end after kids" :). i think it's also important to have our own "couple" time, so our relationship stays fresh and dynamic. i've seen lots of parents giving up on their personal interests and dreams just for the kids, later to find out that the actual romantic relationship between the partners is gone. it won't be easy, but i hope to find that perfect balance.

Kieran, that's a great advice about a canoe, i haven't though about it! we may want to try an overnight ultralighter maybe after six months or so? my husband can definitely carry a lot more weight! a couple of years ago, when i made him backpack with me he said " you are creating a monster" and now i believe him. he is very fit and can do some heavy carry if necessary. My biggest question is how does one handle the diaper and washing situation?

Mary, yes i read the Pyrenees' baby thread and it was very interesting. we won't be able to do something like this as we don't have the time. but maybe hiking the wonderland trail once they are 5-6? i've seen some kid trip reports posted here and it was impressive!

Edited by lenchik101 on 05/27/2010 17:55:14 MDT.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 18:02:04 MDT Print View

My biggest question is how does one handle the diaper and washing situation?

That's where I think some car camping would help you out. You could test a few different methods in the field for effectiveness and practicality. The easy answer is baby wipes, but they could easily get heavy if you needed a lot. But you may be able to find creative ways to deal with it. You may want to find the person here who wrote the article about the 3 month hike with their infant to find out how they managed some of that and PM them - they definitely have some expertise in this realm.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 18:56:37 MDT Print View

I guess I would just reiterate what has been said above:

(1) Start with car camping. Find a good state park with something interesting to do; like here in Oregon, our favorite has been a campground on the coast with dunes to play in and around. But, stay in a tent, not a trailer, and get them used to needing less and less from the car as they get older.

(2) As your child/children get older, you will get to know their personalities and abilities. I have 2 girls and my first just didn't seem to have the stamina or interest. She's 8 now, so I'm going to start working towards occasional overnight trips with minimal distance.

(3) For now, I just keep my backpacking trips as "my" trips. It does take extra planning and you really have to have an understanding spouse/partner. I've found one of the hardest things is getting over the guilty feeling of not being around for the weekend and putting a trip on the calendar.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Backpacking life after children on 05/27/2010 21:32:45 MDT Print View

On the diapering and feeding.....
I'll say this from my experiences with Ford that when super young it is a PITA no matter what. When they get older it gets easier with every year that passes.On short trips a good quality disposable diaper is gold. Cloth diapers ... er....OK, I admit it,I HATE them for the outdoors. I learned to pack out used ones in gallon freezer bags.

On feeding - a double edged sword there. If you BF you can't leave the baby for more than a couple hours as you will need to pump (it is painful to say the least if you can't). BF'ing is great if baby is with you though. If you bottle feed formula you can leave them at home but if they come with you, you need to carry dry powder, bottles and water.

You also find that no matter what your UL lifestyle you will end carrying more junk. It just happens. You have to have extra clothing, etc - cause if you don't you know they will pick that one time to have a colossal record breaking blowout ;-)

Babies slow you down...even when you get on a schedule. They just do. It takes 2-3 times longer to get everyone ready, in the car and off. When they are hungry you have to stop. A dirty diaper and the wailing won't stop till you stop ;-)

On mom and dads relationship - you have that part right! The kids need to be part of the family and not the families focus - in other words everyone is a tree in the forest. Too many parents quit having an identity once the kids come along and forget they are the old growth in the forest. Sounds dumb, but it makes sense. Kirk and I have date night once a week usually. (It has slowed down due to the new baby but that is just being tired!) We have our hobbies, our things we do kidless. It is very important to stay friends, to be involved with each others daily lives. So while our boys are our lives - they are only part of our lives.

But do realize that babies do change the relationship. Those first couple months are hard emotionally on everyone. The lack of sleep can really put a damper on everyone.

That is why we have a family hike day most weekends - we all get out together. It builds our family up. We talk, we are relaxed.

On getting started:
Dayhiking. Car camping. Then short backpacks. By the time the kids are older you will know if they are into it. If not....well then they stay behind and you two go.

But don't be surprised if what you desire changes. It creeps up on you!

And last but not baby is easy but if you have two in a short period it gets much harder. Go to three or more and you gotta have energy!

Scott Lehr
(lehrscott4) - F

Locale: Louisville - KY
First Trip on 05/28/2010 04:34:13 MDT Print View

This weekend will be my 20 months old daughters first overnight tent camping trip. We are taking my HUGE family tent and a bunch of goodies to help her enjoy it. I just hope that the weather is good and the heat doesn't get too bad. This is my little playmatemolly

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
re: Backpacking life after children on 05/28/2010 06:34:58 MDT Print View

Love that nucky!!! LMAO! Have a wonderful first camping weekend together...


Peace, James.

Geoff Webb
(photonic) - F
Re: re: Backpacking life after children on 05/28/2010 08:54:18 MDT Print View

If you are taking kids into the woods, PLEASE teach them the Hug A Tree program. I teach it 3 times a year to my Cub Scout pack. One of my scouts has a two year old sister that quizzes me on Hug A Tree on every hike.

You can find more info at

The basic principles are:
1. Hug A Tree (stay in one spot)
2. Put on your bag (conserve body heat)
3. Make yourself big (help searchers find you)

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
the cycle of camping with kids on 05/28/2010 09:21:30 MDT Print View

Girls are different than boys. The girls may tolerate backpacking, but the boys may love it.

When the kids are toddlers, think about car camping. We had a pickup camper, and it was great. We did fishing, bike riding, and short hikes.

When my son was about 6, we walked a mile to a mountain lake and camped. He carried a small day pack, with his lunch and a rain coat in it. Each year after that we went on longer and harder backpacks, maybe 6 per year.

When he was 11 we joined scouts. I say "we" because I committed to be involved, lead trips, take training, wear the uniform, the works. From that point on, he wasn't going on a hike with his boring old Dad, he was going with his friends. We didn't particularly like the culture in our troop, so we changed it by leading backpacks, and training the new scouts. When my daughter was about 15, she swore off backpacking, FOREVER (so far).

When my son was old enough I led a 4 day backpack for younger scouts, and last year an 8 day 50 miler. He was 13. This summer, we are going to the Wind Rivers on a 50 miler.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
wifely complaints on 05/28/2010 11:04:27 MDT Print View

My daughter is also about 3.5. When she was born it was over a year until I did an overnighter again. But I will admit that this was primarily because my wife interpreted any discussion of hiking on my part as an attempt to abandon her. For that matter to a certain extent she still does, which is intensely annoying, but I've gotten to the point where I tell her she simply has to suck it up every so often or I'll go insane, hack a hole in a door, and start screaming "red rum" at her.

Once I explained this to her she acquiesced a bit. But just a bit. I'm still left planning most outings for when she is off visiting her parents or something. And she still comlains that I want to go off having fun hiking while leaving her with the child, despite the fact that she refuses to spend a night away from the child, and has turned down all of my offers to assume all responsibility for the child for a long weekend while she goes off to do something fun.

Is this irrational, or am I just being an inconsiderate ass, somehow?

Now- this is so funny I can't explain it adequately- her side of the family want to come here to Colorado and spend two weeks this summer car camping. (RMNP, Dinosaur NM, and around Moab.) So now she's going to be forced to sleep in a tent. Ha! We even bought Katie an REI Nodder sleeping bag for the trip. In fairnes, my wife's aversion to camping is mostly a result of her back problems- so I bought her one of those insanely heavy REI 3.5 air mattresses.

Up until now we've only taken Katie on day-hikes (which my wife does tolerate) and she enjoys them immensely. She'll even ask to go hiking. Of course it helps that I carry her on my back most of the way- we have one of those papoose backpacks for her- but she generally walks a few miles of Waldo Canyon on her own every time. I haven't considered taking her over night, yet.

So, I'm rather looking forward to the family vacation this summer. After this, maybe Katie will want to do some over-nighters with Dad.

Edited by acrosome on 05/28/2010 11:06:15 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: wifely complaints on 05/28/2010 14:19:39 MDT Print View

How often do you as a family get away? By that I mean just you, wife and kid (not with her family)? Or just you and her? Saying she can have a long weekend without the kid and by herself isn't so much fun - being a family is different.

Being a mom is different than being a day in some ways. Even if you do have the chance of a weekend alone you still feel as if you are abandoning the child - and you spend the time wondering how the child is. It consumes the mind.

She isn't unreasonable really - it is just how life is for many women.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
wife not as sold on backpacking as the hubby on 05/28/2010 14:22:09 MDT Print View

My first marriage ended with backpacking being one of many areas that didn't mesh. My second marriage was started with the understanding that outdoor times were essential to me, and was not negotiable. Our early marriage involved backpacking trips, and she enjoyed them. When we had kids, my backpacking slowed down, but never stopped. My wife's involvement stopped when our teenage daughter refused to go anymore, and someone had to stay home with her on weekends.

As my son started scouts, the backpacks became family trips, with me and my son. He asks his Mom why she doesn't join us, now that the daughter is in college. Any hint of me selfishly going backpacking to the detriment of family involvement goes away when the kid wants to do it, and its a father son activity.

I used to be an inconsiderate ass, like Dean, but now I'm a humanitarian and involved father. Who knew? I get awards, pins, and prizes now, for ..... backpacking with my son. Thank God for scouts! I'm going to milk this ride for as long as I can. When my son heads off to college, there are still youths that need to learn the ways of the wild, and I'm just the humanitarian to teach them!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Backpacking life after children on 05/28/2010 15:23:16 MDT Print View

"Girls are different than boys. The girls may tolerate backpacking, but the boys may love it."

Not necessarily! My 8-year-old granddaughter is a much more enthusiastic and tougher backpacker than her 10-year-old brother!

Re safety--in addition to the garbage sack in the pocket and the "Hug a Tree" bit, my grandkids also each carry a whistle around their necks at all times! They've been taught about the three hard blows: "Help Come Quick."

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/28/2010 15:27:21 MDT.