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Yosemite North Rim Traverse with an 8 year old
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Brendan Kehde
(Caretaker) - F

Locale: Jupiter, Florida
Yosemite North Rim Traverse with an 8 year old on 08/19/2010 11:43:11 MDT Print View

Snow Creek trail

We recently took a family vacation out to San Francisco and Yosemite. Part of the trip was a backpacking traverse of the North Rim of the Valley following a similar route as outlined in Backpacker Magazine. I cut the daily mileage down to meet my 8 year old daughter's and wife's needs better and we ended up with mornings filled with great hiking and afternoons spent swimming and lounging in really beautiful campsites.

If you go to the link below you can be linked to lots of pictures with details about our experience and a complete gear list spreadsheet.

Ryan McCulloch

Locale: NOVA
A couple of questions? on 08/19/2010 12:57:09 MDT Print View


Great trip! It looks like you guys had a really fun time. Its inspiring to see other parents out with their kid(s). Does Ava (I think that is your childs name from the pics) really enjoy backpacking, and has she all along? How far can she hike in a stretch at 8? My 3 year old really enjoys it when we set up camp, but sometimes the hikes can be a little tough (even when we stop every 2 ft to examine a spider or caterpillar).

I don't know if you remember, but about a year ago, I started a thread that my wife and I were trying to start backpacking with our 2 year old and were looking for a sleep system. We took your recommendations, got a rainshadow 2, three neoairs, and quilts and have gone on 10 or more family backpacking trips since then. So, thanks!

But, I see you are using a new tent that you did MYOG. I'm really interested. Looks like you have a lot more room - is that the reason for making it? Is it lighter, and does it occupy a much larger footprint than the rainshadow? Any info would be much appreciated.

Again, thanks for your suggestions, they really have made it possible to get out more with our little one.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
backpacking kids on 08/19/2010 13:01:22 MDT Print View

Last year, Ken and David and I ran into a mom and dad and their spunky 6 year old girl on top of Bishop Pass (12K). They were finishing up a reverse run of the same trip we were doing, so they'd already done Lamarck Col (13K) to Muir Pass (12K) to where we saw them the last few days. The girl was having a blast and reminded me of a young mountain goat (which are also called kids, right?).

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: A couple of questions? on 08/19/2010 13:07:44 MDT Print View

I don't backpack with any child other than a 7-year-old girl with her father and mother. I'm told that the maximum daily distance (miles) for a child is equivalent to their age (although that doesn't work at the low end). That also makes the assumption that the child is not carrying a load. A 2- or 3-year old obviously can't carry anything, and might have to be placed into a baby carrier after a bit. A 4-year-old might carry a water bottle or teddy bear. A 7-year-old might also carry a kid's camera. You probably need to keep an 8-year-old's load to 10-15% of body weight. Once they approach adolescence, they could carry 20% of body weight, although I saw one tough 8-year-old boy carrying 33% of body weight. The awkward age is around 3 years old when they have to be carried when the going gets tough, so the dad's load becomes harsh. Those were the situations when I was recruited to act as a sherpa.


Brendan Kehde
(Caretaker) - F

Locale: Jupiter, Florida
Answers to questions on 08/19/2010 19:26:50 MDT Print View

Hey Ryan,

I am just getting back into outdoor trips now that my daughter is getting old enough. On the trips, I'd say she most enjoys the intense family time, playing in camp, swimming in the creeks, exploring, and the beautiful wild lands we have seen. Hiking to her is just what you have to do to get those other things.

She is pretty fit as we eat very healthy, she's on a swim team, bikes to school, takes family walks and sometimes jogs a little when my wife and I run. The only real hiking we have done is on these trips because we currently live in flat, hot, South Florida, but still she's done almost 8 miles in a day with a 5 pound pack. Even at a slow pace we are in camp pretty early and she has had plenty of energy left over to go off and play.

Last year, when she was 7, I thought she was ready, and we did our first significant backpacking trips with her. The first was West Virginia (3 days, about 12 miles total). The next was Black Canyon of Yellowstone in Yellowstone (4 days, about 20 miles). This summer it was the Yosemite North Rim trip (5 days, about 25 miles)

Next summer I am thinking about Bryce (day hike) and Zion (narrows overnight maybe?) and the Grand Canyon rim to rim (4 days, 20 miles).

The purpose of these trips is many-fold. I want her to experience these places mostly. Another big reason is all the self reliance, confidence, real decision - making stuff that comes from self-supported wilderness travel.

I used to guide rock, ice, and hiking trips with adults, as well as lead 3-5 day outdoor education wilderness trips with kids, so I have some tricks that I use to keep her on the trail and happy. And sometimes it feels like guiding, where I feel all I am doing is working hard to create her good experience.

As far as the gear goes, I switched from the Rainshadow 2 for the same reasons I think most people switch from tents to tarps.

There's more art to the pitch
They have a wonderful openness and great ventilation
Easy to use with or without netting
Choice of high or low pitches and pitches over obstacles
No little aluminum poles to worry about breaking
It's easy to use sticks for supports
There are more options for pitches to resist wind/weather
I made it myself and it's custom to my needs/desires

My net tent has a floor thats about 78 by 88 with 15 inch sides and a 43 inch ridgeline. With those dimensions it feels good for 3 and can squeeze 4 going the other way. The tarp is about 130 inches wide by 116 with 20 inch beaks. Those are not exact numbers but pretty close. My tarp, net tent, and stakes, weigh a few ounces more than my Rainshadow 2.

The Rainshadow was a good stepping stone for us from a traditional double wall tent but now that we have crossed over I don't think we will go back to a tent for these summer trips.

I posted a detailed gear list with my notes. She carries her own water and clothes and sometimes a little something else. I went heavy on our insulation when I purchased our gear because any cold is a shock coming from Florida and I wanted the ability for our gear to handle a Spring Break trip or one to higher elevations. (The Grand Teton someday?) As for changes, if anything, I am going to sew more of my own stuff. Also, an important piece at least for us; if one member of the family has it, then everyone needs to have it.

Sometimes I wonder if I should expose my daughter to this stuff. There are inherent dangers, from which she could get hurt, and it can ruin her interests in a normal lifestyle that pursues the nice car, house, stable job life-path.

Edited by Caretaker on 08/19/2010 19:36:25 MDT.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Yosemite North Rim Traverse with an 8 year old on 08/19/2010 20:06:49 MDT Print View

Wow that was really quite a trip--thanks for posting your photos. I have an 8 yr old son and you may have just inspired our next trip! Excellent stuff!

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Gear list on 08/20/2010 05:49:13 MDT Print View

FYI, 404 error

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Yosemite North Rim Traverse with an 8 year old on 08/20/2010 19:38:00 MDT Print View

Great family trip! I took my family to San Fran and Yosemite two years ago. We had a great time, but you certainly jammed more into your vaction than we did. That campsite across from Half Dome is amazing by itself. I'm sure it will bring back fond memories for years to come.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: backpacking kids on 08/21/2010 07:16:17 MDT Print View

That little girl was amazing Cary. I just remember her coming down Bishop Pass and having the time of her life! That was sooooo cool!

Jennifer W
(tothetrail) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal.
Re: Re: Gear list on 08/21/2010 11:40:19 MDT Print View

Great pics and trip report! Thanks for posting. I just ordered a StickPic, that looks like a cool item.

I also had the 404 error in clicking on the gear list.

Brendan Kehde
(Caretaker) - F

Locale: Jupiter, Florida
404 fixed on 08/21/2010 14:18:43 MDT Print View

I fixed the 404 on the gear list.

Edited by Caretaker on 08/21/2010 15:24:09 MDT.

Ryan McCulloch

Locale: NOVA
Re: Re: A couple of questions? on 08/22/2010 18:30:05 MDT Print View


Thanks again for the info. It sounds like you guys have done some really fun trips as a family, with some more fun ones up ahead. I'd love to hear more about your methods for keeping your daughter entertained on the trail. Our usual ones are looking for the next blazes, seeing who can get to a particular tree first, etc. But any other ideas would be appreciated. Its never fun when he start asking to go back to the car 20 minutes into a hike.

Would you be willing to post some more pictures of your MYOG tent? It looks really appealing, esp. if its only a few ounces more than the rainshadow. Do you use poles in the corners of the net tent to hold it vertical? Silnylon floor? Zippers at each end, or one end?

Hope I'm not derailing your trip report too much, but seeing you guys out with your daughter is pretty inspiring. And you seem to have some good methods and ideas of how to do it and make it succesful.



Brendan Kehde
(Caretaker) - F

Locale: Jupiter, Florida
Re: Re: Re: A couple of questions? on 08/23/2010 10:00:19 MDT Print View

Tricks to keep 'em happy. Bottom line, if they see you having fun with it, I think they have fun too.

It seems like you have the idea. I think your's is younger than mine so I am not sure how much you can do other than incentives and distract when you have to. Act like a clown. You climb this hill and I'll do the silly dance with you at the top. I bet you can't say your ABC's and... I'll race you to the .... Talk it up. Entertain. Tell stories. Make mistakes. Learn from and laugh about the mistakes together. Use the teachable moments to show them about the plants and geology. Try the edible plants together. Let them weigh in on the decisions. Let them be the leader.

Also, I think recognition that comes after the trip - from extended family, neighbors, and other grown-ups is great. Let them hear you brag a little about them and get positive attention for their accomplishment, struggle, funny story, or outright failure.

Now that my daughter is 8 we talk sometimes about goals, the process of building skills, self-discovery, independence and responsibility. How learning about herself, and how to take good care of herself, will make her life so much easier and more fun.

I also try to make the challenges of the trips confidence boosters in her everyday life. Things like "which will be harder - the first day of 3rd grade or crossing that stream" become "you can handle that, you crossed that stream".

About the net tent. It's just netting and a silnylon floor. I had just one vertical zipper and it wasn't enough. We ended up calling it the "birth canal". I am going to add zippers across the bottom, probably in an upside down T format.

My stuff is modeled after Ray Jardine's. I didn't use his kit and I have not seen a copy of his Tarp Book but I certainly have read his website and his new Trail Life book. If you decide to try the tarp I recommend you start there and also search the posts here on backpacking light.

Edited by Caretaker on 08/23/2010 10:05:52 MDT.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
hiking kids on 08/23/2010 12:46:09 MDT Print View

Just by coincidence I met a woman along the JMT who said she had hiked the entire trail with two kids aged pre-teens. I remembered her remarks, " A three year old can walk three miles, they just don't want to!"

She kept her kids going with games...One was something about hiding M&Ms.

Jarod Fleming
(flemdawg1) - F

Locale: SE US
RE: on 08/24/2010 10:22:48 MDT Print View

Looks like you 3 were only a day behind my wife and I. I have 3 daughters, and anything much over 3 miles is very tough for my 4yo. Definately look forward to the day I can bring them all back to YNP, with us.

Did you descend down Yosemite Falls the 3rd day or keep going?

How'd your daughter do on the 100ft scramble up the sandy cliff? Did you stick to the right side? We went left and my wife barely made it. Leaving us in the dark and camping on the top ledge the 1st night.