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.