Enjoying Backpacking with Kids: Part 1
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Enjoying Backpacking with Kids: Part 1 on 07/05/2011 18:35:32 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Enjoying Backpacking with Kids: Part 1

Jake Willits
(TrailSavvy) - MLife

Locale: Arkansas Ozarks
Backpacking with kids on 07/05/2011 19:04:22 MDT Print View

Great insight. I have more than a handful of experience with this subject. I spent 9 summers on a Boy Scout camp staff. It is amazing when kids from all different walks of life find enjoyment on the trail. As far as enticing our younger children into backpacking, I think the best bet is to make it almost a rare treat until they are hooked. Call it the law of diminishing return. The most bang happens on their first trip. As you say, when you can add more challenges, they already trust you and you can do much cooler trips. My own son thinks he's pretty hot stuff on dayhikes. He's only gone on a few overnighters, but begs constantly to be included on my longer treks. I just tell him he can go when his legs are stronger and he can walk further without having to rest. Then I take him on more dayhikes and watch him proudly develop them. He's now due for a multi-day trip. And he's chomping at the bit to join the big guys. Also, (even though it goes against the UL ethos a bit) with kids, sometimes it IS about the gear. When they get to take their backpack to school for show and tell, they feel like kings. Which makes them want to immerse themselves even more in our mostly un-glamourous sport. Thanks again for the ideas, I'm taking notes.

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Enjoying Backpacking with Kids: Part 1 on 07/05/2011 19:26:29 MDT Print View

Quality read, Luke. I appreciate your observations and breaking things down into concise, repeatable principles. This is really helpful and gets me excited about planning future trips that feel safe and are fun...or that feel fun and are safe. :)

This get's me thinking that it would be nice to have a regional repository for suggested trip ideas that are appropriate and fun for the wee ones...[Link to thread for sharing trip ideas with children in the PNW].

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Gift giver on 07/05/2011 23:38:58 MDT Print View

Luke, good way to spend your time. Giving to others. Giving them a gift that is for life and one that gives backs as well. Great story and premise. Can't wait to read Part 2.

Mark Roberts
(redwedge) - MLife

Locale: Lapland
Backpackign with Kids on 07/06/2011 07:27:21 MDT Print View

Great tips and ideas! Taking kids out on trips into the wilderness is something I've always wanted to do, but never somehow managed to find a way in to doing it. I'd be interested to know what qualifications are needed to do this kind of work.

Perry Hock
(hphock) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Great Article on 07/06/2011 08:00:34 MDT Print View

When my son was 9, we went backpacking in the smokies for 3 nights, during the last week of July. The first two nights, we stayed at the same back country campsite. We took a day hike to Abrams Falls, and we ate lunch there and swam below the falls (with about 20 other people). He loved it. The photos were spectacular. The last night, we hiked to a campsite that wasn't near as nice as the first, but we made do. We got to hear an owl off in the distance and he thought that was awesome.

One thing I tasked him with was getting the water. We use a pump water filter, and after showing him once, and watching him twice, he enjoyed going to the creeks and getting the water. Even was good about keeping the 'grey water' house in a plastic bag and the clean hose seperate.

Stepping away from ultralight, we carried a spotting scope with us on our backpacking trip in Yellowstone. We only hiked and average of 5 miles a day, but loved sitting under a tree, setting up the scope, and using our binoculars to watch the wildlife, while snacking on tortias, candy bars, granola and GORP.

Before each trip, my son and I goto the camp store and I let him pick out our dinner. One thing I will recommend food-wise is measuring out a serving of cereal, and the approriate powdered milk, and putting it all in a ziploc bag. In the AM, open the ziploc bag and dump it all in a bowl, add 1/2 cup of cold water and poof! Capt'n Crunch without milk going bad. I have some powdered milk left over, so I am gonna experiment with powered chocolate, along with powdered milk, for instant chocolate milk. Calories, carbs and refreshing I hope!

Its ironic I just got my son firesteel. He played with it so much, I thought I was gonna be on the news for starting a fire in the wilderness. He also likes to use his Gerger (small leatherman) and sharpen sticks and create kindling. We also pack a small word search book (like you buy at the checkout), pencils, and plastic playing cards (heavier but waterproof).

I also bore him on occassion when I try to teach him LNT camping. He's at the age of actually understanding it.

Happy trails!

Edited by hphock on 07/06/2011 08:01:41 MDT.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - M

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Nice insight on 07/06/2011 08:51:53 MDT Print View

I have some experience here. So much seems to depend on location, for instance my 8 yr old loves exploring sandstone formations like canyonlands, while my 11 yr old is fine with doing a peak. They all love fire, and can find joy in getting water as well. They both seam to like scrambling more than hiking a long hill.

Overall, I think this is a great topic that needs to be addressed more. Simple things like a cheap raft and a backpack to a camp with a lake seam to be popular as well.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
What I left out on 07/06/2011 18:26:00 MDT Print View

Thanks for the kind words ya'll. Jake I agree it good to not to over do a fun thing. This isn't normally a problem because I don't live with my little brother so taking him out is somewhat rare and special but its a very good point. At summer camp we called the "fun peak" basically the fun factor reaches a peak than any activity becomes less and less fun. You end the activity just as it reaches the point of most fun so kids want to come back for more.
I like the rubber raft idea, it could just be a cheap one. Water is definately a winner. Where I hike theres not a lot but in other areas it would be fun. When I worked at the boys camp I was trying to see if I could do a hike on one of the "Rail to Trail" trails in West Virginia. I forgot the name but there was a trail that follwed an old railroad grade along a river in WV. It wasn't complete wilderness but we could have swam every night and carried minimal water.

I just realized I forgot a BIG topic that I left out. I should have added a section on "How to convince Momma to say yes." Maybe "Balls" could add some insight on this when he's back from the PCT. I confess thats one thing I don't have a system or rule for although it certainly helps if you learn how to make moms feel good about things (just like the kids).

Simone Zmood
(sim1oz) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne, Australia
Great article on 07/09/2011 06:45:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for the great article, Luke. There are some terrific ideas I look forward to using with our kids.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Great article on 07/15/2011 17:48:44 MDT Print View

Lots of good tips here. I love taking my kids backpacking. One thing I have found with my kids is that having a certain element of "danger" can actually be a good thing. Not danger from my perspective (I always make sure we are operating within my confidence level), but something that stretches them a little in some way. When we do that, they always come out the other side feeling proud of their accomplishment and little more confident for next time.