Kids and Camping 2.0

Average: 3 (2 votes)

Yikes! I looked at my last camping gear article and it looks like I have missed my editor's deadline. Fortunately, since I AM one of the editors, I know they are lax when it comes to deadlines.

So, when we last talking "camping gear" I had left off with the "don'ts" or, more accurately, why the camping gear I had  (car camping gear that is) was not really suited for my more recent adventures in backcountry camping. My Coleman sleeping back and camp cookware have held up to 15 years of work and are very little worse for the wear and tear. That being said, they simply don't work for backpacking, let alone backpacking with kids. Any camping with kids is about creating a level of fun and safety (secondary to fun in their eyes). If the kids are burdened by too much gear, or if you spend all day setting up and tearing down camp, then the kids won't have a good time. This is Variation 1 on the old saying "if momma ain't happy, nobody's happy". A frustrated or bored kid will result in a frustrated and more frustrated dad and will end up only one more camping. 

So, here are 5 of my 10 Commandments  for camping with kids: 

1. THOU SHALT NOT OVER PACK THE KIDS: just because your kid carries a 30 lb school backpack does not mean they should do it on a camping trip. A general rule is 10-20% of their body weight. If you're covering rough country consider less. Again, too much weight and they get fatigued and frustrated. Also, more weight means more breaks means less hiking. This leads us to rule number 2...

2. THOU SHALT STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. You are there for the experience, not to make time. This is NOT a commute, its a camping trip. Don't set an unrealistic goal which leaves you struggling to make it to your waypoint. Bring a field journal (or if you must an iphone). There are plenty of books on plant and animal identification. Have your kid stop and draw the plants/animals he/she sees. This give you a built in break and rather than sitting around, you're actually spending time with them. That is, after all, the goal.

3. THOU SHALT INCLUDE THE KID. Starting from the planning phase, include the kid. Let them review the maps and trails and help plan the route. Give them input into what you'll do and where you'll go while providing reasonable boundaries (boulder scrambling is fun, scaling vertical cliffs may be beyond your comfort level). Have them help pack the gear. If they want to carry a fishing pole into the desert, let them, it really isn't that big of a deal. 

4. THOU SHALT NOT TREAT CAMPING LIKE PUNISHMENT. Kids are used to 24/7 input. From video games to tv to iphones they seem to rarely have to entertain themselves. If you deny them "cold turkey" they will tend to rebel. Let them bring some of the comforts of home. No, do not bring your ipad. Really. Bring food treats they love, their favorite stuffed animal, or their pokemon cards. PLAY with the kid. Again, if they don't like it, they will never love it and they will be denied the ability to grow to appreciate the joy of the outdoors.

5. THOU SHALT KID SIZE THE GEAR. Your kid doesn't need to lug around your dad's Alice Pack. He isn't going to war, he's going camping. Get him something that fits. Just like you, he wants gear to work. Flip flops are not for hiking and will result in you carrying him back to the car. A kid sized backpack will help prevent you from overloading him with gear. The appropriate gear can make the trip fun and comfortable. 

I PROMISE I will get to my latest gear picks. Most of the 2011/2012 gear has a year of seasoning and I can tell you what has worked and what has not. I will also be covering my thoughts on NEW gear. Some of the camping tech has become simply amazing while really also maintaining the spirit of camping. Watch for that....

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Camping Gear Top Picks for Backpacking-Updated

Average: 2 (1 vote)

I have been involved in some "hardcore" camping in the last year. No, I haven't trail run the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Haven't base camped at the foot of K2. No, I have done something far more dicey. Camping with kids my friends, that is where the action is. In my last few articles, I have talked about some of the challenges I faced camping with kids. To be clear, when I say "camping" I'm using it in a specific sense. . . people+tents+wilderness, preferably light on people and heavy on wilderness.Before my "Let's Go RV'ing" friends get up in arms, I think "campers" are a fine thing but a far cry from "camping". I think they bridge a necessary gap between "Holiday Inn Express" and backpacking but it isn't really my cup of tea. So, if you're looking for places to plug in, that's cool. Just not my thing. I'm looking to "unplug". 

Kids and Camping v1.0

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So, when I was young, my father's idea of "vacation" meant loading up an Army surplus tent and a cooler of bacon and heading to the great white north which, in this case, was always the same place, Port Austin, Michigan. Not that Port Austin wasn't nice. It was. It had trails, and trees, and a Great Lake. Pretty much an idea spot. For CAR CAMPING. Not really my thing. I'm more of a "middle of nowhere, leave me alone" kind of person.

Fast forward 30 (or so) years in the future. I have my own kids and I want to introduce them to the wonders of the outdoors. Still, it would be nice if they actually enjoyed themselves. I want them to appreciate the wilderness that doesn't include pump stations, electrical outlets and owl shaped string lights. I want them to know the pride of carrying their gear, food and water in and leaving to traces while they are there.

Going to Summer Camp

Average: 4.2 (6 votes)

One way to conquer part of summer boredom is summer camp. Summer camps, when chosen properly, can provide wonderful experiences for your child that last a lifetime. Parents who do their research before the camp experience can rest assured as their child spends time away from home at camp.

Picking a Summer Camp

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One way to conquer part of summer boredom is summer camp.  Summer camps, when chosen properly, can provide wonderful experiences for your child that last a lifetime.  Parents who do their research before the camp experience can rest assured as their child spends time away from home at camp.

Making time for your Kids

Average: 4.5 (4 votes)

Developing a strategy for becoming a better dad can sound like a big joke. To use the term “busy dad” in the current world is really an understatement. A lot of us dads have a difficult time trying to balance our professional or personal demands against spending valuable time with the wife and kids too. Just because your schedule is tight should not mean that you are destined to fail as a parent.