Camping in the woods with children can be one of the greatest experiences you can have if you spend the proper time planning the trip.My family has been camping since our youngest was two as a group and we did father son trips with the oldest before that when he was a young buck. My wife and I have learned many things along the way that have helped us be successful on our trips.
Last summer we took our greatest adventure. We went to the Wind River range in Wyoming for eight nights and nine days. We planned to fish, rock climb and day hike out of the big sandy area and the cirque of the towers. But we had no real agenda after that. Our boys were 8 and 6 on this trip. Sugar and I decided to follow along behind them moving at their pace.
For the most part this worked with a little prompting. We found that we could hike six to nine miles a day but it took all day. At first I did not like the slow pace but once I relaxed I saw things I have never seen before on a camping trip. Everything was new and different to my children since it was their first trip to the west and the Wind Rivers.
They embraced it with the same vigor that most children embrace Toys are Us on a Christmas shopping spree. Over the next week we climbed six, ten pitch routes with one or both of our children and did several long day hikes and fished a lot. Never was any activity our idea. We let our children make all the decisions about our activities each day. While we prompted them at times it was their choice on what we did.
This included what we ate each day and when we ate. We talked about having a limited amount of food and other supplies so if we were to run out; we truly would be out . I think they understood this, but Josh my 8 year old is a hoarder by nature anyway. Jake who was 6 had to review his food hourly to make sure nothing or no body had relieved him of his supply; which was quite funny.
There are several tips that we have found that are very helpful to remember. First children should carry a maximum weight of one third of their body weight; best case one forth of their weight. They should carry their weight in a pack that FITS. This is one of the most important points for success with your children. Boots and outerwear should be at the same quality and fit as your own.
Finally so much of the success of your trip is understanding everything is new; needs to be explored and takes time for children. Here is a novel statement; children’s legs are shorter and it takes them usually twice the time to cover the same distance. Young children have no idea of scale or distance because they have very little experience to draw from. So asking your children how far would you like to go may result in poor planning.
The one area that I feel is very important for younger children on longer trips is to let them bring a small toy and some games; for example a deck of cards and match box cars.