Camping with Kids Part Dos
It’s great to look back on this article and remember what an incredible time I had camping when I was young. I am the kid that my dad talked about in this article over twelve years ago. My dad knew how to camp with kids and because of that I will always have lasting memories of an unbelievable trip. If you are new to camping and somewhat hesitant to camping with your children, then following this advice will make any camping trip unforgettable.
The hardest thing about camping with kids is deciding to go. Once you get over that hurtle, the rest is easy. For a first camping experience plan a trip that you know will be successful. If your kids can hike five miles then plan to hike three. It is much better to stroll into a campsite and have your kids wanting more than it is to wearily march into campsite and ruin a perfectly good experience. Plus, if you get into an interesting camping spot, you can easily let your kids run freely while you set up camp. Plan your trip around the weather. Watch the forecast and know what gear you will need to bring to make the trip a success. Use commonsense, if this their first camping experience do not drag your family out into thirty degree rainy weather for an extended jaunt in the woods. You want this to a memorable event for all the right reasons. If the weather is looking bad, then plan to go the following weekend.
One of the most important things you can do when introducing a young camper to backpacking is to find a location that offers an easy hike with plenty of interesting things to look at. Like any new encounter, your child will likely be a little apprehensive at first. This means that you will have to work a little bit harder to ensure a good time. Remember how it felt to be a child. Look for a trail with waterfalls, views and level terrain. Make sure that the trail is not too challenging for your child; however, make sure that at the end of the day the experience is rewarding for all. Once again, if you waltz into the campsite with a little bit more energy than you anticipated, then set up your campsite and continue a short ways down the trail afterward. It is best to have your child wanting more, than finding your children being too exhausted to enjoy their surroundings. Pick a safe campsite, that you know where all the potential hazards might lie. Do not place your three year old on the side of cliff even though you might think the view is breathtaking. Know where your child is and that he/she has a safe place to wonder. Open spaces such as balds or grassy fields provide an excellent safe camping site. On top of that you will be able to throw a ball or Frisbee with your child once you get into camp.
Be creative with your child. If it looks like he/she is starting to loose interest in the surroundings then introduce some trail games. Personally, my dad and I would play hide and go seek or cowboy and Indians on the trail. Plan for poor weather by bringing a deck of cards or a pad of paper with color pencils. This will ensure that your child will not loose interest even if you find yourselves holed up in a tent during a rainstorm. Also, give the child some responsibly. Kids want to learn and it is up to you to provide them with the means to do so. Show them the map, point out landmarks and help them identify plants or animals. This is one of the greatest memories I have with my mom. She would always take the time to slow down and point out things as we walked by them. Not only does this make the trip more entertaining, but it also provides an excellent avenue for hand’s on learning.
Have patience. My parents were amazing when it came to camping, but mainly that stemmed from their own love of being in the outdoors. There are two types of hikers. There are those that get up in the morning with one goal of getting to the next campsite and everything in between is just in your way of getting to the next camping spot. Then there are hikers willing to devote every second of daylight to seeing everything the trail ahs to offer. More than likely your children will fall into the latter group. Don’t clock watch. Let your child dictate the pace. Remember there is no prize for getting to campground first. The most important thing, however, is that your child has a good time and wants to do it again in the future. Outfitting your child properly is extremely important to how well your child enjoys his/her first hiking experience. Talk to your local specialty retailer and get advice on what exactly is important for your child to have. The most frustrating part about buying outerwear for your child is the simple fact that in six months they will have outgrown the gear. However, having the right equipment is important not only to the child’s comfort but also their happiness. An uncomfortable child is a fussy child and when a child is fussy no one is having fun. Outfitting your child to look like mom and dad is important. Remember that you are your child’s hero and that having similar gear to you can really make the child feel comfortable and confident in the outdoors. When my dad first wrote the article about camping with kids there were limited options when it pertained to outerwear for a child. Now a days all the top outdoor vendors manufacture gear with children in mind. Companies like Marmot and the Northface have excellent options when it comes to rainwear or sleeping bags. Patagonia has always led the industry in functional children’s wear. Rely on Patagonia to supply child with the best outerwear and layering options available. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Rock/Creek’s expert staff is always willing to assist you with any question that you might have about outfitting your child.
Recognize that camping is not for everyone and that forcing an experience on anyone will only drive them away. If your son or daughter is not ready for camping overnight, start with car camping. By car camping you are able to carry more gear than you need into the campsite. Typically, the campsite will be well maintained and safe for children. By car camping, you can go on day hikes and still get the experience of getting your family involved in the outdoors.
I will forever treasure the camping trips that I went on when I was younger with my parents. Create these wonderful memories with your own children. Do not be afraid to ask for help and remember the hardest part is getting out the door.