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Backpacker Magazine – February 2007

Family Camping: How to Pull it Off

87 tips for making your next family trip easy, fun, and comfortable

by: Kristin Hostetter

7 to 11 years
Once your kids hit this age range, you're out of the woods, figuratively speaking. They can (pretty much) keep up with you on the trail, help with chores, and entertain themselves for hours on end, skipping rocks or picking blueberries.

Strategy Think action! Pick a fun destination–a lake, waterfall, or a big, slabby rock formation–no more than 2 to 4 miles from your basecamp. Plan to reach it before lunch and spend a couple of hours exploring, relaxing, eating, climbing, or swimming.

Single biggest challenge Keeping them motivated and positive. At this age, kids actually enjoy doing chores (camp chores, that is). By helping with tasks like gathering firewood, filtering water, setting up the tent or laying out the sleeping gear, preteens can earn a sense of involvement, ownership, and accomplishment. Pack this Tent games: a deck of cards for playing Crazy Eights and Hearts, or the perennial BACKPACKER favorite, Pass the Pigs (

Gear to get them stoked Trekking poles are always a huge hit with this age group. (Got boys? Quickly establish a no-swordfighting rule.) Leki's Pathfinder Jr. two-section aluminum poles adjust from 80 to 110 cm and have kid-sized grips with adjustable straps. 14 oz.;

Time for some real boots Up until this age, kids can safely hike in sneakers. (Though there are some excellent options if you want to invest earlier.) As your offspring hit the preteen years and start to carry some weight, though, their feet need protection and support. Look for boots that are neither too stiff (uncomfortable) or too soft (unsupportive). Good hiking boots should feel different than sneakers–a bit more rigid underfoot, and often higher in the ankle. Make sure your kid logs plenty of break-in time before the trip; you don't want to deal with pinched toes 5 miles from the car.

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Sep 02, 2010

Love the article and support for getting kids to the outdoors. We've taken ours out since they were infants!! They love it!! They sleep better in a tent than they do at home!

But, it looks like another reader needs to do some more research on co-sleeping and SIDS. The pediatricians are a little behind on this. New research is showing that babies nestled into their mothers arms are actually less likely to succumb to SIDS. Do a little research on this and you will find the same. We have co-slept with both of our babies and the benefits are numerous!!

Also, I wear trail running shoes backpacking, why would I force my kids to wear boots. If your kids are at all active in normal running shoes, they will be plenty strong enough to carry a lightweight pack. The more padding you put under your kid's (and your) feet, the more likely you are to have a twisted ankle, knee, etc. Learn how to step lightly and strengthen your feet and then you won't need all that padding and support.

Sep 02, 2010

I LOVE the idea of taking an infant camping with me some day but I am very bothered by your casual suggestion about co-sleeping. Fears regarding co-sleeping are real! A brief review of the pediatric literature will show you that co-sleeping IS considered a risk factor for SIDS. (Prone (tummy) positioning is the most important risk factor.)

Parents should at least be aware of that fact, before they decide what sleeping arrangement works for their family. As you also suggest, a small, and separate, sleeping arrangement for the infant is also feasible.

Mike C
Aug 01, 2010

I've got two girls (5&7 ) who love their "adventures". I love ASPRIN !!! My Girls wear Ariat kids boots. Their 'light & pritty' and nothing gets through the soles. They've hiked the window at big bend and the devils hallway in guadalupe NP. Aside frim the occasional piggy back ride NO PROBLEM! I really apriciate this article... hope to see more family related stuff real soon. P.S. Try energizers' crank up flash light. It's light cheap and keeps hands busy.


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