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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

12 years and older

Teens are headstrong and fiercely independent. This is the perfect time to teach key outdoor skills such as firestarting, cooking, and navigation.

Strategy Grant them space and ample responsibility. Give them a map, and let them hike ahead with a mandate to wait at the next trail junction. Cut them loose from the family tent and let them pack their own, easy-to-erect 2-person shelter. Even more so than the 7-to-11 age group, teens thrive when they're involved in camp chores. Other gratifying lessons: lighting the stove and making dinner; starting a fire with flint and tinder; hanging a food bag. Or let them study the map and plan tomorrow's hike. Teens can also be very helpful corralling younger ones and keeping them out of trouble.

Single biggest challenge Tearing your teens away from competing interests, like friends, cell phones, and MySpace. Easy solution: let them invite a friend.

Pack this Plenty of food. Teens–expecially boys–have voracious appetites. Be sure to pack double the amount of snack food they eat at home. Stuff their pockets with granola bars and bags of trail mix, so you don't have to stop to dole it out every 10 minutes.

Gear to get them stoked Boys (and plenty of girls) love to pack their own pocket knife for whittling and carving (a related accessory: extra bandages). Give your kid a budget and let him shop for his own Swiss Army knife at or Or get a new journal and an inexpensive or disposable digital camera.

Hand-me-down time For the most part, your kids are now ready for grown-up gear. That means you've got many more affordable options in new gear, and can finally pass along your heirloom long johns and fleece jackets.

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Reader Rating: -


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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