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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


Secrets to success, for all ages

Invite another family Don't get all sappy with the kids about precious quality family time. Save that for Disney World. Once your kids hit about age 5, their enthusiasm for any given activity is greatly enhanced by the presence of friends. Plus, with another set of parents around, you can take shifts, maybe even allowing time for a kidless getaway hike.

Start small Make your first few trips overnights or weekenders. Choose your destination wisely, too. Don't be overly ambitious when it comes to mileage or altitude. Look for places where you can hike in a mile or two to a scenic basecamp that's within reach of a swimming hole, boulder field, gravelly river, or some other attraction. (Keep in mind that you'll most likely be making at least a couple of trips to shuttle in gear.)

Bribe early and often If ever there is a time to ply your kids with sugary treats, it's on a hiking trip. When you sense a whinefest coming on, stop for a break, bust out the Skittles, and a major attitude adjustment is guaranteed.

Check the weather A rainy afternoon holed up in a tent can be great fun, but if the forecast calls for a stormy cold front all weekend, scrap your plans until good weather returns.

Battle the bugs If mosquitoes or blackflies inhabit your chosen destination, having the right gear becomes paramount. Each kid should have a baseball cap and mosquito headnet, plus loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts and pants. Bring plenty of bug spray–look for the kid formulas with less deet–and keep it off their faces and hands.

Don't skimp on gear Fun cannot happen without comfort. Once kids hit 4 or 5, they can't share your sleeping bag any longer.

Ditto for clothing Invest in a few key items: quick-dry pants or shorts, a warm jacket, good raingear. (Tip: No budget for synthetic long johns? Buy a pair of perfectly functional polyester pajamas at Target, Wal-Mart, or K-Mart.)

Keep a group journal For longer trips, this is a great way to involve the whole family in a common project. Each day, assign a different journal keeper to record whatever he or she deems important–the weather, wildlife sightings, observations, conversations. Younger kids can draw pictures and gather leaves or flowers to press.



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READERS COMMENTS

Jeremy
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.

Katie
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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