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 wengerna.com or swissarmy.com. 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.