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Take Your Family Outdoors

Camping with kids can plant a wild seed in them that will grow as they do-but only if you get them Out There.

6 to 12 years

Child’s Play
Gear and tips for kids only.
arrowInfant to 2 years
arrow2 to 6 years
arrow6 to 12 years
arrow12 to 18 years
  • Think “the more, the merrier.” Bring friends or partner with other families. The kids entertain each other, plus parents can take turns watching the crew and getting some much-needed adult time.

  • Catch shutterbugs. Give kids a disposable or inexpensive camera so they can chronicle their expedition.
  • Fish for excitement. A simple spin-casting rig and a few lures can entertain for many an afternoon. Be prepared to do some wading for the inevitable snagged hooks.
  • Put ‘em to work! Involve children in camp chores to give them a sense of ownership in the excursion. Even very young children can help gather tinder for the fire or bring sleeping bags to the tent.
  • Follow the leader. Let kids lead, especially when they begin to lag behind. Sometimes putting them up front and giving them the power to dictate the pace translates into a burst of energy.
  • Gear up for less. When money’s an object, spend your pennies on top-of-the-line long undies, shell wear, and footwear. Scrimp on no-name fleece.
    Photo by Marypat Zitzer

  • Capture the wild in words. Bring journals for the youngsters to write and color in. Have them trace leaves and sketch salamanders to create long-lasting memories.
  • Be prepared. Bring one more set of clothes than you think you need for your child. Kids always get wetter and muddier than you expect.
  • Weigh in. Don’t overload kids with backpack weight; a minimal load (a small backpack with sleeping bag, pad, and raingear for a total weight of 7 or so pounds) for a full day will be plenty.

Gear

Kelty Voyager Sleeping Bag. The Voyager kept Austin cozy on a 2-week spring kayaking trip down Utah’s San Juan River. He liked to snuggle up in the bag’s soft fleece lining and appreciated the pillow pocket in the hood. Austin’s mom appreciated that the Voyager’s synthetic insulation dried quickly. Though this rectangular, 63-inch-long bag is rated to 40 degrees F, it kept Siena warm at 32 degrees F. Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz. Price: $49.

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew and Bottoms. The soft feel, super warmth, and flat seams made this the base layer of choice for Hadley. Unfortunately, the pieces don’t hold up well to early morning rock climbing: Austin’s Capilenes are sporting a fair number of snags. Sizes: 3-14. Price: $20 per piece.

Patagonia El Cap Snapover and Pants. This midweight fleece sweater and pants make great insulating layers in cold weather. Austin liked the pants pockets for stashing hands and rocks. He also appreciated the way the snap collar on the sweater slid easily over his cranium. Hadley found the fleece plenty warm, but her daddy reported that two seams have begun to unravel. Sizes: XXS-XL. Price: Snapover, $42; Pants, $38.

Molehill Mountain Equipment Full-Zip Wind Pro Jacket. “The Molehill Wind Pro is Siena’s ideal all-around mild-winter-weather jacket,” says her dad. “Not only is the fleece cozy and warm, but the Wind Pro cuts most of the wind, letting her hike without a shell.” Sizes: 4-14. Price: $80-$90.

Kamik Courage Boots. All-leather waterproof construction, a grippy rubber lugged sole, and a high cut for secure ankle support proved the Courage is an adult-caliber backpacking boot made to fit children. Austin wore these supersturdy boots on a rim-to-river hike in the Grand Canyon. He walked all the way, which is a tribute, in part, to the support and comfort of his footwear. Sizes: 10-6. Price: $49.

Leki Pathfinder Junior Trekking Poles. Two-section aluminum poles that extend from 29 to 44 inches, the Pathfinders are light enough for young children, and our testers seemed to have fewer stumbles. The rubber handle accommodates smaller digits, and the carbide tips are blunter than adult poles to avoid injury during the inevitable swordplay. Weight: 7 oz. (each pole). Price: $50.

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