When people become parents for the first time, they often wonder how they will instill values and passion in their children. My husband Erik and I are avid outdoors people, so our questions were centered on how we would share our love of the outdoors with our child. When Erik and I were getting ready to meet our little girl, we wondered how much outdoor activity would be possible after she arrived. When I was six months pregnant, I went on one last cross country skiing hut trip at 9,000 feet, thinking it might have been my last outdoor experience for a long time. The summer that Coralie was born Erik tried to convince me to go on a rafting trip; friends of ours who have a three year old do it all the time, but a seasoned rafting family with generations of experience recommended we wait until she was six or seven. What was the right decision for my family? I think that people who are committed to continue to live a healthy, natural, environmentally-friendly lifestyle with their children, sometimes need support from other parents. I also believe that as a parent who has overcome some of the hurdles of understanding how to travel in the outdoors with my child, it is important for me to share my knowledge so that others can also try. Here I share with you some tips and tricks that might motivate you to plan a hiking or camping trip with your family.
It is one thing to take your children outdoors; it is another to have the whole family enjoy the experience and to have the kids grow up wanting to continue these adventures with you. When my daughter was two weeks old we went camping in an area of Colorado that was new to us. We were greeted by swarms of mosquitoes. If we had been more prepared and organized we would have had a mosquito tent for the eating area. Instead, I spent most of my time in the tent and car with our new baby. Regardless of your level of experience make sure you plan ahead, know where you are going and organize your gear. This will help you and your children be more comfortable when things don’t go as imagined.
Another thing about traveling with young children is that you have to be flexible. Coralie is the deciding factor in our adventures these days. The last few hikes I did, she didn’t even last one hour. Then suddenly she let me go on a long six mile loop; a hike that connected me with my physical abilities and let me know that I could do this in the future as long as I follow her lead for a while longer. I know some parents would say that hiking is impossible or that it is possible and that your children should just come along and deal with the boredom, the fear, and the cold. I select the middle ground. I don’t stop myself from planning. I show up and then I do what is possible. A few months ago, that didn’t work out so well. We were on a car camping trip in Mexico and we hired a small boat to take us to one of the local islands for an hour. Cora was terrified by the boat and the ocean, and she cried and clung to me the whole time that we were on the boat. I tried to nurse her, but this did not calm her down. We turned around after fifteen minutes and left the idea of an island sojourn behind. Once we returned to terra firma, Cora returned to being her usual outgoing, happy-go-lucky self, and we all returned to enjoying our Mexican vacation. You need to always remember that, if safety (and this includes emotional safety) is your primary concern and that you are flexible with your plans, you will usually enjoy yourself in the outdoors.
Here’s a list I might have put together for a short car camping trip with children. This is a list for the beginner who does not want to venture into cooking gourmet or streamlining for minimum comfort. It is also a list that keeps in mind one thing: Keep your children happy and warm.
- Sleeping mat
- Sleeping bag
- Tent (one that you know how to assemble and can stand on its own without pegs)
- Matches and lighter
- Simple nutritious meal your children will love; mac and cheese with a salad, pre-cooked chicken breast that you heat up, sausage, cheese, salsa for quesadillas, keep it simple.
- Stove, fuel, bowl, spoon, eco-friendly soap and dish towel, knife
- Bunting if your child is young.
- Two sets of shoes, socks and warm clothes for your child and yourself.
- This includes mitts and hat even in summer.
- Rain gear
- Trowel to dig a hole for your human waste. Read up on Leave no Trace before camping.
- Camp chair and head lamps
- Bring one thing that your child will like to fall asleep with, a favorite book, etc to make them feel at home.
- Breastfeeding is really the best for small children, but if you do not, make sure that you have enough water and clean bottles to last you the trip.
- Diapers cloth or disposable. Should be kept in plastic bags; seal each one for odor.
- Do not dispose of them in the woods. Flush human waste when you get home.
- Plastic bags
- P-cord (quality rope sold at outdoor stores)
- First aid kit
- Something for shade if there will not be any natural shade
- Something for bugs (repellent you feel comfortable with or net)
- A tarp the child can hang out on if you are concerned about getting really dirty
- Sun hat and sun screen.
I hope this will motivate you to plan an outdoor adventure with your children this summer. Try it out, have fun, and change your plans if you have to (and post what works or does not work on outdoorbaby.net). The worst that can happen is you’ll learn some lessons and be more prepared on your next try.
Be open to the unknown ahead, the trail that leads you to true beauty. Or be ready to turn around, care for your child and see her true nature.
Heidi is the main blogger on. She spends her time caring for her two year old daughter and teaching as an adjunct at Colorado Mountain College. She has lived in Canada, New York, Arizona, and now Colorado for three years. Stay posted to her website for more advice and tips. You can also log on and share your own adventures and misadventures of family outdoor fun. You may be comforted by her experiences.
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