View Full Version : Kids and Hiking / Camping

Bill O
08-16-2011, 08:49 PM
I'm looking for everyone's thoughts on getting kids (toddlers) into hiking and camping.

My son just turned two and I carried him up Mount Abraham(Vermont) in a pack. About a 3.5 hour round trip, which he seemed to enjoy. Things could have gone bad too since the longest hike in a pack we had previously done was about 15 minutes around the local forest preserve. Worst case scenario, I envisioned him having a melt down on the summit and having to haul a kicking and screaming toddler down the mountain for an hour and a half, which thankfully did not happen.

For the next step I'm thinking about going camping with him in the backyard in the fall when the bugs die and it gets a little cooler. Basically, he's going to fall asleep in the tent and after an hour or so I'll transfer him inside.

I know everything depends on the child, but I am interested in how everyone else got their kids into hiking and camping? At what age did you first do things with them and how did it go?

08-17-2011, 12:38 PM
We have a 1.5 year old son. We introduced him to camping in our backyard this summer. We did exactly the same thing- he fell asleep in the tent and went back inside in the middle of the night the first time. He really likes being inside the tent, which is large enough to put his portable crib comfortably inside. We car-camped for 2 nights at Sugarloaf campsite in NH, hiked to the Zealand AMC hut and he did great (even slept in baby backpack on the trail)! It did get very cool at night in July so we had to pack his winter pajamas and several blankets.

I am going to wait until he is much older to go on longer NH hikes with him though. When he is ready to hike, I plan on starting out very slowly on short easy nature walks/hikes where we both can build up strength and confidence and progress to longer ones. I want to make sure it's fun for him- I plan on doing letterboxing and then geocaching at first and then going to the huts and then backpacking later. I do not want to push him, I want him to be intrinsically motivated to go himself.

08-17-2011, 02:37 PM
When they are really little, mine liked to sleep in the pack (3 mos - 18 mos) say
From 1.5 to 3 they would get down every now and then and get back in the pack when tired
From 3-6 or so, it was all about the journey, not the destination. Collecting "treasures" (i.e., stones, sticks, leaves, bugs, flowers...) in a bag
From 6 onward, it became more like adult hiking, but even now, long stretches of uninteresting trail can be a bit problematic. I.e., I recently did Caps Ridge with my kids (9 and 11) and they were definitely more motivated when scrambling than while plodding along in the woods.

When my oldest was a baby, we took her XC for the day. She slept 90 minutes on the way to WV, 90 minutes on the way back. She slept in the backpack while diagonal skiing, and then after lunch she slept in the pulk while skating. Needless to say, she was awake most of the night ;)

When the other one was four, I took him up North Uncanoonuc on a foggy, cool day in April. We saw moose poop and lots of other fascinating stuff on the trail. At the top I told him "Sorry, Buddy, you can't see anything." He responded "Daddy, I see lots of FOG!"

Every kid is different. Your mileage may vary, etc.


08-18-2011, 02:41 PM
General advice based on my own kids, just my opinion, of course --

Consider your child's personality and plan a hike tailored to him and his specific abilities and interests. For your son at this age, maybe a half mile trip to something interesting (to him) in the woods -- fallen over rotting tree with lots of slugs, water crossing (stop and play in the water, then head back), strange looking boulder, anything you think he might find cool. As he grows, increase the mileage and elevation gain, along with the goal. Make this a regular occurence (weekly, if possible).

If you want a little mountain to consider, maybe when he's 3 or 4 (or now, if you think he's ready) -- try Bald Mountain (across from Echo Lake, by Cannon Mountain in Crawford Notch) -- that's a .25 mile trip from the parking lot to the summit. It's enough up to make it a serious endeavor for most young children, with a cool little rock scramble near the top. There are also blueberry bushes up there. That's just one example, there are probably similar ones for the young who want a challenge but who don't want to be overwhelmed. It's also not so far that you can't easily carry him if needed.

08-19-2011, 12:22 PM
Good suggestions - all of you - and points to the fact that all of us are out there getting our kids interested in what makes US "whole" - a simple walk through Nature . . .
I didn't get MY son interested in backpacking until he was 6 yrs. old, but took him camping before he was 1 and every year since. The woods became his second home . . .
Mt. Monadnock was our first climb, as I knew he'd love the rock scrambling. Got him a small pack to fit his frame and away we went. It's an endless fascination, from beginning to end, of all the small things along the trail. Bottom line to me is if they see you having a great time, usually they will too. From there we went directly to a week's hike in the Adirondacks . . . He fell right into it and loved (almost) every bit of it. All of it except the Lyme Disease (Meningitis) which flared up two days in. We barely got out in time to get him to hospital. It was 6 years before he wanted to go back to the Adirondacks. Spent that time backpacking everywhere else . . . He's turned 21 this year - has logged hundreds of miles backpacking with me - and I still find the same baseline to be true . . . if YOU'RE having a great time, usually they will too. He's still trying to get me to hike Mt. Washington for the 18th time (or so) and has spent two separate weeks up at the Observatory, volunteering . . . guess he saw me really enjoying it!!

08-19-2011, 02:36 PM
I was brought into the outdoors from almost day one. There are pictures of my brother and I both in car seats strapped to 3 and 4-wheelers as kids (yes very safe I know) with various family and friends. I was introduced into hiking as a kid mainly but just going out on walks with my family in the woods. Most of the time it was to places family members hunted and we were looking for sign for the next deer season. The areas were nothing hard to hike through and you always had things to look for. We were always on the lookout for animals or certain features in the woods (we have a large oak tree behind my parent's house that is 5 feet through). So that kept us busy so we didn't get bored. We got to know a lot of different places (not always mountains) and to know a lot about nature. As we got older we did some hikes on mountains and eventually I wanted to do more. Now I go whenever I have the chance and prefer to be outdoors doing one activity or another. Due to things like this I have said for years I can find my way in the woods much better than I can in a crowded city.