Kids and the outdoors are a natural match—with endless space to explore and play, activities to enjoy, and fresh air to breathe, outdoor time is one of the best ways for a family to be together. But there can be a lot to consider when going on adventures with kids; from safety to snacks, gear to activities, kids require extra attention on outdoor adventures. So we’ve put together this advice column, “Ask an Adventure Parent” to help answer some of the questions our readers might have about their kids and the outdoors. Real talk, real parents, real experiences.
Meet Scott Gauvin, the blogger behind Hiking Forward. Scott has been blogging at Hiking Forward for nearly six years covering everything from gear reviews, trip reports, stories of camping with his young family, and his latest passion of giving back. Scott was a Boy Scout who was fortunate enough to earn his Eagle Scout rank. In his spare time, Scott serves as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization called Gear Forward. Gear Forward works to source unused or gently used outdoor gear from the outdoor community, retailers, and manufacturers to provide to kids in need who participate in nonprofit outdoor programs. Scott fondly refers to Gear Forward as his adult Eagle Scout project. Between working, being a husband and father, blogging, and managing Gear Forward, Scott is enjoying get outdoors with his daughters and showing them all there is to see out there.
1. I’m taking my 10 year old camping for the first time: Do you have any tips for camping with kids?
I have two girls in this age range, both of whom are very different. The one common thing that makes camping easier and more fun is getting them involved and letting them do things. For me, the outdoor skills that I honed over many years are very valuable to me. It is even more important for me to pass these skills down to my daughters. I have found how you pass these skills down can make for an easy and enjoyable trip or tumultuous experience. No matter the task, whether it is setting up a tent, a rainfly, collecting firewood, starting a fire, making a meal, or washing dishes, I have learned to get the girls involved and giving them first crack at the task with supervision.
This method has boosted their confidence in the outdoors, and I offer suggestions and advice to help make the task easier or completing it more efficiently. Through this process, we have all found our little camp niche tasks that we prefer and are good at.
The other way to ensure a great camping experience for kids at this age is to engage them in the planning of the trip. Help them set the expectations of what they will be doing, seeing, and experiencing.
2. What are some of your go-to kid-friendly trail snacks?
Trail snacks for us comes down to the sweet and salty. With two girls with different tastes (one of whom who doesn’t like peanut butter), it can be a little bit difficult to have exactly what they like in your pack at all times. Both girls seem to like some of the chocolate Nature Valley bars that have a salty pretzel base. We also are big into kid Clif Bars that are high in protein and have chocolate in them as well. I have found it best to buy a variety of what the girls like and then mix up my food bag prior to hitting the trail as it seems their taste buds change from moment to moment.
For me, I am good to go with some PROBAR’s for longer trails, Clif Bars for morning, and then beef jerky and my all time favorite, Swedish Fish. I hide the Swedish fish in a different pouch. Shhhhh!
3. What are some of the safety guidelines that you go over with your kids before starting on the trail?
When it comes to hiking, safety is paramount. One of the first things we instilled in our girls at a young age when hiking was to always be surefooted. We were fortunate to have some of our first hikes as a young family to take place in beautiful national parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Acadia National Park, and Shenandoah National Park. While these parks provide beautiful trails and vistas, the trails can also be dangerous for younger ones if they don’t walk at an even pace or take their time on rocky terrain. Since then, both our daughters have taken to following the suggestion of watching their step before taking it. Both girls love to rock hop along streams and creeks and never once have we had an “incident”…yet.
The other tip I would suggest is having each child wear a small pack, even if going out for just a short hike. Most backpacks of any size now come standard with a sternum strap orange whistle. If your child was to wander off the trail up ahead or get lost, that simple whistle could be the key to finding them quickly. Our girls know the importance of the whistle and treat it with respect. Most people in the outdoors will always come to the aid if someone in need who blows their whistle.