Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - Internet FAQ Archives FAQ on Outdoor Activities for Young Children Part 3/4

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 )
[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Airports ]
Archive-name: misc-kids/outdoor-activities/part3
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-Modified: February 13, 1995

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
          Frequently Asked Questions
         Outdoor Activities for Young Children (up to about age 8)
                                Part 3 (of 4)

Collection maintained by:  Gloria Logan  (
Last updated:  February 13, 1995
Copyright 1995, Gloria Logan.  Use and copying of this information are
permitted as long as (1) no fees or compensation are charged for
use, copies or access to this information, and (2) this copyright
notice is included intact.
To contribute to this collection, please send e-mail to the address
given above, and ask me to add your comments to the FAQ file on
Outdoor Activities for Young Children (if possible, specifiy the
subcatagory of your comments -- for example, CANOEING, BACKPACKING
TRIPS, INSECT REPELLANT, etc.)  Please try to be as concise as
possible, as these FAQ files tend to be quite long as it is.  When
you send your FAQ comments, please let me know whether or not you wish
to have your name and/or email address included in the FAQ with your
comments.  If you have already contributed to this FAQ and wish to
have your name and/or email address added to your contribution, please
let me know.

For a list of other FAQ files, look for the FAQ File Index posted to weekly or check the newsgroup.

This FAQ has been broken into four parts.

Roughly, the FAQ is organized as follows.  There is a lot of general
information overlap, however, so you may want to scan all of the FAQ
files.  The sections on CANOEING and GENERAL CAMPING have the most
widely-useful information.

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 1 (of 4) -------------------------
        TAHOE AREA
            ALPINE MEADOWS
            BEAR VALLEY
            SIERRA SKI RANCH
            SODA SPRINGS
            SUGAR BOWL
            SHASTA SKI PARK
            LAKE LOUISE
        TAHOE AREA

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 2 (of 4) -------------------------
    CANOEING (and good general info on outdoor living with kids)

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 3 (of 4) -------------------------

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 4 (of 4) -------------------------
    BIKE TRAILERS (and related products)

Outdoor FAQ Part 3 (of 4):

CANOEING (and good general info on outdoor living with kids)

From Kate Gregory <>:

Okay, people. I have been flattered into expounding on canoe camping
with children. I hope this will start a discussion, but anyone who
thinks I am a terrible parent, keep it to yourself and instead post
what you do for your kids. My experience is limited to children under
6, although I have memories of canoeing and camping as a child myself.
The cast of characters: me, my husband Brian, our daughter Beth, now
Two and a half, our friends Kathy and Dave, and their children Marc,
now almost 6, and Aimee, now almost 3. We have been canoe tripping
together since 1982, and saw no reason to stop when kids became part of
the  picture. Kathy has even been on a trip while pregnant (with Marc),
and is due in May 92 with a baby conceived on our most recent trip!
If the child you plan to take with you is not born yet, the most
important piece of advice I can give you is: breastfeed your baby. This
will save you the hassles of cleaning bottles, preparing formula,
carrying city water, warming bottles etc, with the bonus that nursing
gives children more comfort than bottles. In 1989 Aimee was almost
completely weaned when, at 8 months, she went with us into Killarney.
By the end of the five day stay she was once again almost completely
breastfed as time and again her mother chose to nurse her rather than
get out a bottle which might be refused and then couldn't be
refrigerated once prepared. In addition, both Beth (then 2 months) and
Aimee could be consoled by nursing but not by bottles. When we had to
cross the muddy smelly Freeland Lake in Killarney, they nursed and
screamed alternately the whole way.
If your child is at the jars-of-mush stage, as Aimee was in 1989, and
you have a home dehydrator, you can do what Kathy did: pour a jar onto
a Teflex sheet and make a leather. You can reconstitute this with a
little boiling water very quickly.
We take fresh fruit, English muffins, cheese, peanut butter, jam, and a 
long keeping summer sausage for lunch, and all three kids wolf it down.
They make a good breakfast too, if oatmeal or pancakes are not your
usual. For dinner we make some sort of "pieces of meat in sauce"
(spaghetti, chili, stew, ...) on noodles or rice, using home-dehydrated
meat and vegetables.  We took formula powder along for "milk" with
meals for the youngest two until they were over two years old. Drinking
boxes of juice are more nutritious than powdered drink, and have always
been greeted  as a major treat. Crackers and cookes will likely shred
to crumbs, but we took Cheerios and rice cakes and they stayed intact.
Of course all these drinking boxes and fresh fruit and pounds and
pounds of cheese will fill your food pack to overflowing. The joy of
Remember there will be no highchair (sit the baby/toddler on your knee;
sitting on logs without falling backwards is tough), and that the 
can-and-bottle bans in most parks specifically exempt baby food. And
two camping favourites, peanuts and hot dogs, should not be given to
children without back teeth because there is a choking hazard. Jerky
and dried fruit are not for the toothless, though even those with only
the front sharp ones are happy to gum a small piece of dried something.
Beth is in cloth diapers but I go with disposable for travelling. What
I didn't do in 1990 (but should have) was ask someone who uses 
disposables regularly to recommend a brand. The tapes on mine were
useless and we used pieces of grey duct tape from the repair kit to
hold the diapers together. We carry the diapers around until we are
having a fire and then burn them. You cannot smell anything and my only
concern is the ultra absorbent gel in there - heaven knows what it
forms when it burns.
Once they get out of diapers, you have to teach them how to "go in the
woods". The big worry here is that they will continue the practice at
home, but Marc has learned that this is only for camping. Girls will
probably need a supportive hand at first. And try not to giggle too
much during the "lessons"!
An absolute must and quite likely to be hated. The smallest you can buy
is for 20 to 30 pounds, but even if your child weighs less, get that
size and get her in somehow. Beth wore her 20-30 pound model when she
weighed only 11 pounds. If possible, try several brands. The McKinley
(identical to Buoy Oh Buoy) she wore in 1989 was wrong somehow in 1990,
she couldn't sit in it, and we rented a Mustang which for some reason
fit her better.  Whatever you buy/rent, get plenty of dry land
practice, with cuddles and/or treats, until it is accepted. With an
older child (say 5) you may have to wear yours all the time to get them
to wear theirs. If you're not int the habit of wearing yours, you may
find you can't even paddle in it. Find out first and if you have to,
buy one you *can* paddle in. As a bonus, you'll find that modern
lifejackets have *pockets* -- every parent needs one of only for
kleenexes, snacks, and treasures you've promised to look after.
If you are being traditional: Daddy in the back, Mummy in the front,
baby right behind Mummy. Certainly if you are planning to comfort
the child during the trip by nursing then she had better be near the
one with the milk (Just wait until you have tried nursing a baby when
you are both wearing life jackets. I couldn't even zip mine up over my
enlarged, um, chest). Take for granted that your front paddler won't
paddle a lot unless the baby falls asleep. Make sure a favourite
blanket or teddy is easily available so you can put the baby on the
floor of the canoe and let the swaying rock her to sleep.  After about
eighteen months they will need less cuddling but are more of a
nuisance: climbing onto your seat from behind, crawling under your
seat, throwing toys overboard, putting their hands in the water. 
When Marc was eighteen months old, we went into Algonquin in late June. 
He put his hand in the water at first, then his arm to the elbow, then 
more and more until about half an hour from the cars on the way home he
tried to put his arm in to the shoulder and toppled head first into the
water! As he floated past his father, Dave reached in, grabbed the large
loop that is at the back of all children's lifejackets, and hauled him
into the canoe. Because we were so close to the cars and there was no
wind, we just dried him off with the towels we had handy, wrapped him
in his mother's coat, and paddled like hell. Any further or any wind,
and we would have stopped and changed him into dry clothes, even built
a fire if necessary.  (See the hypothermia thread in rec.backcountry.)
Certainly being as far forward as possible made it more likely he would
be caught by the back paddler. If one canoe has no kids in it you might
like to go last so you can scoop up a "baby overboard" if the parents
For those who worry, Marc is the only one to go overboard so far.
Neither girl has even come close.
Kids should not take baths in bug repellent, and Avon Skin So Soft is
getting a lot of bad press lately (see, rec.backcountry). We
sprayed Beth's CLOTHES with bug stuff (Off) and let it dry before
putting them on her. Those of you who caught my request for Blackfly
bite information in 1990 know she got only two while Marc and Aimee
got hundreds.  They got vague spray of bug stuff on their hair (very
thick) and wore no hats.  A hat is crucial, as are long sleeves, for
both bugs and sun.  Babies' sunscreen shouldn't contain PABA - I use
a SPF of 30 for both Beth and myself since I burn like mad and we don't
know whose skin she has yet. We also bought an umbrella designed to
clip onto a stroller handle and clipped it onto the gunwales to act as
a sunshade. Worked beautifully, with only a slight tendency to catch
the wind. Yes, we get a few looks, but mainly when she's on the bottom
of the canoe asleep and passers by can't see who the umbrella is
Assume that naps on travel days will be taken in the canoe. Naps
interruped by portages may just be over, so try to schedule your day.
On days you stay put, you may find naps in a brightly lit tent, with
the sound of adults just outside, simply do not happen. Make sure you
have things as familiar as possible (blanket, teddy, etc). At night you
will want to be sure no little ones can get out of the tent, and if
they are blanket kickers you may want to put two sleepers on to keep
them warm. Some children get very upset sleeping between Mum and Dad
and scream for the spacious crib back home. Practice at least one night
in the backyard (or basement, if you have a freestanding tent) before
you go. This is another case where breastfed babies are less trouble as
they will often nurse off to sleep anywhere.

Don't count on your child walking across the portage. When Marc was
2 1/2, he insisted on being carried and screamed whenever he was put
down. I have a Hip Snuggler which theoretically would let me carry Beth
on my hip and a light pack on my back, but it's hard to get a child out
and put them down when you have a pack on, and "up!" "down!" "up!"
seems to be the order of the day. Assume you will take at least one
more trip than you take now, and if you have been carrying the canoe
between you, learn how to do it solo. It's actually easier for one
person to carry it anyway. Besides, you'll be carrying so much more
stuff than you used to!
We were surprised how quickly Beth and Aimee learned to stay away
from firepit and stoves. When Marc was 1 1/2 he burned his finger on
a stove that had been off for half an hour or so. The girls repeated
"burn" after us and stayed away, when they were 1 and 1 1/2. Don't let
them near firepit or stove when it's cool: it will be years before they
can handle "sometimes yes, sometimes no". With Marc we had him in his
lifejacket almost all the time at campsites: with the girls we relaxed
a bit and just watched them. Beth was the only one who ever tried to
eat stuff off the ground, and she did it only when she was hungry. It
got to be a joke: someone feed this kid, she's eating dirt again!
Swimming was made easier by being in Killarney, where there is almost
no slime on rocks. Beth clung to us for dear life anyway, but loved it
and would bring me her swimsuit saying "wim! wim!".
We segregate our toys: the non waterproof ones are packed with the tent
and do not leave it; the waterproof ones are in my little fanny pack
and each have about five feet of string on them. We tie them to the
thwarts and gunwales of the canoe: Beth loves to throw them overboard
and watch them bob along next to us. We leave them tied on as we
portage: if you ever meet a canoe on a portage with kids toys dangling
down from the gunwales and thwarts, that's us. Around the campsite,
sticks and rocks will probably be the preferred toys: encourage that.
You haven't seen dirty till you've seen Aimee's cabbage patch doll
after a week in Killarney in 1990. Ideally the sticks would stay out of
the tent and be left behind at each campsite, but you try telling the
heartbroken five year old his dragon stick can't come with us: poor
dragon even got his broken wing mended with duct tape.
I have read recommendations for one toy per child, but what if you are
stuck  in the tent for a while due to rain (or blackflies)? I took a
lot and didn't begrudge the space. Don't bring crayons or anything else
that will make a mess if it melts. And keep track in your head of your
inventory so you take home everything you brought. And plenty of books!
Don't forget raingear, plenty of warm and cool stuff (including both
sunhat and warm hat), and a big plastic wipable bib. Facecloths and
"slime diapers", the latter being big old fashioned cotton diapers that
we use as baby towels for taking care of all sorts of baby slime, came
in handy in 1990 when I spilled about 500 ml of hot water all over the
tent while trying to mix up a bottle. Oh NO! Quick! Before the sleeping
bags get SOAKED!
Already Marc is carrying a small pack across portages, and we look
forward a "kids tent" in a few years where they can amuse themselves to
sleep. In the dim distant future we see three canoes where now there
are two, with strong young twelve and nine year olds paddling front
with a parent behind. Gosh, I hope it works out that way.
From Cindy J. Mitchell (

Thanks for the great information about Canoe Camping.  Your timing is
wonderful since we leave Friday the 18th for a 10 day canoe adventure
in the Allagash (Maine) with our two year old.  As I was making my list
of lists of things to think about, check out, find, food-to-dry, etc, I
started on my list of medical stuff.  Ron and I have always carried a
very basic first aid kit on these trips, but I feel like this time I
have to go with more than bandaids, antiseptic, and the usual.  To the
list I have added dimetapp, children's tylenol, after-bite (though I'm
going to check this with the pediatrician), calamine, topical benadryl
(again check with ped). I've looked through my various resources for
first aid kits for camping but thought I'd check with the kidxsperts!
For you EMTs out there, remember we're going in a canoe, so I'm looking
for the safest, smallest first aid kit!
For you folks out there who might be interested, I'll post the details
of our successful (I'm determined) trip when we get back.  We have
planned it to be very low key (it's a 5 day trip for two adults), so
we're hoping Erica will enjoy it.  The only part I'm REALLY concerned
about right now is the bugs. The black flies are enjoying a banner year
here. I'm packing every possible folktale gimmick/trick for warding
them off (bug hats included).  
One of the prep strategies I've been using with Erica to get ready for
the trip is to pretend we're canoe camping.  I don't think she
remembers the overnight trip we took her on last fall. We wear our bug
hats pretend to set up the tent and pretend to eat our food while
sitting under a pretend tarp.  Hope I'm not giving her false
impressions!  More than anything I wanted her to get used to the bug hat
in case we need it and the "language" of the trip.

We took her with us to buy our new (larger!) tent and pack.  She go to
test it out. And we've also done some evening paddles with her.  

---second post

A while back (a loonnngggg while back) I posted some questions about
canoe tripping with children.  I received not many answers, but a bunch
of requests to know how it went.  Thought I'd send a synopsis of the

First of, let me say it was GREAT!  We had a wonderful time, and our 2
yr 6 month old, loved it!  We canoed the Allagash Wilderness Waterway
from Indian Pond to Allagash.  This is much more "urban" a trip then
we're used too.  It has established campsites and Dept. of Conservation
campus along the way. We're used to trips were you don't see another
human life form the entire time.  We chose this trip because of this
"urban" (I know I'm using this term very loosely) feature and its
proximity to home.  We planned the trip so that if the first few days
didn't work out, we'd just get go back to the car and go home.  After
that we were committed to the river and had to go to Allagash.
I read Kate Gregory's Canoe Camping with Kids post before we left and
we took a few ideas from that.  We tried an umbrella for Erica but
because she sat in front of my husband that didn't work out.  He didn't
have room to switch his paddle and wasn't able to see well.  Instead,
I made a sun/rain hood based on the Tough Traveler's backpack sun/rain
hood.  The two sides attached to the thwarts and made a neat little
tent that Erica could get out from under when she wanted to stay under
if she wanted. We made "tent pole" kind of deals that kept the hood
pitched at the peak about 1.5 feet above the gunwales.

For Erica's seat we had a small plastic and canvas director chair.  Ron
attached two fasteners to the bottom of the canoe so that we could
strap it in to keep it from shifting around.  Within the first 5
minutes in the boat Erica asked to sit on the floor instead of in the
chair.  We had an extra life jacket she sat on.  We did use the chair
when it rained heavily (which it did for two days) just to keep her up
off the floor.  She also used it in the campsites a lot so it didn't
end up being baggage.
For entertainment, I brought a little backpack that I put a couple
of cars in, Erica's "Kara Baby", Kara baby's bottle and Kara baby's
blanket (which is a diaper).  This is a very small doll Erica has had
since she was 1.  I included some fake binoculars, a notebook and
waterproof pens, books, a teddy bear that was dispensible, and
some rubber bendable toys.  She played with the doll and the fake
binoculars pretty much exclusively when she was awake. The canoe
had some kind of a hynotic effect on her.  She slept quite a lot
or just relaxed against the packs looking asleep but with her
eyes open.  For whatever reason, Erica almost never hung over the
sides or tossed things over the side.  We think her little hood
kept her from leaning out too much. She seemed to like having
a "nest."  She did adopt a stick at one campsite that was once
a pony, then a paddle, then a fishing rod. The stick she played
with over the side some.
Erica had a blast in the campsites.  She found a stump, some sticks,
rocks and her baby and played away.  We also took our labrador
retriever on this trip and they had a great time together.  Erica
threw rocks in the water and Cloie (the dog) dove for them.

Amazingly Erica ate better camping then at home. I was worried about
that since we dry vegetables and tomato paste and make a lot of
dinners that are mixtures that toddlers tend not to like.  Either
the fresh air or the knowledge that this was IT insured that
Erica ate very well.

In the tent we zipped our sleeping bags together and used
two thermarest pads.  Instead of using the pads lengthwise,
after the first night we put them widthwise.  Used lengthwise
they tended to separate and Erica would end up with only a
bit of sleeping bag between her and the tent floor. Next year she's
getting her own sleeping bag and pad.  It was cozy this year.
Next year I suspect it would be crowded.
For clothing, we have found that for us, light cotton khaki
clothes are best because they dry very quickly and keep the
bugs off.  Finding this type of clothing for Erica was
very difficult.  I finally found in a bag of handmedowns
4 prs light cotton sheeting pants. I took three long sleeve
long underwear shirts and two t shirts for tops.  She slept in
one of the long underwear tops and bottoms.  I brought to bottoms
as well and was glad.  I used them once under her cotton pants.
Thankfully we got enough sun and breeze to dry out after our two
rainstorms.  Despite the fact we wore raingear these two
rainstorms soaked us. Now that I think of it, I've never stayed
dry while canoeing in raingear....

Raingear for Erica was tough.  I finally bought rainpants (size
5) through LL Bean. I cut the length down and put a snap at the
Since Maine is having a bumper bug year, I worried and fretted before
we left about Erica being eaten alive.  In preparation I bought
Green Ban bug dope, our usual skin so soft, and a pump spray bottle
of Cutters that I planned to use on her hat and clothes.  I also took
some white men's cotton handerchiefs to tie around her neck.  My plan
was to put bug stuff on them.  This turned out to be a great idea, AND
those handerchiefs (I brought 5 since they are very small to pack)
turned out to be the greatest thing!  Because I was constantly wiping
Erica's nose, or washing her face these handkerchiefs were handy!  I'd
never go again without them! I had one in my pocket for her nose, one
around her neck, and one I kept with our raingear bag that I used as
her washcloth and two as backups. They dry really quickly too!
As it turned out the bugs weren't bad at all.  This can be explained I
think by two days of rain and two days of stiff winds.  We had some
bugs the other days, but they generally disappeared once we got a
fire started.  We did find out that Chipmunks love Green Ban bug dope
and attacked about $15 worth.
We paddled some days only 2 hours and one day we paddled 8 hours.  Our
plan was to keep the days short in order to keep Erica from getting
bored.  After a while it seemed that she was just as happy to ride
in the canoe.  This trip is a mixture of lakes and river with some
flat and some rips. The wilder the river was the more Erica liked it.
"Big waves Daddy!  More big waves Mommy!"  The river was never much
in terms of rips, but she loved it!  Our average day was about
4 hours of paddling.  This felt like a vacation!
None of my fears materialized, like constantly worrying about the
fire, being chewed alive, Erica falling overboard, or hurting
herself when medical help wasn't nearby.  She was great about
the fire (I don't think she liked the smoke much so that helped
keep her away).
Guess that's about it (that's enough already Cindy)!  We're really
looking forward to our next trip and will do some three day
trips in late September more than likely!  I'll be glad to
share anything else we learned if anyone has specific questions!

Part 1:
We were out canoeing with Daddy in the back, Mommy in the front
and Brendan in front of Mommy (within easy reach).  After about
10 minutes Brendan decided that he'd had enough of this and with
the pronouncement of "all done!" he attempted to swing his leg 
over the side of the canoe to get out!  I caught him in time but
he was quite upset about not being able to abandon ship.

Part 2:

Back on shore as we were packing up the canoe, Brendan was playing
in the gravel.  He picked up a few rocks and headed for the lake.
I thought that he was going to throw the rocks into the lake like
we throw sticks in for the dog.  At the very least, I thought, he
would take a step into the water and get his feet wet.  Well, stupid
Mommy!  Brendan toddles over to the water's edge - and keeps going.
Brendan steps into the water - and keeps going.  Brendan lands spread-
eagle into the lake face down!  Fortunately he still had his life
jacket on with the handy strap on the back to snag kids out of the 
water so I just reached in and lifted him out.  He came up sputtering
and was very surprised to learn that he cannot walk on water!
And I don't think he ever let go of the rocks.  :)

A word of caution - you should not put anything on over your child's
lifejacket (or your own for that matter).
- the exposed shoulders are the best way to grap them if they fall out.
- if it's a type V jacket (or any PFD with an extra piece of head
  floatation - keeps your head above water if you're unconsious) the
  thing don't work right with something over it.
- other reasons that i can't remember right now.
As always, it's your choice to make for yourself and your kids.  


From: (Mark S. Johnson):

I just took my son to Anacapa Island to snorkel on his seventh
birthday. He loved it. Garibaldi are now his most favorite animals in
the universe, I think :-).
Date: 4 October 1992
Air Temp:           75 F
Water Temp:         64 F
Thermal protection: 3mm/2mm Oneil surf suit, size 10 (a bit big for him)
                      cost: ~$100.
                    (Shorty surf suits for kids can be rented
                    in these parts for about $10/day)
                    2mm "rash guard" booties (help his fins fit, too)
                      cost: $20 at a surf shop
                    6.5mm hood, extra small, rented from a dive shop ($3)
(Except for the hood, my son uses this gear while bodyboarding, too.
He got cold a couple times at Anacapa, but he just jumped out and
warmed up in the sun and got right back in. His wetsuit gave BOTH of
us a secure feeling because of its buoyancy.)
Mask and snorkel:   Voit (??) purchased at Big 5
                    cost: ~$25
                    This mask has the "quick adjust" straps common
                    now on most adult dive masks.  This is VERY handy
                    for helping your child adjust/readjust his/her mask,
                    especially when you're both in the water.
Fins:               adjustable for sizes 1-5 made by ???
                    purchased at Big 5
                    cost: $20
Boat trip:          Island Packers out of Ventura
                    express trip to East Anacapa Landing, 12n-5pm
                    $32/adult, $20/child
So, like diving, outfitting your kids for snorkeling is not all that
cheap in California, especially given wetsuits that are quickly
outgrown.  However, my son and I both agree that this little snorkel
trip was the most fun we've ever had together.
Dive shops don't seem to carry much gear for kids, and if they do, it
can be expensive ($65 masks).  If you get the "better" stuff at a
sporting goods store you should be all right.  Dive gear is only
seasonally available at some sporting goods stores, so you might need
to start shopping NOW or wait till spring.


>My older child finally can keep up with my husband and I while
> 5 year old is too big for a carrier, and not big
>enough to keep up with us on her bike with training wheels.  We've
>tried to take off the training wheels, but she's not ready yet.
one possible solution (albeit an expensive one) is to purchase/rent a
tandem bicycle.  We got one for my husband and me (and a trailer for
our now 10 month old).  That way, we can both pull the trailer!  When
Dale (my son) gets too big for the trailer, we're buying a "stoker kit"
for him, which would allow him to "reach the pedals" on the rear seat
of the tandem.  We got a tandem that would allow either of us to ride
on the front (the captain), so Dale could ride as the stoker and the
other parent can ride his/her single bike.  The stoker kit essentially
extends the pedals up to a point a child can reach them.  I've seen
them in action and it looks like fun.  

I want to second the tandem recommendation.  We use a stoker kit
for our 8 year old and have since she was about 4,4 1/2 and yes we
still pull our 4 year old in a bike buggy, but are considering getting
second tandem so we can mount her too in a year or so.  Tandems are
great for any sort of situation where the party has varied abilities,
with young children being the most extreme.  We've also purchased the
8 year old a 3 speed type bike and have taken her out on it.  (You need
to be persistent in calling bike stores and eventually will find one
that knows about the existence of 3 speed adapter kits; derailleur
gearing is in our experience too delicate and hard to deal with for
elementary age children.)  The tandem not only keeps us together but
enables all to exercise simultaneously and eliminates problems of
having young child riding in traffic,descending too fast on hills, etc.
In fact, usually my husband and older daughter ride the tandem and pull
the buggy, although this requires loading my single bike down somewhat
to equate effort.

I've read some of the postings about getting tandem bikes, and that
sounds like a good approach to me.  I just wanted to warn against
having a 5 year old navigating on his or her own on a bike trail.
While in college, I had the experience of zooming along on my 10 speed
on a bike  trail, and encountering a dad and his son.  The dad was
riding a bike,  and the son (about 5 years old) was riding his
tricycle.  Just as I was about to go by them, the 5 year old made a 90
degree turn in front of me, and crossed into my lane.  I hit him and he
went flying about 6 feet.  Scared the living daylights out of me.
Unbelievably he wasn't hurt -- just scared.
Five year olds do erratic, strange things for no particular reason, and
they continue doing those things when navigating in traffic.  And no I
don't think you can explain things to them.  I'm sure they understand
at the time, but who knows what they are thinking about while they are
actually out there.

>I take my Will (will be 4 in March) to school in the trailer.  We do
>all our errands that way too.  Recently I've been wondering about a
>tandem and kiddy cranks.  Do any misc.kidders have experience with
>tandems and little kids?  How old should the kid be?  Should they be
>able to ride a single bike first?  How long rides do you go on?  How
>old is an average kid when they can ride a single bike, anyway?

The logical place for this discussion is probably  You can join that discussion (highly
recommended if you are contemplating a tandem purchase) or just post
to it and ask folks to respond to you directly.

Most kids start at 4 on the kiddie cranks.  They do *not* need to be
able to ride a single first.  In fact, the tandem stoker is much easier
as there is no balance requirements for the kid.

In terms of ride distance/time, I think it is like the trailer -- you
just start and see what happens.  If you tow the trailer, your son can
ride back in it if he gets tired, though the tandem plus the trailer
unassisted will not be easy for you (but it is possible).  When we
started in the trailer, Alex was 6 months, and we had to stay within
the MLR (mean lactation radius) from his mom.  Now we can go all day
if necessary, and we are planning an overnight this spring.

The summary is that the kiddie cranks work pretty well.  You can still
pull the trailer (important for me with a 2 yr old as well).  The kids
really love it.
The crank has some implications for the bike's lifetime, so it appears
to be smart to spend less for this tandem (e.g., Burley Duet, $1500)
than for a mid or high-end machine (e.g., Santana Arriva or Sovereign,

See also BIKE TRAILERS (and related products) section.


IMHO, the best place to vacation with very young children is the beach.
They love the sand, if the waves aren't too bad they like standing and
watching them come in, you can set up a sun umbrella and stay out of
much of the sun and, of course, sunblock.  A place actually ON the
beach is ideal (Malibu is good if you don't want too much heat - but I
rather like the Texas beaches, myself).

Also, be sure and take some familiar toys.  18 mo. olds get a little
disoriented when travelling.  And take some new toys too, one for each
day is good (though if you're flying you can use our rule of thumb
which is one new toy for every hour of the flight).

Also, rent a condo rather than a hotel room.  THe kitchen really comes
in  handy with babies - a place for milk, cereal, peanut butter, etc.
It is MUCH easier in a condo than a hotel room (we've done both).

And if it rains for 5 days, play in the rain.  I mean, if it isn't cold
a little rain won't hurt you.  I LOVE to play in the rain.  

You were thinking of Colorado - has Grandma been there lately?  The
altitude can be hard on older people (and many young ones).  Both my
mother and my sister's mother-in-law have severe altitude problems and
had to opt out of family mountain vacations after several years of

Sorry to post this all over the U.S., but I thought that limiting it to
the San Francisco Bay Area might be too restrictive.  Besides, if
you're visiting California from out of the area, it might be a great 
activity for you.

We just spent the weekend at Emandal Farm in Northern California, just
north of the town of Willits, about 60 miles inland from Mendocino.  It
was *great*, and I thought other people might like to know about it and
get on their mailing list.

Emandal is a family-run working farm that has taken in weekend guests
since 1908.  The guests are housed in small (tiny) cabins scattered up
the hill from the main part of the farm; there are about 20 of them of
various sizes.

The farm is about 1000 acres.  They raise goats, chickens, turkeys,
pigs, cows, and horses.  Most of these animals are housed together in
one giant pasture.  The kids can help with egg-gathering, milking,
feeding, etc. There is also a very large garden (with 300 tomato plants
this year, to give you an example).  Depending on the time of year,
there are different chores to do in the garden.  This weekend, for
example, we picked the last of the tomatoes and peppers, along with
various vegetables for meals that were cooked while we were there.
Other weekends, they might pick apples and make apple cider, make
compost heaps, etc.

The food deserves a paragraph of its own.  Tamara, one of the owners,
is a very gifted cook.  Most of the food is vegetarian, and most of it
comes from the farm.  For those of you who have been to Green's
restaurant or Tassajara Hot Springs, I'd say the quality is the same,
though the dishes at Emandal are a bit less elegant.  You eat in a
communal dining room with all the other families.  There is fresh-baked
bread, warm from the oven, at almost every meal.  Just as you've
finished eating all the good things in the main courses, out come warm
pies with homemade ice cream, or warm chocolate chip cookies.  It's
deadly.  It's especially tempting to eat lots when you know that the
pigs get the leftovers.  We did have one meat dish at Sunday lunch -
the sandwich fixings included ham from one of the farm pigs.  My
3-year-old, Emma, wasn't bothered by this, but some of the older kids
who had played with the pigs were a little dismayed.

Things to do:  mostly, you can just hang out.  The kids run around with
the animals, climb on the farm equipment, play on the lawn, etc.  The
main side activity is swimming in the river.  Three miles of the Eel
River run through the property, and it's just a short walk to a good
swimming area (wide and calm enough for 4-year-olds to take plastic
inflatable boats out).  There are also hiking trails and a lake on the
property.  Each cabin has a large hammock, big enough for two adults
to read in while their 3-year-old takes a nap inside.  There is a big
campfire area where near the cabins where families can build a fire
at night.  On the Saturday night while we were there, the owners had
a arranged a square dance with a professional caller.  We began with
hokey-pokey, and when we graduated to more traditional folk dances the
kids still got to join in.

The guest season is over for this year.  It starts again in early May.
Family weekends are in May, August, September, and part of October.
In June and July they run week-long summer camps for kids.  When we
called in April, this weekend in October was the only one left.  I
think they start booking at the beginning of each year.  In California,
call 1-800-262-9597 to get a brochure.  Next year, I think we'll try
for two weekends ourselves, one in the early season when the garden is
just getting started, and one closer to harvest time.


>One important thing is to take your child's personality into account
>when planing a camping trip (or other outdoor activity).  My daughter
>want PEOPLE INTERACTION.  She loved coloring, but if I put a coloring
>book in front of her she is bored after 5 minutes, unless I color with
>her.  Taking this into account, I have chosen trips that involve OTHER
Karla is so right here. Those of you who haven't read my "Canoe
Camping With Kids" essay may think it's me, my husband, and Beth
on our wilderness trips. Not so! We've been going with the same family
for over ten years. This year, for the first time, the kids will
outnumber the adults -- scary!

There are lots of reasons to bring extra adults and kids along.
Company and interaction are important. But also: what if you
got badly hurt? With only one adult -- big trouble. Even with
two, does the kid stay with the hurt one, or slow down the
healthy one who's going for help? With four, two can go for help
and there is still one left to watch all the kids and the hurt one.
In practice, no-one has ever been hurt and the extra adults are
for playing cards with, but still, I'm not sure how I'd feel
these days about going into the wilderness with only two adults.

From: (Karla Perdue)

> Four months ago I became the mother of a 7-year old (adoption) who
> is ***very*** active.  Would you be kind enough to send me a copy of
> your outdoor activities FAQ list?  I am tired and my brain is
> starting to turn to mush for good ideas.
Here is the information that you requested.  I wish you luck.  It IS
very draining to constantly thinking about activities for a young
child, both planning and supervising them.  Unfortunately, I am not
sure how much the information below will help releave the pressure.  It
mostly involves activities such as skiing, hiking, camping, and
backpacking which all require a lot of effort to plan and implement.

I just went, for the second time, on the Yosemite Association's Family
Backpack for Families with Young Children.  It was a well-planned trip
from the logistics point-of-view (the organization took care of that).
However, it was still very draining to plan food and clothing and to
then DO all the work during the trip.  A 5 yo is not yet very helpful
with cooking, tent set-up, etc.  My daughter loved it and it was
surprising how much walking she was willing to do; the other kids were
going and she did not want to be left behind and the leader was a man
who is wonderfully patient and inventive with the kids (he could spend
hours engaging them in games and stories).  I found that the LEAST of
my worries was carrying a pack for two.
I have begun to realize that one way to survive is to identify a set of
activities that are good (going to the park or beach or zoo, going
skiing, going on a hike).  Then think about each one and WRITE DOWN
LISTS OF EXACTLY WHAT IS REQUIRED.  I spend too much time re-planning
each time.  One of my immediate tasks is to write down a full planning
scenareo for the backpack trip.  Then next year, it will not be so
time-consuming.  More importantly I won't find that I forgot things
(like a flashlight! - luckily it was clear with star and moon light, so
the oversight was not fatal).  Of course, just putting everything
together (and getting the house set for our absense) is a lot of work.
It really DOES make a difference having a spouse who is also involved.
They can take on half the burden.  There was a big difference between
this backpack trip and the one two years ago, when all three of us
went.  Having a second pair of hands to light the stove or fold the
tent really helps.  One of the reasons I am now divorced is that my
ex-husband would NOT get involved enough, leaving the whole burden on
me.  (He actually has gotten a lot more involved after the divorce.  He
is forced to take responsibility for activities when our daughter was
with him and he has made the effort.)
One way to do things is to identify activities with GROUPS; this helps
relieve the burden.  Either choose a sponsored activity (where you pay
to participate, like the backpacking trip - then the sponsors take on
some of the burden) or join with friends.  The kids will paly together
and relieve some of the pressure on the parents.  Some good ones:
camping with other families (so there are several kids of similar age),
skiing where you put the child into a ski school for the day and get to
go ski for yourself (or just lounge in the lodge!), activities with
organizations such as Sierra Club or Girl Scouts (?? maybe Bluebirds
at that age).  Find other parents with similar aged children that
trade off - you plan and implement an activity one weekend for ALL
children (depending on activity, that is not much worse than doing it
for one child), then they do the same next weekend for your daughter.

You only asked for the FAQ, but pushed a hot button of mine.  I love
doing things with my daughter, but find it very demanding and tiring.
I do wish you luck in getting things set.  We also adopted our
daughter, but as an infant, so we were able to grow into it slowly.
The demands are not easier, but I am probably more inured to the pain!
But the pleasure at watching her laugh and scramble around the rocks
with the other children makes the pain worth while.


I am going camping in Yosemite with my 15-month-old daughter, Georgia, 
and an understanding friend this weekend. This is a sort of trial run
to see how Georgia and I handle it. (I love to camp, but I don't know
how either of us feels about pine needles in diapers.) 

Do parents who have camped with toddlers have tips? I'm wondering about
sleeping arrangements. Will she be okay in an adult-sized sleeping bag,
or do I have to worry about her suffocating? Any ideas for keeping her
warm at night? She refuses to wear a hat, although I suppose I could
sneak one on after she falls asleep. Do toddlers sleep through the
night in a tent, or should I expect her to be afraid and disoriented?
(She sleeps through the night at home, but she sometimes has trouble
going to sleep in motels.)

I have only 1 datapoint - my daughter - so am not sure how well my
experience generalizes.

1) About cold at night - Do you use sleepers (those 1-piece garments
with feet)?  Because they cover well and cannot shift to open up, they
are very good.  If it is really cold, you could put in underware or
other clothes underneith.  I would not be too paranoid about this,
since kids are fairly warm natured.  Also, inside a tent is much warmer
than outside; your bodies heat the tent air.

2) For cold at night it is most important to INSOLATE her from the
ground. Be sure you have a really good insulating pad to place her bag
on (a person crushes down the bottom a sleeping bag, so it is NOT a
bottom insolator; it is a top insolator).  The kind of pads I mean are
those you buy in backpacking stores.  Get as large a one as you can
carry for her; she will roll and you don't want her to roll off.

3) Waking at night: My daughter always slept well.  It seems that cool,
fresh air is good to encourage sleep in many kids.  Since your daughter
is still in diapers, you will not have to worry about potty in the
middle of the night; that is difficult with a sleepy child.

We car camp too.  We put Laura (21 mo) in her porta crib in the tent.
We went down to the local second hand baby store and got several baby
sleeping bags that are really comforters with zippers.  They work

The biggest problem we have had are bugs.  When Laura was still
crawling it was the worst, because she would be right down with the

We still haven't solved the mosquito problem- we haven't had great
success with Skin So Soft, and we don't like the idea of more potent
bug goop.  

Laura sleeps fine, as long as the tent doesn't beat against the crib
with every little breeze.  Note that parents letting kids sleep with
them 'just for this trip' is an oft-quoted cause for sleep problems 
after the camping trip is over.

Next month, Rachel (3 mo) gets to join us on her first camping trip.
She will sleep in her cradle.

>We car camp too.  We put Laura (21 mo) in her porta crib in the tent.  
>We still haven't solved the mosquito problem- we haven't had great
>success with Skin So Soft, and we don't like the idea of more potent
>bug goop.  

Could you drape mosquito netting over the porta crib?

>>thunderstorms.  I think some mfgrs even make a 6-person dome if you
>>have a large family.
>Or if all that togetherness sounds like just too much togetherness do
>as my spouse and I did--One 4 season 2 person tent for us, one for the
>kids.  Another plus, besides privacy I mean, is that if one of us
>wants to go off in the woods with just one of the kids we don't have
>to lug along the Massive Family Tent.

Well, I'm really looking forward to a "kid tent" but do you really
think a 6 month old can be ia tent alone? Or a 4 year old and a one
year old? At least for a while, they have to be in with you.
We're taking our two-year old camping in a few weeks and I'm interested
in any advice or information others might have about sleeping bags for
toddlers.  Last summer we just piled a bunch a baby blankets on her,
but I think she's too big and active for that to really keep her warm
this summer.  At what age did people start using a sleeping bag for
their kids?  Did you use a child-sized sleeping bag and how did it work
out?  Any recommendations about brands, styles, etc?

P.S. On a related note - has anyone gone backpacking with toddlers or
young children?  I don't have any immediate plans...but I sure miss
backpacking and would love to do it again soon.  If you have any
experiences or advice to share, please do.

We were going to go camping with Jack - aged 2 (a few things happened
to postpone the trip). I was going to have to buy myself a new sleeping
bag to zip together with my partner's. The man in the camping shop said
that most good sleeping bags with full length zips were big enough to
sleep a small child between two adults, as you've got the extra wall
depth to spare. That's what we were going to do, then see about getting
Jack his own child-sized sleeping bag next year.

I just got Coleman bags for my children.  The more expensive bags were
sold out and I think I may be happier for that coincidence (I only had
3 days to buy all my equipment).  The kids LOVED them.  They were
plenty warm, have a nice soft lining, and should last until the kids
hit puberty and have a major growth spurt.

friends who camp a LOT set an age limit of 3 for backpack trips.
Personally I think this is too young.  I don't think Mitchell would
have managed until this year and he's almost 5.  I KNOW I wouldn't want
to backpack with "I runaway" Erin.

We used a baby sleeping bag the year was was 9 weeks, and again when
she was 1 yr. Then my Dad gave us a kiddie sleeping bag and we used it
for her two year and three year trip, and plan to use it again this
year. It takes up a lot less room than a full size bag. We don't zip it
up -- that way she can come into our two-bags-zipped- together very
easily when she wakes up.

L.L. Bean's has youth sleeping bags, which my daughter has used from
about 5 years old to now (15 years old - she needs another bag -
perhaps for her birthday?)  It has held up well.
You may want to post in the backcountry group on backpacking with
children - some things I recall are:
1) make it something the child can walk (i.e., short) or be prepared
   to carry your pack and child
2) make it enjoyable for all (frequent stops to examine things/rest/eat
   for the little ones)
We got our daughter a kids sleeping bag when she was 2 1/2.  She used
it for 5 years and then handed it down last year to her little sister
who was 2 1/2 and graduated to using one of my old down bags. We bought
a kids Windy Pass, which is the North Face offshore brand. We got the
bag on sale for ~$50, if I remember correctly.  it's synthetic and
rated to 15 degrees, which is the same as our bags. We were still car
camping last year, looking for campgrounds with walk-in sites wherever
possible.  But Anna (the littlest one) handled walks of 3 miles and
more without complaint, and without being carried so we figured on
short backpacking trips this year.  (Oh, we were in tthe mountains,
and we live at sea level, so the 3 miles was perhaps more consequential
than it would have otherwise been)  Anyway we were set to do quite a
bit of backpacking--mostly hiking in to a small lake in the Sierras,
maybe 2 miles from the trailhead--and either staying there with
additional hikes to other nearby lakes or continuing on every day or
two to a new campsite.  Either way we'd be away from those blasted
Coleman lanterns that light up the forest service campgrounds :-)  But
we'll be in Minnesota for the summer, so it looks like we'll be doing
more canoing than backpacking.  Probably a good compromise for the 3
YO.  I think the key with the little ones is to be Verry flexible in
your plans--and definitely see on a day hike how far they can walk.
Also, once they know about a lake that they've hiked too, you'd
probably have no trouble convincing them to go camping next to it. Next
trick for us is how to get the two kids out of our backpacking tent and
into their own--it's getting crowded in that little space! have fun!

We've been taking Eddie camping since he was a newborn (he'll be three
6/19) and he would always wiggle out of his sleeping bag;  for awhile
last year he refused to have it zipped at all.  What we found worked
really good was simply to dress him warmly & not worry about it. A
HOODED sweatshirt or if it's cold a HOODED pile (also called
polarfleece) jacket works well over footed pajamas. Add or subtract
layers depending on the temperature.  Keeping the head covered helps
alot & the only way we found to do that was what I mentioned above.
We live in Wisconsin where spring & fall nights get COLD - but Eddie's
always been fine.

We don't backpack but have canoe-camped with the kids (Eddie has a
little sister).  One piece of advice is to make sure & take along some
special toys/activities in case you get stuck (bad weather,etc)
- and don't take them out until then.  Last year we ended up spending
an entire day in camp because of bad weather.  IT WAS THE LONGEST DAY
OF OUR LIVES!!! If I wouldn't have had some special things tucked away
it would have been alot worse.......
We haven't done a lot of camping with our little boys, but when we do
go, I dress them in layers: long underwear and socks, blanket sleeper,
adult size sweatshirt with the arms cut short.  Then, if their not
sweating, we (ugh!) bring them into our double sleeping bag.  Starting
last year, our older boy was about old enough to keep himself warm
nestled in a full size 2 lb down mummy bag.  He's 4 now and I think
we'll get him his own sleeping bag this summer.  R.E.I. has a kid size
one we're thinking of getting.
We figure diapers are the limiting factor in actual backpacking.  We
just might be able to go by the end of this summer.
I used to go backpacking with my boss, his wife, and their son (then
5).  They used to put a small backpack on him to carry his teddy-bear
and a daily snack to slow him down so the adults could keep up with
him. Didn't work: he'd still run circles around us.  :-)
I think the key is to go moderate distances with lots of rest/snack
In addition to the sleeping bag which she didn't sleep in, I put an
adult size down vest over Audrey's sleeper.  This worked fine.
My family ( wife, son(10yo), daughter(8.5yo) and I ) is fond of
boating, hiking, camping while vacancy time every year. Our children
have been joining us since 2yo. To my mind individual sleeping bag is
not suitable for kids. Once we tried it for our son, but we had to push
him inside every two hours. Now we use a very wide "blanket" consisting
of two sleeping bags zipped with each other by one side. If the
children are in the middle between parents, you will be ensured in their
condition.  Don't be afraid of nonzipped edges. Since it is very wide,
it's enough if you have a proper isolator from a ground.
On sleeping bags:
We took our 18 month old camping last summer and she just slept in an
adult bag.  She did fine.  It was a mummy bag, but we left loose at the
top.  She slept between my husband and myself because I was a little
nervous that she'd wriggle to the bottom of her bag and suffocate -- my
worries were totally unfounded!  We had no problems.

On backpacking:
I've never backpacked, but my husband did alot as he was growing up. I
believe his parents took him along (week-long trip in the Sierras) when
he was seven.  Their rule of thumb was the child had to be big enough
to carry his own sleeping bag and clothes.  Mom and Dad carried
everything else.

We are going camping in a couple weeks, too (Zion National Park). The
toddler is now 2.5 and we have another daughter who will be 8 months.
Could you respond and expound on how you handled sleeping arrangements
for your baby last year?
My response: We usually put her on her lambskin next to our sleeping
bags in our tent.  Depending on the temperature, we put her in several
layers of clothes and tried to keep a pile of baby blankets more or
less on top of her.

In early September, we took her camping in Vermont, where many of the
state parks have shelters.  This was great set-up for us in many ways
(we actually used the portacrib for Abigail), but it meant that we
couldn't create that pocket of human-warmed air in the tent.  The last
night we were there, it got *really* cold (high 30's/low 40's), and
even with p.j.s, turtleneck, overalls, knit wool leggings and hooded
sweater and hooded fleece jacket, we worried about her getting cold.
We brought her into our bag between us so we knew she'd be warm enough,
but *we* slept terribly!

>On a related topic --- Does anyone know of a source of child size
>sleeping bags?  I mean decent light wieght ones that a 4-6 year old
>could carry themselves on a backpacking trip.
>The only small bags I have come across are cotten or wool and very
>heavy and bulky. 

First off, you want to get a washable material that is water-friendly
(kid dosen't freeze his/her tushie off after having wet), so look for
a holofil bag. REI, Northface, and others make decent kids bags. An
alternative is an adult's bivy bag, intended for climbers who can't
find convient ledges or Motel 6's along their poorly chosen routes.

Don't forget the ground pad, most foam filled are water resistent on
one side only, if you cover with a plastic sheet, secure the sheet to
the pad (bungie cords or string), and wrap with a nice, washable
blankie so that the kid(s) won't slip off the pad while they helocopter
about while sleeping -- you can also wedge them in with gear.

Have fun walking with your babes, and if you're going by canoe, check
out the large umbrellas sold by LL Bean (or Lands End?), they make a
nice rain shade and a marvelous sail your munchkin can help you along
with (downwind).

Consider an Elephant's Foot (for an adult) rather than a childs
sleeping bag.  They are intended for climbers to use with a down
jacket.  Mine comes up slightly above the waist.  It doesn't have a
zipper.  It doesn't weigh much.

See also Kate Gregory's post under CANOEING - SLEEPING.

End of   "Outdoor Activities for Young Children" FAQ   Part 3 (of 4)

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer: (Gloria Logan)

Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM