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Car Camping with Children

Backcountry Camping with Children

Once you get comfortable hiking with your children, the next big step is to do an overnight backpacking trip. For most people, just getting out hiking should be plenty but if you went backpacking pre-children, you will want more.
It helps to know everything has a place, so you can find it. It gets frustrating when you are handing your kid a pudding cup but can't find a spoon anywhere. Here is a camping checklist that gives you the ability to go hiking by day and car camping at night.

Camping with Children

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I was camping long before I can remember, probably since I was four. Camping was just something we did and I assumed everyone did since I would see other children in the campgrounds during the weekends. I know skiers who ski at least once a month trying to see how many consecutive months in a row they can accumulate. If I were to do this with camping trips, I believe I would be around 360 months!

Once I had kids, I saw no reason to curb my activities outdoors. Of course, I did have to alter them a bit. No more 20 mile dayhikes with the wife, we would have to put some limits down. A few weeks after our first was born, we went backpacking in the Washington Cascades during a typical dreary weekend in October. My wife carried our son and I carried all the gear to a lake a few miles into the William O Douglas Wilderness. We had the lake to ourselves, had a fire and a nice time. My young fatherhood fears quickly went away. With my wife working many weekends, my only hope getting out would have to be with the youngster. I began doing day trips until he got to be about 6 months where I felt comfortable doing overnights solo camping with him. The routine got easier and by the time we had our daughter, I was willing to get her out camping on day one. I do get some looks when I'm out there....usually people think I've abducted my kids, otherwise, why would this guy be out in the middle of nowhere with his kids and no wife.

Crossing the Border with kids?

I wasn’t really thinking early one morning when I wanted to go into Canada to do some hiking and camping with my new 6 month old son. The Canadian guard asked me to pull over and go inside the inspection building. Inside were 2 officials who quickly started interrogating me on why I was entering Canada with an infant with no paperwork. I tried to explain I forgot, being interrupted with the question “Why are you taking this baby hiking”? At this point, I’m really getting disapproving stares from a lady behind a computer. “Where is the mom?” “What evidence do you have you are not kidnapping this child?” Holy Crap! So I’m thinking my plans are toast. I play innocent…it usually gets me out of these situations. After getting a grilling from the officers and a handout about human trafficking, they offer to call my wife and ask her if I have permission to be taking her son out of the country. By some miracle, my wife answers her phone at 7 a.m. and to here dismay, they ask her what her husband looks like and if she knows where her child is. After the call, everyone was all smiles and I got to go on my way.
I was a bit concerned I would have to do this charade all over again when I reentered the U.S. When I reentered, I had camping gear on both sides of the carseat in the back and the U.S. border guard was so busy asking questions about my beautiful dog in the back of the pickup he never saw my kid in the back.
Camping off the road near Canyonlands National Park
Car camping deep in Idaho with a 2 month old in late October
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Car camping on Mt. Graham, Southern Arizona

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One of my son's first words was tent. I made sleeping inside the tent so much fun he would point out the window and say tent, hoping we were camping for the night. Now that he is talking, he requests hiking and camping trips which is always a delight to my ears. The information in these links is for younger kids. I have to imagine that as the kids get older, the easier and more fun these outdoor activities will become.