Adventuring With Kids

©istockphoto/HalfpointWhen you have kids, every­thing changes—but it doesn’t mean you have to give up play­ing out­side. It can be intim­i­dat­ing to plan for a fam­i­ly adven­ture when you’re used to going solo, but don’t stress: you’re in good com­pa­ny. More and more par­ents are incor­po­rat­ing lit­tle peo­ple into their favorite back­coun­try activ­i­ties, and there are more resources and sup­port than ever.

Research is Key
As with most expe­di­tions, the plan­ning starts at home. Research your des­ti­na­tion care­ful­ly. How long will it take to get there? Will there be access to bath­rooms? What does the weath­er fore­cast show? Do you need to bring all your own food and water, or will it be avail­able when you arrive? When you know what you’re get­ting into, it’s eas­i­er to pre­pare for all the con­tin­gen­cies you’ll meet with your fam­i­ly in tow.

Bring Extras of Essentials
Next, dou­ble-check your pack­ing list. On your first excur­sions with kids, you’ll want lots of clean clothes, extra water bot­tles, hand san­i­tiz­er, and an infi­nite sup­ply of snacks. When­ev­er pos­si­ble, bring wipes instead of liq­uids: sun­screen wipes, bug-repel­lant wipes, biodegrad­able baby wipes. (Just remem­ber: nobody has ever fin­ished a trip and regret­ted hav­ing too many ways to clean up.) Always bring UV pro­tec­tion for skin and eyes—remember, if you’re squint­ing, they prob­a­bly need sun­glass­es, too. And nev­er for­get Murphy’s Law: if some­thing can go side­ways, it prob­a­bly will. If you’re pre­pared, that’s okay.

Lead by Example
Once you’re out there, make it fun! When kids are tiny, find man­age­able ways to intro­duce them to the activ­i­ties that you love—let them play in the dirt, wade in the riv­er, hang out at the crag. When they’re a lit­tle old­er, down­load apps about ani­mal tracks and plant iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. For kids in ele­men­tary school, try geochaching and knot-tying. And when all else fails, and the whole team is sun­burned and cranky, just remem­ber: if you show them the things you love about the out­doors, they’re bound to see the joy too.

Expect Changes
Final­ly, be pre­pared to adjust your expec­ta­tions. No mat­ter how hard you’re used to crush­ing at the crag, kids are going to change things. Your goals will be dif­fer­ent, you’ll have dif­fer­ent respon­si­bil­i­ties, and—at least for the first cou­ple of trips—you’ll have a lot more on your mind than you did before your fam­i­ly came along. But ulti­mate­ly, that’s a good thing. “The way we define a suc­cess­ful day out­doors has changed,” says moun­tain guide and first-time father Chris Med­er. “Most days with our daugh­ter, we don’t cov­er much ground at all. But with her per­spec­tive, it’s pos­si­ble to have fun inside a twen­ty-foot cir­cle with­in sight of the car.”