Tent Camping with Kids

| May 24, 2011 | 0 Comments


By Jen Aist

Your Challenge: Sleep in a tent for 4 nights.
Timeframe: 3 months

Who’s Done It:

Stefi Lai | 29, Switzerland

“The best part is the fresh air in a tent and the sensations—you hear, feel, smell, all that’s around you. If you can keep yourself and the kids warm, it’s the best sleep ever.”

Stacy Stelling | 37, Denver, CO

“We are outdoor people, so we want that for our daughter too. She sleeps great in a tent and I’m breastfeeding, so it is super easy to get her out and I don’t have to pack any food for her.”

Pack Essentials

A knife? A lighter? A compass? The traditional list of “hiking essentials” isn’t right for kids. But that doesn’t mean they should set out unprepared, even as part of a group. What can kids carry, or how can you modify the ten essentials to be kid-friendly? Here’s some advice for prepping kids and for teaching them how to handle emergencies:

Essential Should kids pack it? Do This
Navigation: map and compass NO Teach: If you get lost, stay in place and do not wander. Your group will look for you, and if you stay put, you’re most likely to be found.
Sun protection NO Prepare: Slather kids before setting out. Teach: Seek out a shady, but not hidden, place to wait for help.
Extra clothing YES Pack: A warm layer and a hat. Teach: Stay warm and dry, and keep your head covered. Staying warm helps conserve energy.
Illumination: headlamp or flashlight NO Pack: 12-hour glow sticks. Teach: Memorize your surroundings in the daytime so you can imagine them at night and avoid being afraid.
First aid supplies NO Prepare: Pack a kit yourself, unless a child requires a specific medication and knows how to administer it; in which case, pack them with a one- or two-dose supply.
Fire: lighter or matches NO Teach: Stay warm by creating an insulated “bed,” keeping clothes on, cuddling with friends or a pet, and using your emergency blanket.
Repair kit or tools NO Pack: A signaling whistle and CD or smooth-sided reflector for signaling search aircraft.
Food YES Pack: A high-calorie energy bar or gummy energy chews for emergency use.
Water NO Pack: Use a heavy-duty Ziploc bag to store emergency equipment. Teach: Stay away from moving or deep water, and use the bag as cup for collecting water from puddles or off leaves.
Emergency shelter YES Pack: Lightweight and reflective space blankets or a heavy-duty garbage bag with a 6-inch slit cut in it as a face hole

Practice: Leave No Trace

Even little feet can have big impact on natural spaces, but Leave No Trace educational program manager Sarah Folzenlogen says lessening kids’ impact is easy. “It’s not about not enjoying the outdoors, you don’t need to tiptoe,” she says. “Leave No Trace is about leaving outdoor places better than we found them.” Sarah offered kid-friendly explanations for a few LNT ideas.

Stay on trails. “When you’re in nature, it’s like you’re in animals’ homes,” says Sarah, “and it’s important to respect their space.” Sticking to established paths also reduces erosion, and you’re less likely to damage tiny plants, injure animals, or scare creatures away from trailside nests that you might not even notice.

Pack out your trash. Litter alongside trails or in rivers is ugly, sure, but it can also make animals sick, says Sarah. “Always bring a bag to pack out your trash, and you can make a game out of picking up trash you find on the trail.”

Keep a safe distance from wildlife. “You might startle or upset animals,” explains Sarah, “ and that can make it unsafe for you, too.” Sarah calls her trick for estimating a safe distance the Rule of Thumb: “Put your thumb up and your arm out. Close one eye and point your thumb toward the animal. If your thumb covers it completely, you’re far enough away to enjoy watching the animal safely. “

Bring a camera and/or binoculars. Animal sightings and spotting new, unfamiliar things make exploring nature even more fun. “Seeing animals and taking pictures helps create a story for each outdoor experience,” says Sara. “It’s like being an adventurer or scientist and allows you to share your trip with friends.”

Be observant. “There are a lot of hidden treasures in the outdoors,” says Sarah. She suggests looking all around—including above and below you—and keeping a list of the plants, animals, and natural objects you see. “You’ll find that you saw more than you realized,” she says.

Learn more about Leave No Trace and its programs for kids at lnt.org

5 S’s to beat the sun

  1. Slop on 1 oz. of sunscreen every couple hours
  2. Seek shade, especially during the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  3. Slip on sun protective clothing
  4. Slap on a wide-brimmed hat
  5. Slide on sun glasses

A T-shirt blocks just 50 percent of the sun’s UV rays, even less if it’s wet. Look for clothing with a UPF rating above 25 or use a wash-in treatment such as SunGuard. One treatment is effective for 20 washes. ($2; sunguardsunprotection.com)


Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Don’t wait until kids say they are thirsty; keeping your crew hydrated is your number-one defense against heat-related sicknesses. Start your day by having everyone drink a pint of liquids, and if you’re nursing, be prepared to do it more often. Know the symptoms and signs that the heat is taking a toll:

Heat Exhaustion

An excessive loss of water and salt due to sweat. If left untreated, heat exhaustion will progress to heat stroke.

Warning Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness, headache, nausea/vomiting, fainting
What to do
: Drink cool beverages, rest, take a cool shower/bath/sponge bath, and wear lightweight clothing. Seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, if the victim has heart problems, or if the victim has high blood pressure.

Heat Stroke

When the body is no longer able to regulate heat because a rise in body temperature shuts down the sweating mechanism.

Warning Signs: Extremely high body temperature (103 degrees F +), red, hot, or dry skin that isn’t sweating; rapid or strong pulse; headache; dizziness; confusion; unconsciousness
What to do
: Seek medical attention. Get into shade and cool the victim rapidly using any method available (immersion or sponging in cool water); monitor body temperature until temp drops to 101 degrees F. Do NOT give fluids to drink.

Tips: Keep Cool

Sweltering summer days don’t exactly encourage kid-friendly trail epics, but you can still enjoy outside time if you plan ahead and choose destinations that are heat-wave free.

1. Get wet. Lakes, ponds, and lazy rivers are swim-tastic targets, and lounging in water is a sure-fire way to drop your body temperature.

2. Head to the hills. With every 1,000 feet of elevation you gain, temperatures drop about five degrees. Just be sure to do your climbing in the cooler morning hours.

3. Pick a trail with trees. Terrain features like cliffs and valleys can throw some shade your way, too.

Kid Q&A

What’s the secret to getting kids interested in the outdoors? We went to the experts—the kids themselves—to find out.

“Find out what your kids like the most—chocolate always works for me—and bribe them. The bribe will initially get us excited about whatever you’re planning, and, in the end, we’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something, but we’ll get the chocolate, too.” —Joslyn Spizak, age 11

“Make it fun. My mom always says nature is like Disney World and she lets us turn it into an amusement park of our own—we can explore rocks, play games, and bring friends. I especially like overnight trips where it really feels like we get away from everyday life and are on vacation.” —Jake Sheerin, age 12

“My mom told me about this thing called the S2H Reply. It’s like a watch that gives you points for being active and it shows a sad face when you haven’t been active for at least an hour that day. Whenever I’m inside or just watching TV and I look to see how many points I’ve got, if it shows me a sad face, I want to change it. When I have enough points, I can go online and get a prize—it makes me excited about doing more.” —Denali Geddes, age 8

Gear: Floatation

Kids don’t float, and drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1–4 and 10–14. Whenever your kids are near the water, make sure they’re strapped into one of these life-saving personal flotation devices.

Baby Bijoux

Kid weight: 9-25 lbs. Baby Bijoux baby vest ($80; salusmarine.com)


Kid weight: 30–50 lbs. Stohlquist Nemo PFD Child ($50; stohlquist.com)


Kid weight: 50–90 lbs. BOB from MTI ($60; mtiadventurewear)


11 million The number of children and adults who attend camp each year

22% The percentage of ACA accredited camps offering wilderness trips

26% The percentage of overnight camps that are girls-only

Category: Outdoor Kids

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Written by the dedicated, hard-working Women's Adventure staff and their very generous team of volunteer writers. Want to lend a hand at making this splendid magazine even more splendid? Contact us at digital.diva@womensadventuremagazine.com and let us know!

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