Family Hiking, Camping and Getting Outside: Tales from Two Mamas

Image created by Tales of Mountain Mama

Today, the Mama from Tales of a Mountain Mama and I share a short conversation we recently had about camping, hiking and getting outside. We both have two sons. Her boys are quite young, as of April, both of my sons are teens. So what do we have in common? Are there some universal family experiences? Here’s a bit of what we found out.

How old are your children? When did you start taking them on outdoor adventures?

Photo courtesy Tales of a Mountain Mama

MM: Our boys are three and one.  They are happy, needy, BUSY and stubborn!   Our oldest was camping at about 10 weeks (and even though it was July, the nights were still freezing!) and our younger son went on his first camping trip at about 4 weeks (after 6 weeks of bed rest for me, I was desperate to get out so we didn’t wait!)  Both boys were preemies, but strong and healthy.

Thanks to a Moby Wrap and my Boba 3G (both baby carriers) we were out hiking with both of them within three weeks.  Nothing strenuous and I was certainly checking them often, but they were out there (and so were we!)

Hiking at age 2 1/2

BSM: Our boys are now 15 and 13. I am not sure how that happened, but it did and it does! Our oldest went on his first expedition when he was four weeks old. BUT, we didn’t go camping. Instead we went to the family cabin at 10,000 feet. He spent the entire weekend in a Patagonia fleece bunting, but we were out there hiking. He also slept through the night for the first time on this  (thank you, high altitude air). Our younger son was born in April, so I think he probably went camping at about 8 weeks.

When they were little, we carried them in baby packs, but by about age 2, both boys were done with that and wanted to hike on their own. When they were little, we were very respectful of their size and stamina. As they grew, a big challenge for us was not interpreting their enthusiasm for strength and ability. We made some big mistakes talking them into “death marches.” These hikes were too long, in both distance and time, and they almost stifled our boys’ desire to hike. Just because a child CAN hike a long distance, doesn’t mean they should.

What do you find most challenging about hiking and camping with your children right now?

MM: The sleep factor when camping is pretty huge for us, unfortunately.  P (almost a year) still isn’t sleeping that great which means that when we are in a tent everyone is disturbed by him waking up.  However, I have resigned myself to the fact that it is just the way it is and WILL be for the next few years.  We think the sleeplessness is worth the memories.  The good news is after the first night, everything seems to get a little easier.  We also really need to watch the kids and make sure they aren’t getting too cold (even though it IS June here – mountain camping means cold nights most of the summer!)  Sleeping bags designed specifically for kids are absolutely worth the investment.

Other difficulties include the extra baggage cloth diapers (or really any diapers at all) make for packing and keeping P from eating everything he shouldn’t (dirt, rocks, deer poop, etc.)

Four people…two tents….one great camping trip.

BSM: Your kids are still too young for this, but one of the best things to ever happen to us was winning a tent. Actually our younger son, who was then 7, won the tent in a ski race. We had always tried to cram everyone into a small tent (thinking it would keep the boys warm and that it was more efficient somehow). When he won a tent, he and his brother graduated to sleeping together – alone. Their tent is right next to ours, but they are separate – separate mess, separate space….separate!

The most challenging thing for us right now is finding time to go camping. We all love camping, it is one of our favorite family activities – whether car camping or backpacking. But once kids get involved in organized sports, the beautiful fall weekends are full. Spring blows by in the wind and summer melts before your eyes. Take advantage of camping as much as you can when your children are small and don’t rush to sign up for soccer. :0)

MM: Oh….that sounds awesome!  And yes, I totally agree that finding time is hard.  We already struggle with that, and KNOW how important it is!

What do you enjoy most about being outside with your children?            

Photo courtesy Tales of a Mountain Mama

MM: Quite honestly, I am a happier person when I am outside and active, and I am just a better Mama overall.  In general, I am more patient, more understanding, more interactive and more present for my kids.  At home I get too bogged down too easily by all the things I have to do (and yet, I forget those things so easily when I am outdoors!  So, I enjoy myself better :)

But, I also see a difference in them.  They tend to be less whiney, less needy, more loving toward each other and happier over all.  I love their sense of wonder, how we have to stop and check out everything (as annoying as that can be sometimes) and all the laughter.  And, I am 99% sure it is NOT just my kids that act that way outside!  It is certainly not the 100% fool-proof solution to a happy day, but it sure helps (all of us!)

On the trail or on the water…outside together is good (especially when your brother is rowing).

BSM: I can’t agree more. Being outside makes us all better people. For us, with young teenagers, outdoor time is all about camaraderie and stepping out of the rush. As busy as we were when our boys were young, our current schedule is on warp speed. Going camping together allows us to unplug and disengage from external events. We talk and laugh together in ways we wouldn’t at home. Time spent hiking, biking or fishing together is important, especially because of that word “together.” On the trail, we’re not competing for attention with work, school, friends and other responsibilities. We can just “be,” right where we are, together.

Okay readers! Your turn. What do think the benefits of outdoor activities such as hiking and camping are for your family? Where do you like to go? What do you enjoy doing? What are the biggest challenges you face?


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  1. Brenda says

    Our kids, 9 and 7, also sleep in their own tent when we camp, which is great. When they were younger my husband and I would split up, one of us with one kid in each tent, but now that they’re older they love having their own “room”. We don’t backpack, just car camp, so there’s always a lot of stuff, but it’s nice to be able to have all their stuff in their tent, and we can sleep in a bit since they will just get up and read or play a game together in the tent. It is so hard to find the time though, as you said. It’s not even July but at this point it looks like we’ll only get one weekend camping trip in this summer :-(. Maybe we can squeeze another one in at the end of the summer, or skip a weekend of soccer in the fall and go then.

    • says

      There is just something about boys and tents! Thanks and good luck squeezing another trip in! They can be so hard to schedule, but they’re always worth it.