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Old 05-16-2017, 12:08 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: CNY
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Camping with your kids.

For those of you with children, at what age did you start bringing your kids on overnight camping trips and how were your experiences?

I am planning on trying to tent in the backyard with my 2 yr old sometime this summer, but my wife and I also want to try an overnight trip in ADKs. We also have an almost 1 yr old who can pretty much sleep and be content anywhere we bring her.
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Old 05-16-2017, 01:45 PM   #2
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My daughter was 1-1/2 years old when we took her to the primitive side of Forked for 3 days...My son was about the same age but he was first at Lila for a few days. As the kids grew, we would increase the wilderness factor (is there such a thing?). By the time they were 5, they were carrying their own packs with anything they needed for sleeping. This was also the age they started really paddling to a destination...son was 11 when he solo paddled in and out from Fish Pond. Daughter did Chimney Mt up and down without help at 3 years old.
I don't think it matters much when they start, just that you make it fun and intersting for them. No endless hours in a boat, no long arduous hikes. Everything will sem like wilderness to them, as long as there are crayfish at night and plenty of play and exploration time during the day. No need for structure, or elaborate plans. Oh, and keep the goals modest, or better yet, no goals at first, other than have a fun safe time.
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Old 05-16-2017, 02:23 PM   #3
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Yeah, what striperguy said.
Don't worry about goals. Your kids don't care.

Realistically, I doubt you will get any responses on this forum telling you to wail until they are older. The "how" is much more important than the "when".

I'll share a piece of advice that was given to me and turned out to be very useful.

The first impression of an experience can set a persons mind forever. Take the whole wilderness experience and break it into carefully controlled "first impressions" and dole them out one at a time. Make sure that for each experience you make sure it's super fun. If you try to make a whole trip super fun, you may lose control at some point and the experience can backfire.

For example
Do day hikes with very short distance and very interesting distractions. Bring lots of treats and leave yourself enough time to dawdle.

Once the kids associate hiking with "fun time!" then add a peak or some challenge. Again make sure it's super fun and low pressure.

When you start having them carry backpacks, make the packing and choosing of gear really fun. Don't be an ounce counter, let them bring whatever dumb thing they want. Don't make them carry it when it gets too heavy.

Sleep in the tent in the backyard. Make a fire, have smores, etc.

Go car camping, and add in some of the other stuff that was fun.

Eventually work your way up to backpacking or canoe trips.

There is no way to guarantee a kid will love camping and hiking, but I think this strategy can tilt the odds in your favor. Just don't rush it.
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:28 PM   #4
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My wife and I took our two daughters camping at a very young age; the youngest when she was only two weeks old. We didn't try to accomplish anything crazy. We just wanted to get them out and enjoying the experience. Bottom line, as long as they're warm, well fed and having a good time, you can "camp" pretty much anywhere. Our first few forays were to primitive campgrounds and then we branched out from there. Probably my favorite photo from those long ago trips is of my older daughter, cuddling her two week old sister in her sleeping bag while Mom was off to the privy in a major rainstorm. The look of wonderment, care & concern in my older daughter's eyes is just amazing.

That's all for now. Take care and until next well.

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Old 05-17-2017, 03:49 PM   #5
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I started my kids, (five of them) ages from six to thirteen, at Pharaoh Lake.
The first lesson was not to run around the campsite, but they did, resulting in stubbed toes.
The paramount rule for the youngest was not to go near the waterfront without a flotation device.
We kept them busy with games and shallow water exploration.
The older kids were kept busy catching the voracious sunfish and going frog hunting in Wolf Bay.
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:17 PM   #6
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We started car camping with our kids when our oldest was 2 or 3. No planned structure, just whatever the day would bring. I'll never forget the time when we were camped at Brown Tract and one of the boys, who was like 5 or 6 at the time, said to me on a walk, "Hey dad, you know what the best part of camping is? What? I said. He replied: "We get to spend all day with you." Moral of the story is, it doesn't so much matter what you're doing when camping with your kids, as long as you're having fun with them! All 4 of my guys now camp with their wives and kids and we try to pull off at least one per year brothers and dad camping trip.
"The wilderness opens us to God's presence because it reduces everything to what is exactly necessary, and no more." John Lionberger Renewal in the Wilderness
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Old 05-18-2017, 07:47 AM   #7
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I don't have kids, but I went camping with my nephew for the second time. He is 6, so a little rambunctious but everything is an adventure so that's great to see. We started out slow, at a pretty neat place called Tully Lake in MA. You park in a lot, and then use a wheeled cart to get your "stuff" down to the campsite. No RVs, no car camping, so it's quiet and you don't have people driving by your site all the time. It's a good model -- I often think someone should do something similar in NY. Anyway, I thought you all might get a chuckle out of this sign. I sure did.

Last edited by JohnnyVirgil; 05-19-2017 at 11:01 PM..
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Old 05-19-2017, 08:49 PM   #8
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Great stuff everyone. Thanks for sharing. I have such great memories as a kid from camping with my parents and younger brother. They did it right. My first car had bear claw marks on the trunk from camping at limekiln when I was much younger. I remember the first brookie I caught up near Raquette. I could go on and on with great memories as I'm sure you all can. Cant wait to make new memories with my kids.
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Old 05-20-2017, 12:16 AM   #9
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My folks must roll their eyes knowing now that of all the great vacations they sacrificed for and managed to being us kids on the ones that I look back on with the most fond memories were the ones that were likely the cheapest and easiest to plan. The camping trips! Too many great memories to recount.

Hope your kids have similar experiences! As others have suggested - keep it fun and don't plan too much and drag the kids along while trying to squeeze it all in.
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Old 05-20-2017, 09:32 AM   #10
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My first child turned out to be twins. They came car camping with me & wife (in Colorado) before they could walk. A "Johnny Jumper" suspended from a tree and other devices were used to entertain them. 4 of us + dog in 2 man tent was catalyst for getting a bigger tent.

All 3 of my girls have fond memories of camping (though not of early trips). All have continued some camping with one a regular backpacker from her Utah + now Colorado home. All have introduced others to it including initally hesitant boyfriends.
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Old 05-23-2017, 09:40 PM   #11
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My wife and I don't have kids, but if we did they would be campers. Some younger friends that camped quite a bit with us at one time are joining us in a few weeks at Rogers Rock with their three-year-old. We'll have him fishing for sure, and doing all the usual fun stuff. I hope he likes it when I break out the guitar around the campfire.
Life's short, hunt hard!
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Old 05-23-2017, 10:02 PM   #12
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My first camping trip was when I was six months old. From that point on we camped two weeks at Rogers Rock every summer until my father started his own business when I was 13. I still marvel at how my mom handled two weeks in a tent with a baby/toddler.

The highlight of our vacation was usually the mid-point trip into "town" to go to the laundromat in Ticonderoga, stock up on groceries a Grand Union and do our back-to-school shopping at Ames. Other than that and the occasional rainy-day trip to Fort Ti or the Adirondack Museum, we didn't leave the campground other than to go out in the boat and explore the bays, coves and shoreline of the lake. Best memories of my childhood, hands down.
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