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Outdoor Skills and Advice: Ten Tips For Enjoying the Outdoors With Your Kids

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Photograph by Mikolaj Kamienski, My Shot

The Internet is replete with tips for parents who want to maintain an outdoor lifestyle with their little ones. And there’s good reason, too. It’s one thing to be told your life will change irreversibly once you have a kid; it’s another thing to perch your kid precariously on a rock at 10,000 feet to change his diapers as wind gusts threaten to blow doo-doo right into your face. So here are 10 more tips to enjoying the outdoors with a tot in tow.

By Contributing Writer Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, Faculty member and Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

1. Get used to the family tent.
Spend the night in your backyard in a tent (I even got my son to help me stake it out).

2. Use the right kid carrier.
Test out some kid carriers around town for comfort and fit before you commit to schlepping your kid in one up a mountain. We tried three different carriers before settling on the Deuter Kid Carrier II.

3. Don’t be ambitious.
Plan your days for short hikes and plenty of time on either end. Learn from your kid as he stops for hours to admire a rock or a bug—at least he is living in the moment! So why can’t you?

4. Pack animals.
And no, I’m not talking about you (as much as you might feel like a pack animal with a kid on your back). If you’re planning on a multi-day trek, rent pack llamas or pack goats, which can carry your gear while you heft your kid.

5. Toys and books are key.
I like to end my hiking days sitting on a rock by a river admiring the sublime sunset. My son likes to end his days pushing dirt around in toy dump trucks and going to sleep to his favorite stories. So pack some books and toys, lest your sublime sunset turn into tent tantrums.

6. A cool water bottle helps with hydration.
My husband and I carry either Nalgene bottles or a Camelbak. Boooooring! Find a cool water bottle in bright colors and emblazoned with your child’s favorite cartoon character to encourage him to hydrate.

7. Kids love company.
Adults are useful when it comes to things like carrying you and feeding you and reading you books. But when it comes to throwing rocks in a river or playing with plastic dinosaurs, other kids are more fun. Make family time quality time by traveling in a pack with other families with kids.

8. Stay low.
Alpine cirques are majestic, but depending on their altitude, can be dangerous to your child. Children are more susceptible to altitude-related illnesses, so if you can, stay under 10,000 feet.

9. Bring yummy snacks.
I’m a picky eater in the front country, but when I backpack, food is fuel. Kids are as picky in the backcountry as they are at home, so pack some fun snacks like fruit leathers and animal crackers.

10. Pack an extra layer—your kid’s favorite costume.
I don’t know about you, but “performance” layers on my kid do not necessarily improve his performance. The most technical fleece and down layers might keep him warm, but don’t help him hike any faster. But donning his Batman costume, my son suddenly transforms into a super hero, leaping from rock to rock and flying uphill with the aid of his grappling hook. It’s cheap and lightweight, so pack a costume if your kid is into that thing.