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#20622 - 01/09/12 03:45 PM Advice for backpacking with kids
Danny Offline


Registered: 01/09/12
Posts: 1
Loc: CA
Hello WHA,

I am starting to get my kids (11 and 8 boys) into backpacking and could use some advice on some gear. My plan is to start with some shorter trips this summer and increasing the difficulty throughout the summer. If all goes well by the end of summer we would like to backpack the HST. I am an experienced backpacker but I haven't taken my kids yet, so kid specific advice is appreciated.

They have done well on 10 mile hikes last summer and both have been wanting to to Whitney since I hiked it two years ago.

Here are some of the areas that I could use some help.

Sleeping Bags: I want something that will work for the high sierra and keep them comfortable. Is a 20 degree bag about right? Is this too warm for lower sierra trips (5000 - 8000ft).

Tent: I am looking at the Copper Spur UL3 tent. I am fine with a bivy but I want something the kids will be comfortable in but is lightweight. Any experience with this or other tents that would be better

Thanks,
Danny

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#20624 - 01/09/12 05:52 PM Re: Advice for backpacking with kids [Re: Danny]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1139
Loc: NorCal
Hi Danny,

My wife and I did lots of backpacking with our 2 kids since they were babies. They're now in their teens and not as interested, but we still do a trip or two every year and lots of day hiking. They're great hikers and they feel very comfortable in the wilderness. I just did Mt Whitney with my 15-yr-old daughter last summer, but it was a day hike. She kicked my butt up and down the mountain.

Like you, I can rough it just fine. Its a whole different mindset when you're responsible for little ones. The best trips were when I kept my goals in check, focused on their needs, and kept it playful.

Your gear ideas look right to me. The 20-deg bag rating should be right for the high country and fine for lower elevations, but its just a rating. Unfortunately, there's no universal standard for this specification, but loft is a good indicator, and stay with a name brand you can trust. Just as important is finding the right size bag. Good quality women-size bags can be found for 5ft heights, which might work for your 11-yr old. You might look for one that "hugs" with elastic to compress the empty space around the sleeper - check out the ones by MontBell. He can then pass it down to the younger kid. You'll probably have to find a kid-size bag for the 8-yr old. I had a hard time finding a high quality kids bag, but I found synthetic bags by Mtn Hardware and one by North Face, but no down choices back then.

If you're lucky, you'll have to decide between down or synthetic, but either way, I recommend taking extra precautions with a water proof sack for the bags.

I agree with the tent idea. I don't have any experience with the Copper UL3, but Big Agnes is a good brand and it seems reasonably light for 3. You might look for a little more room for gear and you might like the 4-person Tarptent.

One last thing that you probably already know, the usual weight percentage rules don't apply to kids. They can't carry the same percentage of their own weight as adults. I never loaded them up with more than 10-12 pounds total weight at that age - just their own clothes and sleeping bag, water and snacks was about it. I made sure they each had a whistle and compass too.

Enjoy it while it lasts, it goes by so fast.


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#20625 - 01/09/12 06:05 PM Re: Advice for backpacking with kids [Re: Danny]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1031
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: Danny
Hello WHA,


Sleeping Bags: I want something that will work for the high sierra and keep them comfortable. Is a 20 degree bag about right? Is this too warm for lower sierra trips (5000 - 8000ft).

Tent: I am looking at the Copper Spur UL3 tent. I am fine with a bivy but I want something the kids will be comfortable in but is lightweight. Any experience with this or other tents that would be better

Thanks,
Danny


20F bag is fine, make sure it has a long zipper so they work as a quilt, too. My kids use the REI down bags in that class and have been fine from hot days through freezing nights above 12,000 feet

UL3 is a great tent and large enough. No protection from sun, though, as the ultra light fabric won't provide mich shade. Great for everything else

here somewhere below Mather Pass

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#20761 - 01/17/12 08:23 AM Re: Advice for backpacking with kids [Re: Fishmonger]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1017
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
my best advice is not gear, but altitude effect.

assuming your kids do not have previous altitude experience, here is what I learned in 1994 - one son age 13 no problem, other son age 10 altitude sick at "only" 9,000 feet.

This factor can be huge and overwhelms all other considerations. Of course, only way to know is to do it, but extended dayhikes at altitude should be done first to see if overnight can be tolerated and/or amount of slow acclimatization needed. (as you mentioned)


Edited by Harvey Lankford (01/17/12 08:24 AM)

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#20784 - 01/18/12 06:22 AM Re: Advice for backpacking with kids [Re: Harvey Lankford]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
my best advice is not gear, but altitude effect.

assuming your kids do not have previous altitude experience, here is what I learned in 1994 - one son age 13 no problem, other son age 10 altitude sick at "only" 9,000 feet.

This factor can be huge and overwhelms all other considerations. Of course, only way to know is to do it, but extended dayhikes at altitude should be done first to see if overnight can be tolerated and/or amount of slow acclimatization needed. (as you mentioned)


Just to add to what Harvey said...I have absolutely no problems day hiking to any elevation in SoCal. However, if I add just a few more hours to the equation I have had problems down to as low as 7,500'...June Lake. Unless you have put it to the test you will never know for certain.

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