There’s no gospel for going camping with kids, but here are a few tips for adventurous parents.
* Leave with reasonable goals. If you’re hiking into a mountain lake for the first time, pick one that’s one mile from the trailhead, not five miles.
* Involve the kids with camp chores, such as gathering firewood and filtering water.
* Give kids small daypacks and let them choose the cherished possessions to put in them.
* Consider camping with another family or inviting another kid along to provide a playmate. Depending on their age, kids often enjoy the bold adventure of sleeping in a separate tent.
* Develop an equipment list days before leaving home. Take the list to camp where you will have a more enlightened perspective of what’s needed. Add and delete from the list as necessary and keep the improved list for the next outing.
* Never go without extra long johns for the unexpected cold night. Bring some for the kids, too.
* Protect kids from sun and insects. Lightweight long pants and longsleeved shirts often are better than shorts and T-shirts. Sunscreen is essential. So is insect repellent, but avoid using repellents with high concentrations (90-100 percent) of DEET. This is powerful chemical pesticide that can cause rashes and even more severe symptoms in some children.
* Provide sunglasses for kids who spend much time outdoors. Junior models that block out 98 percent of the sun’s harmful ultra-violet rays cost about $10. Sunglasses also protect eyes from swinging branches while hiking and from bugs while bicycling.
* A 10- by 12-foot tarp and plenty of cord can be rigged as a kitchen shelter to prevent major bloodshed among families that might otherwise be tent-bound on rainy wilderness trips.
* In grizzly country, families should hike closed together. The conversation creates noise that helps avoid surprising a bear. Also, a bear or cougar is much less likely to be aggressive to a group than to individuals or small children alone on the trail.
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