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Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking

There are hundreds and hundreds of books and websites about camping, hiking and backpacking from the basic how-tos to advanced survival to trail specific guides and personal accounts. These forms of outdoor recreation are perhaps the most accessible and widely enjoyed outdoor activities whether as stand-alone activities or in conjunction with other outdoor adventures. Have you ever hiked, backpacked or camped to find that perfect photo, that perfect fishing spot, or in pursuit of an animal you’re hunting?

Learning about the range of possible camping, hiking, or backpacking adventures and how to enjoy them all safely is a key part of the Outdoor Adventures curriculum, developed and implemented by the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation more than a decade ago.  Founded in the suburbs of Dallas, TX, Outdoor Adventures is now in 870 public and private schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, and even a few colleges, across 45 states, and growing.

The curriculum is usually offered as a physical education course. Each year more than 85,000 students are learning comprehensive outdoor education skills that they will use and enjoy for the rest of their lives, equating to more than 13,000,000 outdoor education contact hours annually.

Most kids have no previous experience with camping, hiking or backpacking before they take Outdoor Adventures. One basic understanding is what is the difference between backpacking and hiking. This article lays out the options in detail: Backpacking vs Hiking: What’s the Difference? | The Outdoor Authority  These activities can be as easy or difficult as you want, depending on your sense of adventure. Opportunities for camping, hiking, and backpacking abound and chances are there are trails and campgrounds near where you live. Look up your state’s natural resources agency website or your local municipal parks website and plan an easy trip to start with. Work your way up to more intense adventures as you gain some experience. Taking the time this summer to introduce your kids (and maybe yourself too) to the outdoors with a hike, backpacking trip, or camping experience will pay off in wonderful memories made.

Outdoor Adventures classes teach kids how to properly plan and gear-up for any outdoor activity. Below are a few things to consider when planning your camping, hiking, or backpacking trip:

  • Plan your trip and let someone know your plans – where are you going, stops on the way, who is with you and when you will return. Everyone thinks their phone will work and they can call but if there is no service or it is dead then what are you going to do?
  • One of the most important items to have with you in all adventures is plenty of water. Water, Water, Water. You can always carry water, but you may not be able to carry enough water based on your adventures.  Research different water procurement options.  There are water filtration and purification systems.  There is one that will match your intended need.  Take it with you!
  • Proper clothing – hiking boots, socks, hat, jacket or cold, hot and wet weather outer gear. Selecting the footwear that matches your expectations. Wear hiking boots or shoes with the proper support, comfort, stability and matching your weather and terrain.  If your feet are hurting due to any adverse circumstance, you adventure will be less enjoyable.
  • Proper pack consideration. If you are going on a simple hike around a park or down a simple trail, a light backpack will be sufficient.  However, if you are going on an overnight adventure across difficult terrain consider an internal or external frame pack.  The more gear you plan on taking, the proper pack designed to carry the weight appropriately is a must.  If you are planning on packing out a harvested game animal, consider your total weight and the pack matching your desired packed weight.
  • Plan for foul weather conditions besides just rain or wet also consider extreme heat, sun exposure, cold, lightning, wind and hail. As Peter Kummerfeldt stated in Surviving a Wilderness Emergency, three simple words can get you into a lot of trouble.  Those words, “I am just….”   I am just going over that hill.  I’m just going on a quick little walk.  I’m just going up stream to fishing hole”.   Next thing you know you are in trouble due to unplanned events.  Weather can suddenly change.  Be aware of your forecast and the ever-changing weather. Plan accordingly.  Pack gear to keep moisture and rain off your body.  Pack extra thermal gear if cold weather is suspected.  If you must stay all night, consider a portable tent or tarp as well.  Lightning is always a possibility so learn how to detect lightning distances.  The 30:30 rule is one example.  See lightning and count to 30, When you hear the thunder divide your number by 6 and that is the proximate miles the lightning was from your location.  If the lightning is within 5 miles you need to seek shelter for 30 minutes.   In other words, if you see it, flee it, if you hear it, fear it.
  • Also consider the potential for dangerous wildlife and plants. If you are traveling with children, teach them what is harmful and what is helpful.  Point out unusual structures, plants and wildlife.  Teach them that most snakes are not harmful and how to identify poisonous vs nonpoisonous snakes.  If you are looking for that perfect honey hole fishing spot or signs of wildlife for a future hunting spot, show them the signs, prints or scat and what to look for and they can help you.  Engage the child to be an active participant in the adventure.  You might be surprised when they see something you totally missed.
  • Regardless of age, have a whistle. Blowing a whistle is easier and sound carries better than a human voice. Consider carrying a whistle to keep in your pack.  Everyone should have one in their pack just in case you are injured or lost.  Every year there are stories where a lost child had to spend a night or days lost in the woods and if they had a whistle their rescue may have been quicker.
  • Another item to consider is a way to build a fire. This topic was covered in AON’s  February issue.

Get you and your kids into an outdoor adventure!

Photos are from Outdoor Adventures classes around the country showing kids learning camping, hiking, or backpacking skills, including kids with disabilities learning adaptive hiking techniques.