About one in every seven Americans goes camping every year, and the camping industry as a whole continues to experience record growth. In fact, Americans spend more than $1.5 billion every year on hiking and camping equipment alone. Parents across the country are excited to take their children on day hikes and on overnight trips, but they do worry about keeping young campers hydrated during the day and cozy during overnight trips. Finding the right sleeping bag is an essential part of planning for longer hiking and camping trips, and parents who plan ahead can ensure that participants of every age will have a positive camping experience.
Sleeping bags come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and are typically “rated” to a specific temperature. A sleeping bag for kids that is rated to 30 degrees will keep campers toasty in cooler weather; it is important for parents or trip leaders to examine the weather patterns for their destination location. There can be extreme weather at higher elevations, and campers are encouraged to pack thermal leggings and waterproof outer layers in spring and summer. National parks and other camping locations should note on their websites whether their cabins and yurts have electricity, and campers are advised to monitor weather conditions in advance of an extended hiking or camping trip.
Some parents are taking a novel approach to introducing young hikers to the wilderness: across America, a new sport known as “geocaching” is gaining a devoted following. The national geocaching website features hundreds of short hikes along beaches and through national parks that end in the discovery of “treasure.” Geocaching enthusiasts hide small metal boxes in both public and more secluded locations, and children who find them can look inside to find small stickers or plastic figures. Treasure troves often include small rubber stamps, and children who bring a small notebook with them on any geocaching adventure can keep track of their successful finds.
Starting younger children out on smaller, local hikes can give them the confidence to take longer hikes. Children may prefer sleeping in tents to sleeping outdoors, but parents who are experienced hikers can work with young hikers to familiarize them with cooking out of doors. One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of camping outdoors is looking at the stars at night; parents consistently report that camping is an experience that delivers more “teachable moments” than other outdoor activities. More than 40 million Americans go camping every year, and children who camp have increased levels of confidence and social maturity.
With cabin rentals filling up more quickly than ever, some hikers are taking a different approach to introducing their children to the great outdoors. There are an increasing number of cabins for rent near splashpark and other day trip destinations. Children can spend the entire day having fun with their family and friends, and then it will be just a short trip to an overnight stay at local campgrounds. Sometimes, introducing children to new experiences can be made more enjoyable by having a relaxing day of play first; children may be tired after a full day of enjoying their local splashpark, and parents will want to remain alert to signs of dehydration or chill.
Once kids get used to hiking and camping outdoors, they can help carry small amounts of camping gear in their own backpacks. Children as young as five years old can help set up tents, unroll sleeping bags, or organize utensils for a meal. They can also carry their own sleeping bags, and finding ways to encourage participation and leadership are important on longer hikes and family camping trips. Taking the time to investigate the camping or hiking destination can be a lifesaver for parents who want to monitor their children’s comfort levels, and of course, booking cabins well in advance of any planned trip is highly recommended. Time to go explore!