For some parents, it can be plenty challenging just to take young children on a trip to the mall. Then there are those who take their tiny hikers into the wilderness.
The outdoor gear industry is ready to help with a wide range of easily packed camping items that both parents and kiddos can enjoy.
Not that you need lots of gear. New Yorkers Amy and Paolo Marini, both avid rock climbers, have camped in the Catskills with their 5-year-old, Lorenzo, and family friends with 5- and 2-year-olds. Just getting a leafy site by water provides ready entertainment, Amy says.
“Little more is needed other than swimsuits, butterfly nets and maybe water shoes to guarantee hours of afternoon fun,” she says.
For hikes with very young kids, she advises packing a pair of trekking poles, as backpack-style baby carriers can throw off your center of gravity.
Vermont-based writer, photographer and outdoor enthusiast Berne Broudy, who blogs about hiking and camping, recommends the Thule Sapling Elite as a carrier. Adjustable and well-padded, the pack has a built-in reservoir sleeve and lots of pockets for phone, snacks and diapers. Plus, says Broudy, “Kid-focused features include a sunshade to keep your cargo cool, and a mirror to monitor your passenger’s mood.”
Or consider the Piggyback Rider , a lightweight yet sturdy strap-on carrier that lets kids 2 years and older — up to 50 pounds — stand on a bar while they’re securely strapped to your back.
When the day’s adventures are over, next up is mealtime and some rest.
Sleeping bags that provide a warm, safe and size-appropriate snuggle spot are easy to find now. Kalee Thompson, senior editor for product-review site The Wirecutter and a longtime camper with her two boys, tested several bags over a couple of weekends, with her kids and several others ranging from infant to 9 years old.
She gave REI’s Kindercone top marks: “It’s inexpensive and warm, comes in cool colors, and should last all the way from toddler to tween.”
She also liked the Kelty Big Dipper, which has a roomier shoulder area and a zip-open foot that’s handy as the child grows. For preschoolers, the Kelty Woobie is sized for those under 4 feet tall. It’s got dual zippers and a soft-finish cover.
These are all mummy-style bags, more form-fitting than a standard square sleeping bag. And while some companies, like Big Agnes, make double-wide, mummy-style bags for two sleepers, you may prefer just making two big square bags into one. Especially if you’ve got squirmy sleepers, or someone has to get up during the night.
Or consider Sierra Designs’ zipperless Backcountry or Frontcountry bags, which are more like lightweight but cozy comforters.
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