Gearing Up: Outdoor gear for kids

In an ideal world, I would have read “Youth Gone Wild: Essential outdoor gear for kids,” by fellow AMC blogger Matt Heid, before our recent hut trip. Heid, who writes AMC's "Equipped" blog, knows a thing or two about gear — and about kids, too. (Here’s the start to his article: “Those dang kids. They’re small. They’re tall. They’re everything in between. And tomorrow they’re completely different all over again.”)

After reading Heid’s article, I might have tried harder to talk Ursula out of hiking in a cotton T-shirt. Cotton, Heid reminded me, gets wet, stays wet, and loses any heat-retention capability, while synthetics and wool hold onto body-warmth, even when wet. (We were hiking in hot humidity, so I wasn’t really worried about Ursula losing body heat — but it would have been nice if her sweat-soaked shirt dried overnight.) At least I packed the polypro long underwear that Heid suggests, and the fleece and the rain gear.

Heid offers common-sense advice on shoes, hiking pants, and backpacks, too. It’s taken us several seasons of trial and error to arrive at his recommendations on pack size and type for younger hikers. On last week’s hike, Virgil was proud to carry a small hydration pack that had enough additional room for snacks, a windbreaker, and a whistle. Ursula, four years older and a more experienced hiker, carried all her personal gear in a daypack, total weight about 15 pounds, and felt a similar pride.

By the time I had children, I had two decades of experience in the outdoors. I knew what to take on a backpacking trip in any season. I’ve learned, though, that bringing children up on the trail requires rethinking gear for all of us. And sometimes in the middle of the family circus I forget what I used to know.

Reading Matt Heid’s article made me realize that a dash of parental wisdom is also “essential outdoor gear” for children and reminded me that I have some lessons to communicate to Ursula and Virgil. Next time, we talk about the cotton T-shirt.

Learn more
"Youth Gone Wild: Essential outdoor gear for kids" (AMC Outdoors, July 2010).

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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