Outdoor Gear Joy, Preschool Style

Dithering in your gear selection between stoves? Wondering if the extra ounces in those trekking poles matter? Should you get the 22 liter or the 33 liter day pack? Here's a reminder that outdoor gear joy is relative, and the details sometimes irrelevant.

This morning, when I suggested we go on a hike, my preschooler enthusiastically rushed off on her own to get ready. "I'll get my backpack! I'll get my compass! I'll get my hiking poles!" (There were a lot of exclamation points flying through the air as she provided status updates.)

Her hand-me-down JanSport backpack is now well past its third decade, having come down from me and my older brother. She eagerly selected snacks and packed them inside, and she'd have happily carried more if I'd let her. "I've got my backpack," she announced each time she put it on.

While her older brother has a "real" compass, hers is a cheap one that came in a kids science kit. But she wears it proudly around her neck with her whistle and asks questions about where things are as we walk along looking for acorns and insects on the trail. "The compass will help us find things," she told me. I don't think she understands the concept of North yet.

The hiking poles were her brother's ski poles borrowed and set to their lowest length. For some reason it's way more fun to walk through the woods with poles than without, even when they get in the way. "Let's walk up this rock," she said, trying to walk sideways on a boulder while holding poles and my hand.

No gear junkie would have been impressed by her setup, but she was thrilled and couldn't have been more excited to be walking in the woods under her own power with her own stuff.

Because while the gear can be fun, the real joy is in what you're doing with it.

Filed under: Kids


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May 13, 2011 at 10:44 p.m. (EDT)

It just gives me a really good feeling to see the "lil ones" out and about. Its how I started(1st weekender at age 4.) So many kids nowadays are so consumed with spending the majority of their time with a video game controller glued to their hands. I was always catching bugs, flipping rocks looking for salamanders and crayfish... Oh the memories.

Kinda funny, I still look for crayfish and salamanders at times. I suppose even though I am getting older I will always be an inquisitive kid. I still don't understand the concept of north yet either but then again maybe I just want to get lost no matter what direction it takes me. The anticipation of not knowing what is around that next bend can be quite a driving force. :)

Thanks alot Alicia, good read. Brought back alot of fond memories for me.

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May 13, 2011 at 11:15 p.m. (EDT)

Love this article.  I have two daughters myself, Marley who is 19 months and Kirah who is 8 months.  We try and get them out in the mountains and on the trails as much as possible, I don't want television and cell phones becoming their only links to the world.  I want them to share the wonder of nature with one another, and hopefully pass that on to their own children someday.

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May 15, 2011 at 9:53 a.m. (EDT)

Our future and hope for generations to come, always beneficial. Life has become so much more complex and multi-faceted. We have to teach our children how to cope with job, ethics, manners, living skills, etc., etc.

What a way to let our children grow up seeing a very different aspect of being ALIVE - and that will subsequently pay off divdends much more worthy for future mentoring themselves.

Nice to see the focus on our children.

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May 16, 2011 at 7:04 a.m. (EDT)

Great article!!  Reminds me of my nephew.  The specific gear, and often times the location, are secondary to actually being out in the backcountry 'doing something'.  As long as he has a backpack, some trailmix and a water bottle he's happy to be out there.

Alicia MacLeay (Alicia)
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May 16, 2011 at 8:47 a.m. (EDT)

Thanks for all the kind comments. She's a fun and enthusiastic hiking partner. Kids are usually happy to be involved and engaged.

We also did some visual nature scavenger hunting along the way, for example: can you find something red? An acorn? Something round?

Explaining in 3-year-old terms what a compass does is a little confusing though. What is north really, beyond a magnetized direction? And with declination that's not even quite true.

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May 20, 2011 at 6:59 a.m. (EDT)

Great story, Alicia. Your kids are lucky to have such a wonderful mom.

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May 20, 2011 at 7:40 a.m. (EDT)

I heartily second Papa Tom's comment.

The gifts of multigernational activities work both ways. Whether it is hiking, skiing, or paddling with little ones, our older eyes are opened in new and wonderful ways by our younger companions.

Alicia MacLeay (Alicia)
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May 25, 2011 at 8:20 p.m. (EDT)

Thanks, guys!

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May 25, 2011 at 9:31 p.m. (EDT)

I'm coming into this late, but the things you experience are the things that have changed my life forever.

I have a 4-year-old daughter and an 8-month-old son. They are both what made me focus on my life and get it in balance. Before my daughter was born I was a lazy sloth just sitting around watching TV, eating chips and just not caring much about anything. Then when Carolina was born I thought, I want them to do the things I did as a child. The biggest of those was backpacking and hiking. I lost some weight and started taking Carolina out on hikes with me in a backpack carrier I bought.

And it has never stopped since then. I continue to take her out and now with my new one here, Kellen, I'm taking him out too. And I'm having the time of my life. I love being out with them. And they love it. And they aren't just sitting at home playing games all the time. They won't be as long as I can help it.

But I see the same things in my oldest that you see with yours. I love it when I say, "We're going on a hike" and her eyes light up.

Mommy takes her to the park and the normal stuff. I take her to the woods on hikes, and to the river for wading. I'm the adventure guy. And I'm fine with that. In the end, I think it makes us a good team.

One thing I've done recently is lose 25 pounds, and I plan on losing more. There's going to be a time when those little toddlers are going to be teenagers. And I'm going to be out there pushing them on the trail. I hope so. They could be pushing me. But as long as we can get out there together and we can all do a 50-miler in three days, it will be nice.

And I dream of one day doing that. With them.

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