Camping with Teens

7:10 p.m. on August 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey All. New to the forum from Jersey here. I am in the process of planning a camping trip and I am bringing along my sisters two sons, ages 12 and 14. I don't have any kids myself so I was just wondering if anyone had any advice on how to keep them entertained and games we can play when we aren't hiking or fishing. Thanks!

8:16 p.m. on August 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Welcome Aboard, hikergirl80.   Hope you stick around and enjoy the fun!

To address your question:  

You will need to look after the boys' safety concerns.   Hiking and camping are fun-type activities for almost any aged individuals, and even more-so when in groups.

However; many things can go wrong.   VERY wrong.  And, that is where you will need to be vigilant and on-top of things.

It's going to be YOUR JOB.

I'm talking about falls, poison-ivy, insect-bites, snake-bites, sunburn, dehydration, blisters, ankle-sprains, bumps & bruises, getting wet (and possible hypothermia), camp-fire burns, scalding water, eye irritants (like getting sunscreen in the eyes), dysentery, food-poisoning, bear attacks (recently in NW NJ), home-sickness (they're still young enough), and many, many other calamities.


Assuming you have already planned for preventing or dealing with all the above ....

I would suggest entertaining them with "IDENTIFICATION Games".   Meaning:  bringing along some well-illustrated and with color-photos ... books or pamphlets that show indigenous plants, animals and insects of the area you will hike and camp.   See how many the boys can locate and identify.   I have even seen something like "flash cards" that had the pictures on them.

Thinks like board-games can always be enjoyed at home.  The Great Outdoors presents many more opportunities, and the experiences can last a life-time.   It is how many of us here began our sojourn.

Best of luck.  You'll get many more suggestions.  Take notes.


9:23 p.m. on August 5, 2011 (EDT)
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There are many things that they can learn that will be both enjoyable and useful throughout life. As R2 suggested, identification of natural objects: plants, animals, rocks. Tracking small animals or identifying their tracks can be fulfilling.

One thing the boys (might) enjoy is learning knots. Bring a 50' length of 1/4" soft Nylon rope and some instructions on knot-tying; unless you are already conversant with a variety of knots and hitches. Show them the basics and then challenge them to each design and build a two-foot-high tower from twigs, held together by knots, which will support a quart pan full of water.

Proper fire-building is good instruction, as is sharpening knives, and cooking over an open fire. If you provide them each with a sheath knife and they find an old stump, they might spend hours throwing the knives into the stump. At least one knife will be lost. They will fight over possession of the remaining knife. It happens.

I suppose setting snares is out of the question.

10:07 p.m. on August 5, 2011 (EDT)
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pay attention to what they do and do not like.  Let Nature entertain them and feed on their enthusiasm and excitement.

1:23 a.m. on August 6, 2011 (EDT)
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There's a good article on here somewhere.  Alicia could you point her to it please?

My wife and I just took two 17 year old girls and an 8 year old boy on a 3 day 2 night hike on the A.T.  The girls setup their tent and amused themselves. My son helped me setup our tent and I played cards with him while my wife cooked. Involve them in the planning. 

Make sure they have cameras.

Where are you planning on taking them?

1:44 a.m. on August 6, 2011 (EDT)
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When you say "camping trip" what are you referring to exactly? I am curious to what type of area you are going too as well as if you are setting camp in one spot for the whole time or actually planning on covering a bit of ground. 

Alot of what you can do depends on what you are doing if ya know what I mean.

Either way just to give you some type of info I am gonna throw out a "hail-mary" and see if I can provide ya with some type of help. 

Here are a few links from previous threads:

Hiking and Backpacking with Kids


Getting Kids Geared Up for Outside


Kids in the Backcountry


Get the Kids Outside: Play With Fire and Knives


Family Camping


These are a few links that I thought may be of some help. While they address very young(pre-school) as well as older children if ya sort thru them I believe you may get a few useful ideas from them. 

This is more directed to teens:

Backpacking with a Teen


Nevertheless, I hope these may be of some help to you. Welcome to Trailspace.

***on a side note this may be a great way to make education fun as far as identifying trees by bark/leaves as well as different type of foliage.***

Happy hiking-Rick

5:24 p.m. on August 6, 2011 (EDT)
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A first timers hike in the woods wether they are young or old will many times fix their attitude about the woods for the rest of their lives. My first hikes were with experienced folks that made sure I was wearing decent comfortable boots and had warm dry clothing. Tasty meals didn't hurt either.  My entertainment was the trip itself, the planning,and the assisting with camp setup and breaking down. That may not be enough to hold a teen's attention for long, but it kept me interested these many years.

I remember a particular solo hike years ago in West Virginia where I came upon some guy and his girlfriend, they had come from the trailhead at night and were standing in the cold drizzle of early morning looking at a road atlas. I kid you not! The poor girl looked so miserable! The sad thing was thinking that the girl had shown enough interest to go on the hike, but her boyfriend had made sure with his inexperience that she would probably never ever do it again. I gave her an extra pair of rag mittens I had, made sure they knew the way out, and then headed on.

So good luck, plan carefully, and I really hope the kids connect with the experience.

11:34 a.m. on August 7, 2011 (EDT)
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Depending on where you are going and how far, I would not worry to much about games.  My kids 9 (boy) and 13 (girl) usually just like to go exploring around the camp and stuff like that.  By the time they get back they are VERY ready for Dinner or Lunch, depending on the time of day. 

Sleeping is very important, my son has a very nice bag that her got from their G-Ma, and is always warm.  My daughters bag is not as good in the spring or fall, summer it's fine.  I think this may have a lot to do with how "Warm" she sleeps.

If you have a choice on destinations, I would strongly recommend either a beach or a lake.  Set some ground rules and make sure they understand the rules, but I find that they like these spots a lot more then "Just the woods". :)  Rivers are also good places, but I think they have much more danger involved with them. 

If they, the boys, like fishing then I really think you are not going to have to worry about keeping them "entertained", I remember as a kid fishing in the Alpine Lakes, mostly not catching anything, but having great fun none the less. 


12:01 a.m. on August 12, 2011 (EDT)
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keep up the convo on the trail! have some funny jokes/stories (make the pirate and the brown pants story an epic tale! thats always a fun one)! keep them happy on the trail, and they'll be happy in camp!

Also make some great food! It really ties the whole trip together! make some back-country brownies, or a cake!

10:20 a.m. on August 12, 2011 (EDT)
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AMEN MIKEBOB! Good food makes a trip.

NEVER underestimate the hunger of youth.  On my last trip my 5 and 7 yr olds ate more in one day than I would have in several days. 

Look up Laurieanne's website for some awesome food ideas.  The Bananna smoothie is the best.





10:38 a.m. on August 12, 2011 (EDT)
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You can't miss the mark if you make it fun, make it an adventure, and cook tasty food. Reconstituted mush in a bag does not qualify.

6:24 a.m. on August 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Hmmmm... 12 and 14 year old boys. You may find yourself competing with iPods and gaming systems.

At that age, I think it's important to try and treat them not like they're kids, but like little adults. Especially the 14 year old. Bring some cards or, if it's car camping, some board games.

But I wouldn't worry too much about it. If it's their first camping experience, they will find a way to keep themselves entertained if they like it. If they don't like it, there isn't much you can do either. They'll just feel like they are being forced to do stuff. It's a trying time at that age.

But also don't look at them and think they aren't having any fun and you have to try to do more. You may be surprised. Ten years ago, I took my two nephews out backpacking when they were in their teens. I swore up and down they hated it.

Now, to this day, every other year I hear about how Uncle Cliff took them backpacking that one time. I'm now the "cool uncle."

11:01 a.m. on August 18, 2011 (EDT)
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WOW! Thank you so much for all the tips, I have a lot of material to read! haha

2:57 p.m. on August 18, 2011 (EDT)
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I don't have kids, but the suggestions I have are things that different adults let me do on trips when I was a kid.

-Have them assist in planning the trip at home, picking routes on maps, possible campsite locations etc.

-Have them take turns every few hours leading the party and navigating(obviously you need to pay attention and make sure your on track)

-Teach them how to filter and or treat water

-Teach them how to identify different animal tracks and plants

-Teach them how to build a fire from just a flint and steel etc, without the use of an open flame device or fire starter.

-How to cook over an open fire

-Identify constellations at night

I don't think you need to actually think of any games to play. If the kids are kept active and involved they will have the time of their lives. Just let them make the decisions, good or bad, as long as they arn't dangerous. Everything from where to pitch the tent, where to get water, when to stop for breaks, everything. If you really feel a game will be needed, bring a deck of cards along.

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