Starting Out Completely Fresh

3:29 a.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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I am wanting to start backpacking and camping with my 6 year old son and we need to get everything.  I have a basic list of things that I need to but I was wondering what are the things I need to purchase first.  I would also like to know what is the best way to start out.  Any help would be great:)

7:58 a.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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Start with a tent. If you have never back packed or camped before keep things simple but safe. I would look at Coleman tents. They are cheap and reliable. Know what temps will be at night and get sleeping bags that are rated 10-20 degrees below that temp. From there pick up everything else, backpack being last.

For the pack take everything to the outfitter and pack the bags  in the store. Put on the pack and walk around with it. It is very important to have a pack that fits you.

8:33 a.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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What area of the country are you in/planning to camp in?

Have you ever camped at all yet? If not, you might be well to start off with what we call Car Camping. You pull up next to your campsite and have your car right there for security/bail out if needed. You can bring bulkier/heavier stuff to start and figure out what you will need with an eye toward it all being small/light enough to eventually leave the car behind and put it in a backpack.

Best of all, find someone that you can go with, that can show you the ropes and shorten your learning curve.


Tell us a little more about your experience and potential areas of travel.

8:46 a.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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I would suggest if you haven't back packed before, take your son car camping, and get him hooked on the "fun" parts of camping before you introduce him to the drudgery of schlepping a kit over hill and dale.  This will also give you time to become familiar with some essential woodcraft skills before you find yourself miles from a car, let alone stocked pantry or store.  Lastly you may discover this activity is not destined to become a family past time, in which case you won't invest as much in a beginner's car camp get up compared to the cost of out fitting yourself to back pack

When you do start acquiring gear, develop an eye for lighter well made gear.  You will be hauling most if not all of the community gear until he is around 11 or 12 years old.  The ten pound penalty of heavy gear will take its toll on your back.  Additionally as you get older you will tire of lugging a heavy tent, clothing, and other articles.  Do not spend money getting your son light gear at this time, however, he will outgrow many seasons of gear before it is worth investing in such gear for him.


9:10 a.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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First, Welcome to Trailspace, Waterfowler!

the suggestion above are great, I would encourage you to start out car camping as well, at least for a few trips. When I was a kid, my dad didn't really take us backpacking, at least not the way most people do it these days, and not until I was in my younger teens. The times we did venture out to camp on foot, we did it more like a band of woodland hobos :)

 My brothers and I had many great adventures with my dad growing up, and many of them were car camping. If you are in Kentucky, as your screen name suggests, there is a wealth of pristine wilderness at your fingertips where you can car camp. Many of those area offer car camping locations that are less trammeled than those people hike in to visit in other states.

As far as knowing what gear to get that will fit your needs, I suggest searching and browsing past threads here on TrailSpace. There is a wealth of information to be found in threads where others have raised related and identical inquiries. I'm not at all trying to cop-out of answering on more detail, as those older threads will answer your questions better than I could in a single post.  

Exploring creeks, finding waterfalls, going on day hikes, catching crayfish, hooking a few trout...the memories of outdoor times with my father are treasures. Just getting out there with your son when he is young will be amazing for you both.  

11:41 a.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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Hi Kywaterfowl- First and foremost I have to give you a giant applause! Your educateing your child in my mind in something that will have a positive impact on them their entire lives. It has so many lessons in self reliance and personal growth I don't know where to begin..

I have to agree about the car camping at that young age to start. I started at that age with 4 siblings and my parents. If my father couldn't go my mother did. 2 of us still hike and camp together out of the 5. But our beginnings were car camping and then backpacking when I became a teen with my father and brothers. As ED (whomeworry) pointed out your child will grow and things get exspensive. I also know kids need stimuli as Gonzan has pointed out with hikes and finding waterfalls. Another is getting the child to realize being in the Rain  isn't horrible. Remember being a child and playing in the rain? They need to realize that you can still be in it and have a good time. It seemed it alway's rained when I went on a trip..Those lessons helped me in another career at one time.  Also May I suggest some backpacking board games like backgammon or checkers to keep you and your child occupied while in a tent. This for them will reinforce positive thoughts and feelings for both of you.

12:18 p.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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I wanted to leave you with some articles that may help you.

 I think these are very helpful. I also encourage you to ask specific questions about child gear as well. I know their are quite a few parents how have had the same experiance and can give you their opinion.

8:52 p.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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Thank you all for your responses.  One other thing that I wanted to add is my son turns 7 in September and at that time he wants to join the Boy Scouts.  Most of the equipment that I am looking at I am intending on using for his Boy Scout adventures too.  He is no stranger to the woods as I take him hiking with me as much as possible and he loves it.  I get out and hike at least 1 to 2 days a week.

12:34 a.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Welcome to trailspace.  And I too echo the giant applause! My Mom and Dad would take me and my sisters Plush camping as kids. Fully self contained camper at campgrounds on lakes with all the comforts of power, water and showers. Tho not very rustic it gave us all a love of the outdoors that we all carried on with our own families. Later in life I got to take my father on some more rustic 4x4 campouts,  he/we absolutly loved it. The chance to spend such quality time with your family is priceless. So be it car camping or backpacking.....KUDOS TO YOU! Have fun and enjoy 

12:23 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Do they take kids at 7-8 now? Iwent into scouts at 12 back in 1968.

12:44 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Gary I think kids can start scouts even earlier than 7 or 8. I think I started scouts when I was 5 or 6, and I was a Tiger scout.

12:52 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Many things are different in scouting these days Gary...You'd get a kick, I think, looking over the currently offered merit badges...

@ kywaterfowler: As far as gear selection goes, I'd recommend against Coleman, High Sierra, and pretty much all Wal-Mart tent offerings. Since your boy's in scouting, he'll likely find the weak points in gear quite quickly, and I'd buy him gear that would last. Not necessarily expensive, brand name gear, but used stuff that you might find on the boards here at Trailspace.

I'd read those articles Denis linked, then read a few reviews on tents and the like here on Trailspace, then search out that stuff that you read about and found good for your needs, used.

I'd shoot for a 3-season, 2-3 person tent under 8lbs; a 20F-rated bag (0F if made by Coleman); a 5000 cubic-inch (70L) pack.

2:57 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Welcome to Trailspace, kywaterfowler. That's great that you're going to take your son camping and backpacking.

I echo a lot of the thoughts above, start easy, make sure it's fun, go from there.

Obviously, what gear works well for camping may not work so well for backpacking. So I'd probably pick the gear for the activity you plan on doing now.

However, If you don't mind giving up some space while camping, you may try to find a tent that you would be willing to carry backpacking too. Or you could just get a car camping tent to start, have fun with that, then buy a backpacking specific one later.

We published a series on backpacking with kids:

Also some older stuff:

Good luck, and feel free to ask more questions.

3:25 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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This is a tent I used car camping for around 10 years. Even had to live out of it for around 8 months. Never leaked never a broken pole.

Just came up on ebay. It was a VERY good tent.

3:53 p.m. on March 17, 2011 (EDT)
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I would suggest if you haven't back packed before, take your son car camping, and get him hooked on the "fun" parts of camping before you introduce him to the drudgery of schlepping a kit over hill and dale. 

This is the best thing said here.

April 19, 2018
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