Excited noob

2:16 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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So my son joined cub scouts this year and I have a 5 month old Chesapeake bay retriever that has helped us realize how much we like hiking and being outdoors. So far we have been on several 2-4 mile day hikes and are having a blast and now I want to jump all in on the hiking and camping experience with my family of 4..well 5 counting the chessie (7 year old boy and 4.5 year old girl). At this point I am looking for a sanity and direction check from you experienced guys and girls.

so far I have gone to try on packs and watched dozens of YouTube videos and we have settled on an osprey kyte 46 for the wife and an atmos 65 for me. we will be looking to do anything from a quick overnight to a 3-4 at the most And we will obviously be starting with a few single night trips during good weather conditions to get our feet wet. My question here is does the size choices here seem reasonable for all that we will need to carry? My son has a small school size north face pack that he will probably carry a few things in, but not any real weight. we decided on the kyte 46 for my wife because we thought it could be utilized for a single overnight or more. I have also ordered an osprey stratos 34 for a large day/single night camp for me. 

Thanks for your help and very interested in any opinions from couples and how your systems work together. My wife is capable of anything and willing, but dad is usually the pack mule when it comes to carrying things

2:50 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Be very careful with what the kids carry. They have soft bones and heavy loads can do real damage. They also have more fun if they aren't loaded down and if they are having more fun you will have more fun. Sounds like you already understand that, but I always say that first when talking about taking the kids out on trail.

You'll have to look at what you're needing to carry before you can figure out the size pack you'll need. What is your shelter plan for the family? Multiple tents or one big one? From there look at your sleep systems and food+cooking gear and you'll have a basic idea of the minimum pile of stuff you'll be schlepping. Add more food and extra clothes for longer trips. Once you know how much you want to carry you can start divvying it up between the adults to balance out weight and volume. Now those two piles will determine how much pack you need.

That being said, I prefer huge for a daddy pack so I can carry whatever I need to comfortably both in terms of volume and weight. If you can't fit it inside you have to stack it on top which can lead to problems getting under blowdowns or tipping over in a stiff breeze heh. Most packs have pretty good compression systems these days so the extra volume of the pack can be cinched down if you aren't filling it. Having the extra space when I need it for family trips or on Winter solo outings is reason enough to carry a few extra square inches of pack material the rest of the time. Buy a little more pack than you need and you'll probably be happier as there is always one more thing you can think of to bring along on trips with the family :)

3:16 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
Jason Berry
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Get the gear first, take all of it to the outfitters then buy the pack you need. When my kids were small, I was using an 80 litre for overnight trips and the wife had a 70 litre. The older kids should be able to handle a sleeping bag and spare clothes but they will need a pack that can hold them. The tent is going to be the hard part( if you plan on using a tent). You might be able to squeeze into a four man with the dog outside. Two three man tents may be a better option. Either way it will eat up a lot of space. Whatever you do get them out there and have fun!!

9:16 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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One of my in-laws is enjoining this journey, with two preschoolers.  I accompanied them last summer on their first back packing trip in the Sierra.   It worked out very well.

The kid's "packs" were carrying their water, a sweat shirt and trail snack.

The trip was only about 1 1/2 miles, but I'll assure you it was an amazing experience at that age.

Mom was carrying a 40 - 50 L pack.  Carried her stuff, some kit. (35 pounds?)

Dad had a big 'ol hauler pack - really big.  a 4P tent, three sleeping bags, most of the food. kid's stuff, etc.  (60 - 70 pounds).  While quite heavy, the real challenged he faced was the total volume of kit was hard to pack up.

The temps were hi 60s, low hi 40s.  Weather conditions will predicate how much that stuff will weigh.  Duration of the trip and food choices will affect how much that stuff weighs.

One thing you can do is haul the camp in two trips.   For example take just enough food on the first trip to address meals until the second trip carrying the rest of the food arrives.  That in itself can be a respectable port in itself.  A second trip also allows you to take certain liberties, like dragging in fresh foods and cooler.  I had a BLT for breakfast on the last day of our three days out.  If you can have a camp fire, think steaks, hot dogs, baked potatoes, s'mores.

Due to the load size I would recommend dad find a very large external frame pack 85L+.  I have no horse in this race, regarding pack preferences, I also own and use internal frame packs.  But the fact remains most who have done more than a few heavy hauls will attest external frame packs do a better job translating the load to the porter, assuming travel is on established trails.  Additionally it is easy to lash overflow gear to the outside of external frame packs, given access to the frame.  Try before you buy!  Comfort is a very personal thin, what feels good to me may not suit you at all.  Inspect the workmanship of the actual pack you intend to purchase, if possible, as quality can vary between identical items, not to mention between brands.  Spend what you must on your pack.  This piece of gear will greatly affect your experience if it doesn't fit you properly.

Consider getting footwear appropriate for heavy hauls. This piece of gear has the biggest affect on your experience.  Invest accordingly.  You should assure the sole of your boot is torsionally rigid (i.e. cannot be twisted like a wound rubber band).  Make sure it fits!  Your kids should be fine with whatever they wear on the playground.  Mom will have her own opinions and preferences.

I like the MSR Hubba tents, a good trade off between durability, weight and price.



9:37 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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Good stuff Ed. Reading that bit about the boots reminded me of one other thing to mention.

Hiking poles are quite valuable when hauling the daddy pack. If you don't use them now, get some! Heavy, bulky and often stacked quite high, the daddy pack can be a real challenge to balance while dealing with terrain. Becoming a quadruped does a lot to help deal with that.

11:22 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
andrew f. @leadbelly2550
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i'll echo to some extent what others said above.  the size pack depends on the size sleeping bag, tent, food, etc.  because you're starting out, you are more likely to use gear that is heavier and that occupies more space in a backpack.  the most accurate way to do this is load up a few trash bags with the gear you would carry, or estimate the volume and weight before going shopping, and make sure the pack can carry what you anticipate, plus some extra as a buffer.  

the ultimate worst case scenario is that you end up strapping your wife's pack to yours or taking most of the contents out, which is why you should have some overflow space.  i have been on both sides of that equation.  one trip, my brother and i split most of the contents of a friend's pack when her legs cramped badly on a steep uphill.  years later, my sister and her husband split most of the stuff in my pack when i had the same issue.  (moral: don't tackle highly-challenging trails in the winter immediately after trans-pacific travel).

as far as fit goes, if the osprey packs work feel good with weight in them, i wouldn't bother with other brands.  fit is easily the most important qualification, and it's a good brand that makes high quality backpacks.  

4:47 p.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
Bill S
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General rule of thumb for children - keep their pack size (EVERYTHING they are carrying) to 1/4 of their body weight.

I work with Boy Scouts a lot and teach training classes to adult leaders. One of the first things we state in the courses is, whether it is a summer or winter outing, for youth up to their mid-teens, set the quarter-pound limit, do a preliminary weighing of their packs before leaving home, and then weigh the packs at the trailhead just before they set foot on the trail, then offload the excess into the cars.

This weight limit goes for both the boys and girls (if you did not know, Boy Scouts is fully co-ed for youth over age 14, and GSUSA has a similar rule).

As others have already suggested - start with short hikes (in distance terms) and short trips (timewise - start with 1-2 hours car to campsite and 1 night, then gradually work up to 3 hours hike, then 4, 5, etc camping for 2 nights, then 3 , 4 ...) After a year or two, you will have an idea of how much you can handle (that is, how much everyone in your group can handle).

8:57 p.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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Wow fellas I could not have asked for better responses. I greatly appreciate you all taking the time to share your knowledge. I have already purchased the osprey kyte for the wife because she was so positive in her response when she tried it on and goal #1 is keeping her happy with the process. With that being said I will take the advice of the group and load her pack up with the light stuff and see how much I have left over before I buy my pack. Right now I have a combination of some good light stuff(down sleeping bags) and some not so light stuff. We have a Coleman hooligan tent that is not so light, but I will try to use until it's too small- i like the extra covered space for gear but it's heavy.

also- I will absolutely keep my sons pack light and dont plan on putting any weight on the pup until he is at least a year old.

one more question- are these super light/small chairs worth the money assuming we are hiking into camp?

Any other feedback is also greatly appreciated- thanks again.

9:48 p.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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Great advice from the guys above.

On the chair question, that is going to come down to personal choice. With lower back issues, I put a chair in my need, but not essential, category and almost never leave it behind. Many others do the same, while a lot are also comfortable with a pad and local rock or tree.

7:08 p.m. on November 19, 2016 (EST)
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Mackers said:

until he is at least a year old.


Even sledge dogs should not start pulling until they are a year and a half. Most other dogs should wait with carrying backpack and pulling pulkas until they are two years old. But they should be allowed to play and participate on the tours, that will be fun for all the family. Just keep them from chasing cattle or sheeps and all will be pleased.

July 4, 2020
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