Oct 13, 2009 at 1:49 pm #1240215
New here, hello!
I've gotten back into backpacking over the past couple summers bringing my kids along. My daughter is 5 now and my son is 8. We have done five trips over the past two summers ranging from just an overnighter to 3 four day trips. They have all been great experiences in the Sierra's and we are hooked as a family.
I'm not getting any younger, and hauling our share plus most of our kids share is getting tiring for my wife and I. We were never "lightweight" packers before, but we've been adapting and purging our packs of everything we don't need. Done a lot of reading here, and that's helped but I'm still more loaded than I'd like. A few questions to the more experienced:
Given that a tent is mandatory for us at this stage of the game, is it realistic to think I'm going to find a decent shelter much lighter than the 7.5 pound Kelty San Miguel 4 person tent?
My wife and I just purchased Marmot Helium bags (sub 2 pounds) which will make a huge weight savings from our old North Face synthetic bags. However, I can't find anything in the way of lightweight bags for our kids. They currently share an older down bag that opens completely up and we insert one on each end, that actually works pretty well but as they grow I think that's not going to fly for more than just next summer.
Stoves. Been using my trusty 35 year old SVEA 123, but am researching the Caldera Cone system. I think we can get by just cooking dinner (cold food for bfast) and our dinners are usually mean in a bag affairs. Any advice from anyone with this system? This would be a nice weight saving too.
Packs. We have external frame packs. I'd like to move towards ultra-light packs, but I just don't think I'll be able to haul all our stuff in one until the kids are bigger and can carry more than the very light loads (basically their clothes only and water) they are carrying now, perhaps 7 pounds in their daypacks. Anyone with experience on this?Oct 13, 2009 at 2:10 pm #1535952
Welcome to the fun!
Tent: Check out something like a MLD Supermid with bug liner. About 3 pounds for the combination, inner is ~7.5 feet per side.
Sleeping Bags: For kids, check out the Western Mountaineering Tamarak, 19 ounces, $200, super compressible, last forever.
Stove: Yup, love the Caldera. They make systems for 2L pots that should work well for you. For the ultimate in weight savings, you might inquire about a Ti-Tri version… burn wood and save fuel weight…
Packs: I don't have kids, but I used to be one! You're right not to overload them, but at the same time they'll kinda enjoy hauling their part of the stuff… give one of them the tent stakes, another the pot, for example? But back to the pack, you might be able to pull off what I refer to as the 'tweener pack. Something light, though not necessarily ultra light. 70L or so. Maybe a GoLite Quest or an Exos 58 from mass market, a ULA Catalyst or something from cottage…
cheers-Oct 13, 2009 at 2:12 pm #1535953
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Doubtless you will get lots of recommendations about changing your packs and tent and so on. I will take the opposite stance and say change nothing – for now. Just go walking, and get back into the groove.
Your kids will be growing up fast – trust me, it happens. So your needs will be changing quite fast. If you can carry the loads for now, do so. The external frame packs will serve you well anyhow – I quite like them for the loads you will have. And we do have a 'rule' that your pack is the LAST thing you should change, only after you have changed everything else.
When you divide the weight of the tent between four the per-person weight isn't that bad. Yes, you will change to something lighter in due course, but no rush. A couple of tarp tents might suit, but there is a cost.
Stove: ah, the venerable Svea. It has the advantage of power over the Caldera Cone of course. The Caldera is fine for 1 or two people, but for 4 … hum, very slow. The best alternative imho would be to look at a canister stove – using a screw-thread canister. They are not dear and would handle the load. We have plenty of stove reviews here.
CheersOct 13, 2009 at 3:05 pm #1535979
We actually had a similar question about kids sleeping bags, as we are trying to get out 2 year old out. We started a thread about it and got quite a few very helpful responses that may be of interest to you:
RyanOct 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm #1535993
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
I've camped under tarps a lot with kids, mostly little brothers and summer camp overnighters. I personally would recommend a completely inclosed tent that keeps out the wind and night noises better so the little ones guys and girls sleep better. There was a thread a while back where someone mentioned cheap military surplus half bags as a good kids sized bag. Hope that helps.Oct 13, 2009 at 6:37 pm #1536051
A good fitting rea kids backpack is worth the cost and time. My son wore a Deuter Fox for a couple years till he outgrew it. The comfort he had was worth what I spent. (Which really wasn't that much)
He slept in an assortment of kids bags as he grew up, his last kid one was an REI Zigzag (it has a new name now).
Kids gear that isn't horridly priced is often a tiny bit heavier but is also going to last if the kid is hard on items. The Deuter for example was overkill in some ways but even after 3+ years of 15 or more trips per year it looked in very good condition. Boys especially beat on gear!
He slept on a Half Ridgerest for a long time when very little, now on a ZLite.
I kept his pack weight under 7 lbs at 5 to 7, then 9 lbs or so to 9, then at 12 to 13 lbs at 9 and up.
What that meant is until he turned 7 I carried most of his water and all of his food. Then he started carrying water. By 10 he had his own Ursack and carried most of his food. Now at 12 he carries all his own gear and I carry none.
I was in the minority in many ways – I always had a pack on him from 4 years and on, working him up slowly. At 5'4" I couldn't carry all our gear easily (I did it on one trip where all he has was his sleeping bag and it nearly knocked me over!) So I figured out how to cut weight and still be safe instead :-)Oct 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm #1536053
Do remember that little kids don't express pain well – they often won't tell you they hurt till they have a mini-meltdown on the trail.
Due to this I never recommend flimsy UL packs for kids. Why? They are not good judges at loading gear to be comfy on their bodies. While adults will shift gear around, carry the pack at different angles over a trip, often the kid is strapped in by the adult who isn't getting the angle right.
As well, if the pack is too long torso wise it butt drags and leads to bearing the weight on the neck and shoulders. Not good!
A well padded hipbelt and shoulder straps with sternum strap and load lifters is well worth the weight penalty.
Kids bodies are growing constantly and you need to protect both their muscles and bones. Bad fitting packs only encourages bad posture!
Ill fitting gear for adults can work in a pinch but if as an adult a person expects the child to walk adult miles and do adult trips, they need gear just for them, well thought out.Oct 14, 2009 at 5:07 am #1536160
@mammomanLocale: NE AL
My wife and I do overnighters with our 4 kids frequently. They are aged 12, 8, 6 and 3 1/2. I feel your pain about kids gear :)
The 12 year-old carries an REI Flash 50 pack with 18-20 lbs. and is a big help.
The 8 year-old girl has done well with an Osprey Jib 35…she didn't like the fit of the REO Comet. Her bag is a Feathered Friends kids bag I got on clearance, which I have never again seen on their website. With that said, the Tamarack looks similar….definitely go for a nice kid-sized down bag. They'll be toasty and comfy, and the bag will pack down small.
The 6 year-ld does very well with the Deuter Fox 30 pack, which is pretty bomber.
The 3 1/2 year old actually carries a Deuter Junior daypack stuffed with pillows :) We got him a TNF Tigger, which is a great bag, but it's synthetic and doesn't pack down terribly small. If I was doing it over I'd get him the Tamarack.
It's important that you get the weight of YOUR big 3 and your wife's down, because you'll be carrying at least some of your kids' gear, food and water. You might look at the Tarptent Hogback as a lightweight shelter for 4. A lightweight loadhauler for you such as a ULA Catalyst would shave several pounds as well.
FWIW, my kids all do fine with Z-Rest type pads.
On our last trip, the six of us plus one guest child carried a total of 110 lbs….that includes 3 tents, lots of food etc. It was by far the lightest load we've done…Dad (me) only had to carry about 30 lbs. on this trip, which was a vast improvement.Oct 14, 2009 at 5:39 am #1536161
Tent : I still think some kind of 'mid will get you the most real estate for the least weight. An MLD Supermid and nest comes in at sub 3lb, and will sleep four just fine. Plus your wallet will be a heap lighter too.
Bag : Check out http://www.mec.ca for kids down bags, under 2lb for under CA$100.
Stove : I agree with Roger, and would suggest the MSR Simmerlite if you're comfortable with white gas, want cheap fuel, and are happy for the adults to do the cooking. If you're okay to pay a little more for fuel and would like the kids to start doing some of the cooking, go for the Windpro. These are both pretty low, pretty stable, pretty foolproof stoves.Oct 14, 2009 at 7:00 am #1536176
Down is great for older kids but if younger and there is ANY risk of bed wetting, go for a durable synthetic bag that can be washed easily. You really don't want to be washing a bag often if it is down.
Also, if you have a kid that gets filthy, down again is not a good idea. Some kids just seem to attract dirt like a magnet….
On stoves, the MSR Windpro is a good canister stove – low in height and very stable. It isn't fast but it simmers perfectly. Add in a MSR Flex 3 pot set and you'd be ready to go.Oct 14, 2009 at 7:43 am #1536186
My kid's gear on the cheap (I have an 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter):
Packs: Homemade, 9 oz. each, modified versions of the MYOG Jay Ham packs shown in the 5 yards to SUL article on this site.
Shelter: Golite Shangrila 3- great size for the three of us (my wife gets her own vacation when I take the kids backpacking)
Bags: I was having trouble finding inexpensive kids bags that didn't weigh 3-4lbs each so I stick them in mine. Most of my bags are 2lbs or under so adult bags aren't an issue weight-wise. I just tuck the extra length under their feet.
I'm currently planning to buy some small Driducks/Dropstopper suits and modify them to fit the kids for this fall/winter.Oct 14, 2009 at 10:38 am #1536257
> Bags: I was having trouble finding inexpensive kids bags that didn't weigh 3-4lbs each so I stick them in mine. Most of my bags are 2lbs or under so adult bags aren't an issue weight-wise. I just tuck the extra length under their feet.
I thought the same. Why bother buying a special bag they'll outgrow so I just use one they'll grow into. My 37" 3 year old son will be in an REI Sub Kilo (wearing pull-ups ;) ) when we go out. I hadn't thought of folding the extra length under his legs.Oct 14, 2009 at 5:37 pm #1536391
Thanks for all the feedback everyone, very helpful hints that I'm investigating further. I've connected with Tim regarding his custom bags and also contacted MEC regarding their Explorer bags. The larger Explorer bag is still less than a pound, rated to 0 degrees C and would be less than $100… the catch is that the United States implemented a new rule in August that forces MEC to either undergo third party testing of their products to be shipped to the US (for lead) or not to ship. They are currently not shipping to the US. Crap. Anyone live in Canada?Oct 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm #1536430
REI and North Face both make reasonably priced and decent weight bags for smaller kids. They are both under 2 lbs and cost less than $100. You may have to search but they are out there. If you are only finding 3 to 4 lb bags they are of the car camping or sleep over variety.
One reason why a child IS important is the cords!!!! Kid bags are designed for use from toddler to up to 9 or 10 (or older) depending on the kids size. They have NO cords and have a fitted hood with elastic. This removes any remote chance of choking.
PLEASE, IF YOU USE AN ADULT BAG – REMOVE THE HOOD CORDS!!!!!! This goes for any adult gear with cinch cords, be it jackets or anything else. Think of the danger till they are at least 5.Oct 15, 2009 at 12:02 am #1536519
Just check that larger Explorer. I see it as 860g, or just under 2 (TWO) pounds.
That's a pretty cunning way for the US to sabotage their free trade agreements! I wonder whether they'll force their own suppliers/manufacturers to do the same before they ship to Canada.Oct 15, 2009 at 11:07 pm #1536913
Mike In SocalParticipant
Would it be out of the question to use a down quilt for the kids instead of a regular kids bag? I have a Golite Ultra 20° that weighs 19 oz and packs down quite small.
MikeOct 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm #1539109
This past summer my family hiked 1/2 of the JMT. My two kids are older than yours (my are 9 & 12). We made sure that our kid's load was never more than 10% (max) of their body weight. From your questions, here is what we took:
Tent – MLD Supermid (spin-tex version), tyvek floor, my wife's hiking poles lashed together for the center pole.
Kid's sleeping bags – TNF Tigger ($80 @ campmor, 20 deg bag, lists 2lb, 1 oz each – ours weighted in at 1lb 15oz each – we didn't use the stuff sack – stuffed it directly into the pack). With the style of tent we took it is possible to roll out of it, hence the synthetic fill. My son did that very thing once during this trip and ended up sleeping on about 1/2" of a blanket of hail – he stayed completely warm, but the bottom of the bag was a bit wet – it dried quickly the following morning)
Kid's Pack – Gossamer Gear's Gorilla pack (the size small fit them … when they are younger homemade is a great way to go to get the right fit). They used Gossamer Gear's Nightlight pad for the pack's frame sheet & sleeping pad.
Cooking System – We used the Caldera system – it worked great – most of our meals were boiling water in a bag style.Oct 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm #1539126
Thanks again everyone! Leaning towards the Tigger bags and also investigating the "Ti-Tri Caldera" as well for the benefits of the Caldera along with wood burning options. Cool stuff everyone, thanks for your input!!!Oct 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm #1539159
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Re packs: Sarah is right, the kids need the supportive frame and the load lifters. I tried the small size Gossamer Gear Mariposa on the 9-year-old last summer and could not keep the straps from cutting into his shoulders. He really needs the load lifters! The Deuter Fox (which I just got him) doesn't seem to work well on him either, because the shoulder straps are too wide for his narrow shoulders. I suspect it's going to be returned. I just wish I could sew well enough to make a lighter and simpler pack bag out of dyneema to use on the frame for a heavier kid's pack. There's no reason a child should need a pack of extremely heavy urethane coated nylon with a zillion zippers, pockets and other gewgaws. Better to teach them to take care of their gear and not drag it over rocks or throw it off cliffs! The ideal would be a MLD Kids Prophet pack bag combined with the frame of an REI Comet or Deuter Fox or whatever is most comfortable for your child. It would be a very expensive undertaking, though.
Sarah is also right about sleeping bags for young children. Every summer one of my grandkids has had at least one "accident" even when wearing a pullup. I'd stick with synthetic bags (my grandkids have the TNF Tigger) until they've been dry at night for a couple of years. The 9-year-old (who will be 10 next spring) is ready for a down bag, so his Tigger will be handed down to his younger brother (who turned 5 today). Of course, if you're lucky enough to have a kid who is always dry at night by the time he/she turns 3, that's a different story! (I did have one like that, which almost made up for the other three who were 6-8 before they could be relied on not to have middle of the night accidents.)
For 3-season backpacking, I'd use a canister stove–easier and more convenient for a group/family. Unlike an alcohol stove, you can turn it off if the kid knocks it over.Oct 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm #1539220
@davidpasseyLocale: New York City
I've been packing with kids for several years. For packs we have used the deuter packs, small size golite infinity and now a small mariposa (which is the favorite). The Deuters are pretty servicable, and about the best option for kids shorter than 5 feet. The shoulder straps on the mariposa were not a problem.
For shelter, the Oware pyramid tarp and silnylon cat tarp slightly bigger than the spinntwin (fits two kids and one adult). Homemade bivies.
For sleeping bags, homemade down quilts.
For cooking alcohol stoves. We've migrated to the minibull designs sketi and white box stoves with antigravity gear pots b/c its simpler to boil a bunch of water for everybody.
We always drop our water.
For rain protection, we made ponchos. We also picked up some very cheap kids precip jackets. The kids seem to prefer the ponchos.
When the sleeping bag weighs 10oz, even a 5 year old can carry most of his own gear.Oct 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm #1539227
Some follow up on Mary's comments – Gossamer Gear packs have shoulder straps that are almost 3" wide – with the shoulder pad installed inside them, it is hard to imagine them cutting into anyone's shoulders. I do acknowledge the importance of fit.
We checked out at the store the Deuter Fox packs and those are definitely a fine kid's pack that are very well made … but unfortunately they are also 1 pound heavier (@ 2lbs 7oz) than a Gossamer Gear Gorilla (@ 1lb 6.7oz with the curve stay support frame included) … since the fit was worked out fine for both types of packs – the lighter pack won out and worked out well for our kids on the trip.
Reliability: There are no valves, 0-rings, needle jets or any moving parts what so ever to go wrong in an alcohol stove – it is about as simple and reliable as you can get.
Stability: For a 1.3 liter pot (which we used)the base is very wide when compared to its height – that makes the pot inherently stable. The cone system increases that base support even wider (larger in diameter) and consequently makes it even more stable … it is VERY unlikely to be tipped over … the alcohol stove itself is also inherently VERY stable as it has a base 4 times larger than its height and sits low. By the way, the pot does not sit on the stove, it is supported solely by the cone system itself. The stove is not connected in anyway to the cone system – so if the pot inside the cone were to somehow be tipped over (VERY,very unlikely) the stove underneath would be undisturbed because it is not connected (so no "tip over" forces could be transferred to it).
This system is simple, stable, and safe.
FWIW, Our kids are not really permitted to "play" in the kitchen area anyhow :-)
Now, dropped / tipped over dinner bags … that is another story :-)
I forgot to mention that we have the Ti-Tri version of the Caldera. The logistics of a wood fire in it (for us) made it more for a back up plan than main source of heat for boiling water … but we did try it a few times … an unplanned bonus: the novelty of roasting marshmallows (the mini kind which we had fortuitously added to the kid's hot chocolate mix) turned out to a huge hit for both our kids.Oct 24, 2009 at 10:12 am #1539284
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
In regards to sleeping bags, I have done two things for my 6.5 yr old daughter, who we have been taking out since she was 2.5 yrs old:
As was mentioned above by someone else, we have out daughter use a 40F Marmot Atom down sleeping bag (1 lb) and simply fold the unused portion of the bag under her. Being young, she sleeps pretty hot and laying clothing seems to the trick in colder weather. (She is old enough for us not to worry about bed wetting…before this, she was using a heavy synth sleeping bag- before I discovered BPL).
I just did this for the first time a month ago, I just took my Marmot Helium EQ 15 F Down bag and opened it up and used it as a quilt for both of us….temps were in the 50F to 40F range and we were both quite fine.
As for shelter, you might consider one of Henry's Tarptents.
For a family of four, even two tarptents (Squall 2) would be lighter than what you have now and can give you some flexibility for usage if you just take a trip with two later on.
I second the idea of going with a canister stove, however, I would add that you might want to pair that with buying a dehydrator and dehydrating your own meals.
This would save you money, weight, and fuel to extend how much time you get out of your canister stove.
One thing that I like to do to save fuel is about 1 hour before dinner, I will put my dehydrated food into a pot and let it soak in treated/filtered water.
This gives a lot of time to rehydrate the food and then consumes less fuel while you are simply heating up your food.
You may already know this, but moving to Platypus water storage bags vs. lexan water bottles will save space and weight.
I use a Platypus 4.0 L water tank for the family and for myself on trips without the family for storing water at camp at the end of the day.
If you are not using chemicals, you might want to consider a gravity filter system like the Sawyer Filter.
For trips that do not require a bear canister, you might want to go with the URsack at 9 oz, it is a lot lighter than a bear vault.
Another options is the Ratsack or others like it….chainmail critter proof bag that is also about 8-9 oz for small sized bag.
Again, as mentioned by many others above…you are best served by doing all that you can to lower your own weight before you tackle your kids.
I use a Golite Jam2 frameless pack and my wife has the Gregory Jade 50 pack and for all three of us, we have plenty of room.
My first trip with just my daughter and I was about a month ago and I took my Jam2 and my daughter only had a tiny REI daypack with a homemade 0.5 L Platypus hydration system, some snacks, and I make her carry all of her rain gear and clothing.
Think that my pack came in at about 23 lbs for a 3 day, 2 night trip.
Anyway, hope that this helps out and it is great that you are taking your children outdoors…great life lessons for them to learn early on that hopefully will make them more self confident and appreciate that there is more to life than tv and video games. (Lord knows that I spend enough hours doing both of these!).
-TonyOct 24, 2009 at 10:20 am #1539287
I always laugh on comments about video games. From 6 on I let Ford bring his Nintendo systems with him, if he carried it. Only for in the truck and in camp. I always felt if he carried the weight and hiked the miles, who was I to say no? And I knew where he was after dark (in the tent playing games). It gave me the ability to take him with me and still give me time at night to relax. Not for everyone, for us it worked.Oct 24, 2009 at 1:33 pm #1539324
We've used the Sweetie Pie by Functional Designs zipped to itself like a taco for our 4 yr. old and it worked great. Not too heavy and right now cheap do to closeout sale.Oct 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm #1539382
Alot of great info in this thread and the kid's sleeping bag one! We are planning on taking our 3.5 yr old twins out next summer and I'm guessing I would have collapsed after a mile with my old frame of mind. Discovering BPL has made me a lot more confident that I won't be found lying face down on the trail ;) Cheers to all you trail blazers making it easier for the rest of us!
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