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Happy Campers

What better way to practice the shelter building and survival skills you learned in this month’s THiNK OUTSiDE Shelter box than to take a family camping trip?  Follow the tips below to make a camping trip fun and enjoyable for the whole family.

Find Your Spot

The first step to an enjoyable camping trip is selecting the right type of trip for your family. What level of adventure are you feeling? From multi-day backpacking trips to living room pillow forts, there are lots of options to choose from for your family’s camping fun.

The most experienced and adventurous may want to try backcountry camping – hiking, biking or kayaking to a remote spot to spend the night. More moderate campers, may choose to spend the night at a campsite in a tent or an RV. Those who want to get away but have all the comforts of home can try glamping in a cabin, yurt or tree house.

Choose the one that’s right for your family based on your comfort, skill level, location and equipment. Practicing in the backyard or at a local campground can be a good idea for your first camping trip in case someone can’t make it through the night.

Keeping Busy and Having Fun

Camping is a fun and exciting family adventure but you won’t be surprised to hear that kids can lose interest quickly. Be sure to have lots of activities available to keep them busy and you from hearing, “I’m booooored.” Camping with friends always helps make the trip more fun for everyone, too.

  • Help with camp setup. It’s never too early to start teaching kids the essentials of setting up camp so get them involved with age-appropriate tasks. Clear debris off of the tent site. Collect sticks and logs for firewood. Help set up the tent. Organize the food and supplies. Scope out the bathrooms, garbage and recreation areas.
  • Outdoor activities. Bring along or rent supplies for some of your kids’ favorite activities as well as a few new things to try. Biking, fishing, throwing ball, kayaking, hiking, geocaching, corn hole, stand up paddle boarding, snow shoeing, bird watching, swimming, and our favorite this month – practicing your shelter building. The possibilities are endless.
  • Indoor activities. There is also lots of fun to have in your shelter and you may need to if you catch some bad weather. Play games and cards, read, do crafts, tell stories, play music, draw. While I prefer to keep electronics put away as much as possible on a camping trip, pulling out your device for a family movie can be a good option when everyone starts to get tired.
  • Campfire. And, of course, you can’t have a camping trip without a campfire (or lantern or fireplace if you’re in your living room). Let your kids practice their fire building and fire safety skills, gather more firewood (you can never have too much), cook over the fire, make s’mores, play music, sing, tell stories, and watch the stars.

Happy Campers, Not Hangry Campers

marshmallows and chocolate bar on brown wooden board

We want happy campers, not hangry campers. Be sure to pack lots of food and drinks for the family. Will you eat all of your meals at the campsite, pack some to eat while hiking or boating, or pick a few meals to eat out if there’s a nearby restaurant?

Bring the staples you know your family will eat but have fun and try some new foods over the fire as well. You’d be surprised how much you can cook with a skillet and a fire. My family’s favorite is mountain pies. Pack a few snacks that are special treats that you don’t normally eat at home.

Don’t forget about s’mores! Will you go traditional s’mores or will you try some new variations? Oreos instead of graham crackers? Peanut butter cups instead of chocolate bars? Add some strawberries? Yum!

Staying Safe and Comfortable

Having the right equipment is key to a successful trip to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe. Know what’s available at your site before you go – bathroom facilities, water source, fire ring, picnic table, etc. Check out this camping checklist from REI to get you started. Remember that you can borrow or rent gear as you get started to keep your trip more affordable.

Camping can be scary. Bring along items to help your kids feel safe and secure. If they sleep with a favorite stuffed animal, make sure it comes along for the trip. Let each person have their own flashlight or headlamp for getting around in the dark and to keep next to them in the tent. (I suggest a headlamp for those nighttime bathroom visits!)

Follow proper precautions for your campsite and follow all posted rules concerning food storage, animal safety and waste disposal. And always remember the The Leave No Trace Seven Principles when enjoying the outdoors.

Want Free Gear?

Check out our THiNK OUTSiDE Giveaways page for current offers. Now through March 14, 2021, enter to win up to $700 worth of gear including a full-year subscription, tent, sleeping bag and hammock!

Happy camping!

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Getting Knotty with Climbing

Have you been practicing your knot tying with the tools you received in this month’s THiNK OUTSiDE box? Do you have a favorite knot? What do you use it for? My favorite knot is the figure 8 knot because it makes one of my favorite activities possible – rock climbing. I just started climbing 2 years ago but I love it because it tests your strength, concentration, and courage and it is a lot of FUN! And it combines a lot of the skills and concepts from this month’s THiNK OUTSiDE Knot booklet – knots, carabiners, pulleys, and anxiety!

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Climbing for Everyone

Maybe you’ve seen the movie “Free Solo” and watched Alex Honnold climb Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan. That was quite an amazing feat! Whether you were inspired or terrified or a bit of both, you can be a climber. In fact, we are naturally inclined to climb. What do most kids do when they come across a big rock or boulder, a rock wall, a steep hill, or a jungle gym? Climb to the top!

Climbing is dangerous so it is important that you only climb with experienced guides or in a supervised gym until you are properly trained. One of the best places to start is in a climbing gym. Most climbing gyms have several sections to choose from – bouldering, auto-belay, top rope, and lead climbing.

Top Rope Climbing

Top rope climbing is a type of climbing where the rope is fixed to an anchor point at the top of the wall while the climber is tied into one end of the rope and the belayer (the person who holds the rope) supports them on the other end of the rope.

The climber begins by tying a figure 8 knot about 3 feet away from the end of the rope. Then, he feeds the end of the rope through the two loops in his harness. Finally, he uses the end of the rope to retrace the figure 8 and pulls the whole thing tight.

The belayer feeds his end of the rope through the belay device (also known as ATC or Air Traffic Controller). Then, he passes his carabiner through the rope and the belay device and attaches them to his harness belay loop and locks the carabiner.

Finally – the most important step – the safety check. Every time, no matter experience level, the climber and belayer must check each other’s equipment setup. Now we are ready to get climbing!

The climber uses the various handholds and footholds to make his way up to the top of the wall. There are many routes to choose from and are marked based on their difficulty level. The belayer pulls the slack out of the rope as the climber makes it higher and is ready to support his weight should he fall or need a break.

Once the climber makes it to the top of his climb, the belayer slowly and gradually releases the rope allowing the climber to rappel back down to the ground. The pulley helps support the climber’s weight. Soon, the climber is back on the ground and ready for high fives for a job well done.

Anxiety, Achievement, and Applause!

Rock climbing provides an excellent opportunity to teach your kids to overcome their own anxiety and to encourage someone else who is struggling. Let’s face it. Rock climbing can be scary. It is a new experience for a lot of us. But the rock climbing community is one of the most supportive I’ve ever encountered. And there’s no feeling like completing a climb that you thought you couldn’t do.

There was a dad at the climbing gym yesterday with his 5-year-old triplets. I was so impressed by the boys’ behavior. While dad belayed one brother, the other two brothers sat back against the wall and watched. One brother borrowed his dad’s phone and taped his brother’s climb with pride. The other brother shouted encouragement. “Wow! You’re doing a great job!” After one of the boys struggled on a climb and came back down a little tearful, his brothers were still there supporting him. “That was a really hard climb. You’ll get it next time!”

Let’s all aim to show that same bravery and encouragement. Climb on!

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Take a Hike: New Holiday Traditions

This holiday season will certainly be different without the usual large family gatherings. Why not take this opportunity to start some new traditions? Our THiNK OUTSiDE family encourages you and your loved ones to #OptOutside this year and take a hike.

Find Your Hike

One of the best things about hiking? There is a hike out there for everybody. Sure, my family enjoys going on long hikes in the mountains with difficult terrain that really get our blood and adrenaline pumping. But don’t let that scare you away. That isn’t for everybody. And that isn’t the only definition of a hike.

The definition of hiking is simply “to travel over on foot for pleasure or exercise.”  Want to go 14 miles? Great. Want to go a quarter mile? Great. Want to gear up with your pack and trekking poles and boots? Great. Want to lace up the sneakers and hit a paved trail? Great. Do whatever makes you happy. But don’t be afraid to try something new either.

If you are looking for a new trail or path for your next outing, check out the AllTrails app. You can search and filter based on location, difficulty, length, accessibility, activities and attractions. I have used this app on all of my adventures locally and when I travel.

Make it Fun!

The key to a successful hike? Fun! (And plenty of snacks.) A good hike is about the journey, not the destination. Take your time and explore what’s around you. Here are some ideas to try on your next hike.

  • Look for signs of wildlife. Put those tracking skills you learned in this month’s THiNK OUTSiDE Wildlife Booklet to the test. Can you find any footprints, feathers, droppings or animal homes? Take your binoculars and journal and see what you can find.
  • Give geocaching a try. Think real-world treasure hunt. Download the Geocaching app on your smartphone and follow the GPS coordinates to hidden treasures.
  • Get out the camera. Take turns capturing photos of your surroundings and of your family. Play with different angles, zoom and lighting.
  • Play follow the leader. Give everyone a chance to be the leader. Jump over logs, hop from stone to stone, walk like a bear, be silly and laugh along the way.
  • Pack a picnic lunch. Plan a nice spot to stop and have a picnic lunch. Get everyone involved in planning and preparing the menu.
  • Enjoy a family chat. Time outside in nature, away from daily distractions and electronics, is the perfect opportunity to connect with your kids and hear what is on their mind.

Let your kids get lost in nature; let them decide the direction. Eventually, they will find themselves!

OUTSiDERS Stay Safe and Respect Nature

  • Plan for your hike. Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather, have any needed safety equipment and bring enough water and snacks for your day.
  • Follow your local COVID guidelines to keep you and your community healthy.
  • As always, remember to respect nature and follow The Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time. – John Muir

Just Keep Hiking

We hope that you enjoy a hike this weekend and continue to THiNK OUTSiDE all year long and for years to come.

Dream BiG! Be KiND! Adventure often!

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Let’s Go Creeking!

Let’s have some fun outside together! Find a local stream and go creeking. Get your feet wet as you look for bugs, fish, rocks, plants, and animals in and around the water. Below are some ideas to have fun in the water. Remember to always stay safe and to respect our natural areas.

Let your kids get lost in nature; let them decide the direction. Eventually, they will find themselves!

Have Fun and Explore

  • Do a scavenger hunt and see how many items you can find. Check out some fun Scavenger Hunt ideas from Love the Outdoors.
  • Identify the different plants and animals you see. Draw a picture of what you find and label it. Try out the iNaturalist app to help with identification.
  • Make a homemade Underwater Scope for better underwater viewing.
  • Make boats out of sticks and leaves and race them down the stream. Which one goes the fastest? Which goes the farthest?

Stay Safe in the Water

  • Supervise children near the water and keep young children within arms’ reach.
  • Check the depth of the water and be aware of sudden changes in depth.
  • Check the current of the water and stay in calmer areas.
  • Wear shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects and for to help grip on slippery rocks.

OUTSiDERS Respect Nature

As always, remember to respect nature and follow The Leave No Trace Seven Principles. While exploring near the stream it’s especially important to remember these points:

  • Use provided trash bins or take trash back home with you. Bonus points if you take a trash bag with you and help pick up litter you find in the area.
  • Feel free to carefully pick up and explore what’s in and around the creek but always put them back nicely where you found them. Instead, take a picture or do a drawing of what you find to remember it.
  • Be careful with the plants and animals you encounter to make sure that you do them no harm. It is our duty to protect our natural areas and the living beings that call them home.

Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time. – John Muir

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OUTSiDERS Respect Nature

Getting kids outside is extremely beneficial – for their health, for their confidence, and for building a love of nature. However, it is equally important that we teach our children to be good stewards of the environment and always treat nature with respect.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has provided The Leave No Trace Seven Principles for us to follow any time we are outdoors.

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

Please take time to review these principles and make sure you and your children are good caretakers of the places you visit.

Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time. – John Muir

For more information, check out this in depth blog on the Do’s and Don’t principles from How To Leave No Trace When Camping and Hiking.