By Auntie Shelley
Let me start off by saying that this post is meant for experienced backcountry campers who are wondering how soon they can or should get their little ones out on a trip. It is not meant for people who don’t have experience with wilderness tripping. If you have never been on a backcountry trip then I would not recommend heading out into the backcountry with a baby.
Over the years we have met a number of couples who used to be avid outdoor adventurers until they had kids. When they hear that we still head out on backcountry trips their response is usually along the lines of, “We used to love, insert – canoeing, camping, hiking, etc. – but then we had kids.” They proceed to tell us, with longing in their voices, how much they miss the backcountry.
We also meet a lot of people who don’t have kids yet and they want to know how we have managed to keep getting into the backcountry since becoming parents. They are afraid that having kids will mean that they have to put wilderness tripping on hold for many years and they don't want it to be like this.
Recently I was thinking a bit about why we were able to keep getting out on extended canoe trips after having kids when many of our friends gave it up? I think a big part of the reason was because we took Anna, our first child, out on a trip within her first year of life. You can read more about that experience here. I have noticed over the years that those who get their first child out on a trip within the first year to 18 months of life tend to keep up with their outdoor pursuits.
Here’s why I think the timing of that first trip matters. If you’re an average couple, then somewhere around the time your first child hits 18-24 months of age, baby number 2 is going to be on the way. Trying to get out on a first backcountry family trip with a toddler while mom is pregnant and exhausted is overwhelming. Chances are it just isn't going to happen. Then the baby arrives and if you've never done it before, the logistics of a trip with a baby and a toddler/preschooler becomes even more overwhelming. Not to mention the cost of outfitting those two little ones. All too quickly two, three, maybe even four years have gone by and tripping just isn’t part of your life anymore. If however, you get out with your first child right off the bat, when it comes time to add another kid it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. You've slowly been building up your confidence and you’ve already got some gear in place.
Anna was three months old when we took her on her first trip. Although it felt a bit crazy before we left, it really built my confidence. When she was 18 months old we took her to Bowron Lakes in Northern BC. We had also been on countless day hikes in the mountains in BC, so by the time Josh made his arrival we had a good sense of what it meant to be out in the wilderness with a very young child. Sure there were some new logistical challenges, but because we’d already been building up to it slowly, it didn’t feel at all overwhelming. Quite honestly however, if we hadn’t done those earlier trips with Anna, I think we would have ended up like many of our friends. Longingly thinking about the days when we used to canoe, but never really getting back into it.
Depending on what type of backcountry trips you like to do (i.e. canoeing, hiking, etc.) there will be different challenges and logistical issues (we can talk more about that in the future), but I would encourage any outdoorsy couple that is starting a family to get back out there as soon as possible. Sure you will have to make some changes to accommodate your little one, but don't let that hold you back. The sooner you get out there the easier it will be.
If you fall into that category of people who used to love the outdoors but fell away from it when you had kids, please don't let this post discourage you. It is absolutely possible to get your kids out there and totally worth the effort. I would encourage you to get back into it. Depending on the ages of your children it might feel challenging, but don't let that deter you. After all, isn't the challenge part of what outdoor adventure is all about? And just think of all the cool new gear you'll get to buy!
As always, if you have any questions about the logistics of backcountry camping with kids feel free to post them in the comments or send us an email.