Children

A New Addition to Our Fleet: The Nova Craft Prospector

By Uncle Dan

At the beginning of this season we replaced our old Voyager Prospector with a new red Nova Craft 16' Prospector (purchased from MEC). The boat was meant to be used primarily by our kids and it served its intended function remarkably well.  

Anna and Eva in the 16' Nova Craft Prospector.

The Nova Craft Prospector strikes a perfect balance between ease of maneuverability (due to its 2.5 inch rocker) and straight tracking on flat water (partly due to a full length keel). The kids liked the maneuverability when soloing the boat and when they were exploring islands or fishing.  They also appreciated the relatively straight tracking of the boat when we were on the flat water (on a recent trip we paddled for roughly 11 km on just the first lake.)

Josh soloing the Nova Craft Prospector.

The boat is exceptionally stable, which is important when it is primarily being used by kids. On numerous occasions (when the kids took it to go swimming, exploring, or fishing) the boat was filled to the gills with kids and the movement of the kids in the boat did not pose a noticeable problem; the boat handled considerable side-to-side wobble without ever coming close to tipping.

The Nova Craft Prospector is a very stable boat even when put to the test by energetic kids.

The symmetrical shape of the boat allows the boat to be paddled backwards as easily as forwards, which is useful when one wants to solo the canoe from the front seat facing the stern.  The absence of a thwart behind the front seat also makes this possible. 

Josh soloing the canoe sitting in the front seat facing towards the stern.

The 16' Nova Craft Prospector boasts a centre depth of 15 inches and a centre width of 36 inches.  The upper end of its load capacity is 1000 pounds.  We were able to comfortably fit two 60L barrels (with harnesses) side-by-side between the front seat and the yoke, and two small 30L barrels and some day bags between the back thwart and the yoke (see photo below).  There is also room under the seats for smaller items such as camera gear and water bottles.  The boat could easily handle all of the gear for two people going on a one- or two-week backcountry trip.

The loaded Nova Craft Prospector.

One of the features that I rather like about the Nova Craft Prospector is the relatively meaty aluminum gunwale design (you can get ash gunwales at an additional cost).  The solid gunwales make it easy to pick the boat up from the side and ensure that the seats, thwart and yoke are firmly attached.  We opted for the aluminum gunwales over the ash upgrade because the aluminum gunwales require less maintenance and have greater longevity when the canoe is stored outdoors.  

As you can see in the image below, the paddler of the Nova Craft Prospector sits relatively high above the waterline and so it is advisable to use a paddle with a slightly longer shaft.  The bow height of the Prospector is 23 inches, which is aesthetically appealing and useful when faced with large waves, but can be somewhat of a challenge in strong wind conditions.

Anna paddling the Prospector (left side of the image).   

In terms of build quality, I am happy to report that the Nova Craft Prospector has a solid and reliable build.  The boat is available in several layups (fiberglass or the new TuffStuff material amongst others).  While I would have preferred to go with the amazing TuffStuff, I decided to ultimately go with the much cheaper fiberglass version.  I gather that nowadays fiberglass boats are considered to be mostly cottage boats, primarily because of their weight, which makes them somewhat difficult to portage (the 16' fiberglass Prospector is about 68 pounds in comparison to the TuffStuff version which is about 54 pounds).  However, I don't mind carrying the extra weight on my shoulders when portaging, and the fiberglass version is much lighter on the wallet (which is important when your family has 7 people and the cost of camping gear is quite high).  On our last trip, I portaged the Prospector for a total of roughly 1.3 km and it wasn't really a problem.  Keep in mind that "back in the old days" most of the canoes were fiberglass and portaging a 65 pound canoe was a routine event.  While I would recommend that you go with the TuffStuff layup (or even another lighter layup such as the aramid lite or the blue steel layups) if you have the cash, if money is an issue, just hit the gym during the year to make sure that you are made out of tuff stuff before canoe season begins so you can carry the fiberglass version :).  The fiberglass version we purchased held up very well even though it made frequent (and sometimes somewhat careless) contact with rocky shores of the lakes in the Temagami region.  

If there was one thing I would ask the good folks at Nova Craft to change about the boat it would be the yoke.  The yoke included in this entry level boat is not really much of a yoke (it's more like a thwart), likely because, as I noted before, fiberglass boats are no longer meant for serious portaging.  However, a deep dish yoke would be really helpful for those of us backcountry trippers strapped for cash, especially given the weight of the boat.  In order to portage the boat, I had to resort to the old tried and true trick of lashing paddles between the yoke and the back thwart and carrying the boat on the cantilevered paddle blades (which was much more comfortable -- in fact, I actually like that better than the deep dish or contoured yokes on my other canoes).  While MEC sells a deep dish yoke (for about $100) you can install yourself, I found that the ends of that deep dish yoke were much narrower than the ends of the yoke included with the boat, and I worried that there would just not be enough "meat" on the outsides of the screws to securely hold the yoke in place when the boat is on my shoulders. Also, what's the point of going with a cheaper boat if you have to spend hundreds in post-purchase upgrades?   While I'm making suggestions, I should also mention that the kids complained a little about the comfort of the seats and the handles on the bow and stern; seats made from wide webbing would be preferred and more rounded handles would be much appreciated.  Again, seats made from wide webbing can be purchased at MEC, but at an extra cost.

All things considered, however, I give the fiberglass/aluminum-trim Nova Craft 16' Prospector two thumbs up!  It's a wonderful all-around backcountry canoe for the kids.

Families Go Outdoors Begrudgingly?!? When Kids Don't Want to Go Outdoors

By Auntie Shelley

“I’ve tried to get my kids outside more, but they hate it.”  

“We’ve barely made it to the trail and already our kids are complaining.”

“It just takes so much effort to get them out the door.  They fight us the entire time we’re getting ready.”

Sound familiar?  You’re not alone.  

I have some confessions to make.  

Our children don’t always want to go outdoors.

I don’t always want to go outdoors.

There have been many hikes, canoe trips, bike rides, nature walks - insert any form of outdoor physical activity - where we have joked that it would be more accurate if we named our website “Families Go Outdoors - Begrudgingly”.  Our kids can drag their heels, fight about getting their gear on, and audibly express their displeasure with the best of them.  Just ask our neighbours.

The fact that our kids spend a lot of time outside doesn’t mean that they always like it.  We believe they need it in order to be healthy, so just like we make them brush their teeth, eat their veggies, and clean their rooms, we make them go outside.  It isn’t optional.

The thing I’ve learned (ok, I’m still learning it) is that once we get out there we always feel better.  The kids may whine and complain at the start, but a game of forest hide and seek, finding a salamander or snake, a good splash in a puddle, and everyone feels better.  If all else fails, the promise of a treat once we get to a certain point on the hike or on the way home can also help - just don’t forget the treat!

Over the years we’ve come up with a few strategies that help make it easier to get outside with positive attitudes:

  1. It’s not optional.  Once we say we’re going out, we’re going out.  No matter how much fussing, fighting, whining, complaining there is, we are going.  Yes, we have been spotted carrying a tantruming child out into the wilderness.  And yes, Dan has been spotted dragging a sour-faced wife into the forest ;)  Kids will pretty quickly learn that it’s not worth fighting if they never win.  This isn’t to say that we never battle to get our kids outdoors, but it is certainly less of a battle than if they thought there was a chance they could get out of it.
     
  2. Be prepared as much as possible ahead of time.  The quicker you can get out the door, the more your kids will enjoy going outside.  At some point we’ll share more about how we organize our house/gear to make getting out easier, but for now let’s just say that if a simple walk or day hike is preceded by hours of preparation, searching for gear, parent’s yelling, etc. then kids aren’t going to want to go. 
     
  3. Invest in the right gear.  No kid wants to end up soaking wet and cold.  They also don’t want to be told they can’t jump in puddles or mud.  Investing in good quality rain gear, proper base layers, comfortable footwear, etc. means that your kids will be comfortable no matter what the weather.  
     
  4. Be okay with gear getting dirty or damaged.  Proper nature exploration is a full contact sport and kids won’t want to explore if they are going to get in trouble for getting muddy or accidentally ripping their clothes.  We don’t allow our kids to be careless with their gear, but if something gets damaged that’s okay.    
     
  5. Be ready to explore nature.  A sturdy net, spotting scopes, containers to collect specimens, a nature bag, etc.  Make sure your kids have the tools they need to observe and explore nature and be willing to stop or change plans if they come across a great nature find.   
     
  6. Anticipate and prepare for challenges.  We know that on long canoe trips there will almost always come a point when the kids’ morale is low and they will need some serious encouragement and motivation.  Years ago we started the tradition of telling “legends” in anticipation of this.  The “legends” are stories that revolve around a group of kids in the wilderness that are facing a challenge.  In order to overcome the challenge they have to be attentive to clues along the way and work together cooperatively.  At the end there is always some kind of reward or treasure.  We prepare for these legends ahead of time and bring the reward or treasure with us so that when morale gets low, we can set up a situation or challenge just like the one in the legend.  When the kids start to see the clues from the legend they are motivated to improve their attitudes and work together, just like the kids in the story.  Of course knowing there’s a reward at the end doesn’t hurt either.

    I also try to remember to stick a lollipop or two in my lifejacket on long paddles so that if a little one has trouble coping I have something to distract them with.  Throwing in a chocolate bar for Dan doesn’t hurt either.

    When snowshoeing I have found that having hand warmers and pocket full of “magical warming jellybeans” can quickly head off a full blown “my hands are freezing and going to fall off wig out”.   
     
  7. Lead by example.  If we complain about getting ready, our kids attitudes quickly deteriorate.  When we exude enthusiasm our kids are more likely to get excited about being in the outdoors.
 If mom's not happy, nobody's happy!

If mom's not happy, nobody's happy!

Finally, if all else fails and your kids still don’t want to be outside at least you can take comfort in the fact that you’re building their character ;)

Books that Inspire Outdoor Play

By Auntie Shelley

Our kids love to read.  While we all know that reading is good for kids because it exercises their brains, improves their concentration and imagination, increases their vocabulary, etc., one thing that’s often overlooked is how reading can actually encourage outdoor play - if you pick the right books.

 Chloe & Eva ready to thwart the Sheriff of Nottingham's evil plans

Chloe & Eva ready to thwart the Sheriff of Nottingham's evil plans

 

Over the years we have come across many books that really inspired our kids to play outside for extended periods of time.  Most of them have been classics that involve some kind of adventure.  Thankfully our neighbourhood backs onto a protected woodlot where our kids are free to run about slaying dragons and orcs, searching for hidden treasure, and outwitting the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Queen Jadis and her sledge have also been known to make an appearance or two, but so far we haven’t run into any talking beavers.  

Here is a list of some of our favourites:

 

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein

Hobbits, dwarves, wizards, trolls, goblins, elves, dragons, giant spiders, magical forests, battles….these books have inspired hours and hours of forest play for our family.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, this series tells the adventures of children who play pivotal roles in battling evil and restoring the kingdom.  There are enchanted forests, talking animals, mythical beasts, an evil witch, and Aslan, the Great Lion.  We found The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian particularly inspiring.

 

Robin Hood

An outlaw and his band of merry men, a beautiful maiden, an evil prince, the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, bows and arrows, sword fights, and it all takes place in a forest.  What more could you need?

 

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

A shipwrecked family that goes on to build themselves a huge tree-house to live in.  This is a classic adventure story.  Wyss wrote this book as a way to teach his sons about the natural world and self-reliance, as well as the importance of frugality, cooperation, love, etc.  The book provides detailed lessons about the natural environment, farming, animal husbandry, etc.  

 

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

This is another classic tale of a shipwrecked castaway, only this time some cannibals are added to the mix.

 

Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler

This story is based on the author’s true account of being lost in the Katadhin Mountains for almost 2 weeks when he was only 12 years old.  This story definitely influenced Josh’s obsession with survival skills.  Just make sure you get the original version and not the recent graphic novel version which is awful.

 

The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London

These are great books to read in the winter since they are set in the Yukon and involve dog sledding.  After reading these our kids made their own dog sleds out of Rubbermaid bin lids and string.  The older ones spent hours pulling the younger ones up and down the snow covered streets.

 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

These classics are sure to lead to raft building and searches for hidden gold.


 

While the novels listed above probably most appropriate for school-aged kids, Play with Me by Marie Hall Ets is one book that I love for toddlers.  It is a sweet little story about a girl who goes out to look for animals.  Each animal she tries to catch runs away from her - until she sits still by the pond.  Then they all come back.  I have found this book really helpful in teaching toddlers and preschoolers how to sit still and observe nature.

 

 

 

 

A Few Final Notes:

 Eva with her  Lord of the Rings  inspired "Camping Cloak"

Eva with her Lord of the Rings inspired "Camping Cloak"

 

  • I have found that if we add one or two simple “props” from the book, outdoor play lasts even longer.  One of our favourites is what is now known as, “The Camping Cloak.”  When we read through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings the kids were constantly raiding the linen closet, stealing blankets to use as cloaks.  We ended up sewing some real cloaks and the kids have spent countless hours running through the forests with them.  

 

  • A big spool of heavy string is a worthwhile investment.  It can be used to tie rafts together, as spider webs, to catch goblins, to make bows, etc.  It might seem simple, but the possibilities are endless.

 

  • If these books are above your child’s reading level, consider reading them aloud or have them listen to a recording.  Audible.com has great recordings of them.  

 

  • Although many of these books have been made into movies, I recommend avoiding the movies at least until your kids have read the books.  My observation has been that the books always inspire more imaginative outdoor play than the movies do.  

 

Have you found any books that inspired your kids to play outside?  If so, please share them with us in the comments section below.

Teaching Children to Use an Axe

By Auntie Shelley

In our last post Josh wrote about what to look for when buying an axe.  People are often surprised by the fact that Josh, who just turned 11, has had his own axe for several years now and that he is allowed to use it.  Caleb and Noah who are 7 and 5 respectively also have their own axes and have been learning how to use them over the past couple of summers. 

I think it’s safe to say that in our current day and age, most kids don’t know how to use an axe and many parents would shudder at the idea of their child wielding one.  I certainly had some major reservations when Josh first started using one.  Dan and Dave were taught how to use axes when they were boys.  Their dad, who had experience working in logging and is a wood carver, taught them and it seemed only natural that they would pass this on to their kids.  I think it’s important to point out that before the turn of the last century, chopping wood was a skill that boys learned early on.  While teaching a child how to properly use an axe might seem crazy by today’s standards, it’s really not that far fetched if your child has the right amount of motor coordination, the ability to concentrate, and a skilled instructor.

Knowing how to use an axe is an important survival skill if you are going to spend any significant amount of time in the wilderness, however we also fully acknowledge that axes are dangerous tools and not every child should be allowed to use one.   As well, the age at which a child should be allowed to start using an axe will vary greatly depending on the child.  In the end it is the parents' responsibility to decide if axe skills are something that they want their child to learn and whether or not their child is ready to safely use one.  This article is meant to be an explanation of how we assess our children’s readiness to start using an axe and how we ensure that they learn to use one in a safe manner.

 

Leave the Instruction to the Skilled "Woodsmen"

Among the adults in our family there are some who are skilled with the use of an axe (i.e. Dave, Dan and Grandpa).  There are some of us who have some basic know how and others who have never used an axe.  Those of us who fall into the last two categories don't teach the kids how to use and axe.  Personally, while I could prepare wood for a fire if I needed to, I certainly don't feel confident enough in my abilities to teach the kids.  We leave the instruction up to Grandpa, Dan, and Dave.

 

Appropriate Supervision

Appropriate adult supervision is an absolute necessity.  None of our children are allowed to use an axe without direct adult supervision and the axes are put away whenever they aren’t in use.  

 4 year old Josh putting away his axe as soon as he's finished using it.

4 year old Josh putting away his axe as soon as he's finished using it.

The adult supervising the children must also know how to use an axe; this is not an activity that just any adult will supervise.  When a child is working with an axe, the adult supervising them is focused on this task and nothing else.  In addition, only one child uses his or her axe at a time.  The rest of the kids have to wait their turns.

 4 year old Josh working under Grandpa's close supervision

4 year old Josh working under Grandpa's close supervision

When our kids are starting out, Dave, Dan, or Grandpa work one-on-one with them,  teaching them set-by-step what they should be doing.  As their skills develop Dan, Dave, or Grandpa still keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t doing anything risky and that they are following all the proper safety precautions.


Don’t Start with an Axe

When it comes to preparing wood, none of our kids start out with axes.  First they start out by going on trips into the forest to help collect wood and observe their dads and Grandpa working.  

 Anna is an experienced wood collector.

Anna is an experienced wood collector.


Eventually they graduate to using handsaws and bucksaws with direct adult supervision and help.  As their skills develop they start using these saws on their own and eventually, when the dads or Grandpa feel that they are ready, they move on to using the axe.  

 Luke and Noah working as a team

Luke and Noah working as a team

 

Adequate Motor Coordination

Before we consider letting a child use an axe, we have to be convinced that they have the coordination necessary to handle it without hurting themselves.  With some of the kids, by 4 or 5 they were coordinated enough, but with others, at the age of 7 or 8 we’re still holding off because we don’t feel that they are ready.

 

Ability to Focus on the Task

In general our kids are able to pay attention, focus on a task, and follow directions consistently, however if a child is impulsive or doesn’t follow direction then they aren’t ready to use an axe.  We have been on trips where there were other children present who were very impulsive and who we couldn’t trust to follow our instructions.  On those trips none of the children were allowed to touch an axe.  We just felt that it was too risky to even have the axes out.  Furthermore, if our children are tired or cranky, the axes are put away.  We save this activity for when they are in a good mood, well rested, and ready to focus on the task at hand.  The same goes for the adults supervising the kids.  If we are overtired or worn out then we hold off.

 

The Child’s Interest

Josh, Caleb, and Noah all expressed an interest in using an axe very early one (i.e. age 4).  In Luke’s case, it wasn’t until he was about 5.  Anna, on the other hand, has never shown any real interest in chopping wood.  If our kids meet our requirements for coordination and focus, and they show an interest in learning axe skills, then we will teach them, but it’s not something that we force on them if they aren’t interested or don’t feel that they are ready to do.

 

Axe Selection and Safety Tips when Chopping

In general, a longer handled axe is safer, however with kids, longer axes are usually too heavy so we start our kids off with light, shorter handled axes like the ones Josh recommended.  These axes are easier for the kids to grip and they don’t fatigue too quickly when using them. 

As part of learning to use an axe, the kids are expected to learn how to care for and sharpen their axes.  Our axes are maintained appropriately and kept sharp.  A dull axe is a dangerous axe.

 Uncle Dave showing the boys to how to maintain their axes

Uncle Dave showing the boys to how to maintain their axes

 

In this video, Ray Mears does a fantastic job of demonstrating some basic safety precautions that everyone should take when chopping wood.

 

We highly recommend following all the safety tips that he lists off (they start at 1:34).  One of my major concerns early on was leg or foot injuries, however as Ray demonstrates, if you assume a kneeling posture when chopping wood, you alleviate this potential danger.  This is especially important with the kids since they will typically be using shorter handles axes.  I also like his recommendations for placing the axe onto the wood and then bringing them down simultaneously (at 2:20).  His recommendations about choosing a chopping block that is the right height in relation to your axe and placing the wood at the back of the block will also prevent potential injuries.

 Luke chopping from a kneeling position like Ray recommends.  This is much safer than working standing up.

Luke chopping from a kneeling position like Ray recommends.  This is much safer than working standing up.

My kids love to watch this video and we let them watch it over and over because Ray does such a great job of demonstrating the safe use of an axe, but also because his demeanor is so calm and controlled.  This is the type of behaviour we want our children to emulate when they are using an axe.  Which leads to my final point.

Lead By Example

Kids mimic what they see.  We make sure that we lead by example.  As adults, we never use an axe in a manner that we would not want our children to use it.  This means our actions are calm and controlled and the environment in which we are working is orderly, tidy, and controlled.

 

An axe can be an extremely dangerous tool if not used appropriately and must be respected.  It’s not for every child or adult.  As parents it is something that we have felt is important for some of our children to learn, but as I mentioned, we have also not taught these skills to some of our children because we are not convinced that they are ready for it. In the end it is your responsibility as a parent to decide if axe skills are something that you want your child to have and whether or not your child is ready to safely use one, but we hope this article has given you some insight into how we go about deciding whether or not our kids are ready to pick up an axe.

 

 

2014 Gift Giving Series - More Ideas for Outdoor Kids

BY AUNTIE SHELLEY

Orienteering and map reading skills are essential for anyone spending time in the backcountry.  I recently came across the following books that are great for introducing map skills to kids in the 4-7 year old range.  

Package these two books with a little compass like the Terra Kids Keyring Compass and you have a gift to inspire mapping skills in your 4-7 year old.

 

For older kids a compass like the Silva Trekker 420 is in order.  Combine that with a book like Be Expert with a Map and Compass, some maps of places you plan to explore in the coming year and their own SealLine Map Case and you'll be ready for adventures in 2015.  Stay tuned for our next instalment. It's my favourite - gifts for the outdoor mom!

 
Be Expert with Map and Compass
By Bjorn Kjellstrom, Carina Kjellstrom Elgin
 

2014 Gifts Giving Series - Ideas for Outdoor Kids

By Auntie Shelley

Christmas is quickly approaching and we've been busy putting together our wish lists.  We have come across some neat ideas for the outdoor family.  Over the next few days we'll be posting some Christmas gift ideas.  

For the most part we have tried to keep all of the items under $100.  Many are under $20 and would be ideal as stocking stuffers.  For the kids we have tried to focus on items that will encourage them to develop their outdoor skills and inspire them to get outside.  

So here's our first instalment.

Knot Tying Kits

Terra Kids Knack of Knots Kit

Knowing how to tie various knots is an essential outdoor skill and it's a great to practice during the winter months.

We recently came across this Terra Kids Knack of Knots Kit.  It retails for $16-$20 and comes with everything kids need to know how to tie various knots.

On its own this kit would be great, but you could add a book on knot tying, like My First Book of Knots.  

A great stocking stuffer for older kids would be ropes of various sizes/weights, a carabiner or two and the PROKNOT Outdoor Knots Cards.  This set contains twenty of the most common knots.  They are illustrated on waterproof plastic cards and held together with a grommet.  

They would easily fit in a glove box, backpack, or purse and could be used as a quiet activity during the year on car rides, etc.  

For those with anglers on their lists, they even have the Fisherman's Ultimate Knot Guide cards.

 

NatureFactsKnotsBandana.1__03766.1411506527.135.100.jpg

I would round out a knot tying kit with this Nature Facts Knot Tying Bandana.  

 

Stay tuned for our next instalment - Gifts to Inspire Orienteering Skills.

Hammocks - An Essential Piece of Gear for Naptime and Beyond

By Auntie Shelley

When we first started camping with toddlers, naptime was a bit chaotic.  Our naptime ritual went something like this: I would head to the tent for a “rest” with the little people.  The plan was for us to cuddle up, read a book, and then the little people were supposed to fall asleep and I would have some free time to paddle, read, drink coffee, etc.  In reality we would climb into the tent and the little people would immediately push all of the sleeping bags and gear into one big pile.  They would then proceed to launch themselves head first into the middle of the pile.  This would go on for at least half an hour.  Eventually, after much effort on my part to get them to settle down and sleep, I would pass out from exhaustion while they continued to roughhouse.  Yes, that was naptime.  It was fun for the little people, but not so fun for me. 

Then a few years ago on a last minute trip to Adventure Guide, I picked up a hammock.  Oh how the hammock changed things.  Luke was 2 on that first trip with the hammock.  When he started to look tired I asked him if he wanted to swing in the hammock with Mommy.  He hopped right in, snuggled up and within 5 minutes was out cold.  I think I fell asleep about a minute later.  A new ritual was born.  

Cousin Luke and Auntie Shelley enjoying the hammock.

I have found that my little ones will nap longer in the hammock compared to the tent and often when they wake up they are content to hang out there and watch the trees swaying above them.  I usually put a pad or blanket down underneath them for warmth.  Typically they like edges of the hammock folded up over them so that they are in a little cocoon.  If we’re out during bug season I will drape a mosquito net overtop.  I have also found that on the rare occasion when I don’t fall asleep in there with them, it’s pretty easy to sneak out without waking them up. 

Now, I will admit that when I bought the hammock I wasn’t really thinking about naptime.  I had visions of myself relaxing in it, enjoying a picturesque view of the water while my children canoed and explored the campsite.  In reality, I only got to use the hammock when I was putting Luke down for a nap in it.  The rest of the time it was full of children squirming, giggling, swinging, snuggling, reading, chatting, etc.  There were six or seven children on that trip and I think at least one of them was in the hammock the entire time.  At one point I did try to take back my hammock from the children, but I was out numbered.  They knew it and so did I. 

Since that trip the hammock has become one of our “must have” pieces of gear when camping with little ones.

Cousin Anna lounging in the hammock on a 2010 backcountry trip.

This year we ended up bringing two with us, which was a good thing since Grace staked her claim on the older one the moment it came out of its sack.  She’s rather small, but she is the fifth child and knows how to hold her own.  We all agreed it would be best not to mess with her.

Our latest addition is the ENO DoubleNest.  I picked this one because of its size.  Inevitably three or four kids want to be in there at once and the DoubleNest can easily accommodate them all.  It comes with two carabiners and an attached compression sack and packs down to the size of a softball.    

Cousin Josh in the ENO DoubleNest.

We have lots of webbing kicking around from climbing, so we use that to attach them to the trees, but the Atlas Straps would be worth picking up if you don’t have webbing already.

We have been interested in trying out hammock camping for a while now.  On our recent fall trip, Cousin Chloe tried it out for the first time.  I will let her tell you all about that experience.  For now let’s just say that I think hammocks will be showing up on some Christmas lists this year.