I spent the last week researching online communities for outdoor parents, something I haven't been able to find much of in the past. Almost all of the online forums for different sports have no specific section for kids or families, which is very disappointing because I know there are so many of us out there.
But then I discovered all the great groups on Facebook, joined a few, and was inspired by all the posts of parents doing awesome things with their kids.
Here is the complete list of what I found, also located in the Online Communities page on our site. I hope some of these groups also inspire you to get out there with your kids!
When we had our first kid, we didn't have a good roadmap of when we could start doing outdoor activities with kids. Many times I felt like we were winging it and also that we were pushing to do it faster than society suggests. We've been lucky to meet many people over the years who also took their babies on outdoor adventures as we did. Here is a summary of what I wish we knew when we had our first kid - it's part of our General Advice page in the When to Start section.
I’ll get straight to the point: we don’t believe you need a lot of fancy, expensive, new gear to adventure in the outdoors with kids. If you have been playing in the outdoors yourself for many years, you’ve probably splurged on some good quality clothing or the lightest pack available, but your intention was most likely to use it for the next 10-20 years. For example, I still have the Whisperlite stove I used hiking the Appalachian Trail over 20 years ago, and it still works great. But kids grow quickly and (unless you have a teenager) the gear probably won’t fit them in a few years, so it’s usually not worth it to buy them expensive gear.
Our recommendation is to use hand-me-downs and second-hand gear whenever possible or find deals at end of season sales or discount websites. This is why it is our philosophy on this website to share the types of things to look for in gear for kids rather than the exact brand name because you can’t predict what your friend will give you or what you’ll find at a discount. If you understand what characteristics matter to you, then you can decide which characteristics to compromise on and if the discount gear will work for you.
We believe in saving your money to buy new stuff in cases where you can’t find a used item, where the item is specialized or a safety item, when you know you’ll use it a lot and pass it on to your other kids, or when you know that a certain feature is really important for your family.
Examples of new items we’ve bought:
Here are some tips on where to get used or discount items (and I’ll keep adding to this list as I get more suggestions):
Go have fun out there with your kids, and don’t spend a lot of money doing it!
Helmet: used race helmet from a friend so we know the history of it
Goggles: new (we usually wear them until they fall apart)
Poles: new (cheap)
Skis/boots: Any Mountain season rental
Photo credit: R. Murphy
Thanks to RM, TM, and KR for the hand-me-downs!
This week we have an update to our General Advice section: first aid planning. This list is based on my experience and my wilderness medicine training that I take every 2-3 years and I updated it based on the course I just took in January.
As always, we love hearing feedback from readers so we can make this page as helpful as possible.
First aid planning is more than just building a good first aid kit. Our recommendation is for at least one and preferably both parents to take first aid and wilderness medical training to match what you would be expected to do if you were a trip leader on a professional course. This gives you peace of mind that you know what to do in an emergency and also gives your family the best chance of a good outcome. As a bonus, you are also able to help other people that you meet on your trip. All the classes recommended below include adult and infant CPR training/certification that is good as long as the overall certification lasts for, so you don’t need to spend time taking that as an extra class.
If you just go on day trips or car camping, the recommended class is a 2 day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) class, making sure you get adult/infant/child CPR training.
If you take your family on multi-day backpacking trips, the recommended class is the Wilderness First Responder (WFR). This class also trains you on the use of epinephrine which can get you special certification depending on your state which may allow you to purchase epi-pens to carry on your trips (not necessarily needed if your kids are already prescribed epinephrine by their doctor).
We recommend recertifying on the schedule the provider requires. Hopefully you don’t have opportunities to use what you learn (because you plan well and have good luck) so the hands-on part of the classes give you good opportunities to practice what you learn.
The most well known training organizations are:
We have taken classes with all 3 of them (although over a 25 year time span). They are all excellent, but have slightly different approaches. Our recommendation is to start by finding the organization that offers the most classes close to home, to make recertifying easier. Otherwise, you can look at the information on their website to see if one of them appeals to you more than others.
Once you’ve completed your class, create your first aid kit and make sure you pack it with you at all times:
And don’t forget to restock your kit before you go out on a trip and audit it once a year for expired supplies.
How am I ever going to keep climbing / backpacking / skiing / camping / biking after I have kids? I can’t push myself as hard as I used to or go as far as I used to now that I’m pregnant! It will never be fun again! My friends / coworkers were right, I’ll never do anything outdoors again! Life is over!
Obviously most of that is not true, exploring the outdoors with kids is amazing. It is just a lot different - sometimes much harder and sometimes way better. Here are some tips on adjusting to being an outdoor parent:
Preparation while pregnant or waiting for adoption:
How to adjust to doing things with babies:
How to adjust if you waited until the kids are bigger before getting back out:
How to find time to do things without the kids:
But whatever you do, don't listen to the naysayers who think that the outdoor life is over once you have kids. It may take time to adjust, but that is just part of becoming parents. Keep getting out there and it will keep getting easier.
Two Silicon Valley engineers who have had a love of the outdoors since childhood. Parents of two small kids, spending our free time exploring the outdoors with them.