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Hiking/Camping with Children in the Pac NW: Food and Hydration

We might be good at the food thing at home, but this is the area we struggle with the most when we’re camping. Don’t get me wrong, we’re always well fed, we just bring too much and wish we could get away from bringing cans of food. I’ll share what we’ve done in the past and what strides we’re making to improve our food situation in the coming years.

We usually have oatmeal for breakfast. Steel cut oats are the best, but instant oatmeal will do just fine and can be helpful for bigger groups. We have a super handy Jetboil that we’ll cook our oatmeal in. And when we’re done, we’ll use it for some tea. (Note: this would be a great time to make some nettle tea) Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all the little luxuries. A cup of tea starts all of my mornings, my mornings outdoors just wouldn’t be the same without it. If you’re a coffee drinker, you can find those little packs of instant coffee at Starbucks I think. I love that our breakfasts are always made without a fire. You wake up in your warm and cozy sleeping bag and know you have to get up and out into the cold. You have to pee and you know it’s going to be a super cold pee and you’re hungry. The last thing I want to have to do is build a fire before I get my breakfast and tea. These are just a few of the reasons I highly recommend having an alternate food heating source.

Bananas, apples and oranges are great fruits to bring since they come with their own protective sleeve, but if you want something more sturdy and compact, dried fruits do a wonderful job. Pineapples and mangoes are my favorite dried fruits, but pick whatever you like best. I know kids usually love apple and banana chips.

One of my favorite things to do for camping trips is make my own trail mix. I’m not a fan of premixed trail mixes so I spend some time in the bulk section of the grocery store getting bags of my favorite things and then toss them in a ziploc bag before I go. If it’s going to be hot on your trip leave out anything that can melt. My favorite mix: macadamia nuts, cashews, pecans, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, coconut, dried mango slices, dried pineapple slices and granola clusters (I just shake the granola and take the large chunks).

We rarely have a designated lunch time since we snack throughout the day. Oftentimes we’ll have a can of green beans or corn and call it good. And for dinner we usually bring a couple cans of chili. But we’re really really trying to get away from bringing cans. It just seems ridiculous to pack those heavy things around for miles. We’re working on a dried soup mix that doesn’t have 18 times the amount of sodium you need in a day – I’ll let you know if we come up with something good there. Cured meats and jerky can pack a punch, but again, I hate the loads of sodium. You can purchase camping meals that come in a bag that are pretty similar to MRE’s. They do the trick, but taste like crap. If you have a little cooler, it can be fun to bring some bacon or hot dogs to cook over the fire. Ramen (and other ramen like meals) are lightweight meals, but again – the sodium. As you can see, we are struggling with the dinner thing. We’re fed, but we’re carrying around cans or are eating sodium rich foods. This is part of the reason we’re working on our foraging skills. It would be so lovely if we were skilled enough to not have to bring much in the way of food, but find it on our journeys.

A small fishing kit is super handy if you’re going to a lake or river. We ate a whole pan full of brook trout one time and it was such a lovely escape from the cans we were used to. Of course you can hunt as well. We’re not hunters so I don’t have a whole lot of advice there.

And for dessert… S’MORES! If you have room in your pack, don’t forget the s’mores. Warm, gooey, messy, yummy fun. You know the deal. Roast ’em and eat ’em or light your marshmallows on fire and play with them like they’re sparklers.

On hydration: We don’t have a steripen yet so we haul water along. It’s the heaviest thing we bring so a quick investment is in order. We almost always go places with ample water supply so it’s pretty silly for us to haul water along with us. But whether you plan on bringing a water purifier or packing your own – take hydration seriously. It will keep you alive.

We’ll be back tomorrow with talk about shelter. Have a good Wednesday!



Filed under Food, Hiking/Camping with Kids Series, Outdoors

Hiking/Camping with Children in the Pac NW: Staying Warm and What to Wear

If you’ve ever been camping in the Pac NW, you’re well aware of the fact that staying dry is the key ingredients to staying warm. With that said, keeping yourselves and your children dry will extend the life of your trip tenfold. Let’s talk layers…

We’ll go from the bottom up.
Socks and boots: A medium weight merino wool sock with a waterproof/water resistant boot.
Pants: A mid-weight long john with convertible water resistant outdoor pants.
Tops: A mid-weight long john, fleece jacket and waterproof shell.
Extras: Pairs of socks, underwear, a tank or short sleeved shirt and flip flops or camp sandals.

You can find all of these items for toddlers up through adult sizes. You will have a harder time finding these exact things for kids under a year old, but some brands do a great job of providing technical long johns and bunting. Patagonia, REI and Columbia are your best bets for finding super small people clothing. If you have more than one child and plan on spending lots of time outdoors, I highly recommend spending the extra few bucks on decent gear for your kids. Not only will you find lots of unisex items that can be passed from one child to the next, your children won’t complain of being cold, wet or generally uncomfortable and the gear will get plenty of good wear.

The list above is very basic. It is based on the very familiar 35-65 degree and somewhat damp Pac NW weather. It also takes into consideration the potential elevation change as you enter the mountains or the wind you’re bound to encounter at the ocean. Just because it’s 80 degrees at home in Seattle doesn’t mean it will be 80 degrees all night in the mountains or dry at the ocean. Layers, layers, layers.

Next on the list is sleeping arrangements. I only want to cover sleeping bags and pads today since talking tents will be saved for our day on shelter. I recommend purchasing a 20+ degree bag for everyone in your family. If you are going to be mountaineering, you’ll need a different bag, but for 3-Season camping, a 20+ degree bag will do you just fine. Women should really stick with women’s gear including sleeping bags. Women’s bags are not cut as straight as men’s bags and really help your movement while you sleep. Be sure you check the length of the bag before you buy it. Women over 5’6” will probably need a long women’s bag. I like having a mummy bag for those cold nights and even when it isn’t terribly cold the head portion makes a great pillow. My take on sleeping bags for kids is this; buy an adult sized bag and zip tie it off near their feet. They will grow into their bag over time and you won’t have to buy kids bags and then adult bags for them. The weight isn’t much different, nor is the size and you’ll have many more to choose from at the store. Your budget for sleeping bags will impact the degree and weight of the bag. REI and REI Outlet are my favorite sites to look at sleeping bags since you can review a large variety and see their specs. We store our sleeping bags in their stuff sacs and then in a waterproof bag to be sure we have a dry place to sleep. You should try and get off the ground a couple inches. To do that you’ll need a sleeping pad. If you’re not worried about space or weight, you can get foam pads for very inexpensive. If you’re going to be hiking a few miles in and need pads for the whole family, we really like the Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads. They’re lightweight and roll up very small and have chair accessories you can purchase separately.

And now the thing we all think about when we’re heading camping – FIRE! Maintaining fires in the rainforest and at the ocean can be tricky. With practice, you’ll get good at them, but you should know that not having a fire doesn’t have to end your trip. If you have the right clothes and a backup food warming source, you won’t miss having a fire too much. When you do build a fire, make sure it’s a good distance from your tent and that you have a designated area for your small kids to play that’s not too far or too close to the fire. They’ll want to be close to feel the warmth so think about that when you pick a spot for them. Try and find rocks to build up the sides of the fire so there’s a good barrier between them and the fire. And please keep an eye on them at all times. Having a fire can be a ton of fun so keep it safe. Our fire starting kit contains the following items: magnesium stick, matches, lint from the dryer and Grizzly Firestarters.

We’ll be back tomorrow with talk about food and water while camping. Have a good Tuesday!

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Hiking/Camping with Children in the Pac NW: Choosing a Destination

Here’s the start of a one week series on hiking and camping with children in the Pacific Northwest. Most of our camping experiences have been in the Western Washington area so the information you’ll find here will be catered to that, but hopefully there will be tips and tricks you can take elsewhere. Additionally, we have not been known to be “family campers” so you’ll see we err on the light packing side.  If you are planning on staying at designated campground areas where your car will be nearby, you should certainly bring items you know will keep you comfortable for the duration of your stay.

As a side note: While some of this information can be used for basic survival, this series is not intended to educate you on survival techniques.

Monday: Choosing a destination
Tuesday: Keeping your family warm and what to wear
Wednesday: Feeding the clan and staying hydrated
Thursday: Providing shelter
Friday: Having fun in nature

“Where should I take my family to camp?” This is a question I hear time and time again. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t all that simple. My first response is “What kind of camper are you?” And that’s usually followed up with “Do you want to be near your car? How do you envision your sleeping arrangements? How far do you want to hike? Are you worried about children being close to water? Do you want to see other people when you’re on your trip or be completely secluded?” The answers to these questions have a major impact on my suggestions for a destination.

Here are my three categories of hikers/campers:
* Family campers – these are the people who will probably want some of the following items for their stay: an air mattress, lantern, table and cooler for their food, some kind of toilet, music, seating area.
* Hike-In campers – these are the people who have a destination in mind (usually 1-5 miles away from their car) that they will hike to, setup camp, spend a day or three and then head home.
* Backpackers – these are the people who are going on a multiple day and multiple mile long trip. They will setup camp at more than two places along their journey and they are hopefully experienced enough to know what and how to pack going into their trip. (I’m not going to cover backpackers in this series as they have already been there done that. If you’re a backpacker hopefully you’ll find a trick or two here.)

First things first; pick the category you fall into. You can change down the road, but for planning purposes you should know what kind of camper you’re going to be for this trip. Then decide how secluded you would like to be on your trip, whether or not you’re worried about being near a lake or the ocean, if you’re going to bring a pet and how far you want to hike (or not) to your destination.

Resources to Washington State Parks:
Washington State Parks
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Forest
North Cascades National Park
Washington Trails Association

You’re probably going to have a general distance you’re willing to travel. Check out some maps of an area of interest and then hit these sites and find some trails and campsites in that area. Pare your results down to a few that interest you the most and then look at those places via satellite on Google maps, research rules (such as food storage, building fires, etc.), find out if they take reservations, if you need a permit, what season is the best to visit (eg. high elevation in the winter is going to guarantee snow) and what condition the trails are in. If you’re going to the ocean get a tide chart. If you’re going to mountainous areas make sure the roads leading to your destination are intact. Try to think these things through… it’s one thing to be unprepared when it’s just a couple of adults camping, it’s another to be shocked by a high tide when your tent is setup on the beach when you have three kids staying with you.

Some of our favorite hike-in camping spots:
* Shi Shi Beach
* Lena Lake
* Ozette Loop
* The High Divide Loop
* Second Beach

We’ll be back tomorrow with some advice on how to keep your family warm and what to wear on your travels outdoors.

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Third Thursday of October 2006

Who doesn’t like a good love story?
This is the story of how Chris and Laura met {from Laura’s perspective}.
& Thanks to Candace for the encouragement to share our story.

It was April of 2006; my best friend and I recently turned 21 and were enjoying our new found freedom. We went out for a couple drinks and some dancing at J&M in Pioneer Square. We met more than a handful of people, but one of the people we met happened to be the person I would spend the rest of my life with. I’m pretty sure he and I exchanged no more than each other’s names that night, but that was not indicative of what was to come.

Within a couple of days, we met again at a mutual friend’s music studio. The mutual friend wasn’t someone we really enjoyed spending time with and I’m not sure if that had to do with the lack of dialogue we had that day or if we were just not all that interested, but I don’t recall learning a whole lot more about him that day either.

Within a week or so we ran into each other in a crosswalk downtown. We walked together and chatted it up. We got BBQ sandwiches from Longhorn BBQ in Pioneer Square and went our separate ways.

Another week later, my friend and I went to Folklife Festival at the Seattle Center. We ran into Chris at one of the entrances. We were all planning on spending the day at the festival so we decided to hang out together. We saw a few shows and rode on the rides. At this point we exchanged phone numbers and were sure we’d hang again soon.

I doubt more than a couple days passed and we started hanging out very frequently. My friend and I worked downtown at Hotel 1000 and lived just up the street at Harbor Steps. Chris was attending Seattle Pacific University, working a few jobs around town and living on Queen Anne. It was easy for us to cross paths on a regular basis. We’d go to jazz clubs, out to watch sports, or just hang for dinner. We went to a lot of concerts and smaller local gigs. But it should be noted that not all of these events were planned. We continued to just run into each other very often.

During October of 2006 a couple weeks passed and we didn’t see each other. I’m not really sure why… And then on the Third Thursday of October my friend and I were heading to Paragon on Queen Anne. As we rode the bus up the hill I realized I didn’t have my phone with me and was bummed because I was supposed to call my cousin Megan that night to talk about goalkeeping and we were going to be in Chris’ neighborhood and he’d dig the band that was playing that night.

We were at Paragon for probably 20 minutes ordering drinks and waiting for the band to get set-up when Chris and a friend of his walked through the door. I was stunned. We chatted it up for a while, listened to the band play and Chris left after an hour or so. My friend and I stepped outside during the band’s break. We talked as only girlfriends can about what the heck was happening. I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly looking for a partner at that time, but I knew that if I didn’t act, I might lose the best thing who was standing right in front of me. I was a little bit afraid of the potential. I couldn’t think of a reason Chris and I wouldn’t work. I usually had one of those reasons in my back pocket going into a relationship. Not this time.

I picked up the phone the next day and gave him a call. Chris and I have only been apart a handful of days since that Third Thursday of October in 2006.

Picture taken in December of 2006

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