By: Brendan Place
Before kids, getting outdoors was simple. Put on your boots, pack your bag, and hit the trails. With toddlers, getting outdoors can be a little more complicated, but with the right planning and preparation you can make your adventures exciting and stress free. You’ll have to wait a few years to bring your little one along for those multi-day trips, but in the meantime you can focus on turning small trips into big adventures.
If you’re wondering how to do it, I’ve put together a few tips to turn that tough trip with your two-year-old into an epic adventure.
Be prepared. Make sure your backpack is filled with the essentials, and bring extra!
Imagine you’re on a hike in beautiful Southern California with your child is strapped to your back. You’re halfway up the first hill and all of a sudden that bundle of joy spits up… All over you. And you packed nothing to clean up. What do you do?
This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in this situation. I learned the hard way, but you don’t have to. Being prepared is essential. Every time I leave my house, I run through a checklist of things to add to the backpack:
- Spare set of clothes for the kid and me
- BABY WIPES!!
- A toy or book for entertainment
- A cloth for cleaning
- Water for the both of you
- At least two snacks, preferably more. My son dropped his goldfish (pictured above) about halfway through a 4-mile hike and it was not fun!
Don’t forget to pre-pack your bag whenever possible. As an engineer with a busy week, it makes the nightly walks so much easier when you can grab your bag and go. I always repack the bag after my son heads to sleep.
Safety first: Adios bugs & sunburns!
The last thing you want after a long day of adventure is a toddler complaining of itchy arms and sunburned legs. I’ll admit, I’ve forgotten to put sunscreen or bug spray on Tommy once or twice, so believe me, there is nothing that can kill your hiking buzz more then returning to camp and discovering bumps and burns on you or your baby. These dangers are preventable and sprays and creams are not the only way to prevent these hiking catastrophes.
Wearing the right clothing and footgear is the first step. Make sure your child is wearing long sleeves and pants (weather permitting), a hat, and tall socks to keep them bug bite & burn free. I know it’s easy to have your kids slip into their sandals or crocs, but sneakers or boots are a must. It is important to cover any exposed skin with the right stuff. We like to use a mineral sunscreen and a deet-free essential oil blend to fight harsh rays and bugs!
In case your child does get sunburned, make sure to have some alcohol free aloe, and calamine lotion handy for any bug bites. Lastly, at the end of any outdoor adventure it is vital to check for ticks! Incorporate it with a dry bath (baby wipes) or, if you can, a real bath to get both tasks done at the same time.
Ease Into New Experiences
New experiences can be scary, especially for little ones. I’ve found it is important to ease into new adventures and make them fun! Our most recent endeavor was spending the night at a campground.
We took this process step by step and made each aspect of it exciting. New gear is not just exciting for dads. My boy couldn’t wait to try “camping” in his new sleeping bag on our living room floor, or helping me set up the new tent in our front yard.
For our first night away, I chose a campground close to home. I spent the day getting him tuckered out and hit all the items on his normal night time routines before heading to bed. Make sure to pack a bag with all of his necessities (change of diapers, clothes, water, and a snack) and don’t forget to include their favorite sleeping blanket or stuffed animal or all bets are off!
Camp cooking: Keep it simple (picky eater approved)
Cooking with a little one is a daunting task even at home. Simplicity at the campground is a must. Plan, prep, and simplify your meals beforehand. I like to pick recipes that are simple and get my son involved whenever possible. Here are a few of our favorite easy camp meals:
- Skillet Tortilla Pizza – Fresh dough is delicious, but this quick substitute will leave you with more playtime. Let your child pick their toppings and entertain themselves by building their own pizza!
- Single Skillet Meal – Prepare pre-cut marinated meat and a variety of pre-cut veggies to throw into the skillet. We like to use chicken, broccoli, peppers, onions, and garlic!
- Hotdogs and Beans – Quick and easy, and I haven’t met a kid that doesn’t like this one.
- Pancakes – Prepare the pancake mix at home to make breakfast quick and eas
I always try and get my son to eat his vegetables, but camping is not the place to deal with a cranky kid so bring some of his favorite easy items. Pita & hummus, goldfish, and granola bars are always a hit with the little man.
Remember these tips and tricks for your next outdoor adventure. Whether it’s a stroll through the woods or a night at the campground, these memories will stay with you and your children for the rest of your lives.
Journey Perfectfit Kids Carrier with Sunshade - GET ONE! Strollers are great, but if you like to hike, you need a kids carrier. It has been the single greatest fatherhood accessory I own. Plus you’ll build some pretty sweet calves.
Big Woobie Sleeping Bags – It’s comfortable, kid sized, and kid approved!
Trail Ridge 2 Tent – Easy to set up, and the perfect size for me, my son, and my pup. Plus the easy roll up tent fly lets you watch the stars.
Tru Comfort Camp Bed Double – It made the transition for crib to sleeping bag that much easier.