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Report on kids outdoor activities

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Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby tim » Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:21 pm

In this weekend's column about backpacking in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/opini ... ature.html), there was a link to a report on kids outdoor activities (http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ResearchYouth.pdf).

I was quite surprised to see that only 4.1% of young people participated in backpacking, though it was in line with my own observation that only 4 out of the 91 kids in my twins 6th grade class had ever been backpacking (and two of those are my kids and a third is a friend of theirs that we introduced to backpacking). The NY Times column also highlighted that "there were 35 percent more backcountry campers in the national parks in 1979 than in 2010".

Given the reasons that were expressed for not participating in outdoor activities "too busy" etc. and my own experience that I did lots of hiking with my parents when I was young and then basically gave it up for a few years as a teenager, before starting backpacking, climbing, caving, etc in earnest when I was in college, I wondered what other people had found with their kids (and their own experience when they were younger).

Did you stop backpacking with your kids when they were teenagers or did you carry on doing the same (or more challenging) trips? Is your experience of backpacking with your kids very different to what you did with your parent(s)?



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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby paul » Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:56 pm

I have noticed that I see fewer young people out on the trail. Lots of folks in their thirties and older, and some with kids (but not many) but very few who look like college age and practically none who look like teenagers. I only went backpacking once with family (my mom), although lots of car camping. By the time I was thirteen, my friends and I were off on our own backpacking trips without adults. I think we were very lucky in that regard, but I also think there were more teenagers out there than you see these days (this was in the early 70's). We had done lots of local hiking on our own before we went backpacking, and I think even there you see fewer kids out on their own for a dayhike without adults. I wonder if the general reduction in kids being allowed to go out on their own, even around town, has something to do with fewer kids and young adults being out there. I have two kids - one really likes backpacking, and we have done some adventurous trips, while the other one is all baseball all the time, despite having been taken backpacking starting when he was 3 years old. No accounting for taste.
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby sparky » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:40 pm

We did some car camping when I was young, but not a lot. Scouts lit the fire insidev me, although I never backpacked in scouts, did that myself at 16 when I got a car and a drivers liscence. My parents were pretty lax.

I don't have kids of my own yet....need to hurry up on that times running out....but I hound my friends about taking thier kids, and have taken a lot of my nephews on thier first trips.

As the culture keeps pushing toward the comforts of technology, the equal and opposite reaction away happens within the counterculture. The core that has the patience to appreciate multiday hiking will grow in time. Perhaps its a good thing numbers in the backcountry are much smaller. I bet those who wish to preserve the parks have grown as our understanding of its importance has grown as well
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby windknot » Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:32 am

Thanks for the link to the article.

Backpacking certainly seems to be one of those things that needs to be introduced to someone (i.e. relatively few people just decide to buy a backpack and make a go of it on their own). Especially for the younger demographic, the only way that kids will be exposed to backpacking is if their parents or friends' families take them.

My father took me backpacking for the first time when I was 12 and my brothers were 10 and 7. He was never a big backpacker himself though, so when I caught the bug later as a teenager I began taking him along with me and he ended up backpacking more than he had before. We were a big car camping family though, in large part because my dad's parents had taken the family on car camping trips regularly. I'm sure that if/when I have kids, I'll take them backpacking.
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby balzaccom » Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:02 pm

Yeah well...sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't!

As I grew up my dad worked as a ranger, and we often camped for every vacation. And my first backpacking trip was when I was 12 or so...under the supervision of my 16 year-old sister and her friend.

But my parents never backpacked, only car camped.

With our kids we camped all the time, almost every summer. But they often resisted longer hikes, and in the end we didn't ever take them backpacking. (Those of you who have raised teenagers will understand!)

Now we backpack all the time, and our younger daughter loves to backpack, and has joined us on a couple of trips. But her older sister will never backpack. She still enjoys camping...but is adamant about backpacking. Oh well.
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:07 am

When I was a kid, and experience with my own kids, as well as teaching at NOLS for 7 years-- kids need more than just "backpacking". I do not think one really appreciates "wilderness" until older. So some activity or adventure has to be added to the backpack experience-- playing in water and sticks for little ones, fishing, climbing for older kids, orienteering, etc. Also, kids rather go in groups with other kids - "family" backpacking is not high on kids lists (particularly teens). Eventually just being in the wilderness helps kids begin to appreciate nature, quiet, small things like flowers. I thought just backpacking was pretty boring until well into my 30's!

I took my kids backpacking when they were babies (a LOT of work). When they were 5-7 years old we did 5-day backpacks with the aid of horse packers. My younger daughter and I did an 18-day backpack with lots of off-trail travel when she was 17, and a week trip where she invited her boyfriend (boyfriend did not pass the outdoor test!). But my husband and I were both very exerienced backpackers (climbers). I think it is hard for parents who are beginners themselves to take the entire family backpacking. Kids also are too distracted with TV and computers and other electronic gadgets. Unfortunately, many parents are too busy to take their kids backpacking.

Also, the outdoor industry has convinced us that we need all this fancy gear to go into the wilderness. And there is also a fear-mongering today that makes parents afraid to let their kids outside. I remember that my Mom pushed us out the door early in the day so we could be wild and crazy outside instead of running around in the house! We also did NOT have television until I was nearly 10 years old and then were only allowed to watch one show a night. We also spent lots of time at public parks where they hadl lots of free activities and programs. My Dad was a scout master, and even though girls were not allowed, I was able to sneak into a few scout activities.

I started sleeping out under the stars in my backyard and built fires in a backyard fireplace. Then we "graduated" to car camping. I joined the local mountaineering club when I was 16 and was hooked!

It would be great if each one of us on this forum took a few youngsters under our wings and introduced them to backpacking.
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby BrianF » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:20 am

I know I have been extremely fortunate in this regard. I grew up in the mountains of So. Cal. with the chapparal to my backdoor, from age 9 or so we were always out in the hills - that was our playground. My family wasn't big on car camping but my two best friend's families were and I was always welcome. One dad took us on our (and his) first backpack trip in the San Rafael wilderness when I was about 11(1965) and I have hooked ever since.
Through my teen years and early 20s I rarely went car camping (except in yosemite on rockclimbing trips) - mostly backpacking or mountaineering trips, but once I met the love of my life we started interspersing car trips with the backcountry ones. Our son went car camping at about 5 months (would have been earlier I suppose, but he was born in winter) and his first backpack trip was at about 3. He has been doing both a few times a year ever since.
He is eighteen now, in college, and still loves to go on trips with me - car camping, dayhiking or backpacking. He has gotten to where he is not very interested in day hikes in our local hills, but is always up for the Sierra. I am hoping that he continues wanting to go with his dad in years to come- he is great company. I am also hoping that as I grow older he can return the favor and carry the lion's share of the gear and I can be the one to go light - only seems fair
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby Cross Country » Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:20 pm

My parents took me car camping once. I went on 2 BP trips during the 3 years I was in boy scouts. I loved it and the camping too. My wife and I took our kids car camping 2 or 3 times each summer (I was so busy backpacking I only wanted to go camping a little bit). I truly believe we exposed our sons to the mountains in the same way for each, yet they were VERY different. Jim hated bugs and didn't like to get dirty. Mike took to backpacking like a fish to water. On our (MIke, Jim and I) first trip we had terrible weather. It snowed on us and the boys had to spend almost all of the time at the lake in the tent because of rain, wind and cold. On the way hiking out (we left a day early) Mike said to me "wouldn't it be great, Dad, if we could live out here".

I believe a backpacker is born, not raised.
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby BrianF » Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:44 pm

Cross Country, great story and so true. One of my son's favorite trips was one where were tent bound most of the day in a rainstorm when he was about 9 and we read aloud and ate trail mix during the rain and would dash out whenever it stopped to wander around in the fresh smelling air. Rain stopped in the afternoon and then he promptly fell in the creek! He loved it all.
The thing is to expose kids to the outdoors, give them the opportunity to have fun, and see where it goes. Some of my first backpacking trips turned into death marches, but I still stuck with it - but that would have turned my son away from it forever. We just always made sure to stay within his abilities and attention span when he was little, made sure he was warm and had a toy or two. Later came the more challenging hikes after he was really into it.
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Re: Report on kids outdoor activities

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:03 pm

It was my dad who took my brother and I backpacking and hiking beginning when we were about 3 and 6, respectively, and the trips with me escalated over the years to very challenging trips by my late teen years. The statistics from many areas show a general decline in backcountry usage since the 70's backpacking boom, in spite of the increase in the nation's population since then.

One factor that a number adults have mentioned to me may account for some (but probably not most) of the decline in teenage hikers--this is the increasingly organized summer sports programs connected to 7-12 sports. Many kids now feel they face a choice between winning a starting position on whatever team they'd like to play for, or going to the backcountry during the summer. This is because there has been a quantum increase in various sport summer camps. Whereas it has been and continues to be policy that such camps are not "required" for students to be on the regular season teams, the reality is that if a kid wants playing time they are pretty much expected to sign up for the various camps.

This was not an issue when I was a kid (graduated from high school in 1976). As a basketball player I would play in some fairly short summer league seasons, leaving most of my summer free. I'd play pickup ball pretty much every day I wasn't in the high country. As a swimmer I swam AAU during the summer, but would stop my training to go on a backpacking trip. Now, I believe, the various summer sports programs tend to be much longer and span a bigger part of the summer, leaving much less time for kids to shake free and head for the hills. At least this is what various parents have told me--they've said my kids will have to choose between the outdoor oriented summer and school sports. I guess I'll find out when my kids are old enough to participate in school sports, if they choose to do so.
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