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  1. #1

    Default gear for kids

    I have a 4 year old that has developed excitement around camping, and when backpacking was described his first question was "Can I go with you?"

    Has anyone here run into backpacks and other gear for young kids? Don't need a lot of room as most of his job will be getting from point A to B, but I am curious on what is available. Currently he has a mini mule from camelbak for a backpack, and his sleeping back is decidedly not for backpacking.
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  2. #2

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    To keep things simple, you can make a lot of his initial gear for warmer weather trips. A closed cell pad is dirt cheap and can be cut to size. Take an old poncho liner for less than $20 and cut/sew it into a size appropriate quilt. A bookbag might work well for a first backpack given the minimal volume of gear you're likely to give him at first.

  3. #3

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    If you could find the Walmard Ozark 32F bags on sale those are great for kids. I paid $25 for them a few years ago. Good for people up to about 5'9" and I wouldn't take it to 32F but they kept my kids warm at 40F. Now that they have proven they take care of good gear they got Wilderness Logics 15F quilts.

    My younger son has been using a ULA CDT for the past three years. He is very small for his age and it carries well for him. Just keep the load under 20#.

    At 4 I would just put a stuffed animal, water bottle, and a snack for them to carry. They will love it.

  4. #4

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    A 4 year old isn't going to be able to carry much, and shouldn't. He'll also out grow anything pretty quickly. So, as Caleb suggested, use a cheap book bag which he can carry a few piece of clothes and snacks in just to make him feel like he's part of the effort.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Registered User -Rush-'s Avatar
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    I have an Osprey Youth Ace 38 which is fully adjustable and can handle anything a kid would need on the trail. It's like a small version of the Osprey Atmos pack. My son is 5 and the lowest setting fits him well. You can find it much cheaper. I think I paid $100 for it.

    https://www.amazon.com/Osprey-038238.../dp/B00U3B9VEC

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by -Rush- View Post
    I have an Osprey Youth Ace 38 which is fully adjustable and can handle anything a kid would need on the trail. It's like a small version of the Osprey Atmos pack. My son is 5 and the lowest setting fits him well. You can find it much cheaper. I think I paid $100 for it.

    https://www.amazon.com/Osprey-038238.../dp/B00U3B9VEC
    How small is your son? My son is 43 inch tall, and pretty wiry.

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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by charliethruhike View Post
    I have a 4 year old that has developed excitement around camping, and when backpacking was described his first question was "Can I go with you?"
    As you will soon learn, he does not go with you, you go with him. That said, seeing the world through a child's eyes can be refreshing, even enlightening. Search out one or more "backpacking with kids" books to prepare. Even if they are outdated in details, the principles remain. Have fun!
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    To keep things simple, you can make a lot of his initial gear for warmer weather trips. A closed cell pad is dirt cheap and can be cut to size. Take an old poncho liner for less than $20 and cut/sew it into a size appropriate quilt. A bookbag might work well for a first backpack given the minimal volume of gear you're likely to give him at first.
    What kind of poncho has a liner? I am interested in this idea.

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    Registered User -Rush-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by charliethruhike View Post
    How small is your son? My son is 43 inch tall, and pretty wiry.

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    He's about 45" tall and fit.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by misprof View Post
    What kind of poncho has a liner? I am interested in this idea.
    The US military (and possible others - no idea) has for many years issued a lightweight synthetic blanket designed to tie into the issued poncho. By itself, it's a very useful piece of gear that people often hang on to after the end of their service. Here's a bit more info:
    http://taskandpurpose.com/why-the-wo...-ever-fielded/

    While there are lighter/warmer options on the market, this one is very serviceable for a summer weight option and can be easily acquired used online for about $20.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by misprof View Post
    What kind of poncho has a liner? I am interested in this idea.
    I have one. It's called a woobie. I have it for emergencies in my truck.

    Poncho

    Woobie

  12. #12

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    My 9 yo daughter, 52", 55 lbs, a rail, tried on several adjustable kids packs.
    They all swallowed her whole. None had a small enough waist belt.
    Took a chance on the Dueter Climber. Not adjustable but it fits.
    It is only 22 liters but I really wanted to the pack weight low thus a non issue.
    I can fit a sleeping bag, sleep clothes, sleeping pad and a stuffed animal in it as well as some small things on the brain.

  13. #13

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    When my son started backpacking, his pack (old bookbag) had a snack, water, fleece & a stuffed animal. He also wore a whistle around his neck. As he's gotten older, his pack has included more of his gear. At 13, he carries most of his gear; the only stuff he doesn't carry is joint use - like the cook set.

    Keep in mind that at 4, you will most likely end up carrying him & his pack at times.

    -FA

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    My guy is 6 in November- but smallish (45" tall and 35lbs or so).
    We are working on getting him a pack to carry- but as Caleb mentioned- just a simple Spidey man kids pack was plenty. If you wanted to push- I'd stick with 20% of bodyweight total.
    But as you mentioned- it might be worth a trip to REI to try on a few of the smaller womens packs/running/hydration models and see what happens.

    We are working on keeping things compact and SUL for the kids in general- since parents will carry it anyway- that seems to be the best option.
    That said-
    kiddo bags.jpg
    Here are two kiddo bags I made for my son and daughter. Basic bag made with a bit heavier shell (HyperD 1.0) for abuse, and Primaloft Gold insulation.
    They both weigh 12 ounces finished and pack to a cantaloupe size.
    His is a quilt style that is 56 tall by 42 wide, with a simple sewn footbox (18").
    Hers is the same quilt but folded up into a sleeping bag with a half zip. Roughly 42" tall by 56" circumference and a 24" zipper on one side. (she's 2 and a squirmer so we wanted her "trapped".)

    If you're on the ground- that is a Exped Hyperlight Duomat they are on- which is tight for two adults but just right for a kiddo and a parent to share, and at 27 ounces is about the same as going with a large neo-air for me and a small neo-air for my son. This combo works a bit better and unlike the Neo-air- my son can blow up the Exped himself with the schnozzle bag that comes with it.

    If you made these with a SUL shell (Membrane 10) they would drop to the 9 ounce range and pack smaller- but figured might as well make them with a heavier beat up shell as the bags have become a fun toy around the house too.

    At my son's age- he's just getting big enough to get in and out of a hammock safely. So I made him a parallelogram hammock that came in about 4 ounces and packs quite small.
    Gotta play with the suspension a bit- but I could probably get him a dynaglide rig and keep the tree to tree total at well under 8 ounces. Likely an 8 ounce tarp to match it.
    kiddo hammock PL.jpgkiddo hammock PL2.jpg

    So that would put him at:
    12 ounce bag
    8 ounce hammock
    8 ounce tarp
    12 ounce backpack (probably a home-made job with an easy way to attach it to my pack when he inevitably gets sick of carrying it.)
    Then he could rig his own shelter and carry it at roughly 40 oz of baseweight.
    A jacket, small water bottle, whistle, flashlight, and some toys should put him in the 5-8lb range at which point I'd cut off anything else.

    He's really excited at the prospect- and even learning to sew himself- so why not?
    kiddo sewing.jpg


    As fer the two year old....
    She will sleep with me just fine in a hammock- but still prefers Momma.
    Momma prefers a tent.
    Fer that- a Big agnes 2 man mountain spur- the aforementioned exped pad, and riding along in an osprey pack seems to be the best solution from 2-6. (My son and I did a trip with this rig at 5 and it worked out well).
    kiddo pack.jpg

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    My guy is 6 in November- but smallish (45" tall and 35lbs or so).
    We are working on getting him a pack to carry- but as Caleb mentioned- just a simple Spidey man kids pack was plenty. If you wanted to push- I'd stick with 20% of bodyweight total.
    But as you mentioned- it might be worth a trip to REI to try on a few of the smaller womens packs/running/hydration models and see what happens.

    We are working on keeping things compact and SUL for the kids in general- since parents will carry it anyway- that seems to be the best option.
    That said-
    kiddo bags.jpg
    Here are two kiddo bags I made for my son and daughter. Basic bag made with a bit heavier shell (HyperD 1.0) for abuse, and Primaloft Gold insulation.
    They both weigh 12 ounces finished and pack to a cantaloupe size.
    His is a quilt style that is 56 tall by 42 wide, with a simple sewn footbox (18").
    Hers is the same quilt but folded up into a sleeping bag with a half zip. Roughly 42" tall by 56" circumference and a 24" zipper on one side. (she's 2 and a squirmer so we wanted her "trapped".)

    If you're on the ground- that is a Exped Hyperlight Duomat they are on- which is tight for two adults but just right for a kiddo and a parent to share, and at 27 ounces is about the same as going with a large neo-air for me and a small neo-air for my son. This combo works a bit better and unlike the Neo-air- my son can blow up the Exped himself with the schnozzle bag that comes with it.

    If you made these with a SUL shell (Membrane 10) they would drop to the 9 ounce range and pack smaller- but figured might as well make them with a heavier beat up shell as the bags have become a fun toy around the house too.

    At my son's age- he's just getting big enough to get in and out of a hammock safely. So I made him a parallelogram hammock that came in about 4 ounces and packs quite small.
    Gotta play with the suspension a bit- but I could probably get him a dynaglide rig and keep the tree to tree total at well under 8 ounces. Likely an 8 ounce tarp to match it.
    kiddo hammock PL.jpgkiddo hammock PL2.jpg

    So that would put him at:
    12 ounce bag
    8 ounce hammock
    8 ounce tarp
    12 ounce backpack (probably a home-made job with an easy way to attach it to my pack when he inevitably gets sick of carrying it.)
    Then he could rig his own shelter and carry it at roughly 40 oz of baseweight.
    A jacket, small water bottle, whistle, flashlight, and some toys should put him in the 5-8lb range at which point I'd cut off anything else.

    He's really excited at the prospect- and even learning to sew himself- so why not?
    kiddo sewing.jpg


    As fer the two year old....
    She will sleep with me just fine in a hammock- but still prefers Momma.
    Momma prefers a tent.
    Fer that- a Big agnes 2 man mountain spur- the aforementioned exped pad, and riding along in an osprey pack seems to be the best solution from 2-6. (My son and I did a trip with this rig at 5 and it worked out well).
    kiddo pack.jpg
    So if you've got the younger one in the pack, does there mother carry all your gear?

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  16. #16
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by charliethruhike View Post
    So if you've got the younger one in the pack, does there mother carry all your gear?

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    Not really... we're working on switching things up as we are growing.
    But mommy's been pretty well out of the backpacking game for the past 3 years with pregnancy and our little one.

    Basically my son and I went together from 18 months old or so to now with the Osprey carrier rig. (just the two of us)

    I was able to get everything in there for the two of us, and still carry him when needed. Honestly I think that was a better plan overall as with no pack- he could walk most of the day himself.
    I can give more details on the gear list if you like- but basically UL tent, pads for each of us, and separate bags and some careful thought on the packing and it all fit...(mostly)

    I did have a stuff sack of consumables that I put in the carrier itself when he was walking, and then either hand carried or slung across my front to balance better. So that carried pretty well overall- and much better than trying to carry a pack, then him and his own pack when needed.

    So me and the boy- all loaded up meant my load was between 35-70 lbs for a 3 night trip (wouldn't do more than that to start really).

    What we are working on, is step 2 (with kiddo 2).
    Basically my daughter will slide into the system I developed with my son...

    My wife and son then will pair up- he can carry his own sleep system and a few things... my wife can carry her own stuff and a few group items (bigger pot that don't fit in the osprey).

    Although we are working on some 1.5 person bridge hammocks based upon the duomat size... I like that best, but my wife is still not great at sleeping in one on her own, let alone with a kiddo.
    So likely the boy and I will hang, the wife and daughter will share the Copper Spur for the next season or two.

    So more or less what I am finding. 1 kiddo to one parent.

    2-5 ish- carry them and their stuff (preferably Dad as with a seven pound pack, a bit of food and water, and a kiddo you're going to hit 70lbs from time to time no matter how careful or SUL you are).

    5+ You can start giving them a sleep system (bulky but light) and teaching them to set it up. And either dad's load gets lighter, or in our case, Mom can start coming along and only end up with a few extra pounds of shared gear.

    And my son will then share gear with my wife.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farr Away View Post
    When my son started backpacking, his pack (old bookbag) had a snack, water, fleece & a stuffed animal. He also wore a whistle around his neck. As he's gotten older, his pack has included more of his gear. At 13, he carries most of his gear; the only stuff he doesn't carry is joint use - like the cook set.

    Keep in mind that at 4, you will most likely end up carrying him & his pack at times.

    -FA
    Generally we end up taking breaks for tree id, and will start lessons in tracking animals on our next trip on our breaks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farr Away View Post
    Keep in mind that at 4, you will most likely end up carrying him & his pack at times.

    -FA
    It really depends on the individual. My son did his first 7 mile day at 4 years old without being carried up, down, and around a mountain with 1079ft of elevation gain in 1.9 miles. At the time he had a Camelbak kid's hydration backpack with a liter of water, a sawyer mini, and his own set of supplies. Around 6 miles he asked me if I'd carry him, but I said no and allowed him to stop and rest whenever he needed. He made it just fine and got to bed early.

    FWIW his pack weighed about 4lbs and he weighed about 38lbs.
    Last edited by -Rush-; 07-26-2016 at 14:20.

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    Quote Originally Posted by charliethruhike View Post
    ... most of his job will be getting from point A to B,....
    This job can be too much for the vast majority of 4 year olds. I have 2 boys, 12 and 18. When they were little, we visited dozens of state parks, many of them along the Superior Hiking Trail. We car camped or chose cart-in sites but, we hiked plenty. With an established base, we didn't need to concern ourselves with miles, or weight. If the day was spent throwing rocks into Lake Superior or splashing in water falls rather than covering even a modest number of miles, it didn't much matter. As they got older and demonstrated a capacity to get "from point A to B", we escalated the scope of our adventures. Both are avid backcountry campers and backpackers today.

    "Can I go with you?" means he wants to spend time with you and share your enjoyment of the outdoors. Don't expect too much. Nurture his interest but, let him go at his own pace.

    Good Luck

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    To keep things simple, you can make a lot of his initial gear for warmer weather trips. A closed cell pad is dirt cheap and can be cut to size. Take an old poncho liner for less than $20 and cut/sew it into a size appropriate quilt. A bookbag might work well for a first backpack given the minimal volume of gear you're likely to give him at first.
    I like this idea. I've got an old mil-surplus liner and love it for car camping and the like. My buddy that was in the service says the newer liners are more or less good to use as a 45degree quilt by themselves.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

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