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HikerGuyTom
10-19-2006, 12:25
Howdy All,
Long time reader, first time poster. I'm planning a NOBO hike the next year after I retire from the military (in 5 years) and have a question.

My son will be 10 years old by that time and I'd like to take him with me for a month or so on the AT. I plan on leaving early March and finishing around the middle of August.

My question is: What is a good stretch to take him on that won't be too strenuous with good scenery? I'd like to take him out for a month or so, is that a lot for a 10 year old?

Thanks in advance, and keep up the great informative posts!

Frolicking Dinosaurs
10-19-2006, 12:48
I suggest you read the trail journal for Troll, Anchor and Obvilious (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=3002) before taking your son on a month long hike. This is the journal of a couple that thru-hiked with a 10 year old son in 2005 and has really helped me plan when taking my younger grandkids and great-grandkids into the woods.

As for a section - I'd recommend northern VA and especially the SNP - easy hiking, tons of wildlife that isn't as skiddish around people and good foliage / fauna.

TJ aka Teej
10-19-2006, 13:20
Welcome to WhiteBlaze, HikerGuyTom! As a Dadx3 my advice is to start with camping and dayhikes, and then overnighters. The best way to find out what's "a lot" for any child is by experience. Some kids really take to it, like SloeToe's twins (LT hikers with 100s of AT miles) and my middle daughter - who is just a young teen but has several solo overnights under her boots. Some kids get burnt out by over enthusiastic dads, like my oldest son, who just isn't interested anymore. And then some like other aspects of hiking that don't include camping out, like my mountain climbing 12yo boy.
Just remember, keep it fun!

vipahman
10-19-2006, 15:29
A month is too long. Start out with the day trips, progress to weekends, then a full week and finally a month. For all you know, a week might be too much.

I took my 4 year old son and 2-year old daughter for an outdoor vacation to Colorado. It was a 3-week car-camping vacation with a motel stay every 3 days. By the end of the first week, my son was longing for the motel (I think the TV had something to do with it).

You have to find your child's limits.

Gaiter
10-19-2006, 16:14
nc/tn border up through the grayson highlands

Frolicking Dinosaurs
10-19-2006, 17:19
I was just re-reading the Troll family's journal and teared up over this entry:

The biggest news item for the day is that oblivious lost a tooth after we set up camp tonight. We are hoping that the tooth fairy will be able to find this campsite. We had to make a few adjustments. The tooth is in an empty snack bag in a cup. Oblivious is very worried about the lack of a bed and a pillow. We'll see what the morning brings.Like I said earlier, read this journal - it has all sorts of tips on how to take care of a child's emotional needs as well as physical needs on the trail. Anchor, if you are reading here - you are an awesome mom.

bigcranky
10-19-2006, 18:04
Dino,

I had the same reaction to the quote you posted. Mine is way past that stage, but it brings back some memories. Thanks.

Ender
10-20-2006, 09:59
In 1998 "The Family" thruhiked the AT, and the youngest was either 10 or 11. Regardless, I believe he was a stronger and faster hiker than just about anyone else on the trail, and had a great attitude.

My advice, and this is coming from someone who doesn't have kids, so take it for what it's worth, is to make it as exciting and fun for him as possible, and pay close attention to his physical and emotional needs, but don't be afraid to push him if he's just being a little lazy. Physically, he should be perfectly capable of doing that long a hike, as long as he isn't carrying too much weight. Emotionally it could be hard for him, just as it could be for any hiker. Pay attention to that and adjust your trip accordingly, and all should be fine.

sarbar
10-20-2006, 10:56
I am a huge believer in kids. You have quite a few years to prepare it seems (he is 5 now?) Start hiking with him whenever you can NOW. Get him used to backpacking, hiking, sleeping outside. By 10 it will be old hat, and he won't even blink. He'll probably outhike you by then if he has trail legs. My son does that at 9 now.....
If well trained, you might well find you have a little partner for the whole hike. It is an awesome bonding to hike with your kid.

Blissful
10-20-2006, 11:22
We started our son when he was 10 at Lincoln Woods in NH - hiking the Franconia Falls area with his backpack for a weekend. It was an easy flat trail for 2 miles. He did very well, though he did complain some. We just did a short easy hike and spent time at the falls. Then we began to increase the distance hiking next trips we did. And made sure he got a good pack. And got him involved in Boy Scouts. The last trip we did, he did 17 miles in one day and still brags about it, ha ha (he's 16 now)

If the kids are used to backpacking at a younger age you could go for longer distances and time. With mine, we took it slow and easy and now he will be thru hiking next year.

mrc237
10-20-2006, 11:28
Don't skimp on gear. Also I agree with Blissful get him involved with BSA

RadioFreq
10-20-2006, 11:50
Don't skimp on gear. Also I agree with Blissful get him involved with BSA

Not all troops focus on backpacking. Some don't backpack at all. Check different troops and ask for their list of planned camp outings for the upcoming year. All troops are supposed to have one as a part of their annual planning.

SteveJ
10-20-2006, 13:57
Hi, Tom. Congrats on being in a position to plan a thru-hike!

I have 3 boys - 11, 16 & 18. I agree w/ those who have said "start 'em early." I got re-involved in backpacking when the oldest joined Boy Scouts at 11. Got the bug and began going w/ the boys as often as possible. Oldest quickly decided such an activity had absolutely no interest for him. My other 2 enjoy it. I took the youngest on his 1st trip when he was 5 - see my photo gallery - he carried a book bag w/ his sleeping bag and clothes - maybe 6 lbs. We're going on a short trip w/ the Boy Scout troop this weekend. IMPORTANT! - your son will be miserable if you put too much weight on him! It only takes one trip to make him decide that he hates it and never wants to go again..... I've never allowed my boys to carry more than 25% of their body weight, and generally try to keep it under 20%.

Also, boys can't join Boy Scouts until they're 11 (or, I believe 10 1/2 if they're in 5th grade and earned the Cub Scout 'Arrow of Light' award) - before that it's Cub Scouts - backpacking generally isn't part of the Cub Scout program.....

My 11 y.o. would be thrilled if I could take off for a month and take him backpacking........

TN_Hiker
10-20-2006, 14:03
SteveJ,

Just to clarify the point you made. A boy can join Boy Scouts provided they are 10 y/o and have earned the Arrow of Light. If you refer to the Arrow of Light requirements, they must be active in Webelos (Cub Scouts) for 6 months after completing 4th grade or after 6 months of turning the age of 10.

HikerGuyTom
10-20-2006, 19:18
Thanks everyone for the great responses! I've been able to take him (he's 5 now) camping a few times and he really loved it, next is to see how he enjoys hiking...

Taking him on a few weekend trips is a good idea. Any suggestions on backpacks and sleeping bags?

Thanks for the tip on the SNP, it sounds perfect.

Thanks again for your awesome advice, this is definately one of the best resources on hiking the AT.

Just Jeff
10-20-2006, 19:27
There are several threads here about packs and bags for kids...search the archives. I've also put a little bit of stuff here (http://www.tothewoods.net/HikingWithKids.html).

When my kids were 5, we just used a school pack and put little more than raingear and his homemade quilt in it. And water and emergency gear, of course.

We just got the Deuter Fox 30 and it's a good pack for my 11yo. It's acceptable for my 7yo but the waist strap is a bit big. Great pack overall if you're not going to make your own, though.

Blissful
10-20-2006, 19:27
Thanks everyone for the great responses! I've been able to take him (he's 5 now) camping a few times and he really loved it, next is to see how he enjoys hiking...

Taking him on a few weekend trips is a good idea. Any suggestions on backpacks and sleeping bags?

Thanks for the tip on the SNP, it sounds perfect.

Thanks again for your awesome advice, this is definitely one of the best resources on hiking the AT.

Wish I had a five year old again. How cute!!!! Sigh.

I think the gear section had a thread that talked about backpacks for
youngsters. We got our son a "growing" sleeping bag when he was that age and younger, parts of it zipped off so he didn't get lost inside.

Honestly, in five years though the gear will probably be amazing. What we talk about now will be obsolete. :)

And it's great to see you talk about the future. When my son was 3 I said when he turns 17 we are going to do the whole trail together. He is 16 now and we are doing it next year. Amazing.

sarbar
10-22-2006, 18:50
As for the Cub Scouts: just like in the Boy Scouts, dens can have different intrests. My son's CS den loves hiking (I helped that one!) so the kids are working on their ever cheezy "LNT Badge". Gets the kids out, gets some fresh air, etc. So Cub Scouts can be good :)

And yes, as for gear, if you have it and think you can't live without it, then your kid deserves a mini-me version also. This means decent hiking socks, boots or trail runners, proper clothes, a mini down jacket for off season (Land End is great as is LLBean for kid's clothing for the outdoors), Walmart almost always has Starter shirts for hiking and hiking pants.
The deuter Fox 30 is an excellent pack for small kids. The North Face Tigger bag and the REI ZigZag bag are great for 9-10 month use a year :)
Even at 5-6 a strong kid can carry 7-8 lbs with no issues.
As for those who say the Deuter is too heavy, comapred to most "kids" packs it is a lightweight. It has an excellent suspension, which will do your child more than a 1 lb book bag will ever do :)

Frolicking Dinosaurs
10-22-2006, 19:07
I'm with Sarbar on the 'mini-me versions of everything. While a book bag will work for hiking once in a while, your son will need a real pack for long-distance hiking. The Tigger (http://www.thenorthface.com/opencms/opencms/tnf/gear.jsp?site=NA&model=AAU8&dc=429) sleeping bag is great.

HikerGuyTom
10-23-2006, 16:42
Thanks for the advice on the gear! My son wants to dress like me now, so I'm sure his hiking gear will be no different.

I took him on a short trial hike this past weekend and he did really well. I can't wait to hike the AT with him.

Anghiker
10-25-2006, 10:34
I agree with some of the others that a month may be to long but your son may just love it as well. Dayhikes and overnighters will tell you more.
I hike with my now 10 year old grandson. What I have noticed with him over the last 6 years is that he needs to eat very often, just about every 1/2 hour. He doesn't need much just a couple bits of an energy bar and to make sure he drinks enough. If I don't watch this he tires easily and then wants to quit or just keeps saying " How much farther Gramma?"
You don't want their energy level to spike low or high, so by eating just a little every 1/2 hour to 3/4 hours depending on your terrain it will keep it at an even level.
The most important thing is to have fun and if your not then get him off the trail.
Hope you two have agreat trip no matter how long your out there with him.
It will be something you never forget.
Wilderness Gramma

twosticks
10-25-2006, 11:20
I'm with Sarbar on the 'mini-me versions of everything. While a book bag will work for hiking once in a while, your son will need a real pack for long-distance hiking. The Tigger (http://www.thenorthface.com/opencms/opencms/tnf/gear.jsp?site=NA&model=AAU8&dc=429) sleeping bag is great.

I second the Tigger. I bought one for each of my kids ages 5 and 6 and they are great. Too warm, they sleep on top and they are rated to 32 degrees. I've taken them on numerous overnighters and even some canoe expeditions and the bags worked out great. I matched them with this (http://www.mbstores.com/mohabaco50pa.html). These things tie together so it keeps them on a pad. I use a similar one and the three of us tie in together. Keeps them near me and on the cold nights keeps us all warm.

sarbar
10-25-2006, 17:19
The Tigger is now a 20* bag :) Even better!

stickman
10-31-2006, 21:38
Tom, my son had been car camping since he was born, but when he was 10 I took him on his first backpack trip, just the two of us. I picked a hike of about 8 miles round trip, terrain not too hard, interesting places to camp, etc. I took some of the amenities of car camping with me, like stuff for making somores, bacon and eggs for breakfast, etc. We built a good fire in the evening, went skinny dipping in the creek we were camping next to, and just generally had fun.

On his first backpacking trip, he was a little nervous to be in the deep woods and asked me to please make sure I didn't fall asleep first - that request was a struggle to honor, but I stayed awake until he was snoring before I zonked out.

My son is now 21 and in the Army, but before he joined up, he and I had put in over 300 miles together on the AT, plus trips in the Grand Canyon and several other places. I will always treasure the times we spent out in the woods.

The bottom line is that your son will be so proud to be doing "manly" stuff with you that he will absolutely LOVE it, as long as you don't make it too hard for his age and ability. But the biggest mistake of all would be to not do it. Find the time and make it happen. He won't be your little boy forever, and he won't always have time to do these things with you.

Stickman

Paul Bunyan
11-01-2006, 00:21
SteveJ,

Just to clarify the point you made. A boy can join Boy Scouts provided they are 10 y/o and have earned the Arrow of Light. If you refer to the Arrow of Light requirements, they must be active in Webelos (Cub Scouts) for 6 months after completing 4th grade or after 6 months of turning the age of 10.

Technically, it's 10 OR if you have recieved your Arrow of Light. You dont have to go thru cub scouts to get into BSA.

TN_Hiker
11-01-2006, 10:01
Technically, it's 10 OR if you have recieved your Arrow of Light. You dont have to go thru cub scouts to get into BSA.

All right Paul, I had to go check this to make sure. You are correct about not having to go through Cub Scouts to join Boy Scouts (they both are part of BSA). Per National here are the requirements: "is available to boys who have earned the Arrow of Light Award and are at least 10 years old or have completed the fifth grade and are at least 10, or who are 11" So......if a boy is 10 he must have completed the 5th grade OR wait 6 months after earning his Arrow of Light (a Cub Scout can't earn his Arrow of Light until he reaches the age of 10) regardless of the grade he is in. My source of info. is www.scouting.org (http://www.scouting.org) . As a Cubmaster & Roundtable Commissioner I have been down this road many times.