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  1. #1
    Pilgrim of Serendipity
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    Default Taking four inexperienced girls hiking

    I work with a bunch of middle and high school girls at my church, mostly minorities from urban low-income backgrounds. I'm not sure any of them have ever slept in a tent, once less gone backpacking. I'm pondering taking four of them out for an overnighter in the Sam Houston National Forest (just north of Houston) sometime next spring, and I thought I'd see if anyone here could offer advice.

    I will only do this trip in warm, pleasant weather (say, next April or May-- that's as nice as it gets in southeast Texas!). I have three small tents that would sleep five of us-- I could carry one, and split the other two among the girls. I would tell them to supply their own large school book bags for backpacks. I'm wondering what to do about sleeping bags. The Sportsmans' Guide website used to have $25 summerweight bags that roll up extremely small-- I bought one for myself-- but they seem to be discontinued now. They have Army surplus bags that look similar for $19, but they don't give any information about rolled-up size or weight. I could maybe spend $80 to buy four if they will work. Does anyone know how big these are? (I emailed the company but haven't heard back yet.)

    I plan to give the girls a VERY strict packing list... otherwise, no kidding, they will show up with hair dryers and Gameboys and five changes of clothes. I've already got a place in mind to camp... just about a mile from the parking area, on the shore of Lake Conroe (following Sgt. Rock's advice about camping with kids by water!). I figure we can set up camp there, and then use that as a base for a longer day hike. I want to use the opportunity to talk to them about "pack-in-pack-out," Leave No Trace, caring for the environment, survival in the wilderness, etc. The goal is to give them a pretty safe and controlled experience while still acquainting them with the woods and making them feel like they've had a real adventure.

    So, any advice for me, regarding the sleeping bags or any other gear, or just in general?

  2. #2

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    Makeup off before you go. Otherwise you will be hiking with racoons.
    ad astra per aspera

  3. #3
    Registered User mts4602's Avatar
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    Sounds like you've got it planned out pretty well. The only thing that seems like it might be a problem to me is the girls using school backpacks. If you are not carrying very much weight at all they might be fine to use. But most likely they are going to be extremely uncomfortable as they most likely do not have a hip belt to support the weight and get it off the sholders. Backpacks arn't cheap but you can find external frames for a lot less than internal ones.

    How much weight are you thinking they are going to have to carry? If it is any significant amount at all, you might want to think about getting them backpacks with hip belts.

    MTS

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    Feed them well and let them help. If they've never been camping I bet they've never had fire roasted marshmallows or smores.

    I've bought inexpensive sleeping bags at Wal-Mart ($20 range) they don't pack small, but if you're only hiking for 1 mile, you could even have them just carry the bags in their hand (in a stuff sack).
    If you don't make waves, it means you ain't paddling

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    Another idea is to rent gear. REI rents quality sleeping bags, pads and backpacks. There are 2 stores in Houston, 2 in Austin, Dallas and Plano. The prices are pretty good and if there is a legitimate charitable aspect to this the event coordinator at the store may help out some.
    If you don't make waves, it means you ain't paddling

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    When the time comes to buy bags, packs or other gear I will donate $$$. Send me a PM, I will send you a check. The gear could be used for future trips with other kids.

  7. #7
    Registered User jesse's Avatar
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    I would make it a car camping experience. Maybe day hike from camp. You would not have to worry about sleeping bags, just bring blankets from home. With the scouts we are required to go with at least two leaders on every outing. I would suggest bringing along at least one other adult, for their protection and yours.

  8. #8
    Working on Forestry Grad schol
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    It sounds like you have everything in order. Far enough from roads for some sense of adventure, but no so far that it's going to be an ordeal.

    Make sure that you keep it easy--hiking is no fun if you're not in shape for it. Having lots of stuff is no fun. Make sure to check the weather the weekend before you leave, and maybe have a bad weather bailout? Make sure that the meals you plan to cook are good, and to have something fun for the girls to do other than just hike.

    Having a second leader would be a good idea--maybe even a female one. They're old enough to have hit puberty, and odds are (according to murphy) at least one of them will have to deal with the associated problems while on your trip.

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    Default America shops at Walmart!!!

    Checkout Walmart's sleeping bags on-line (they deliver to a nearby store for free). They have bags at $15,$17, and a few bags in the low $20's.

    Also any quilt or blanket can be "turned" into a sleeping bag with safety pins
    (diaper pins work well).

    If you were to contact a nearby boy scout troop, I'm sure they would be willing to lend equipment also.

    This is a good thing you are doing. Introducing kids into the outdoors can make a big difference in their lives...

    High Five!!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottP View Post
    Having a second leader would be a good idea--maybe even a female one. They're old enough to have hit puberty, and odds are (according to murphy) at least one of them will have to deal with the associated problems while on your trip.
    In today's litigious society, I think having a second leader is a MUST, but perhaps I'm paranoid. If I were doing this, I would really want a second adult who could testify that I wasn't doing anything suspicious.

    And I agree with the idea of a female leader.

    I also wonder if the families could be persuaded to participate. Wouldn't it be great if you got families interested in going out together?

    Jonathan

  11. #11
    Pilgrim of Serendipity
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    Quote Originally Posted by L. Wolf
    When the time comes to buy bags, packs or other gear I will donate $$$. Send me a PM, I will send you a check. The gear could be used for future trips with other kids.
    That is an incredibly sweet and generous offer. Let me see how the planning goes.

    Re: bringing another leader, I knew that would be suggested. I don't really have anyone else who I think could come, however. My regular co-leader of the group *might* have been up for this a year ago, but she's had some health problems and wouldn't be able to hike or sleep on the ground now. I do realize the risks... on the other hand, there are risks inherent in just about any activity involving someone else's kids. I've weighed it in my mind and decided I can live with it.

    I want to keep the group size to no more than five, including myself, so that we can all camp together without being an environmental hardship. Involving the families is a nice idea, but not this trip.

    I think part of what I want them to come away with is a realization of the difference between what they *want* and what they *need.* Backpacking is good for this, because everything you bring has a "cost" in terms of weight you carry. That's one reason I want to go a mile into the woods, instead of car camping... it gives me an extra good reason to tell them to leave their electronics at home.

    I love hip belts myself, but I do hope to keep the weight light enough that a school book bag will be adequate. I've got a monster-big pack myself (my only luggage for a week-and-a-half trip to Europe) so I can take on some extra load if I need to. I'll have to experiment and see what I can put on them without making it too much.

    Good points about the makeup and the female problems... I'll give that some thought.

    I know Walmart and Target sometimes have fleece bags in the $15 range that pack fairly small... if it's not too cold, those would be an option too. (I'm just a VERY cold sleeper myself, and that's a miserable way to spend a night!)

    Very good point also about having activities planned, and alternate plans for bad weather. I definitely want to keep them busy. Swimming in the lake might be an option. Some of the girls had s'mores on a previous outing (where we stayed in a cabin), but that's something I'll plan on doing again! Hot dogs and baked potatoes cook well on a campfire, too. (Yeah, I know, heavy....)

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by envirodiver View Post
    Another idea is to rent gear. REI rents quality sleeping bags, pads and backpacks. There are 2 stores in Houston, 2 in Austin, Dallas and Plano. The prices are pretty good and if there is a legitimate charitable aspect to this the event coordinator at the store may help out some.
    Good surjestion. I also worked w/youth this samr type of group, take the girls for a half a day hike the a full day to help them to see what type of shoes & chlothing to wear. A cheap wind breaker & poncho a must. See if the loacl Girl Souts have a leadre or trainer that is willing to come out to a meeting & help everyone out. If you need to ask me other questions be feel to e-mail me.

  13. #13

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    I'd start them out at a basecamp type area where with all the amenities, a house or church or something and have them all hike in a few miles and then back with their full packs and have them set up tents and do their domestics when they got back. It would give them a chance to decide if they want to do it, better to find out that way than to have everyone in the group have their experience altered by having one member that wants to go home.
    Also, definitley a female adult would seem prudent.

  14. #14
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    Hi, as a Girl Scout leader who's taken girls out more times than she can count, I think you have things pretty well covered. It might make sense to talk a little bit about bathroom facilities (or lack thereof) before you go; I've seen kids shocked to discover that there actually aren't toilets and sinks at regular intervals along the trail. The kids are generally way too embarrassed to use the "natural facility" so be prepared for the fact that there might be some upset tummies or odd moments.

    Just for myself (I am assuming here that you are a man), and given that you probably enjoy living in a house, owning a car, working at a job, having a retirement account, etc., I would never in a hundred million years take girls into the woods without another adult. And I'm a woman! I totally hear you on the relative risks thing but wow, take it from me, you have no idea what a world of trouble you could potentially buy in doing this. There has GOT to be somebody else in the state of Texas that wants to go and do this with you. The above suggestion to get a Girl Scout leader is good, or somebody else in your youth group, or maybe someone from an outdoor rec program at a local college, or a camp leader you've met, or even a relative or friend of yours. Heck, if I were closer I'd come down there and do this with you, that's how much I think you need to re-consider the urge to do it alone.

    I commend you heartily for (a) doing this and (b) putting so much thoughtful effort into it. But you know that saying, no good deed goes unpunished, and I would truly hate to see that happen to you.

    Take care!

    Jane in CT

  15. #15

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    Great stuff! I commend you for doing this really important work! I would suggest you start slow with some day hikes. Their fist time hiking should not be an overnight IMO. Ease them into it. Remember, first impressions are lasting!

    And Lone Wolf! You da Man! I'd be happy to help too. Send me a PM.
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

  16. #16
    GA=>ME 2007 the_iceman's Avatar
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    Default Have a pre-hike gear review....

    I coached girls' soccer from 8 to 18. Get them together a few nights before the trip for a "dress rehersal". Do something fun and have a few small awards for best packed, most ridiculous thing in a pack, lightest pack, heaviest pack, etc. Let them self-critique one another and you can throw in a few subtle points along the way. This will help avoid some surprises.

    I agree with 2 adults.

    I also took my kids to out of state tournaments and had them sign a code of conduct before I went just so they knew what was expected.
    The heaviest thing I carried was my attitude.
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  17. #17
    Pilgrim of Serendipity
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    Whoops, no, I'm female! I wouldn't take a group of girls into the woods if I were a man, for sure. Nor would I take just one child into the woods alone unless I knew the family *very* well indeed.

    On the other hand... your average schoolteacher (male or female) spends the better part of their day alone with a group of kids. And yes, accidents do happen at school and teachers do get accused of things, and a classroom is less isolated than the woods. But I continue to think it's not a ridiculous risk. Still, I'll ask around between now and then and see if any other adults are interested.

    I mentioned this idea briefly to the girls at our Christmas party to gauge interest. At first a bunch of hands went up... then I went on to describe the kind of camping I meant (including a description of digging a hole and going to the bathroom in the woods) and some hands went down, but some said they were still interested. I plan to bring it back up in February or March and see what they think. If more than four are interested, I'll probably have some kind of drawing... and if the first trip goes well, I might take out a second group later (which is a consideration to keep in mind when I decide whether to rent or buy cheap equipment).

    Thanks for all the feedback!

  18. #18
    GA=>ME 2007 the_iceman's Avatar
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    Default 2 adults always regardless of gender.

    I took girls on trips all the time and there were just the 2 male coaches quite often. I had rules that I followed. If we ever had a meeting the door was wide open and there were 2 of us in the room. I did not let other parents be alone with the kids either, male or female. There is too much wierd stuff to take a chance and a rumor or false acusation can do just as much damage to your reputation as a real one.
    Last edited by the_iceman; 12-20-2007 at 07:35.
    The heaviest thing I carried was my attitude.
    Montani semper liberi - Mountaineers are always free

    Desire is the main ingredient for success

  19. #19
    Registered User jesse's Avatar
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    I would never in a hundred million years take girls into the woods without another adult
    The church that sponsors our scout troop has the same 2 depth leader rule when dealing with youth. They call it a youth protection plan. All scout leaders, sunday scholl teachers, youth leaders, etc. are required to be trained, and refreshed every year. Bernin Bush, I would be suprised if your church doesn't have a similar program.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by berninbush View Post
    So, any advice for me, regarding the sleeping bags or any other gear, or just in general?
    Google Pphilmont gear list

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