My wife and I are pretty outdoorsy people. If the weather is nice and warm, the last place you will find us is in front of the TV. Camping, hiking, biking, geocaching, or just a nice walk on the bike path. You name it, we’re out there. When you factor children into the equation, it doesn’t make it impossible, but you do have to learn how to manage appropriately. This where my next kit comes into play. I call it my Outdoor Kids Kit.
Now, this kit is modular. It is not the same every time we go out, and the contents and the container change based on the particular activity of the day. It is a Camelbak daypack knockoff that I picked up for around $20. It has plenty of space on the interior, with additional pockets and bungee cords for quick grab items. There is also a pocket and sleeve for a 2L hydration bladder. The basic contents are this:
- First Aid Kit – I don’t carry a full size trauma bag worth of supplies in this. I will delve into more specifics later on in the post. My ACTUAL trauma bag is for another post. I simply carry a basic first aid kit that zips up into a nice little carrying pouch. It opens like a book and has “pages” with pockets full of supplies. Make sure to have extra stuff to clean out skinned knees and elbows. Toddlers aren’t really steady and rather top heavy when running full speed. Next time you’re out to eat at a barbecue joint, ask for extra wet wipes and toss a few in here. They work great for cleaning out wounds. Also a pack of kid friendly bandages helps dry the tears. I personally carry the Disney Princess pack.
- Water – That’s water for you, AND the kids. I always have the 2 hydration bladder with me, plus a water bottle strapped to the outside bungees. It is important to stay hydrated when in the outdoors. You don’t have to be sweating to become dehydrated!!! Also have a method for water purification if you’re going to be on a longer trip where access to public water is limited. Mostly I carry iodine tabs for an emergency, but I have a water purification filter I will toss in my bigger pack for longer/overnight trips.
- Snacks – Do you really want to be stuck 5+ miles out somewhere and your kid decide that the hunger pangs that could have been staved off by actually eating a meal at lunchtime can no longer be suppressed? Baggies of Cheerios, trail mix, dehydrated fruit are all great ways to not only keep a kid full, but the little bites force their hands to keep occupied. Also those prepackaged pureed fruit pouches that are all the rage these days. These are great especially when we are biking and the kid decides that now is the time she is bored with the trip and wants to flip out in the bike trailer.
Pocketknife and Multitool – I actually always carry these two items on my person at all times….unless I’m at work. Then it’s bandage scissors and a stethoscope. When I was in the Boy Scouts, it was stressed upon you never to be without your pocketknife, and in Search and Rescue, it was vital. Most multitools have a knife blade on them, but I prefer to carry them separately simply because I use my knife a lot, I like the blade on it better than my multitool, and it’s easier to handle. If you only wish to carry one, make it the multitool. I have one on my belt, and my wife carries one in her purse. And believe it or not she uses hers as much as I use mine! I bought it for her as a Christmas present because I got tired of mine disappearing because she needed it for something. You never know when you’re going to be in the woods or on a walk and something happens. The stroller has a loose screw and you need a screwdriver. Your wife gets a splinter and you need a pair of tweezers. You forgot the can opener at home and need the can of sauce opened for the spaghetti (All of the examples given have actually happened to me). So you never know when you’ll need it. You also don’t need a $70 Leatherman either. I carry a Gerber Suspension Multitool. It retails for $30, I have had it for 10+ years, and it has held up the entire time.
- Pen and notebook – This was a tip I picked up from Search And Rescue. You never know when you will need to write something down. Consider this very plausible scenerio. You are far out. There is no cell phone reception. You are injured and cannot continue on or call for help. Someone passes you on the trail. You have a pen and paper where you can write down vital information such as name, location, nature of injury, etc that your Good Samaritan can pass along to the first responders.
- Method of Communication – 95% of you will use a cell phone for this. Carry it with you and keep it charged. I also highly recommend a method to CHARGE it if you plan on being out for any length of time. I just carry one of those power banks that you can charge up at home and plug your phone into later. I have a solar charger if I’m going to be somewhere overnight. I am also a ham radio operator, so I have my ham radio with me as well. For those of you unfamiliar, check it out here. It requires a FCC license, and I like to go a lot of places where there is no cell phone service, so this is the perfect way to call for help.
- Signalling device – Ok, so there’s no cell phone service, no one on the radio, now what? You gotta get someone’s attention somehow. Three long blasts from an emergency whistle can signal someone for several miles away if the wind is good. A signal mirror can also be used as a visual for an overhead plane or someone in the distance. Remember, be prepared.
Now let’s talk about some modular items. This is dependent upon what activity is happening. I swap these items regularly in and out of my other kits for when I need them.
- GPS – If I plan on going anywhere where there is a potential to have little to no cell phone reception, I will throw my Garmin WITH EXTRA BATTERIES into my pack. This has a multipurpose function. For one, if I need to call for help, I can pull out my GPS and tell them my exact coordinates taking the guesswork out of a search party. Secondly, if I am unable to call for help, or I am lost, I can use the GPS with its preloaded maps to help me find my way home. And as a caveat here, may I just say that if you’re going to be roughing it through the brush, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS bring a paper copy of a map and a compass. A GPS is nice, but remember it is a piece of technology. Technology always has the potential for failure. One time, my search and rescue team was participating in a joint training venture with a canine search team. My team’s training focus was primarily search tactics, wilderness survival, and wilderness emergency medicine. The team we were working with focused most of their training on the dogs. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but you have to have some level of preparedness if you’re going to be going on wilderness searches. These handlers would be so loaded down with gear for the dog that they would carry absolutely nothing for themselves. Case in point; I was assigned comms on a team of consisting of myself, a seasoned handler that was our navigator, and a new handler that was trying to work a new dog in the field. Unbeknownst to Incident Command of this little tidbit, this damn dog was taking us all over hell’s half acre in the middle of a state forest. Command radios me for our position, and I look at my NAV who this whole time has been paying absolutely no attention to doing any actual navigation and trying to teach this rookie handler and didn’t take the time to notice that her GPS unit’s batteries had died, and she didn’t bring backups. Luckily, I had snagged a paper map from Command, pulled out my compass and was able to give an approximate location. Our NAV person then held out her hand to me like I was going to relinquish the duties back over to her, and I told her in a rather overtly blunt manner that her lack of common sense compiled with her general unpreparedness had lost her said responsibility.
- Small toys – These don’t really come along unless we’re biking. Our daughter rides in a trailer that bolts to the back of my bike. Most of the time she stays interested in what is going on around her and waves to the people going by. But after a while that loses its lackluster effect and tantrums have ensued. Usually we will toss in her favorite dolly, a few picture books, and her hand puppets.
- Rain poncho – You can pick up a disposable $0.99 one of these babies at almost any checkout line in America during the summer months. I toss one or two into my pack because they take up almost no room, are lightweight, and can double as a shelter if need be.
- Emergency Blanket – This goes along the same lines as the poncho. Keeps you warm if it’s going to be cold, doubles as a shelter, lightweight, and costs next to nothing.
- Bicycle Repair Kit – This obviously is only used when biking. There are many different things you can have in it, but mine basically consists of a bottle of Fix-a-Flat goop, a bike pump, and a multipurpose bike wrench if something comes loose.
- 550 Paracord – Never leave home without it! Paracord (aka parachute cord) has been gained popularity in recent years due to the prepper movement. You can get this stuff in any color, pattern, or style you can think of. But buyer beware. Make sure that when you buy it, that it is made in the USA, and has 7 inner cores. There is a ton of Chinese crap out there that will leave you high and dry in an emergency. This stuff has a million uses from shoe laces, to shelters, and stitches if need be! I will either carry some in a survival bracelet, a keychain fob, or woven around some hiking sticks.
So there you have it. My outdoor kit is always changing, and I have more or less in it depending upon the situation. Hope this helps those of you who are worried about going into the wilderness with young ones be more prepared. Just get out there and remember to have fun!