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My son is 10 1/2 years old and weighs about 55 pounds fully dressed! Quick calculation tells me he can only carry about 10 pounds of backpack. This is a problem just in carrying his school books every day. I sure hope he grows some in the next couple of years. I want him to backpack, I think he would enjoy it.


One of the troops we are looking at has a weekend backpacking trip planned this month. The adults said it was something the boys really wanted to do. A few adults decided that it was NOT a good idea to have the boys have to give first aid for heart attacks, so they opted out.


Personally I would also like to learn to backpack. I tend to take everything I own when camping. I live about 2 hours south of the Appalichian Trail. Would love to some day spend a night or two on the trail.


Suggestions about how to get in physical shape for carrying the pack?


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Hang on folks.


Here is what I plan to post in the near future


1. Physical conditioning

2. Food and nutrition

3. Water and hydration

4. Gear and weight considerations

5. Trip planning

6. Other online and offline resources.

7. Stepping up to week long trips (High Adventure)


and more as I think of it. Each subject will be in a different thread.

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Hi Mike,


We're new to scouting, but we are anxious to get out on the trails. We do some hiking on our own property (no trails and very thick in places) and have a lot of fun. I'm looking for information about family hiking with young children.


For instance, a toddler. He fits in a pack that we have (he's under 30#). What about a 35#, tall 3 year old girl, and an 8 year old girl? Do you have any suggestions about backpacking with them? I'm looking for the ideal situation where I can make sure the younger ones enjoy God's country and still challenge the older kids (boys - 13, 11 and 10).


We have a state park that has primitive camping at the end of a mile long hike. I thought that would be a great first attempt.


Also can you post more on the practice runs that you are talking about?


Ooops! Forgot to mention that "my three sons" are Lone Scouts.





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I did day hikes carrying my youngest son as a toddler many years ago. I would think that backpacking would be very difficult, unless the older boys can carry a lot of weight. Where do you live? Are there any predators to be concerned about that would attack a small child? Here in California we now have to worry about mountain lions that have lost their fear of humans and that cannot be hunted, along with coyotes.

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We live in northeast Texas. We do have panthers, but they rarely show up (2 sightings on our property in 6 years) and they are still afraid of humans. We have coyotes, too. We also have bobcats. The main thing we have to be concerned about when walking behind our home is wild pigs, so my husband carries a gun.


The state park is almost an hour away, so I don't know what they might have there. We live in one of the wildest areas in a rural county, and our land backs up to river land owned by the TRA. So, what I'm trying to say is that I would think that the park might be safer than our own backyard.


The older boys are pretty big for their age, but I'm not sure what size pack they'll be able to carry. We don't even own real backpacks yet - only day packs.


My oldest son is 5'11 1/2" and weighs 165. He's almost as strong as my husband, but I don't know about endurance. He's working on the cycling merit badge, so he bikes 5 miles easily. And he does a lot of work repairing fences, working on the tractor and that sort of thing, so he may have more endurance than I give him credit for. Uh, I figure Mom will be the least fit hiker of the bunch. (Not for long, I hope!)


From the guideline numbers y'all posted, I'm figuring that my oldest will be able to carry 20-30# for a couple of miles as a beginner. So for computing loads we can carry, we essentially have three adults (for a very short hike), three kids age 8-11, one preschooler and one toddler.


I don't have hiking boots. For a hike under 5 miles, can I just use my tennis shoes? It's pretty flat.


Also, I don't necessarily think that running is such a great activity (to help train for hiking) due to the damage caused by the jolts over time. We save running for playtime - not exercise.





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I am not a runner either. I have seen too many injuries from running to recommend it as a form of exercise.


Some people do wear sneakers on hikes, and even short backpacking trips. If the trails are pretty level and not too torn up, you can probably get by. A lot depends on the trail conditions and the load you will actually be carrying. Proper footgear is important, and can become expensive for families, particularly with growing boys. In our troop we tolerate sneakers for milder hiking events knowing the cost and that the growing foot will never wear out any boots that are purchased. We expect everybody to have properly broken in boots before we undertake more difficult trips. This means that spring time is usually the time for boot purchases. Maybe Mike, who is a much more experienced backpacer than I, will initiate a thread on footgear.

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Just a quick interjection for a couple of people who have said they don't think that running is a good activity for getting in shape for hiking. I'll have to disagree. I've been running for 17 years (currently 40 mpw). In my troop in the past decade, we've had five adults who have had knee problems. How many of them were runners at any point in their lives? None. Currently, myself and three other adults in the troop run on a regular basis. How many of us have ever had problems with our knees? None. A physical therapist friend told me several years ago (I wish I could remember the exact number) that you are 3-4 times??? more likely to have knee problems if you are a non-runner as compared to a runner. It is a popular misconception that running causes knee problems. It is people running incorrectly (wrong shoes, wrong surface, bad technique, etc.) that can cause problems. Overall, running strengthens the joints and helps them become more resistant to injury. It also prevents muscle imbalances, which is a leading cause of knee problems.


Running is the best cardiovascular exercise to prepare for almost any type of physical activity. Most of our physical activities directly involved running. That is why it is used so much to condition for other sports. I'd like to see anyone who spends equal amounts of time running versus any other conditioning activitiy hit the trail together with packs and see who has an easier time.


All those people who say walking is just as good as running are only partially correct. For your overall health (health shape), equal times spent running and walking are the same. However, when you are preparing your body to perform (fitness shape, a higher level than health shape), running is far superior to walking.


I think it is great idea for Mike to start this thread. Too many people hit the trails unprepared. If anyone would like some information on flexibility and strength training to prepare for backpacking (I have some outstanding systems I've gotten from very successful coaches and physiologists), feel free to email me at info@merteres.com. I'm a track coach and have done some graduate work in exercise physiology. I'll be more than happy to help anyone develop a workable workout plan to help them prepare for the trail (or other activities) as I've done for the parents of the kids I coach. Of course, there is no charge for this. I like to consider it as a Good Turn to help some that wants to improve themselves.

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What I would like is an average run down of costs to get started. My son and I both have packs, tents and sleeping bags as well as stoves, but were all acquired a bit at a time. For a new scout starting out, how much should we tell the parents to be prepared to spend?

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How good are the "boots" that you find everywhere these days, especially in stores like WalMart?


They are certainly much cheaper, and for growing boys that is a big factor. Are they good enough for stronger hiking? What is the real difference?


I recall getting my pair from Kohls, but I haven't done major hiking since.



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People, people give me some time! I will address EVERY question that I think I am qualified to answer. If I don't think am have enough experience I will direct you to a better source.


My intention is to answer all these questions in SPECIFICLY TARGETED threads. By doing so it will make it easier for us to browse and find answers to our questions rather than digging through massive threads.


Next installment by popular request Boots and Foot care.



HI Marcy! Welcome to the forums, glad to have you.


First off I have no children of my own yet so my suggestions would all come from observing friends and fellow scout parents. Luckily my wife and I found out last week that the childless situation will be over soon. YEA!


I have an ASM in my troop that started backpacking with his son at 3 years old.


Here are a few tips.

1. LOW mileage for the little ones. Your one mile trip sounds perfect but it most likely won't be a challenge for your older kids. The older ones could easily handle 5 miles in easy to moderate terrain.


2. Be prepared to carry more weight than you thought you would have to carry. The smallest kids should only carry their lunch, water, poncho, maybe a light jacket and a whistle (preferably a VERY loud one like a storm whistle) You should be ready to carry anything that they get too tired to carry.


3. Stop frequently. If they find something that catches their attention let them stop and explore it. If they look tired or bored stop. Teach then that every time you stop you must drink some water.


4. Snack frequently.


5. Bring extra clothes and wipes in case of accidents.


6. Games. Make everything a game. Bring cards or maybe some checkers and draw a checkerboard on your sleeping pad or a piece of cloth. Better yet make up your own games. My Scouts have "stick races" when we camp near streams or rivers.


7. Chores. Go easy on camp chores for the little ones. My best suggestion would be to make them helpers and nothing more.


There are several good books on backpacking and most have sections on backpacking with small children. Here is another online resource that will be of interest to you.



Gorp.com has a good article addressing the subject.(This message has been edited by Mike Long)

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Congratulations, Mike! You're beginning the hike of a lifetime! Thanks for the tips on hiking with children. I have made notes and hope to use them soon. I need to get some louder whistles. I think we might hike that short trail at the State Park without camping for the first time out. Then maybe I'll take the younger ones to the playground and a sack lunch while my husband and the older boys go for a more challenging hike. That way everyone will have fun. We've got to get some packs first. We're seriously considering Alice packs because they're cheap; and around this house, anything military is a big hit.


Chippewa, I think it's great that you have been successful running. In my BC years (Before Children), I played soccer (a lot)and ran track (some) along with basketball, volleyball and tennis. Alas, that was many years ago. After having seven children, walking is about as competitive as I get nowdays. Running is hard on women, and I don't reccomend it for women who have had more than three children or who have had more than one big baby (9+ pounds). Of course I don't have all the training you do, so you may know something I don't.


Thanks for all the help!



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I'm a ultralight backpacker, if you need tips on how to cut down the weight let me know. My three season pack for a 14 day trek, including food weighs in about 17 pounds, plus or minus a pound which lets me cover up to 30 miles a day...for example (in oz.) Pack, 12.5, Sleeping bag 17.5, Stove 1.5, Cookset (pot, lid, spoon, bowl, cup)10....by cutting weight (to a point) you'll end up getting more and more scouts out into the backcountry....

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Pack at 12.5? I'm guessing it's a GoLight pack or very similar right?


Thanks I am very familiar with the techniques for ultralighting, but I find that they don't make for an enjoyable trip for me. I'm not knocking ultralighing, it's just that I'm a mid to light kind guy.


As I said earlier This will be a series of threads. When I get to gear please jump in let everyone know about your techniques.


Backpacking is intensely personal, especially gear selection and style and the more info we can give to our fellow scouters yes indeed we will get more of us out there.


Glad you stuck around my friend.

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