This review first posted over at FionaOutdoors
Every December our family sits down and begins reading through the Hobbit together. It has become part of our family rhythm as my wife has read it aloud year after year.
As winter closes in, we trade our summer and autumn adventuring for a good dose of Bilbo’s. While there are many parts of the story that cause us to laugh or rejoice, I think at this stage in our lives it is Bilbo’s initial step out into an adventure that we most resonate with.
To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more.
The Hobbit, as well as a fair amount of other literature, gives us a common vocabulary and source of adventure examples that we use regularly with our children, aged eight, five and two. A few months ago we were hiking to a waterfall in the region of Babia, a beautiful mountainous valley in the northwest of Spain, when one of our daughters slipped in the snow and mud of a horse paddock.
She was soaked and muddied…and crying. Ever ready, my wife brought up a heroine of our daughter’s. “What would Kate do right now?” And with that small suggestion, the direction of our daughter’s attitude, and our whole outing, gradually shifted.
But getting three children out of the house and into the woods can be a big enterprise. By the time everyone’s shoes are on, water bottles are filled, snacks are packed, and coats, gloves, and hats are in place, someone has to visit the loo again. It can be exasperating. That is why we have an adventure pack.
So as not to follow in Bilbo’s exact footsteps, and find ourselves outside without a hat or a handkerchief, we have a backpack that we keep to make sure we have the essentials, and some extra incentives to keep the kids moving.
In our pack we keep most of the following, although some of it is weather dependent and we pull it out if we won’t be needing it for that season. In some ways this is like our adventure junk drawer where you keep the just-in-case things.
A family adventure pack
Extra Snacks – These are just the emergency ones. I don’t think it is even possible to head out the door without snacks, so we make sure to have extras just in case the first supply is exhausted. This has come in handy when we find ourselves on hikes that take hours longer than we were guessing.
Headlamps: It doesn’t matter if it is full sunlight or not, exploration is always 10 times better if you have a torch. I think it is because even in lighted situations, the torch’s beam focuses your own eyes down to pick up things you wouldn’t normally see. Any small hole, cave, or underbrush becomes an exploration opportunity. We have been using Princeton Tec’s Refuel LED headlamp and their children’s version, the Bot
There a Princeton headlamps, such as the Bot, for sale on Amazon. (I receive a small commission for sales and this allows me to keep going with this website.)
These headlamps work well. Bright. Light. Simple to use. They are also reasonably priced. I have been packing mine around for a few months and it works well. One of our daughters has been using the Bot, although I am guessing mostly for nefarious purposes in the middle of the night.
Hand Warmer* (Winter specific): More often than not we end up carrying our two-year-old, who has a very firm limit to how much walking is acceptable. So that means his hands can get cold while out in the snow. We carry this hand warmer along with us and just make sure to use it for short periods of time if we see his hands getting cold. You can buy from Amazon.
Book – Foraging with Kids by Adele Nozedar. My wife picked this up after taking a variety of courses around nutrition, herbs, and foraging. It is amazing how much more we learn about our surroundings when we are looking for things we can eat.
Book – Adventure Notebook – We picked up a little notebook with fun projects for the family to engage in from cloud-gazing to bug-following. It isn’t extremely diverse, but in a bind we pull it out and tell our oldest to pick one to focus on.
Binoculars – Back when I was 12 I saved up for and purchased the pair we currently use. Now my kids are enjoying them. Birds fascinate me and it was this set that opened my eyes to an incredible world right outside my kitchen window.
Kelly kettle – We don’t take this everywhere, but we often just keep it in the back of the car and boil up some water. If nothing else it gets the kids running around looking for sticks. The end product of some hot cocoa is worth it.
Light My Fire Sporks – We have ours in our van all the time. I prefer the titanium versions since we have had tines break off the plastic ones.
Hammock – We have been using this hammock over the past months and it works great. Sturdy, quick set up, the girls love it for reading in. It all packs up in a small pocket that is sewn right into the hammock so you don’t lose the travel pouch. It also has a bug net which is really nice.
Take a look at this onewind hammock, too.
Hiking poles – I normally use my favorite running poles, Dynafit’s Ultra Pro Poles, especially when I have our youngest in the pack. It helps keep me stable on the trail when he is squirming around, and then he likes to take them as soon as he gets down.
Picnic blanket – In Spain we have had our own rounds of lockdown measures, but we have found that one way to ease the feeling is to grab a lunch to go and drive in the country. We park, eat and let the kids run around. Having a blanket to establish an “eating only” zone forces them to eat their food and then chase the bugs.
Water bottles – here are the ones we use all the time.
Rubbish bag – The kids are very conscious of their own rubbish and that from others. So, having the bag keeps my pockets from getting a film of sediment as I end up being the rubbish receptacle. We also have one daughter who gets car sick just thinking about her car seat. We use rubbish bags a lot.
Ohh…and toilet paper too…
Bilbo ran out the door without his hat, a walking-stick, or any money. As desperate parents, we don’t take chances like that. However, when we do head out the door with our kids we are in search of dragons and treasure!
- I received some items free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All of the products from Whitby (hammock, head torches, hand warmer and Heroclip) are available to UK consumers at www.whitbyandco.co.uk. See Amazon, too.
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