We’ve had a lot of people ask us “how can you take your kids back-country-camping – isn’t it too much work??”. There’s no question it takes a bit of planning, and of course our son River’s special needs demand some extra forethought, but we’ve had no problem as long as we keep things simple.
Although it seems crazy to take a newborn into the woods, the first few months are actually the easiest time to go. Clothes and diapers are tiny, toys aren’t needed, no solid foods are required, and if breast-feeding then there’s no food preparation at all – and you can’t forget it at home! I even mastered breast-feeding while sitting in the canoe, which took a bit of creative positioning, but kept River’s fisherman-dad happy. Some of River’s medications needed refrigeration, which limited our trips to just as long as the cooler-packs remained cold, but we didn’t let that stop us from getting out there.
Transporting little ones is also much easier when they’re small and happy to be carried close to your body: we discovered that we could use a soft-chest-carrier for baby and still manage a big pack on our backs for the portages (though we didn’t dare to attempt the combined baby-and-canoe carry!). The soft carrier is also great for those fishermen or fisherwomen who want to calm a baby while wetting a line…
The challenges increase as the kids grow, of course, and with River’s extra needs, these are going to multiply. Older kids want more ‘things’ to play with, and they take up more space in the tent – my husband and I now find ourselves squeezed into narrow gaps between camp mats, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep without being whacked by sprawling elbows and feet (or sat upon by the dog!). But while our daughter may soon be able to walk the paths herself and even carry some of her own gear, River is unlikely to be able to help in those ways – instead, his requirements for custom-seating and his dependence on us to move him around and help him interact with his environment will require additional equipment and some clever planning.
Despite these obstacles, we plan to continue to take River on back-country camping trips every summer, even as he becomes a heavier weight to carry (we now use a hard-frame backpack instead of a soft carrier) and requires specific equipment for communication, play and feeding. Ironically, our bigger challenge right now is keeping an eye on River’s developmentally-typical, yet highly energetic and curious, little sister!
Are you a working special needs parent?