Monday, June 7, 2010

Bullfrog's ultralight gear kit

In the interest of complete honesty, I'm a newbie when it comes to backpacking. Bullfrog and I have car-camped a few times and we've decided we'd rather walk in and pack out. Our kits will be a few specific things..

1. Be LIGHT! This is out of necessity as Bullfrog can't carry more than 20% of his weight (And I'm inclined to let him carry less than 10% out of concern for a growing spine and hips. That means he's stuck with no more than 4-5lbs) and I'll have to carry the rest.

2. Be RELIABLE. When backpacking with kids or solo, it's never a good thing when gear fails. This necessitates redundancy, repairability, and most important, gear that I can understand and adapt to our situation.

3. Be CHEAP. Yeah.. We could go to REI or a mailorder outfitter and throw down $2000 on gear, but what's the fun in that when it would have to go on a credit card? The money we save by only purchasing the bare minimum and creating the rest can be used on gas and food for trips. Less investment=More time spent backwoods!

Bullfrog's list after the jump:

Backpack: This will most likely be a stuffsack or other light nylon material with shoulder straps and cheststrap added. Probably heavier material than mine will be (because kids are tough on gear) but still as light as we can make it. Stuffsacks are a dime a dozen and I'll probably steal some cheap nylon straps off an old school backpack for him. When I build it, I'll post step by step photos and instructions.

Hydration System: The Camelbak OMEGA™ 45oz Reservoir is the perfect size for a little hiker. It's got a wide mouth for adding  powdered flavors and easy cleaning, and the size is perfect for a someone who can't carry a full 100oz pouch without overloading developing lumbars. Some people prefer other hydration systems or just plastic bottles but having the bite valve clipped to your chest strap means you're more likely to sip all day rather than wait till you're thirsty. Hydration is critical for our little folks if we want happy trails without stomach aches and cramps. $25 Bucks at

Rain Poncho: Wet hikers are pitiful and whiny hikers.. I have to make sure that the Bullfrog stays dry whenever I can help it. He loves getting his feet wet, but a torrential downpour will spoil the day if camp isn't just around the corner. North Face makes good stuff and while a bit pricey, it's bright orange and durable ripstop means he's easy to find in foul weather and it'll last long enough to hand it down! Available in 3 colors, this raincoat isn't thick enough to be very warm, but is roomy enough to be layered over fleece or as a light outer layer in the summer.
$60 Bucks at REI

Personal Kit: A Pocket Knife, Pencil and small notebook. These items make your little one feel like a big boy. The pocket knife is a traditional measure of responsibility and in my opinion, no man should ever be without one(Unless at school or on a plane.. silly FAA). It's the parent or responsible adult's job to teach respect, proper usage and care. Teach that it's a tool, not a toy. Let them watch you use one. Demonstrate proper technique and safety. Then pass the responsibility on. You're going to have a very happy and motivated hiker who is more than willing to help. Use the knife to sharpen the pencil, then let him(or her) draw pictures of the day. Mountains, bugs, frogs, rivers.. whatever comes out on paper is a momento more valuable than any digital photo I've ever taken.

Weight wise, that's pushing 5 and a half pounds.. the max I'll let my Bullfrog carry at the moment. As he gets stronger leg and back muscles, I'll let him carry more. The remainder of the gear, his sleep system and food other than some lightweight trail mix, will all be added to my kit that I'll cover in a later post.

Any tips, tricks, ideas, or your own kid's light pack kit?


  1. It's tough saying it - but for kids younger than 10 you can find some decent gear at Walmart for very good prices. It doesn't make a lot of sense, like you said, to drop $2,000 at REI on young backpackers who may "quit" in a few years.

  2. We ran a four-part series on Trailspace about taking your kids backpacking. Here's a link to part 1. (each part is for different age groups, babies to teen-agers; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom).