Five tips for successful outdoor recreation with children
Text: Viktor Lidin Photos: Viktor Lidin
Me: You remember the first rule of fishing, right? When you go fishing you get to eat cookies.
Lo: But do you know what the second rule is?
Noa: Yes! When you go fishing you drink hot chocolate in the boat!
Lo: No, that’s the third rule. The secondth is that when you go fishing you have to have a nice time.
This conversation took place between me and my kids when we sat in the car on our way up to Olden to go camping. The children were four years old, and even though they were only little, this was not their first night in a tent. The person scribbling some of our experiences here is me, Victor, and I also have an Instagram page called @enkasakaffe. Usually, I am accompanied in the mountains by my wife Jenny, our dog Dimma and, in recent years, our two children Lo and Noa.
Be flexible and adaptable
Taking our children with us to the forest or the mountains has always been natural for us. But we realise that not everybody feels the same way. Of course, camping with small children does not always go smoothly. Sometimes it can feel tricky taking all the stuff with you, or even remembering everything you should take. I don’t know how many times we’ve started the car and travelled 500 metres, just to turn back to fetch something we’ve left behind. One example is a time when we went downhill skiing in Gräftåvallen and when we arrived at the slopes we realised we’d forgotten Lo’s jacket. Luckily, in this case, we seldom clean the car and furthest back in the luggage I found my down vest. I wore the vest myself and we managed to roll up my ski jacket enough for Lo to be able to use it. Of course, she looked like a purple flying squirrel as she came bombing down the slopes, but the skiing day was saved.
I think mine and Jenny’s learning curve and ability to adapt has followed that of the kids as for some reason, we often find ourselves in these kinds of situations. This has to be my first tip. Be adaptable and flexible. We have realised that things seldom turn out as planned, but it often works out fine anyway. We have a basic plan, but it’s never carved in stone, and if anything deviates from the plan then it’s easier to rethink and adapt. It works for us anyway.
Plan based on the circumstances
Today our children are almost six years old and they’re used to being outdoors. We still go out for shorter trips, but also do longer trips almost every weekend. A while back, when we were out fishing with a friend and his kids, we were asked how we manage to get the whole family out with us so often. At first I was surprised by the question as he has always struck me as a person who’s often outdoors with his children. I looked at Jenny while I thought, and answered: Well, I don’t suppose we give them much choice. I’ve thought about my choice of words since then and obviously we don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to. Rather, we’ve never presented staying in or staying at home as an option. It has become so natural to be outdoors that no other alternative exists. That said, we probably don’t give them a choice, but now they are six years old and for us it has become completely natural to be outside.
Today I proudly say that we have given our children such a good foundation to stand on that our trips are getting longer and more challenging, to everybody’s delight. We started small, and have gradually pushed the limit of what’s possible and we constantly challenge ourselves and the children. And I think this is a critical success factor when going on trips with children. So here comes my second tip. You may have a holiday coming up when you’re off to the mountains for the first time, and you’re concerned about how it will go. Don’t worry! Being outdoors with the kids is as easy as it is fun.
As I mentioned earlier, the basic thing is to plan based on the circumstances. When the kids were three years old we hiked a distance of 1.5km and then set up camp. The kids walked as far as they could and then we carried them. So the trip couldn’t be longer than the distance we could carry both the kids and the bags all the way. On the other hand, if we had planned on the premise that they must walk all the way by themselves, we would not have reached our goal that day. Of course, we encouraged and enticed them to walk as far as they had the strength to, but when they started to fade, we picked them up with no moaning on our part. Doing it this way makes it more fun for everybody. The kids don’t need to suffer through a trip that is too tough, and we don’t have to moan and groan about picking them up for the last part of the journey. Win-win!
Always have a plan b
My third tip is to always have a bail-out plan. A plan B that at least is easier than going all the way home to Östersund again. As we often spend time in the area surrounding Olden in Offerdal, our Plan B is often my grandmother. If the weather completely messes things up, or if it’s just too difficult, we can always pack up, put the kids on our shoulders and go to her place. We have never needed to use our plan B. In reality, it probably just makes us feel safe. Nevertheless, it’s still important. If we feel safe, the kids will feel safe. Simple, right? This changes as the children progress. One example of this is when we skied around a mountain. The closer we got to half way, the longer it would be to turn around and ski back. So our plan B then was that the kids could be pulled on their skis behind us or the dog. You need to feel your way, and take into account what both the children and we adults feel comfortable with.
Good footwear and extra clothes
My fourth tip for a successful trip with children is about clothes. Or, as it sometimes turns out, lack of appropriate clothes. If you have children yourself, you’ll understand what I mean. How many times have you tried to get the kids to put a jacket on in springtime? You know, when it’s sunny and the children seem to think that it’s summer, even though the piles of snow haven’t yet melted. Not to mention when they choose clothes that come directly from a Disney film. This can be a bit of a pain, but it can be worked around. Naturally, we want the kids to be properly dressed, but if they refuse to give in, then of course it’s possible to go hiking in a princess dress. No problem at all! I mean, who wouldn’t want to hike over mountains and marshes in their Princess Elsa dress, and hum “Do you want to build a snow man…?” The trick is to bring their woollen base layers and jacket along in the rucksack, so when the weather turns, or the temperature drops they just have to get changed. We never compromise on what they wear on their feet though. Woollen socks are worth their weight in gold, and whatever you do, exchange the plastic insoles in boots for proper woollen insoles. A fun and playful day can easily be ruined by wet and cold feet. We always want to be one step ahead rather than have to change footwear. There has to be a bit of give-and-take. After all, an Elsa dress with a pair of wellies is the height of fashion.
What about wool then? I’m sure an entire thesis could be written about wool that starts to scratch the kids as soon as you open the drawer. It’s the same for our kids too. And there has to be some give-and-take in this too as we’ve learnt that as soon as they have the garment on, it’s usually fine. Which is why we sometimes bring them in our rucksacks and get changed when needed instead of forcing them to put the clothes on at home. However, they love their Woolpower jumpers. The ones with the zip, the Full Zip Jacket. That is “the Woolpower jumper” in our family, and one of the best clothes purchases we’ve made for the children. In springtime, weather permitting, they use their jumpers instead of a jacket. In winter, they almost always have them on, otherwise they are packed into the rucksacks just in case. And, remember, let the kids make use of those more expensive clothes. The very reason we bought them was so that they could be properly dressed, and go out and play without getting cold. Let them put on that warm woollen jumper for pre-school, and let it get worn out. That way, it will be used more often and might even become a favourite. And it looks even nicer with a little wear in it.
Make things simple for yourselves
We’re now looking forward to a lovely summer with plenty of evening fishing in the river, and hopefully a handful of nights camping with the kids. Perhaps our hikes will get longer, perhaps we’ll climb to the peak of some beautiful mountain, or perhaps we’ll camp next to the car. And that’s my last piece of advice. Make things simple for yourselves. Not everything has to be a perfect Instagram moment, you know, high mountains, expansive views and sunsets. Your first night in a tent can just as well be at home in the garden, or right next to the car in a beautiful location. The best times are often had when you focus on just being together and not the miles.
Have a really good summer. Explore your nearby region, spend time outdoors with your family, take care of each other and as soon as it’s possible again, we look forward to welcoming you to Jämtland.
Name: Viktor Lidin
Family: Jenny my wife and the love of my life, our two cheeky kids Lo and Noa, and our Finnish Lapphund Dimma.
Age: 33 years
Favourite place: Olden village in Offerdal. With all its fantastic mountains, fishing waters and hunting grounds right on the doorstep of my grandmother’s home, this is always where I long to be.
Favourite food on a mountain trip: Home-made food. We often skip the freeze-dried foods and prefer to make risotto on the camping stove or fry moose meat in an outdoor frying pan.