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5 micro-adventure must-haves for families

We all love getting outdoors with our mini adventurers, but we’d be lying if it wasn’t a challenge. Just getting the kids in the car can be adventure enough and when you start looking at your empty day pack and empty cupboards you may be tempted to opt for an indoor adventure.
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To make the decision to go outdoors easier  to make, here’s a list of 5 micro-adventure items that we always keep in the house and within reach. Not only do these things get us out the door faster, they help make our outdoor adventures a blast for both us and our kids.

1 – Packable rain jackets

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A light, waterproof jacket that stuffs into its own pocket is essential for our trips. Even when it isn’t raining it’ll help fight off the wind and cold weather. Skip insulated rain jackets, opting for a separate fleece for the cold.

2 – A lightweight fleece sweater or jacket

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They don’t take up much space, and if the weather gets cool this will keep the junior adventurer happy as he explores the puddles, pools and ponds in search of discovery.

3 – A portable water bottle

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Whether it’s a nalgene or some flavour of soft-bottle, be sure to pack each kid (and adult) a full bottle of water. Kids drink as much as adults, so keep them happy and hydrated.

4 – Snacks

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Try dedicating a pantry shelf to “adventure food”. Having a variety of sweet, sour and salty treats with a long shelf life makes getting out the door easy. Grab a handful of energy bars, trail mix, candy chocolate (for mum) and/or corn chips (a high energy favourite in our house) and hand them out liberally on the route.

5 – First Aid kit

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A small, portable first aid kit is essential for those little owies on the trail. There are many standard 1-3 day kits that will suit your purpose and can even be customized if you need to. We add a couple survival items to the kit as well, like an emergency blanket, mini compass, whistle and lighter.
All of these items will fit easily in your average day pack (even if you’re packing for 4 kids!) and will kelp you get out the door and into a safe, exciting and comfortable micro-adventure with your kids.
We’re interested in finding out what items you keep on hand to make your micro-adventures a success?

The worst family backpacking trip ever

As I finished digging the last cathole with my ultralight trowel and dumping the remaining disaster from the night before, I considered my bruised and aching hands and wondered if I had been wrong the whole time – was the wilderness really the right place for kids?

My wife and I had a debate about whether it was dehydration, the trail mix, the dehydrated chili we had made for dinner, the sour keys, or simply poor hygiene that had knocked 3 of our kids flat out with nausea and diarrhea at 11 pm… through to the following day.  What was certain was that it was a disaster of a family adventure.

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We spent a lot of time planning for this epic trip. All the planning went well and we felt confident. We organized gear, prepared meals, packed the six backpacks we’d need to get our little adventurers to our base camp in the British Columbia backcountry. We ticked every box on the list and were buoyed that our preparation would pay off. Our neighbors even stopped the night before with their kids to send us off with compliments that we were taking such a gaggle of children (aged 2-8) into the middle of nowhere. We were flattered and perhaps a little puffed up. What could go wrong?

A lot, apparently.

Starting

The hike in was fantastic. We enjoyed pristine mountain streams, wildflowers and even a few early berries. Ms. Adventure did have to carry the almost 3-year-old up the steep ascent for a kilometer or two, but she handled it like the amazing lady that she is. We got to camp in two hours or so and the kids immediately took to climbing huge boulders and exploring the shoreline of Margie lake.

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We had a pleasant afternoon, despite the horse-flies and mosquitos (nothing a bit of bug spray and mosquito masks can’t fix, right?). We purified water despite the fact that no one had gotten sick from drinking from the stream in over 50 years of hiking there. We would take no chances with kids.

Dinner was homemade dehydrated chili, and it was fantastic. The bugs were at it again and the kids were getting fussy as a result, but the exercise and mountain air had whet their appetites and they polished off their mum’s home cooking in no time.

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On hindsight, our first hint of impending doom should have been our daughter’s complaints of stomach problems. She complained a little bit of her tummy being a bit sore, but we chalked it up to gluten and dairy sensitivities aggravated by a small slice of cake we let her have the day before the hike. After dinner she was showing more distress… was there gluten in the trail mix? To be safe we pulled her from the girls’ tent and back into ours.

At about 11 pm, after being huddled in the fetal position for hours she loudly informed us that she had to go the bathroom. This was one of those emergency trips. The outhouse was a quarter mile away, so we headed for the trees. There was clearly something wrong. Very wrong. An hour later kid #2 took his turn, then kid #3, then Kid #1, then kid #2… after that I lost track.

As the night rolled into dawn, the temperature dropped. My feet were barely warming up from trudging through the dew and the bottom of my sleeping bag was getting soaked. At least I wasn’t sick like the kids.

 

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In the morning we debated back and forth as to the cause (my guess was the chili), but mostly we debated if we should… or even could make the trip out to the trailhead with three sick kids. I mulled the decision over, as I went to work with the trowel, burying the catastrophe… catastrophes of the previous night.

The kids started to feel better, so we decided to pack up and make a slow trip back to the van. We decided to take out our niece so our brother-in-law could enjoy another day of hiking, and so she could spend more time with our kids. We were hoping and praying that the decision to leave early wouldn’t result in an even bigger disaster.

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Knowing that the kids were pretty drained we pulled out all the stops. We took breaks for snacks and even cast in the line to fish a few times. We stopped to examine every distraction, every animal print, every bear dig-site, the remnants of an old trappers cabin, and even remnants of an old plane crash. That was the best idea of the trip out. The kids saw the scraps from an old plane crash and they were in adventure mode. They were the survivors of the crash: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, scout and baggage handler all searching for signs of civilization. They only stepped out of character to throw sticks down the stream in Winnie-the-pooh fashion. With renewed hope of discovery we made it through the woods, down the hill, across the creek, up the hill, down the logging road and out to the vehicle.

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Thankfully we made it home without event. It turns out the kids were fine, and we probably could have stayed another night… hindsight and all that.

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It turns out it wasn’t the chili, the trail mix, the hygiene or the sour keys. The neighbours’ kids had been struck by a 24 hour bug and it appears that they unwittingly shared it when they encouraged us on our way. They had the worst of it with some vomiting thrown in to the mix as well. We hadn’t thought much of the “accident” that their youngest had during their brief visit the night before we left, and it was only when we recounted the tale of our early return to them that we were able to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Did this scare us off backpacking? No, but there were a few minutes, as I kneeled there with bruised palms, trying to repair my bent trowel so I could finish cleaning up from the previous night, that I understood why some prefer front country resorts to backcountry ramblings.

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The kids have all but forgotten about the disastrous night on the backpacking trip. They are talking animatedly about fishing, climbing on the boulders, splashing in the lake, discovering evidence of wildlife and letting their imaginations run wild thinking about trappers and plane crashes.

 

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Sometimes you can do everything “right” and still have misadventures in the outdoors, and sometimes everything can go wrong, and you still have amazing adventures in the outdoors.

DIY Bouldering wall – Part 2 – Done!

After many months of outdoor adventure we took an opportunity to finish off this indoor adventure project. We started our bouldering wall a while ago, but this weekend was a weekend in (due to rain) and we made a lot of progress.

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The kits came with a tool to attach the holds, as well as the bolts and T-Nuts. So we were able to get right in and start working. I did manage to snap the too into its two allan key parts. It meant a little more work, but I was able to finish the project as is.

 

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We mixed in another pack of natural rock holds too to give us a mixed look.

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Our goal was to mix up the holds in a way that made it more challenging and offered easier and harder routes. In the end it was a success.

 

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There is enough variety that the kids can get up and navigate around the wall, while still challenging themselves (and us) with some much more difficult holds.

 

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All in all it was a huge success. We used super-thick winter sleeping bags as padding below the wall. Matresses and crash pads are also suggested.

 

It was an awesome project and based on our experience we’d recommend it to anyone. It will be especially useful to burn off kids’ energy in the winter months.

A Paddlers’ Personal Paradise: Murtle Lake, BC

By Naomi Osborn (Ms. Adventure)

Murtle Lake is North America’s largest kayak-and-canoe-only lake. I like that. It’s quieter. It’s safer. It’s cleaner. It’s a little brag-worthy. 🙂

It’s more than that.

Canoeing is to me like slipping into a sanctuary; in pushing off from the shore I can almost feel all the cares and worries wash off my face and drop into perspective below in the deep water.

Life is simplified. Meditation feels easy. Hard work is good. Food tastes better.

Murtle Lake, BC

We were a bit nervous at first about this trip, though.

After all, the ratio was 2 adults, 3 teenagers, and 4 kids.

There were three canoes, three tents, three nights, three hot dinners to make, three duffle bags jammed full of food and kitchen items alone, and three teenagers with trusting parents waiting for them at home.

It's all going to be worth it...
It’s all going to be worth it…

Just one portage and then it’s plain sailing paddling!

It's just 2.5 KM...
It’s just 2.5 KM…

We had paddled just 1.6 KM the first day when we pulled off to the first group site; a storm had billowed up and the lake was choppy. None of us had slept more than 3 hours the previous night, so we just cuddled up and pretended we were Voyageurs under our canoes for the afternoon.

Hunkered down under the canoes.
Hunkered down under the canoes.

The next day was still peeping around clouds and sighing wind over the waves, but we went 20.5 KM that day.

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Eagle Point beach.

Fresh fried fish and sushi for dinner! And then, for those bold enough to venture not just from city’s shelter, but from the cozy warmth of a well-earned sleeping bag (not me), an endlessly starry sky to feast upon (apparently).

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Mmm, fresh trout sushi.
Mmm, fresh trout sushi.

Saturday bloomed beautifully over the glassy mirror of the lake. At the north end of the lake, Murtle Beach, an earnest committee of hungry mosquitoes welcomed us as we celebrated our trip’s halfway point.

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While the mozzies snacked on us, we snacked on handfuls of these little wilderness candies:

Wild blueberries, yum!
Wild blueberries, yum!

After paddling 23 KM, we made it back to the south end of the lake. Pizza night!

Deconstructed trail pizza.
Deconstructed trail pizza.

Click here for the recipe! Deconstructed Pizza.

Some pizzas turned out better than others...
Some pizzas turned out better than others…

See that photo below? This is real beauty.

Sunset, Murtle Lake, BC

Sunday was a leisurely 8 KM back to the launching site, the three food bags emptied, three garbage bags filled, and all the kids accounted for.

While not as carefree as it would have been had we traipsed the lake alone, every ache in my arms felt good, even after all the laundry was done.

Thank you to my kids, especially the oldest, who can now paddle with Daddy in her own canoe. Well done!

Thank you to my other three for enjoying the ride and eating an impressive amount of candy and berries.

Thank you to G, M, and N for joining our family and willingly pulling their own weight at the paddle, portage, tent pitching, and pots and pans!

M – thank you for a perfectly spiced, perfectly crisped trout treat!

G – that portage out was really something. Thank you.

N – Thanks for all the quiet quips! (And for not losing your toe.)

Camp cooking team, Murtle Lake, BC

Thank you, too, to the Murtle Lake Park Operators! The campsites are beautifully appointed and idyllically rustic, and the speedboat regularly coming by was a peace of mind for this mama!

Thank you for oohing and aahing over our daughter’s catch!

OOooo I can’t wait to show my granddad this!

Our route and camping sites.

Our route and campsites: Night 1: Site 2 Murtle Lagoon South. Plenty of sites. Night 2: Site 17, Eagle Point. Beautiful beach. Great fishing! Night 3: Site 20, Strait Creek. Pretty crowded!
Our route and campsites:
Night 1: Site 2 Murtle Lagoon South. Plenty of sites.
Night 2: Site 17, Eagle Point. Beautiful beach. Great fishing!
Night 3: Site 20, Strait Creek. Pretty crowded.

 

Eagle Point, Murtle Lake, BC
Eagle Point, Murtle Lake, BC

 

Monday Kids Fishing round-up

Fishing with kids becomes really easy when a) your grandad loves fishing and b) he lives on a lake. When the lake offers an abundance and variety of fish, it makes learning how to fish a blast.

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Our Kit

All of our fishing at “grandad’s lake” is catch and release, so we opt for barbless hooks. Fish vary from trout to perch to carp to northern pikeminnow to sunfish to whitefish so we generally opt for smaller (size 10-12) hooks.

Technique varies, but generally involves floats and fishing off the muddy bottom, or just above it when going for perch, trout, sunfish and whitefish.

Bait varies from worms to corn to breadpaste, or a combination of all three.

Our Catch

The great thing about this lake is that there’s almost always something to catch and there’s always something to see (float planes, eagles, ospreys and lots of carp rising). It really is an ideal lake to teach kids to fish in.

 

 

 

Squawfish

Northern Pikeminnow (originally known as Squawfish) are considered coarse fish. They’re native to the Pacific Northwest, but can take over when the ecosystem is suffering. That said, they put up a good fight. They can grow up to 8 lbs (although bigger have been caught).

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These fish will go for anything and everything.  They tend to swallow the hook, so barbless hooks and a hook remover are important.

 

Sunfish

Sunfish line the edges of this lake. This one was caught only a couple feet from the dock on a worm. They have tiny mouths and are absolutely stunning to look at.

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Here’s a close-up of another one. Carefully with the fins on these!

Whitefish

Here’s a good example of a healthy whitefish. We don’t often catch these in the lake. They will grow up to 5 lbs, with a whopper 15 lber caught out of Lake Ontario back in 1983.

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Yes, there are painted turtles in the lake, and yes they have a nasty habit of pinching food off your hooks. We try to be as gentle as we can when letting them off the hook. This one came back twice to the delight of my daughter.

There were many other fish caught on Monday afternoon and many others that got away. Twice carp managed to escape the hook, meaning we have yet to become elite members of grandad’s “Carp Club”.

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We did come away with the biggest catch of the day though.

Do you have any childhood memories of fishing? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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Begbie Falls Trail – Revelstoke, BC

Just five minutes south of Revelstoke, BC we found an awesome day hike that took us through temperate rainforest to multiple waterfalls and even a beach. We had an awesome, adventure filled family hike and we’ll definitely be going back.

Begbie Falls

The Begbie Falls area is at the end of a logging road that offers many side trails for mountain bikers, hikers and climbers, but the real highlight for us was the falls.

Begbie Falls

There are two parking lots. The first is about 2.3 km from the actual Recreation site and the other is about 50 yards from the upper falls. We chose the farther parking area and hiked down the logging road with the kids.

Begbie Falls

There was plenty of exploration and discovery and we were treated with some amazing views of the snow covered peaks.

Begbie Falls

The falls themselves were flowing strongly with the spring run-off, but the trails were surprisingly mud-free. The kids were running around looking for sticks and laughing in the roar of the river.

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The older kids got a turn on the camera. I guess they have seen me do too many gear reviews. These are Lem’s minimalist Boulder Hiking Boots.

 

The lower falls trail led us zig-zagging down the hillside and just about to the level of the main river that leads into Upper Arrow Lakes. There’s a safe lookout which seemed like a good photo op.

Begbie Falls

From there we headed out to the sandbar on the river. We encountered a few campers on the beach, but managed to find a private area for the kids. Lunch was spent with more splashing, exploration and obligatory races with the kids.

Begbie Falls

We can’t wait to go back again in the summer when the wild flowers and wild berries are in full bloom.

DIY Bottle Catamaran Kit

On a recent tour of garage sales in our area, we found this little treasure: A DIY Bottle Catamaran kit. At $3 I figured it’d make a great spring project for my son and I to work on. Typically these things retails for $15 on amazon so it was a steal, especially as it was new in box.

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From a company called 4M, this kit makes use of your empty pop bottles for the floats of the catamaran. It’s a neat concept, and one of many “Green Science” kits available.

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Aside from the bottles, the kit includes everything you need to make the watercraft. The majority of the components are made of lightweight plastic that are assembled with Philips screws.

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The kit is designed for 8 years and up, so there’s no need for soldering. My 6 year old son was able to do pretty much all the work himself.

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Instructions are straightforward and were easy to follow.

 

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The concept was cleverly simple. The floats attach via the lids to the bottles and two zap-straps to hold the back on. It really was a simple and rewarding build.

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In no time at all we were up and running. I expected it to sit in the water and disappoint, but when we put it in the tub it picked up speed pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to break any records, but it can move. We can’t wait to try it out in a bigger pond.

Take a look at the video above to see the build and check out the kits available on amazon.

 

 

The kids rushed out again to explore, while the adults chatted and packed up camp. We headed back through the woods and out to the lake as I clung on to the sled as we sped back through the now falling snow. I was already reminiscing about the constant smiling of my son during the adventure and I wondered if I should revisit the idea of having our own a canvas tent. Maybe there would be money in the budget if we just looked a bit harder for it.

Father – Son Day Hike (video)

Last weekend my son and I went out for an easy and fun hike on a local trail in the Okanagan. It had just started snowing and we figured it was time for a bit of relaxation and a cup of hot tea.

 

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The snow was beautiful and at times very thick.

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There weren’t many people out so we were able to chat about whatever was on our minds. It was a great chance to reconnect after a busy week of work and school.

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My son tried his hand a photography on the trip while I made tea and set up the hammock.

 

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This beast (and its matching python straps can hold 500 lbs, so lay back and stared up at the trees, snow and all the wild features around us.

 

 

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Mr. Adventure jr. even tested out one of my new hats.

 

 

 

 

 

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Overall we had an awesome time and started making plans for our summer father-son hike and a potential week long trip when he turns 13.

 

 

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Take a look at the video below and let us know what you micro adventures you’ve been on recently.

 

Eddie Bauer Kids’ Cloud Layer Hoodie

We’re a huge advocate of buying less, and buying quality. Instead of lots of clothes, we try to get our hands on higher quality gear that we know will perform well, last long and even be handed down. One of those items that fits the bill is the Eddie Bauer youth Cloud Layer Fleece Hoodie.

 

Our son has had the pleasure of testing out this fleece that Eddie Bauer sent us over the summer and we’ve been incredibly impressed with the fit, performance, stitching and comfort. Anyone with kids will know that they can be very picky about what they wear if it isn’t comfortable.

 

So let’s take a look at the features and then get into what we think about it.

Features:

  • Shell: 100% polyester; Pocket: 88% nylon/12% spandex
  • Anti-pilling surface for durability
  • Secure zip pockets (on the youth version)
  • Machine wash
  • Imported
  • MSRP $40

We’ve taken this fleece on day hikes, winter trips, canoe trips, backyard adventures, canoeing and more. Despite the regular use of this fleece and regular washing it still looks new.

 

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What do we think

The first thing that we notice is the fit. Most of the time our boy doesn’t like to wear hoods because they are bulky, itchy and poorly fitting. Eddie Bauer’s fleece has a great fit that clearly doesn’t bother him as he asks us to put it on for him. Not only that, but he can turn his head and the hood turns with him (no blind spots here!).

The Fleece is incredibly soft which means it not only feels nice against the skin, but it moves well with the kid, allowing great range of motion. I’m a big fan of synthetics with kids as they are quick drying and keep their insulating properties even when they’re wet.

 

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As for pockets, they share the standard chest and hand pockets as Eddie’s adult wear. The chest pocket is more for fashion, but if our boy was older, I’m sure he’d use it for his collection of rocks, sticks, shells and bugs (like his older brother does with his clothes). The Boys and girls editions come with Zip hand pockets to keep your mini adventures’ kit safe while they’re out and about. Which reminds me… I need to double check those pockets next time we put it in the wash. Oh, and the hand pockets are big enough to keep the hands warm (or alternatively can store 2-3 die-cast cars or a monster truck).

It might be hard to get past the $40 price tag, so look for sales, or consider its value when you spread that price out over two or three kids (and it will definitely last through that many and more). It becomes much more reasonable, and definitely worth it.

We are very impressed with all of the Eddie Bauer gear that we’ve tested and we will definitely be looking through their site when we’re in the market for new gear. Oh, and you can take 30% off your entire order, with free shipping and returns ifyou use their code FROSTY now until December 1st. Check out the entire Eddie Bauer Kids’ line here.