Teens on the Trail: Turning the “Meh” into “Yeah!”

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Stephen, Day Hiking Ambassador

As my kids have grown up, I have continued to encourage them to do things with me in the outdoors. One of our favorite activities in the winter is snowshoeing. It’s a great opportunity for us to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors together. There’s a lot more to life than homework and video games and spending time in the outdoors is a great way to catch up.

Now that they are a little older there are some definite advantages as far as wilderness adventures go…

— They can go farther. We can see more things and go more places now.

— They can now pack their own equipment, with a checklist or a check-in once in a while.

—They are more adventurous, wanting to tackle more ambitious trails and more challenging terrain.

—They are more resistant to the cold, and the weather bothers them much less.

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Sure there are some challenges too…

—There’s more homework, or they have jobs, and they have less free time.

—They have other friends and other interests.

—They are starting to want their independence.

Here are some tips that might help you get out on the trail with your pre-teen, teen or young adult.

  1. Have a plan, and stick to it… know your destination and duration.  It’s a lot easier for kids to buy in when they know the parameters of what’s expected. Outline with them, when you are leaving where you will be going and for how long. This way, they know what’s expected and are more receptive to the experience.
  2. Be flexible. It’s important to have a plan, but don’t let minor issues get in the way of the adventure. Have a backup plan and/or be willing to change plans as need be. Disappointment can be avoided and fun times can still be had!
  3. Feed and water regularly. It’s true, they are growing like weeds! As kids get older, their nutritional needs and caloric intake increase dramatically. During strenuous outdoor activity, that increase is even more noticeable. Make sure they eat before they go, during and after. It’s no fun dealing with a “hangry” teen (for you or them)! Snowshoeing, like many outdoor activities really requires regular water intake to keep going strong. Hydration packs are a great idea keeping your hands free for poles so you can keep on, keeping on.
  4. Purchase the best gear you can afford, or rent decent gear. You want your kids to remember the trip, not the equipment malfunction that ruined it. Buy the best gear you can afford. The adage, “you get what you pay for” does apply, but there are great deals on good gear to be had all the time. Keep an eye out and do your research. With the right equipment, a one time purchase can last a lifetime, and many manufacturers (Tubbs Snowshoes for one) sell equipment with a limited Lifetime Warranty. If you are just trying the sport out, renting is an option. Most rental locations will only have quality shoes and poles in-house. Because rentals take so much abuse, they want their investment in snowshoeing equipment to last.
  5. Have a reward at the end. I find it’s a great morale boost and incentive to keep going if there is a goal to achieve or reward for achieving that goal. Maybe a thermos of hot chocolate, a campfire or a meal out. There’s nothing like a treat at the end of a long snowshoe for your teen to set their sights on, and reward them for a job well done.

My eldest kids are already starting to plan and embark on outdoor adventures of their own. I know I’ve done a decent job of instilling an appreciation of the outdoors in them, because I’m no longer the prime motivator in their plans. It’s a good feeling knowing that my love of the outdoors has been passed on to them.
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