Shannon's got some pretty amazing life experiences to pull on — she grew up in Alaska and flew Apaches in the first crop of women attack helicopter pilots. She's scuba dived on three continents, sky dived on two, and climbed the highest mountains on the North American and African continents. This is all to say, homegirl knows her outdoor time, and Kids in the Woods is a great way to soak up some of those smarts. So nestle up close and eavesdrop on a conversation I had with Shannon about her inspiration, how non-outdoorsy families can get started, and her favorite outdoor baby gear.
What inspired you to start Kids in the Woods?
Lots of moms I talked to wanted to get outside with their kids, either because they had been outdoorsy before, or because they knew it was good for their babies, but were intimidated by the logistics and the unknowns. I wanted to find a place to share resources and stories to encourage people to get out and give it a try, whether that meant a longer-than-normal walk in a park, or an overnight backpacking trip, or an ocean canoe.
What were your own biggest fears about getting back into the outdoors after having a baby?
I had a C-section, so was worried about the strain on those muscles for a long time. Like most new moms, I was overwhelmed with taking care of this tiny helpless person who relied solely on me. I was out of shape and I knew it. I was tired. I knew from past experience how I responded — and what my needs were — in the outdoors, but I didn't know my baby's. So I did a little bit of research, and spent more time than normal in getting ready for a few easy backpacking and snowshoeing trips. We did our first overnight with Sam on a rainy weekend when he was five months, and he didn't mind a bit!
What's your best advice for folks who might not have been outdoorsy before having a baby, but want to get their kids out into nature?
Start small, but start! Get out to the park, and on the weekend venture out a little further and a little longer. Take it slow, and spend time being prepared with the right clothing (look up the 10 essentials, and carry them with you), and lots of snacks if your baby is a little older. A good rule of thumb for kids is to dress them one layer warmer than you dress yourself in cold weather. Look for other moms making similar efforts — there is always strength in numbers.
In the Seattle area there are a couple of meet-up groups that get out with kids, and if you hang out around places like REI you're bound to run into like-minded people.
For overnights, start with car camping. You can stick to car camping for years, if you want. Some campgrounds are more remote than others, so if you want to car camp but have a quieter experience, look around (and let us know if you're looking so we can work on recommendations!).
What are your favorite outdoorsy products?
Until about four months old, we carried Sam in the ubiquitous Ergo Sport, which worked great. Starting when he was about five months old (but he was a big baby!)
I hike with a Sherpani Ultralight, and absolutely love it. It balances the baby on your back well, and fits like a good backpack should, while allowing a little bit of room for storage.
The Patagonia long underwear for babies and toddlers is awesome, as is their snowsuit.
For overnights we bring the heavy weight Merino Kids sleep sack we use at home and can't say enough good things about it.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Don't stop what you're doing — bring the baby along! Spending time outdoors in wild spaces is so important for our psyches, and our education about our earth. It's good for you, and your baby, and your family will have memories for the rest of your lives.
Let us know what you'd like to see on Kids in the Woods to help you get outside!