|Mack in Gore-tex and hiking boots.|
All went well until the boot section. The one mom simply didn't have enough money to buy the "hiking shoes or boots" that were on the required gear list for a three-day backpacking trip that was part of the two-week camp. Her daughter would have to make do with running shoes. The other woman was aghast. Footwear with the word "hiking" in the name was absolutely required. She would bring a pair of kids hiking boots that her daughter had outgrown and "should" fit the camp goer...to which I quietly disagreed. Runners that fit would be much better than hiking boots or shoes that don't. After all, the list said "hiking shoes" would be acceptable, and most hiking shoes are just gussied up running shoes. Ill-fitting hiking boots lead to ill-feeling, blistered feet. In the end, the mom was confused, didn't know what to do, and took the cheaper route. Running shoes it was.
|Michael: cotton & runners. Mack: cotton & boots. Both: survived the ordeal.|
My response: get all that stuff if you can afford it, but don't worry if you can't. It can be helpful, but most of it isn't essential. Lo these many years ago when I was a kid in Scouts, we regularly went hiking, backpacking and scrambling in running shoes, jeans and cotton t-shirts and hoodies (kangaroo jackets back in the day). I don't recall anyone dying of hypothermia because their cotton clothes weren't wicking moisture away, or breaking ankles because their delinquent parents were too cheap to shell out for the heavy, blister-inducing all-leather boots of the day. When I take my kids out, sometimes they wear runners and sometimes they wear their hiking boots. It's up to them. I'll pack their rain coats (my 12-year-old does have a Goretex jacket; again, that's another post, but having the same gear as their parents can help kids develop a passion for the outdoors), but if they bring a cotton hoodie instead of their fleece I don't freak out.
The point I'm trying to make is that, like many simple things in life, we've made hiking more about the cost of the gear than the value of the experience, especially when it comes to kids. Aside from gas money to reach the trail, hiking is essentially free. Whether your kids have Northface hiking pants or blue jeans from Walmart, the important thing is to get them out.