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Amy Bushatz 0:06
No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside is always worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while learning from fascinating outdoor-minded guests. I’m AB. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 18 years, but life, including my husband’s war injuries, has burnt us out. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if a change of scenery and new focus on outdoors was just the shift we needed. Since September 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter what, to explore how nature can change my life. Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.
For most of us, spending time in nature daily is a side portion of our lives, done around work and other commitments. It’s not how we spend every second or even most of our days. And of course, that stuff shifts with life seasons, which is why you might spend all your time focusing on adventure in your 20s but then move on to something more stable when you get a little older or have kids. For today’s guest, Heather Balogh Rochfort, travel and adventure let her establish an expertise in getting outside, adventuring and backpacking, which she used to author the book Backpacking 101. She has since authored several more books, including two that profile woman hikers, Women who Hike and Moms who Hike, talking about their stories and the incredible things they’ve done. She’s also now a mom herself, who’s recently founded WildKind, which seeks to help families get and stay outdoors. All that brings me to what she’s joining us today to discuss, getting outside as a family. As part of our focus this year on spending more time not just in nature, but in the nature directly around us, Heather is going to help us with the challenge of making time for nature as a parent. We’re not going to let these kids bring us down or keep us from having adventures. In fact, we’re going to have adventures in nature around us, not just in spite of the kids, but maybe even because of them. Nature, I am happy to report, is for the whole family. Heather, welcome to Humans Outside.
Heather Rochfort 2:30
Hi, Amy. Thank you for having me.
So we start our episodes imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space, like we’re hanging out having a cup of coffee, which is my preference, somewhere that you love, and that we can just hang out and talk. So where are we with you today?
Such a tough one. I’m a Colorado gal. But I will say my favorite outdoor space is 1000 Island Lake in the eastern Sierra in California. And it’s sentimental to me because it was where we took our daughter on her first five night backpacking trip when she was just a little baby and I have such good memories of it. Anytime I want to go to my happy place I go back to that lake.
I love it. This is a lake that you can only backpack into, or is it available by road?
Only backpacking. It’s not easy. It’s a bit of a slog. But if you’re an adult without a kid, it’s probably easier.
How did you become someone who likes to go outside? Tell us your outdoor story.
Oh goodness. So my story is different than a lot of people. I was born and raised in Colorado in a suburb outside of Denver. So I’m one of the like six lifelong Colorado residents left in the state. But my parents had actually moved to Colorado from Ohio in the 70s. And so they came out seeking the outdoor stuff themselves. Like I think my mom worked as a lifty to pay our way through college. So they kind of had that foundation built. But classic, you know, parents and kids, they tried to get us outside as often as we could. But we were kids. And we argued and we complained and we whined. My mom is actually a botanist, she has her master’s in plant pathology. So she used to torment us by turning our hikes into these like nature walks where she would like to identify the flowers and tell us how the indigenous people used to use them and all these things, which as an adult is really cool. But as, you know, a 10 year old was really, really boring. So that was kind of the foundation, but simultaneously I grew up as a competitive dancer, I was actually a ballerina. And that was more of my interest. And as I got into my preteen and teenage years, I kind of left the outdoor stuff behind just for a number of reasons. And I just honestly wasn’t that interested in it. I was more focused on dance, and that kind of stayed with me through my teenage years. Eventually went to college at CU Boulder, and as anybody who’s ever been to Boulder can attest to, it’s a very, very outdoor town. And I quickly befriended so many, you know, so many classmates and whatnot from out of state who had come to college in Boulder solely for the outdoors. And they were like – what do you mean, you don’t want to go backpacking, or you don’t want to learn how to climb? And that was when I started to realize that like, hey, growing up here, I kind of took a lot of this for granted. All my new friends wanted to spend Friday night at the climbing gym. So you know, you’re 18 and you have nothing else to do. So let’s go do that. And so over college, I kind of started learning more and more about all of it. And then at the same time, I kind of phased out of my dancing career. I danced for college, I danced pro for a little bit afterwards. But once I hit 22, I was kind of like – what am I going to do with this? I’m not going to dance for the rest of my life. And so that transition right there, when I quit dance, and fully started to dive into the outdoors, right around age 22, I kind of view that now is the beginning of the rest of my life.
Yeah, yeah, I you know, I’m here in Alaska, of course, same thing, people move here to be in Alaska, or you’re from Alaska, and you wish you weren’t here. And I meet a lot of adults who have lived here their whole lives, and are only trying their first pair of snowshoes with me, right, like, we’re now together going on a hike, and they’ve never even considered snowshoeing before, because it was just not part of their daily lives as people who grew up here. And they’re only now getting into being outside. And I just like, I kind of wonder, how do you avoid having that happen to your kids?
Yeah, you know, I have some good friends that I grew up with in Denver that have never been skiing, like I literally met them when I was like, three, they were my neighbors. They’ve been here their entire life, and they don’t know how to ski. They’ve never been skiing, they don’t really like to camp. And I mean, that’s their prerogative, of course, but they have kids now. And those same, you know, the same mindsets being passed on to them. And I kind of want to just take them and be like – Come on, let’s just try this one time, one time, you’re gonna like it.
Right? After you started spending time outside through your college experience, you then moved on to quite the adventure lifestyle, did you not?
I did. So after college, I kind of became a vagabond a little bit. This was back in the early 2000s. And it was long before things like van life and stuff were so common and so popular. But I was very aware, acutely aware of the fact that I wasn’t ready to settle down. And I had earned my degree in journalism. But at the time, freelancing wasn’t as common or as known. And so I really was just kind of aimless and I didn’t know what I was doing. And my parents were great about encouraging me, you know, this is the time in your life when you’re not tied down. And so I kind of took that concept and ran with it. I quit my job, I kind of sold everything I owned, which at that point wasn’t much more than a car, but still. And then first, I went on a biking trip across the country. So I biked from Colorado to Pensacola, Florida, and then from Pensacola up into Kentucky, and then over to the eastern coast, and then down the coast to Miami. And that took me about four or five months where I lived in a tent the whole time doing, you know, it was a true dirtbag situation where I was like, living in tents hidden behind Walmart, in the woods. And in some towns in like middle America, Kansas, these tiny little communities would let me put the tent in the middle of the town park, you know, like, basically anywhere free was what I was doing. And then after the bike trip, when I got down to Miami, I bought a one way ticket down to South America. And I told myself, I was just gonna stay down there until I ran out of money, honestly, which turned out to be around 13 months and I just backpacked around South America and Central America. And I hiked and camped and kind of learned a lot about who I was and what I wanted in life and what I didn’t want in life. But eventually I ran out of money, as you do, came back to the states, realized I still wasn’t ready to grow up and I moved up to Steamboat Springs here in Colorado and decided to do the ski bum thing. So I became a ski instructor and taught little kids how to ski for a period of time. And then after a little more time, I was getting closer and closer to 30 at this point, and I was starting to feel like I should figure out my life a bit more. So I took a part time job at the middle school as a Spanish teacher actually. I did not have a license for this, but small mountain towns often have a hard time finding qualified teachers, and my minor was in Spanish. I spent all that time in South America, I lived in Spain as well. And they were like – Let’s get you an emergency license to teach this year. And so that was kind of another pivotal point for me. Because that year as a teacher was when I was like – Okay, I’m ready to move on to the next chapter. And after that year of teaching, when I moved back to Denver, and that’s kind of when I started where I am now, I guess the next level.
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, going from I wander around South America as my life to I am in Denver. You know, like a mom creating that, you know, home life, just a more traditional lifestyle, with still valuing time spent outside. Is that a tough transition? I mean, it sounds terrible.
I won’t lie and say it was super easy. It was hard. And I mean, there was a little bit of a gap in between. So I went back to Denver when I was 30. I didn’t meet my husband – gosh, it was like a year or two later. And then we ended up not getting pregnant until I was around 35. So there was, you know, a five year period in between. But to your point, like I met my husband on a media trip for the outdoor industry, we literally met backpacking. So that kind of stuff was very core to who we were. And when we even started having the kid conversation, we both knew we wanted to have a kiddo but we met later in life. We were having kids later in life, and we were honestly nervous, like – what is this going to do to our fun or adventure or the outdoor stuff? Like, is it going to change it? Is it going to be great? And we were nervous, and we were scared honestly, but we just decided now or never. I was getting older. You know, in terms of maternity, I was already considered a, quote, geriatric pregnancy. Which, side note, is the worst thing ever to tell a pregnant woman.
Yes, it’s a terrible term. I’m gonna lump that right in with “elder millennial.” What is that?
Also right up there on the don’t say list. But yeah, so we decided to make a leap. And the first year after she was born was hard for me. I’m a freelance writer now. And so that meant I was lucky in the sense that I didn’t have to go back to work after a certain amount of time, my husband went back, but I had a flexible schedule. So I was home with our daughter. And, you know, I loved her more than anything, and was so grateful, and just this beautiful child that I couldn’t stop looking at. But simultaneously, I was also longingly remembering my former life, right. And anytime I did something like that, I’d be thrown into this immediate guilt spiral for not appreciating my child more. And so that first six, seven months, honestly, I was constantly battling that vicious cycle of wanting what I had, but loving what I also had now and trying to figure out who I was like, my new identity. But I would say the turning point, for me anyway, was right around seven months, and my husband has this wonderful corporate America job that gives all parents four months of paid maternity or paternity. And he was allowed to use it at any point during our daughter’s first year of life. So we had saved three months of his paternity leave. And we went on this three month road trip through the American West, just camping and living in a tent the whole time. And we left when our daughter was seven months old, and we didn’t come back, you know, until she was 10 months. And that’s when we learned how to take her backpacking, how to take her on a multi-night backpacking trip, took her on airplanes, day hikes, all these different things. And that was when I started to see the light, so to speak, and realize – hey, you know what, I can do this. Like, it’s different than it looked before. But it’s still possible.
Yeah, it’s an important moment where you realize that the things you valued or the recreation that you wish you had – I wasn’t really an outdoorsy or camping kind of person. I just never was until after my kids were born, and then it was like – Oh, wow, this is gonna be like, this is something I want to do. But it’s very daunting. I don’t know how to camp by myself, much less with a one year old, you know, and it’s that really important moment where you realize like – Okay, this isn’t impossible. This is something that maybe it’s a little harder than it was when I did it before if that was what you did. And it’s different, that’s for sure. And I realized that now that we camp without my kids, you’re like – Wow, this is like crazy, right? Even now that they’re 12 and 9, it’s a sizably different experience when they’re not there. It’s a big moment where you realize, like, you don’t have to stop being who you wish you were, who you were, just because you have kids, and you don’t have to stay home. You don’t have to be a slave to that time.
Yeah, you don’t. Oh, and what you just said right there, honestly, that component was huge. Because the first couple months, I didn’t know what I was doing, you know, most new parents don’t. And I was going down the rabbit hole of internet research, which is a horrific place to be as the new mom, and was looking at all these sleep schedules and the do’s and don’ts and you’re gonna screw your kid up if you don’t let her sleep in the crib 17 times a day and all these different things that internet strangers were telling me and I was getting sucked into it for a little bit. And that compounded with the fact that my childbirth experience hadn’t quite gone to plan, I ended up with an emergency C section, which I was put under with general anesthesia. So I actually missed our daughter’s entire birth, which, you know, with the postpartum hormones was definitely something that stuck with me for a while. And so I’m in this rabbit hole of weird information that does not match up with the lifestyle I want to have. And it was overwhelming and daunting. And you know, it almost seemed like there was no way out. But once I kind of decided to just throw it away, like literally threw the books away, stop looking at stuff on the internet. I was like – I’m not gonna screw up my kid. I am a responsible functioning adult in society. I like myself, I think I do pretty okay. Therefore, I think I can help this little human I helped create mold into a wonderful person by doing the stuff that I deem to be what’s best for her. And once I kind of had that realization, it was a lot easier.
I like that we can now be two internet strangers to other people telling them that the other internet stranger is wrong.
Well, it’s a little different now. You know, I mean, our daughter’s only four. So she’s still in the early days. But I even feel like in her short life, the outdoor possibilities that you find on the internet, they’re all over the place now compared to what they were four years ago. You know, it’s changed a lot in the past couple years.
Yeah, absolutely. Do you find that getting outside with your daughter or family is different than you – of course, we’re humans. So we immediately have our different expectations. Right? So did your experience match up with the expectations you had for how it would be once you decided to do it?
Yeah, I think you said this, you touched on this earlier, but I don’t think it’s necessarily different than what I expected. But it’s harder, and not in the same way. Like it’s harder in a different way. How’s that for a weird string of words together? But like, you know, our adventures now don’t always involve questionable life choices, or intensely painful cardio burns, as we’re trying to scale this massive mountain or, you know, something like that. Like my husband and I do have our adults only dates and adventures and we save those for those, you know, those kinds of adventures. But they’re harder now in the sense that I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’m always taking care of someone other than myself. Pre-kids, like I could take care of myself, my husband could take care of himself, we’d look out for each other, but like, we’re grown adults, where now we have this little, you know, this little human who’s entirely reliant on us for safety, but also, you know, for entertainment, engagement. And that makes it a little harder, because it’s not just about us. Now, it’s about us three, and learning how to incorporate all of that into our adventures so that all three of us have an equally good time, takes some effort, because we don’t want to drag her around these things because mom and dad like them, and she’s miserable. We want to learn how she can equally enjoy them.
Right. It’s like the difference between adventures and exertion, which is the kind of venture I like, right, that we work hard, and then we see something awesome. Or we work hard and we experience something great. And instead it’s an adventure in exploration. And I don’t know, what’s the word for like, being a sponge, you know, like, wonderment?
Yeah, yeah, it is. It’s fun to see. Especially because she’s at the age now where I think anyway, that four, it’s a tough age because she’s not able to do all the things on her own even though she wants to, but she’s also getting to the age where throwing her in the carrier and carrying her is tough. And so it’s kind of a physically demanding age because I’m still trying to carry this, you know, 40 pound wiggling mass half the time or like, if I throw her in the ski trailer, I’m towing like 80 pounds, that’s physically hard. But when she gets out and starts walking around or doing her thing, she sees the world with new eyes, like this fresh blanket of snow to me like yeah, it’s beautiful. And I love it and sparkly. But to her, it’s this magical state that she’s never seen before, that she’s never experienced before. We’re teaching her how to ski and the giggles that erupt from her when she goes downhill is like the best reminder of why I love skiing. Like you just hear that pure joy come out and you’re like – that’s it. That is why we do it. And that part’s pretty cool.
Yeah, one of the benefits of learning to do outdoor stuff at the same time as my kids are. Now obviously, I’m an adult. So I learn it in a different way they do than they do. But so many of the activities that we do as a family are new to all of us. So we’re all learning how to do cross country skiing right now. We’re all exploring. We just started doing some stargazing. I have never done that in my whole life, really. And my son who is nine and I see these things in a different way, but we’re both seeing them through fresh eyes. And so he is enjoying, for example, stargazing with this like, he’s making up, choose your own adventure style stories for every constellation. It’s so fun to watch him do that. Drives you a little crazy after a while. I’m doing stargazing for the first time too, so we’re both learning the how of that and learning about the constellations, and then we’re putting our own different spin on it. Now I would prefer to be cross country skiing, cuz I’m like, I like the movement, right, and he just wants to sit there and watch stars. So we all have our different flair, but it has been fun.
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One of the things you just mentioned reminded me of something you said in your story, which is that your mom who was a botanist sort of inflicted you with information about all of the plants. Yeah. Which is, which is, you know, obviously something she enjoyed about being outside. So I’m wondering if you have had to, or have found yourself countering that drive. Do you feel like maybe I’m inflicting her with backpacking? And how do you avoid that feeling?
100%. And that’s something especially as she’s starting to get older, that we’re more aware of. Like, are we doing this for us? Are we doing this for her? You know, like, is she having fun? And some of it comes into play, like for example, the one activity I don’t like is rock climbing. I’m just not into it. I can’t. I’ve tried to be a climber my whole life. Like I love mountaineering. I just do not enjoy climbing. It’s not my thing. But we took her to the climbing wall for the first time. I think she actually went on a preschool trip. And she loves it. She thinks it’s amazing. Like she so clearly lights up when she’s on there, she requested a Spider Man birthday party at the rock wall this year. Like it’s her jam right now. Like, my husband can’t climb because he busted his shoulders when he was in his 20s. So his arms just don’t move like a normal human anymore. Um, but like that’s an example of, sometimes I’ll take her. I would much rather be doing something else, like I just don’t get my thrills out of it. But I’m trying to encourage her to find her own things. And I’m really working to be aware that those might not be the same as my own. And so there’s that fine line of like, or you know, and sometimes to like hiking I think at this age is a big one, which I get like I don’t necessarily enjoy day hikes either. I like backpacking, and I like trail running, but like a short hour long day hike to just get to a certain point on the trail and turn around doesn’t really ring my bell and I see that coming out in her now. And like we do it because it’s something she can do, and it’s teaching her all these skills, and it’s good for her physically. But I’m also like – she doesn’t enjoy it, let’s go find one of the 17 options she does enjoy. And to your earlier point, that’s been kind of great because we’re also learning new things. Like, we’re not big on bikes, but she taught herself to ride a bike at three and a half and is already in the pump track. So we’re like – Alright, maybe we should get big on bikes, so we can all go biking together as a family. That’s kind of cool.
So I want to get really practical. Because you’ve done a lot of work giving other people advice on backpacking and hiking and telling other people’s stories and, and now you’re learning this for yourself, and you’re helping families get outside and make that a part of their everyday lives. So let’s start by talking about what challenges you see for getting outside with kids. And then how you have found, or how the people you’ve encountered who overcome this well do that? Like what’s the secret?
Right, if only it was that easy. Um, you know, in terms of challenges, I think there’s two main ones that folks are continually running into. And the first is honestly, the cost of gear, it’s a price thing. And we all know, gear’s expensive, it’s expensive for adults too. But the difference with adults is you buy, you know, a $600 arctic shell, you’ve got that for a long, long time. With kids, they’re growing like little weeds, and they’re blowing through this stuff every single year. But it doesn’t mean they still don’t need high quality stuff to undergo the outdoor adventures I’m asking them to do. And so that’s expensive, you know, we’re buying our daughter up to $100 snowsuit every year, because we need to buy this one particular brand that is amazing. But it’s also pricey. You know, if you want to go on some of these ski touring adventures, you need some type of ski trailer and this thing started like $1,000. That is a lot of money. And I think we haven’t quite figured out how to overcome that one. Honestly, I think the outdoor industry is getting better and realizing that families want to take their kids outside. And now that they’ve come to that realization, I’m hopeful they’re going to start focusing more research and development on that area to hopefully take price down, have more options, you know, do all those things. But honestly, right now, that’s the first thing I hear from families, like they don’t want to spend $300 on a kid carrier, if they don’t even know their kid’s gonna like it.
It’s like when your baby is born, you’re like – Okay, I gotta have a swing and a basket thing. And then there’s always some new little thing with a word that called some title that someone completely made up right then. So, yeah, and you’re like, but I mean, what if the baby hates this stupid thing? You know, and thank God, they now do have companies that rent this stuff out. And then of course, buy used. Consignment is always an option, although you have to do your research and try and actually go to the store.
It’s hard. I mean, that’s what we recommend to a lot of our families is that, you know, find used gear, Facebook marketplace, things like that. We actually started a gear swap on Facebook, it’s called the WildKind Gear Swap that’s dedicated to used outdoor family gear. Because there’s just nothing else out there like that. And you can find snow suits, and you know, whatnot used elsewhere. But when you’re looking for core stuff, like us, carriers are used trailers, it’s really hard to find, and at least here in Colorado, I know if a used trailer goes up for sale, you’ll get oh, my gosh, people descend on you, because they’re so in demand. And I mean, at least now that the demand is there, again, I’m hoping that it means that, you know, everyone will catch up and make it a little easier. But as of now, it’s hard. It makes it really, really hard. And like you said, there’s rental options, too. But a lot of those aren’t dedicated to kids’ gear. They’re still dedicated to adults’ gear.
Right. Yeah, I mean, and of course, the supply chain issues. This is very, like 2021 problem. 22, early 22 problem, but the supply chain issues that we’ve been seeing recently, not to date ourselves too much here, is really making this problem worse. So if someone’s listening to this, when this comes out, you may find that this is a real issue and that you have an even harder time finding things. You’re going to go hunting for gear and it’s going to feel impossible to find. And that’s because demand is so high, and supply of even new stuff is so low.
It’s a weird time in regards to the outdoor industry. And I’m not going to take this conversation off the rails here, I promise. But again, I worked in the outdoor industry, been around it for a long time, and it’s definitely interesting to see its state right now because we’ve never, as long as I’ve been in anyway, there’s never been this level of interest in getting outside. And it is really fascinating to watch and observe how that has just changed the entire dynamic. I’m curious to see, you know, purely observational how, how this pans out next summer, summer 22, summer 23. Like, you know, I think at some point, there will be a lot of used gear on the market, because a lot of people aren’t going to, you know, really that’s not their thing. But long term, I’m really excited to see so many people jumping in, I just hope that it grows in a sustainable and responsible way.
But what you’re talking about is not unrelated to what to this idea of families getting outside, because if one of the barriers, as you said, and challenges is gear, then having an you know, having increased interest and having a lot of people who are getting outside, not only it does create a gear shortage, as we’ve been discussing, but it also creates more people, like the hive mind, people thinking through this and what are workarounds? And what are ways that we can do this more easily? What kind of layering of your clothes that you already own, or something maybe less expensive works in lieu of the more expensive things that you probably didn’t want to spend your money on anyway? Like, how can we do this? And so that’s really exciting. Because what it means is we have a community of people in the world who are interested in this and who are there to help each other tackle these sorts of things.
Well, and then honestly, that kind of ties into the second thing you asked about challenges, and I said gear, but the second one is that I do still think there’s a lack of knowledge. And especially for kids, especially for younger kids in particular, I would say under the age of like six or seven. And I think it’s because you know, our society, culture, whatever, for so long told us that taking your kids outside on these, you know, extreme quote unquote, adventures, these type two fun adventures was not safe, it was not something you should do. You shouldn’t take your baby outside in the winter. Why would you go skiing with your kid like that? That’s so much work, you know. For so long, it was something that you weren’t supposed to do. Now that that is changing, there’s not a lot out there. Like when we took our daughter on her first backcountry ski hut trip at like three months, we found a hut that was like fully heated and had electricity. So we felt pretty good about it. But I was unsure about the actual ski touring with a baby situation. So I did what any new mom would do, went to the internet and started researching. And that’s when I realized there was nothing out there. Like there was no resource. There was no blog post with tips and tricks, there was nothing. And you mentioned earlier that I co-founded an organization called WildKind, that experience was one of the catalysts to starting WildKind, because I wanted to be part of the solution. Because I knew if I was experiencing this lack of anything, lack of assistance, support information, there were definitely other families out there who were feeling the exact same way.
Right, right. And a lot of that is, as we’re working to find information and working to overcome those challenges, a lot of it is also mindset, where for that for seven months of your daughter’s life, you felt like you were a slave to the random internet stranger advice. And once you changed your mindset about getting outside with your daughter, and that this could be a part of your lifestyle, if just not the way that you had originally had being outside a part of your lifestyle, you know, it’s like that outdoor lifestyle of light, you know? Yeah. You, you had to change your mindset to get there. And so I’m wondering if you think having that shift of mindset is more important, or just maybe a part of one of the practical steps to getting your family and you outside and doing the nature stuff. It’s just like realizing that you can, or there are other things that are a part of that that are maybe more important than that initial thought.
Yeah. And you know, that’s a really good question. The easy way out is, of course, to say that they both matter. But I think like the practical steps, the foundation or whatever, it’s definitely a part of it. And I think it’s a good place to start because you need that foundation to ensure everybody stays safe. And you know that you’re not stuck in the trailhead, looking at the trail, not knowing how to get from here to there. So I do think you need those practical steps. There’s the basic information to even consider the thing. But once you get past that point, honestly, I think I’d commit to the idea that mindset is even more critical because anyone can learn the skills and the steps, like that’s possible. But I’m a big advocate of saying that kids aren’t typically the obstacle to these adventures. You know, you hear about that all the time. My parents will be like – my kid doesn’t like sleeping in a tent or doesn’t like being in the kid carrier or whatever. I don’t think that’s the case. I think the parents are the obstacle. And it’s because they can’t get out of their own way. Like, kids come into this world not knowing what to expect. They don’t know where they’re supposed to sleep, they don’t know that they’re supposed to sleep in a temperature controlled room with a white noise machine and blackout curtains and you know, all these things, they adjust to whatever we show them. But I think parents get stuck in their ways about what they should be doing. And they start struggling with that. What if my kid cries? Or what if my kid doesn’t sleep in the tent? Or what if she gets cold? Or what if she gets sick and like the list goes on and on. And I think that fear of the what ifs sometimes prevents parents from even trying, which is a shame. And so because of that, I think the mindset is huge.
Well, I think it’s a mistake for people to think they have to start their outdoor life with their tiny person, or their not so tiny anymore person with a ski touring hut trip, you know, that was for you, because you have done ski touring before and you’re going to insert baby here. And that makes sense. But if that’s not you, there is no shame in saying – Okay, first thing we’re gonna do is go to a developed campground that is around the corner from a Starbucks and also within 15 minutes of my house.
Or try camping in your backyard. So take your backyard, if your kids are terrified. Worst case scenario, two in the morning, you can run inside, like that’s okay.
Exactly; it’s all about changing that mindset and taking each thing, step by step. And seeing, okay, like, let’s ease ourselves into this. You know, when my sons and I, gosh, we still haven’t done a multi day backpacking trip. But we have done the same backpacking trip several times. Now it’s gotten easier every time. I think next year is our year for a couple of days in a row. Um, yeah, I’m really excited about it. You know, they just get older every year.
And that was really a huge thing. Because like you said, it’s the parents, he can totally do the trip. Either of these kids, they can totally do the trip, I did not want to tolerate listening to them do the trip, you know. I’m not patient enough, because it’s all an exercise in patience for me. I’m not a patient enough parent to say – okay, like, we can take a break every quarter mile, like we totally can do that. I do not want to do it at all. But, um, and my husband is like that, he’s the patient hiking parent and I’m the – behold, the end! But of course, I am the ultra runner, and he is not. So I’m like – Okay, we’re running 100 miles, you know, that’s the race. Let’s go. Um, and that’s not how he sees the world, nor would he like to. So it’s just it depends on your strengths, right? And, and your strengths as a family and your interests in the family in the interests of your kid, and put all that stuff in a jar and shake it and see what you get.
Yeah. And that’s, that’s so true. Because, you know, I think there’s a misconception that, you know, the term “hardcore,” and whatever is being tossed around the outdoor industry a lot. And like, the stuff that I enjoy, that I focus on, a lot of the stuff we focus on at WildKind, like a lot of that falls into the like I said earlier, the type two fun. And that was largely because we didn’t feel like there was any attention to that category. That said, it doesn’t mean that’s the only option for everybody, like humans are all different. Like I said earlier, I don’t like rock climbing. That does not mean you and your family are not going to have a blast at the crag. Like, that’s just how we’re wired. And that’s okay. It just takes a little time to kind of figure out where everyone sits on those topics.
Exactly. Okay, so can you give us three or four tips for people who want to take their families out on adventures, but maybe have that mindset still, that it’s going to be too much work? It’s going to be too hard. Everyone’s gonna have a miserable time, we’ll all end up crying, and having a lot of bug bites.
Yeah, like the first one, like you said, honestly, it starts small, like, you know, people hear the stories that I’m sharing or other people are sharing, you do not have to dive into the deep end of the pool. That is not a requirement for anybody, you know, start camping in your backyard. Or even if you haven’t done anything, try hiking, you know, that’s good, too. I’ll try a challenge to walk around your block like whatever is the next step for your family. Give that a try. It doesn’t have to line up with whatever you’re seeing on social media or in magazines or anything else. So I think that’s important.
Second tip would be to remind yourself that it’s okay to throw away the rules, so to speak. And I think about this a lot when we’re outside. Because again, we all have house rules at home. We have better times for our kids and rules about eating sweets before dinner and screentime. And you know, whatever else, whatever makes your house tick, but when you’re outside a lot of the time, I think parents try to, especially when they start, try to stick to those routines as much as possible just because that’s what they know. And that’s fine if it works for your family. Great, but oftentimes it doesn’t because this is an entirely new environment, entirely new experience. So like a girlfriend and I, we took our daughters on our first girls only backpacking trip this summer as a single overnight. Her daughter was two, my daughter was three. The kids did great. They hiked like a mile and a half each, 700 feet gain, like it was pretty legit. I was proud of them. You better believe we bribed them the entire way with gummy bears. Like that’s not something I do on a daily basis. I’m not funneling these down her throat, but for that special 24 hour experience, that’s okay.
A recent guest of ours, Zenovia Stephens, whose episode I think airs right before yours, called these trail vitamins.
Yes. It’s funny you say that because I’ve never used that term, but our daughter associates gummies with her vitamins. So she doesn’t understand the difference between gummy bears and fruit snacks and multivitamins because to her, they’re all just delicious and chewy. So she started calling – Mom, can I have vitamins now? I’m looking at the gummy bear in my hand, and I’m like – geez, we’ve fallen pretty far here. But that’s okay.
One of my friends who people could have heard on the podcast before, Claire Shay, bribes her son with Sour Patch Kids.
Those are my kid’s favorite too. She loves them. She’ll burn her mouth, honestly, because she eats so many of them. But yeah, whatever. Again, it’s, you know, it’s a brief period of time, it is temporary. And that’s okay.
Let’s be honest, this isn’t just for kids. I myself enjoy a Swedish Fish. Or 7.
Or the bag, I’m with you. The third thing I wanted to throw in there too really fast, and I wanted to kind of insert this because I think it’s really important, is finding community. And that’s easier said than done. But everything gets easier in life, whether it’s outdoor adventures, or just life, you know, it gets easier when you have a support system. And when you have a support system who’s asking you – how can I help? Rather than – are you sure you should be doing that? Is everything, you know, there’s that expression that it takes a village. And I truly believe that we’re not meant to do this parenting thing on our own. And I think that especially applies when you’re tackling all of these outdoor adventures. So I think finding a community is so crucial.
Yeah, you know, I recently launched the Humans Outside Challenge Kits, which are kits that people can buy to help them get outside and motivate them to do this 20 minutes a day outside thing that I’ve been talking about for a couple of years now. But really, at the core of that is this challenge to go outside every day for however long you want to challenge yourself to do. So for me, that’s 20 minutes. And I base that on a variety of things, including the fact that I thought 20 minutes was something I would actually do. But what’s been wonderful about that is that it really has been a gentle on-ramp to try new things. And so I did not start my daily outdoor time by cross country skiing. I started my daily outdoor time by sitting on my porch, or by going on a walk around my house, or by going down into my little small town and attending the outdoor market. Right, like these are not big adventures. They are outside and they are little things but they taught me that I could take my kids to that stuff. Okay, let’s try something else. It’s just like when, if you are a runner, the first day you started running you did not run a marathon, you did not run a 5K, one mile, right you you worked up to it and you became more and more comfortable over time. And eventually you woke up and you were insane if you’re me and you thought – I think I’ll try 100 miles! You didn’t like give birth and the next day say, I think we’ll go on a hut trip, you worked into it.
Definitely did not happen. Yeah.
And that’s really important to remember when you are in a world where social media allows us to compare ourselves to other people. It’s really important to remember that for all the good that having a community around you can be, inspiring all that stuff, that comparison is the killer. I don’t need to compare what’s good for me outside to what’s good for you outside, because I’m probably not going to take even my 9 and 12 year old on a multi day skiing hut trip anytime soon. And that’s fine. This year we have worked up to what I think it’s going to be much more adventurous than I thought it was going to be, because my husband’s not going to be there, so it’s just gonna be me. We’re going to ski in, and we have to bring our own firewood into a cabin nearby. I’ve got a couple months, guys before this happens, where, you know, it’s like the, it’s what they call in Music Man, the thinking method. So I’m just thinking about it.
Yeah, it sounds like you need a pulk sled.
I’m using the thinking method to convince myself that this will be totally fine. And guess what, if it’s not, and we get there, and it’s not fine, we come home. That’s what we do. And that’s fine, too.
What you just said is what I tell to a lot of families when they are stressing about the what ifs and the fears and all the things. I always say – let’s evaluate what is the absolute worst that happens. And more often than not, it’s what you just said, you come home, it doesn’t work out, whatever. That’s fine. The world does not end, the sky does not fall. That’s okay.
Exactly. And, hopefully I learned something. And I’m not deterred. I’m like making forecasts, like, I’m speaking truth into the future. I am not deterred. I learned something and I’m trying again.
I’ve enjoyed this so much. But let’s move on to our leftovers round. And I would love to know, since we’ve been talking about gear, we’ve been talking about these tools. What are your most essential and favorite, one or the other or maybe both, outdoor gear items?
So I have both. So my favorite outdoor gear items, I have two. One is our Thule Chariot. The trailer, we use it year round for biking, running, walking, skiing, it’s amazing. The second one is the $9 voile strap because those things come in handy. Every single time I go outside, whether it’s with broken gear, who knows, they’re wonderful, so useful, useful. I think everybody needs to have them. And my most essential outdoor gear item is something called a Kula Cloth.
Yes, featured here multiple times.
Anastasia, the founder, is a wonderful human. I’ve known her for some years. She’s been one of my testers for a long time. And it’s been so great. Seeing Kula in the wilds and grow, develop.
Let’s remind other people who maybe haven’t heard of this wonderful invention, what it is.
So a Kula Cloth is basically the world’s first reusable pee rag.
It’s so good. Keep going.
Yeah, and it’s designed for anybody who squats when they pee and one side’s antimicrobial. The other side, she works with all sorts of artists to make all these beautiful prints, we actually have two WildKind prints that some of the moms in our community designed, they’re like family oriented patterns. But you use it to wipe and then you can hang it on your backpack, your tent, whatever it is, and the sun’s UV rays will disinfect it while it dries. So you can use it when you’re hiking or camping and then you go home and you can just hand wash it in the sink with soap, it’s clean, it’s ready to go for the next time. And not only is it easier for for women in general, but it’s cut down a lot on toilet paper left in the back country so it’s very Leave No Trace friendly.
Everybody pees. Okay, so this is one of my most favorite pieces of outdoor gear. I gave some of my friends a Kula Cloth for Christmas. I am like a Kula Cloth evangelist and Anastasia was with us on, I think season four of Humans Outside, so anyone who’s listening wants to hear more about that and like how somebody, you know wakes up one day and decides to stop being a park ranger or train car enforcement, and start making pee cloths, listen to Anastasia’s podcast episode because it was really fun and she is just a magical human and also their Instagram feed is one of the funniest things on the internet. It really is.
And another pro tip about Kula Cloth actually for families is if you’re potty training your kiddo outside, they’re amazing. Like we got our daughter one as a stocking stuffer right before we potty trained. So it’s like her special Kula, and we picked a pattern that had pink lollipops and rainbows. And so like she’s very like – can I use my Kula now, Mama? Like it was a very successful driving factor for getting her to pee outside.
Using the old noodle, good job!
It’s hard for little girls. You’re like talking to a two year old and you’re like – let’s learn to squat!
Good job, mom. Walk us out with a vision, if you will, of your favorite outdoor space. If you were to tell us about somewhere that you just love that you like to remember and think about, where are you? What are you doing?
So at the beginning, we talked about that 1000 Island Lake and I would go back there. This particular moment, my husband was off finding the campsite, and I was sitting with Liliana, she was seven months. We’re sitting on this big granite boulder waiting for him to come back. And she discovered these two little rocks and she just was so overjoyed to sit there on that rock, banging her two little rocks together for like 45 minutes, sun’s on her face, birds are chirping, it was straight out of a movie. And it was such a simple and pure and wonderful memory that I know it’s something I’ll never forget. So it’s a good place to end.
Yes, it is. Heather, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today. I appreciate your time.
Thanks, you too.
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