Camping with grandkids?May 03, 2022 10:31AM ● By Jan Weeks
Exploring the great outdoors is one of the seasonal joys of Western Colorado, especially with children and grandchildren. Camping, hiking and sharing wildlife lore make hearts soar. Then the heart-stopping moment when you realize the young one has slipped away, and a panicky search begins.
The following simple items can turn potential tragedy into a jubilant reunion when stuffed into a day pack or fanny pack.
• A metal lifeguard whistle is loud and carries through forests and canyons better than a child’s voice. Buy one at any sporting goods store. Avoid plastic ones, as they’re easily broken. A lanyard to hang it around a child’s neck is a good idea, too, as it can’t get lost as easily.
• A small flashlight can be used to signal the child’s position after dark.
• A garbage bag becomes a makeshift poncho when a hole is cut in the bottom to poke a head through. If inclement weather rolls in or night falls, the child can stay dry, and the plastic cuts the wind. Or find an easily compressed poncho in any outdoor department.
• A protein bar provides nutrition and blunts hunger pangs. It also comforts the child while they wait to be found.
• Let the child choose a snapshot of family to take along. Its familiarity provides comfort and reminds him or her that there are people looking for him.
• A small bottle of water will keep him or her hydrated.
• A small toy or memento of the child’s choosing adds familiarity in a scary environment.
Of course, just wearing the pack won’t prevent heartbreak. Adults must teach children how to use it. First and foremost, keep the pack with you until you’re camping or hiking, so the child can’t forget it or lose it at home. Emphasize that the survival kit is to be used only for an emergency, not for playing or just having a snack. Show her how to put the poncho on. And most importantly, teach him to sit down immediately and begin blowing the whistle the minute he’s out of sight of adults, and keep blowing it every few minutes, especially after dark.
A quick training session with these easily available items can keep outdoor exploration safe and fun, and ensure a happy ending.