American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Friday, June 30, 2006

Dressing for success

Yesterday I talked about the essential gear and skills the kids should have before heading out into the woods. Today let's talk about the kind of clothing they should be wearing for summer hikes. We'll start at the top and work our way down.

First, the kids need a hat that fits and that they'll wear. A good hat protects you from the sun, keeps bugs out of your hair, keeps in body heat, and provides a place to store a small amount of extra gear. I prefer a hat with a 2-3" brim but finding anything other than a baseball cap for the kids has proven extremely difficult.

Next, a good lightweight shirt to protect them from the sun, provide warmth, protect from abrasion, and offer some resistance to the mosquitoes and other biting insects. I am partial to the L.L. Bean fishing shirts as they offer a sun protection factor of 40+, have plenty of layered material with mesh in the "vents," and the sleeves can be rolled up and buttoned to keep them from falling back down. If needed, another layer could be added under the shirt but for 80-90 degree days the single layer should be plenty.

They'll need a sturdy belt of nylon with a plastic buckle or metal d-rings that's both easy to use and comfortable. Since both of my kids are potty trained and like to take care of business by themselves a belt that can quickly be undone is essential.

Add a good pair of pants to the equation (I prefer the zip-off pants that can turn into shorts) and you've got the basic outfit. The pants, like the shirt, offer protection from the sun, bugs, and abrasion as well as providing warmth when needed. Nylon or Polyester materials are better for fast drying in case of accidental (or intentional) dunking and, unlike cotton, do not stay cold for long once you put them on.

For the feet, a pair of sturdy boots and some lightweight wool socks complete the outfit. Get a pair that fits and have your kids try them on while wearing wool socks. Sturdy, lightweight boots for kids are not that easy to find. I was fortunate to find some at REI that were marked down so far as to make the price a bit ridiculous. For something they'll outgrow in a single season the price was right.

When choosing clothing for the outdoors make sure to pick lighter colors when it's warm. The lighter colors tend to draw fewer bugs and they'll be easier to pick out in case your kids wander off.

Once you've got a complete outfit for the kid(s,) take a picture and bring it with you when you get them out in the woods. In the event rescue is necessary, you'll have an excellent reference for Search and Rescue personnel. It may seem a bit morbid to have to consider but addressing potential problems before they arise is one of the keys to minimizing problems if they do.

Thanks for reading,



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