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Folks with Kids: REI wants to hear from you!

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Hey there, REI community!

If you are a parent, guardian, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or in any role where you are helping kids get outside, our customer research team wants to hear from you. If you could take a moment to answer one (or all) of the following questions we would really appreciate it! Your answers will help guide our thinking around how we choose to assort products for kids and families in the future.

  • How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?
  • What motivates you to go outside with your kids?
  • What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?
  • What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?

Drop your answers in the thread below, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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18 Replies

How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?

Hiking, biking, trail running, fishing, art projects involving objects found outside, cooking outside, campfires, camping, bouldering, archery, rockhounding.

What motivates you to go outside with your kids?

I love being outside and am a better person for it. I think the same applies for the kiddos. We are all just happier, healthier humans during and after we have spent as much time as possible outside. 

What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?

The biggest challenges are probably time and energy. Amongst busy work, school, and extracurriculars sometimes it's just easier to stay home and stay in. In those moments, we really have to prioritize getting out the door. 

What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?

I like to use multipurpose gear where at all possible. For all the above mentioned activities, my kids utilize general purpose gear, with the exception of backpacks, sleeping bags, and rain gear. In the winter, we do shop for durable ski clothing that will keep them warm (and therefore, happy, on the slopes). 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hi @REI-JohnJ !!

 

My kids are now 3 and 6.

 

  • How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?

We have been participating in 1000 Hours Outdoors this year and have less than 20 hours left of the challenge!! This organization/campaign is awesome, definitely worthy of a quick look-see. 

We are getting out while homeschooling mostly. Covid had forced our hand down the path and we've fully embraced it at this point. We take our entire school day into the forest at least once a week. We do road trips around Oregon and Washington and bring the schooling! National monuments, parks, forest... fantastic supports for homeschoolers (and all humans!) for education. We are camping, road tripping, hiking, backpacking, kayaking!, and completed one bikepacking trip this summer.

 

  • What motivates you to go outside with your kids?

A life lived outdoors in never a life wasted. If there's any hope in saving this planet, it's in showing our children how vital, beautiful, and amazing it is. I grew up camping with my dad, he passed suddenly 4 years ago and that hit me very VERY hard. It also made me even more determined to give my children the connection to our planet that I experienced.

 

  • What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?

Full disclosure... my husband doesn't share this passion. My biggest challenge is doing it alone, or rather as a solo adult. Taking my 6 year old daughter into the backcountry alone took some bravery. Taking a 6 year old and 3 year old on a bikepacking trip, patience. Road tripping, dispersed camping, and seeing all 3 units of the John Day Fossil Beds this summer, ok that took lots of things. 

 

  • What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?

We have the exact gear we need to get the job done and make experience easier and better in the process. Less is more. Lighter is more. Easy enough for a young child to operate is essential. 

On trip this last weekend our Exped Synmat duo sprung the worlds smallest leak and I'm devastated. I'd love to bring it in to REI and get help finding this suggestion of a hole... it lost enough air that I couldn't sleep comfortably but my 42 lb 6 year old slept on it the next night and didn't notice a thing (reinflated)!

I have 2 tents, a Kelty Rumpus 4 and a Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum 3... If that tells you anything... are we in a campground or the backcountry? 

We LOVE LOVE LOVE our Reima rain bibs and REI kids rainshell coats... we live in Oregon. I shop REI year round to find all the garage sale items and outlet deals. We just HAVE to stay dry out there... If we're dry, I can keep us warm. At this point I've got us so well dialed in that I now buy the same items in the next size they need and don't mess around with trying out something else (now if REI toddler rain shells would come with velcro straps on the wrists hahaha!!).

For reference, I've got an almost 4 year old girl and a 8 month old boy. 

 

1- my daughter has lost interest in hiking (😩) but still loves riding in her bike trailer so we've been doing that a lot. Also just playing at playgrounds. I still hope to get the whole family out for one camping trip this year before it gets cold. 

2- I don't need motivation to get outside with my kiddos, my daughter is the one that needs it. I usually end up bribing her with time at the playground after we do whatever it is I want to do. 

3 - their motivation, time it takes to pack everything up. I leave some things together, but filling multiple water bottles/bladders, moving things from the diaper bag to either the carrier or my daypack, etc really adds up. 

 

4- the littlest is often in a deuter kid comfort active sl, but I'm probably about to return that if I can determine that the regular kid comfort will be as comfortable for me. The lack of a water bladder is a deal breaker for me. In general, structured carriers have really not progressed much when compared to the new features that have been coming out on soft structured carriers. (I look at the huge amount of pockets on some of the new lille baby carriers for example) 

Clothing wise he's usually in just normal baby clothes but I've got some wool socks and a snow suit for when winter hits this year so that we can still hike. 

My daughter has a fair amount of gear for snow plus hiking specific shoes, socks, and pants. Most if not all of this will get passed down to her brother. She's also got a kids CamelBak backpack and a sleeping bag. The fact that her sleeping bag was designed to grow with her was absolutely one of the key reasons I got it. I abhor having to buy something every year that we only use once or twice because it gets outgrown. 

 

I'll second another commenter and say that I'd absolutely consider backpacking super short trips with my kids more if there were better options for toting the gear. 

Bit rambling, but here we go!

How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?

Mostly short hikes and biking (balance bike/Shotgun seat/Burley trailer, paved and MTB trails), or free exploration/playgrounds. Winter is coming so we'll be giving skiing and sledding another shot this year, she wasn't too keen on them last season. We have done limited car camping so far.

What motivates you to go outside with your kids?

I suppose I could factor in that I'm cognizant that it helps with less screen time and other health and development benefits, etc, but it's mostly just that it's fun. It also is generally a "free" activity rather than something with an admission cost like a museum or a movie, though the cost of gear obfuscates that a bit.

What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?

  • Time. Took a new job and its schedule does not mesh that great with my wife's such that just getting essential tasks like dinner and laundry feels like it takes up all we've got. Even if something is only 20-30 minutes away by car, that's the better part of an hour round trip just in travel let alone time spent at the destination, and that's enough to usually keep us only doing smaller things like the local playground where we can just walk out our door. Bigger trips like camping now of course require the coordination of taking days off of work for at least one of us.
  • Age. Kid is only 2 (almost 3) which really limits her stamina and interest span for when we do find longer chunks of time to do something. Much of this past year has also been shadowed by us potty training her: she's pretty good now but not perfect, and nothing derails plans quite like your toddler saying "poop" and then proceeding to not poop 10 times in a row but the stakes are too high to call her bluff. And of course either planning activities around toilet access or hauling around that much more portable gear and spare change of clothes to deal with any problems. We still believe in her capability and try to get out when we can and let her do some "risky play", but there's no question that it changes how you have to approach some things.
  • Size. She is large/tall for her age. Despite being nearly 3, she's in 4T/5T clothes, but their proportions change so much in these early years that the sleeve and pant lengths don't always match her waist and torso circumferences. It also means she is heavier for her age/development, so while some families could happily carry their kid on their backs until age 5, we're already nearing the weight limit of our Deuter Kid Comfort as well as her Burley. We haven't even used the Deuter this past summer because it feels too onerous for us adults to carry that much weight on our backs. At the same time it is still toddler clothing sizes and a lot of performance gear isn't even made this small, though that is improving as some boutique brands are moving to fill in the market space. In this way her size can also be a boon, since we'll be able to start accessing the post-toddler XS/S sizes pretty soon where that gear becomes more plentiful.
  • Money. We don't go too crazy on gear for her I feel, but we're not shy about spending for good choice pieces and that adds up. This includes things that aren't specifically for kids but add lots of convenience with kids, like our roof cargo box. So we need to be calculated and maybe plan out what to buy and when rather than just get everything we'd truly want. All of this balanced with decent gear for ourselves, other life expenses like new siding on the house, or now that I'm working, day care which is practically a second mortgage... What we spend on gear may be offset a bit by us spending less on "traditional" toys like LEGO, stuffed animals, etc.
  • Experience. Especially with skiing we're not exactly seasoned vets ourselves, so trying to manage our own skill while also figuring out how to teach her and let her participate safely can feel like a lot. But we're also not backpackers either, we keep to car camping and the convenience of creature comforts it brings, even before she was born. We've gotten by without much technical gear of our own.

What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?

Summer is more general purpose, with her normal clothing. Most of her clothing is secondhand from the consignment store, though we do try to include a couple moisture managing activewear pieces as part of it if we can find any. Specific gear could include her bike helmet, knee pads, biking gloves. The bikes themselves must count I suppose, of which she has 4... two Stiders, one heavily modified, and two Prevelos, a premium kids brand (bikes is one place I splurge a bit). The previously mentioned Burley and Deuter carrier could be added in. She likes using our REI Trailbreak trekking poles as well, as they're actually a great length for her in the fully collapsed adult "storage" configuration. We do not have an actual sleeping bag for her yet, we just used a sherpa fleece blanket last trip which worked well even with a 40 °F night/morning. I'd be looking into a Camelbak MiniMULE or Osprey Moki hydration pack for her next year maybe. We do have a mini REI camp chair for around the fire ring. Our car camping tent is an REI Base Camp 6.

Winter we do have more gear to make the cold comfortable. We had Terramar base layers last year, we'll need some sort of good base layer again this year. Right now we've got a decent Columbia jacket for her, snowpants still need to find something for this year as last years are outgrown. We bought some high quality direct-to-consumer Shred Dog brand pieces but they are a bit large on her for now and will save those for next year or maybe late season. We have an Anon Define ski helmet/goggle combo to keep the noggin warm that we also use for biking. Small pogies for her bike bars. We do have a pair of skis and boots/bindings for her bought used at a swap, eyeing up the Roces IdeaUP adjustable boots for her next ones, if she takes to skiing. I would probably consider showshoes as well when she starts showing interest and when her feet are a big enough shoe size to fit what's available.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Walks in the park and local trails (stroller included, she's 18 months), swinging and exploring outside in our yard, scenic drives. 

Health benefits, sharing my passions, family time away from indoor distractions- TV, work, electronics, etc. 

Tricky schedule management between naps and meals, finding the right balance of clothes for the extra sensitive skin of young ones. 

Jackets and rain coats. Protective and grippy footwear depending on the conditions. General purpose currently. I would like to pick up a kid carrier backpack, but that's more of gear for me than her. 

  • Currently, we’re doing lots of outside playing in the backyard, taking walks through the neighborhood, and going to public parks, and we have a car camping trip booked for the end of November.
  • What motivates us? We love being outside! The kids are into rocks and bugs and mud and whatever they can get into.
  • Right now, the big challenges for us are time and location. Everything happens around the kiddos’ schedules. That means we have to accommodate naps, baño breaks, snacks, grumpies, boredom on long car rides, etc. etc. Kids are horrible at holding it till the next stop or going a little further before stopping to eat, you know, grown up stuff. A trip that would take the wife and I 3 hours takes maybe 4.5 with the kids. So we just have to plan accordingly.
  • Gear we’re using is mostly general purpose: layers of clothes, water canteens/bottles, soft cooler for snacks/foodstuff, rain boots, diaper bag, first aid kit, sunscreen. We’ll be using some activity-specific gear on our camping trip, i.e. tents, sleeping bags, camp stove, utensils, things like that. 

New to REI convos but not REI... love that these questions are being asked!

1) How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?

We bike commute year-round, cumulatively ranging rightnow 0-150-ish commute miles weekly combined on a mix of bikes/e-bikes, average is about 100 miles. ("We" here is 2 full-time working moms plus elementary aged kiddo.) Some car camping (4-season) and camping road trips (2-ish trips/year), short/kid-friendly/easy hiking and backpacking weekends (1-5x/year), some loaded bike camping trips (rail trails/kid friendly, 1-2x/year), and misc. day hiking/snowshoeing, biking, etc. We are fortunate where we  live now we have a backyard and space for kids/fire pit/games/etc.

2) What motivates you to go outside with your kids?

Mostly the parents' sanity 🙂 Honestly we would probably not do nearly as much if we thought it was just for kiddo's benefit though his well being is obviously a big priority.

3. What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?

Time and energy are big ones. We have intense desk jobs with a lot of hours. Also some serious chronic health issues in family make it sometimes touch and go regarding whether it's even possible to be outside or active. We also have a severe dietary restriction for kiddo and 1 parent so we have to be completely self-contained and prepare every single thing we're going to eat ahead of time (no stopping for fast food or the gas station for snacks the first night out or on the drive back home, etc.) We dream sometimes about taking an REI family trip or something but the cost is prohibitive relative to what going on our own costs us and kiddo isn't old enough yet anyway.

Honestly though, the biggest one and the one REI I feel could maybe be pretty instrumental in helping members with (unless you got a time machine you can rent us 🙂 is connecting with other families. We're a 2-mom household living in a small Midwest city and it's been hard to connect with people, especially once the weather turns colder, etc. We also worry about safety (general health/safety e.g. road traffic on bikes, bears on trips in the mountains, etc. but also safety as a queer women) as many of the camping sites are hike-in but not particularly far from roads and potentially creepy people.  We've had a few encounters that were frankly really disturbing over the years--people scary high/unwell or just plain hateful acting. The best trips by far are the ones where we just happen to meet another family somewhere along the way and kiddo has new playmates.

4. What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?

A mix of both. Some things have been fails (apparently REI thermal base layers are too "itchy" for kiddo), the kindercone bag is too heavy except for car camping so doesn't get used much (they make AWESOME dog beds though--ask us how we know lol). The kid sleeping pad is okay but not warm enough, the kid-sized REI hiking poles are nice but he's still too young to manage both of them AND WALKING simultaneously, lol. We shop sales and clearance and off-season stuff carefully and sometimes buy things a year even 2 ahead of time. I wish we could get some things for kiddo that are in the "essential" category for us adults but hard to find reasonably-priced in kid sizes--wool or silk base layers, permethrin clothing that doesn't cost too much, barefoot style/zero-drop shoes (they make these for little kids but not the bigger kid sizes), helmet and glove liners, breathable/light active layers that don't get destroyed by kid activities (i.e. reinforced fabric in the right places), actually lightweight stuff for self-supported trips, easy-on-off clothing (full side-zip snow pants, etc.), a lightweight headlamp that is non-blinding to parents/kid but also still bright enough to be useful and have a red-light option, blinker option, etc. We end up DIYing or going with the cottage mfrs. for some stuff as a result. Toys are a whole other category. I actually have thought about trying to Etsy some products just because there is not the right stuff out there right now for outdoorsy kids but who has time for that?? So, REI, thanks for asking and fingers crossed you can figure some of it out for us 🙂

How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?

I have three children, 10, 6, and 6 and we live in a city so most of our outdoor time is spent on walks, playgrounds, biking.

What motivates you to go outside with your kids?

City living for us equals small home with no backyard.  So, unless I want them bouncing off the walls, we have to go outside. 

What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?

Time.  Just having enough time take them out.  And lack of experience.  I’ve camped and backpacked in my youth, but I don’t feel like I have the experience to take my small children out by myself.  We would be open to family camping with other families.

What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?

Summer is mostly their normal summer clothes with the addition of hiking/water sandals.   Winter is mostly Reima gear.  I typically make rainwear or tech wear and thermal layers.  We don’t do enough hiking, camping, water sports for anything more right now. 

I'm thankful such good questions are being asked. My response:

  • How are you currently getting outside with your kids? What activities are you participating in?
    • We take the kids (10 y/o and 21 months old) hiking, camping, and fishing. I'm hopeful there will be some longer backpacking trips in the near future with our ten year old son. It'll be a while before we want to try that with the little one.
  • What motivates you to go outside with your kids?
    • What doesn't? Among other things, being able to recreate in a COVID-safe environment, physical fitness, appreciating our natural resources, learning good environmental stewardship, reinforcing school lessons, bonding time with the kids and as a whole family, and more.
  • What are some of the challenges to getting outside with your kids?
    • Every toddler is a candidate for the Darwin Awards, so just trying to keep them from not doing something that would be really really bad keeps us on our toes. Try telling a toddler they should stay away from a campfire or not jump off that huge rock into a river. Our schedules are also a challenge, just being a busy family. The kids love being outside so the desire is always there. The weather has to be pretty intense for us to not be able to find any outdoor options. Sometimes my son just wants to watch videos or play game son his phone, so we have rules about that when hiking and camping.
  • What kinds of gear and clothing are your kids using? Is it more general purpose or specifically designed for an activity?
    • Osprey backpacks, North Face and REI day packs, sleeping bags from Nemo and Kelty, various other gear appropriate for the activity. We keep everything organized and stored together because we might use the same stuff to go fishing at a local lake one weekend, and an 11 mile hike the next. We know clothing is a survival item, not just a comfort. We're teaching our son to use the gear and he can now set up a tent or fire up a camp stove all on his own. He's still getting the hang of the ferro rod for firestarting.
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