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8th to 11th August 2013

Backpacking with Preschoolers (5 and 2 years old) in the High Sierra

Our first family backpacking trip to Point Reyes in October of 2012 was fairly successful so I decided it was time to introduce the kids to Yosemite. PJ is 5 and Mei Mei is 2 so I thought an easy in-and-out in the Lyell Canyon area around Tuolumne Meadows would be a safe bet.  So on August 8th around 6 am we piled in the Mazda 5 along with Grandma and Grandpa and headed east. Around 11 am we pulled into the Wilderness Permit Station at Tuoluome Meadows and secured our permit. Then we headed off for four days and three nights in the wilderness.

Click here for photos of the trip (I recommend you use the slideshow view).

Click here for several videos made during the trip.


1. Poop - Will your kids poop in the woods? On day two PJ easily made his first wilderness poop. Later that day Mei Mei told us she had to go but refused to do so when she squatted or was held over the hole. Over the rest of the day many more attempts were made but all were futile, even after we fashioned a toilet seat out of rocks. Eventually we put her in a diaper (she has been potty trained for about 6 months but still sleeps in a diaper) and told her to go for it. She produced a beautiful specimen that was so solid we simply dumped it in the hole, leaving an almost pristine diaper.

2. Toys - We intentionally brought nothing in the way of toys or games for the kids and will do the same next time. They always found ways to amuse themselves, and in the process us as well.

3. Food At the end of the slideshow are photos of the food we brought. For breakfast we had oatmeal, hot chocolate and coffee. For lunch/snacks we had nuts, dried fruit, peanut M&M's, jerky, Pocari Sweat (Japanese Gatorade), granola bars and cheese crackers. For dinner we had miso soup and Trader Joe's organic mac'n cheese with tuna in olive oil. Each days food was 3 pounds 11 ounces. We all ate dinner and breakfast out of one pot with our own spoons. The kids liked all of the food and we wouldn't change anything except dialing back on the oatmeal as we couldn't finish it on any of the mornings.

4. Cooking I brought a remote canister stove (FMS 117-t), two pots, four cups and 4 spoons. Next time I might only bring one pot and boil water for drinks and soup before cooking the main meals.

5. Mule - I assumed I would probably have to carry Mei Mei the entire way on my shoulders. I did not anticipate that she would at times demand to be carried in my arms or by other people.

6. Sleep I assumed that Mei Mei would sleep fine since she would be in a tent next to her Mom. I was wrong and the lack of sleep caused us to cut the trip one day short. Despite the cold (water froze at night) she was warm enough but just not comfortable being in a sleeping bag and tent. PJ and I had no issues.

7. Ranger At our second camp a ranger told us we were not camped the required 4 miles away from the trailhead. As we had a 2-year-old with us and it was late in the day he did not make us move and admitted that it's not exactly clear where the 4-mile boundary is (it's not marked on the trail). He did ask us to move our tents off of the grass however.

8. Gear At the end of the slideshow is a table listing all of our gear. I don't think we would change anything.

9. Long Drive - Mei Mei was pretty fussy for the entire drive up since none of us gave her our iPhone's to play with as we were all saving the batteries for photos during the trip. Next time we'll let her use one. On the way back she slept and/or played with a phone and was happy.

10. Meltdown Other than the pooping and sleeping issues Mei Mei was a joy the entire trip. Her big brother was as well except when we tried to wash him on day 2. He really didn't want to since the water was so cold and ended up being really grouchy for about an hour. Next time I won't press the issue.   

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