So like… you guys all sled?
So like…. you take all 3 kids out all day?
Like in the cold?
And no one complains?
Well…. not exactly…
We have had this conversation more times then I can count. So many people are taken aback when they see us load up our three kids and head out for a days adventures on our snowmobiles.
“I saw you guys leaving early this morning and you didn’t come home until after dinner! Like holy s!*+!!!” Yes well…… We do absolutely head out for the entire day sometimes. We pack up and head out first thing and not come home until way after dinner time.
The thing with sledding is that the season only lasts so long. Add in that it is stacked up with busy work schedules, school and other weekend activities! Also lets not forget the costs associated with running 5 snowmobiles. So when we do get out, we have to make the most of it. When we are including all 3 kids (Ages 11, 8 and 5) into the mix we most definitely need to pre plan our day. It doesn’t come easy or flawlessly to us, but like many things we do in our lives if we plan it out well, the day can go pretty smoothly. Of course some things can not be avoided! This comes with the territory of being a parent. The inevitable…… It will happen! Plan for it! Prepare for it! and expect the unexpected! (As cliche as it sounds).
So what do we do to prepare? How do we handle our kids out on the trail? Well your in luck! I am about to dish out our best tips and tricks to keeping everyone happy and non whiny (mostly) throughout the day.
Proper gear! This goes without saying, and rings true not just for kids but for adults alike. Kids absolutely need to be geared up well. Warmth is key. If they are not geared well all your going to hear is that they are cold, that their fingers are freezing and that you will most likely have to amputate toes because they are about to fall off. This has taken some time to get right with our kids. Boots and mitts are our biggest issues. Our boys handle their own sleds so their hands are generally warm, however our daughter is still a passenger so she gets cold. Dont’ scrimp out on boots and mitts. this has been one of our failures in the past. High quality is key for warmth and these extremities are the first to get cold. We use high quality moisture wicking socks, and those dang shaky packs can save your life! We always carry ample amounts of them and tuck them everywhere! This year I am highly considering the battery operated insoles or socks for the kids.
Gloves: The verdict is still out….. we say this because we have yet to find gloves that seem to work in the different temperature ranges. For our daughter a good leather mitten would probably be best although we have failed on that aspect and have just coated her hand with shaky packs and a low price range mitt. As for the boys, their hand are either too hot or too cold. We have yet to find something that works well in a variety of temperatures. but yet somehow we still get through our day! A good tip here would be to possibly carry a decent finger glove for the warmer day and in your tunnel bag carry a good leather mitten for cold days and nights.
Base layers: Proper base layers…. definitely a must have! So spend the money and get them, and not just long johns from walmart! (though these can work as well). This is the lesson we have learned so far on the hundreds of km we have put on with the kids! Merino wool is a great option, moisture wicking is a must! On top of their base layers, we mid layer! Usually this is a hoodie and some sweats.
Then the outer layer….. This year our kids are rocking some TOBE OUTERWEAR (full review on this to come). However our preliminary reviews are coming in that this is some amazing gear for kids. 100% Windproof and 100% waterproof. These are musts, but at a cost! “is it worth it you ask?” At this point, going from low-range snowsuits, to mid-range snowsuits it’s worth it. So that being said, on the mid to high range jump, the verdict is still out! But one thing we have learned so far is that higher quality comes at higher cost, and typically give higher gains. Remember full review is to come on this one.
Headwear: Our kids of course wear moisture wicking balaclavas under their helmets. Our boys are hidden behind some tall windshields while they are driving their sleds, so they rock the helmet / goggle combo with no complaints. My only hint here is to make sure you are purchasing winter helmets and goggles, not summer or MX ones. Our daughter (who rides in front of me or Troy) has a full face helmet. Our sleds don’t have much in the way of windshields so the full face offers her full coverage and keeps her warm as she takes the full blast of cold air **hint** (benefits of windproof gear).
When we are riding on the trail we try and plan our routes according to where the shelters are and know that we will be stopping at every one of them. We don’t try to push our luck (most of the time)! and just skip on over to the next one. Our plan will surely always fail! When stopping we are prepared to start a fire quickly to get the shelter warmed up (if it isn’t already). We always carry waterproof matches, fire starters, a few bits of paper. Usually the warm up shelters we stop at are fully stocked and ready to go, but just in case, we carry them. Stopping at shelters is vital to our success. It gives the kids a break to run around, have a drink, eat some food, use the washroom and warm up. Even if the shacks are close together we stop in quick and make sure the fire is going and stoked so that if we loop back around or another group of snowmobilers stops in, we know the shelter is warm.
FOOD! Whatever you do, do not forget the snacks! We pack what the kids would normally eat in a day and then we triple it. We know our kids will just waste away if they don’t constantly have some form of food shoved in their mouths. We pack lots of higher protein snacks like, granola bars, pepperoni sticks, cheese and trail mix. We also bring sausages, and hot dogs to fry up on the fire, burgers work great as well. We don’t carry buns, they are too bulky, so we take tortilla wraps instead. We also take stainless steel water bottles with water and warm them up on the fire for hot chocolate. If your starting to think we must pull a uhaul along to carry all our stuff, you are wrong! I only have this little set up on my sled ⇓ and Troy usually has a backpack.
We let them rest! We don’t push them too hard (all the time), we know that they are probably tired and worn out after a few hours. This kind of ties back into stopping at the shelters but I feel its a key component and needs its own paragraph. Letting them take a break to recharge and enjoy the scenery and take it all in off of the sled, is absolutely essential! If you do not give them enough time to recharge when you stop you will be in for meltdowns later on.
We let them have some fun! Our kids (like their parents) get bored of the trail riding. While yes, it’s beautiful and fun, we find we need to get them off trail to play around and have some fun on their sleds. We often dip off into meadows or lakes and let them go. They get to race around, practice their skills, try out each others sleds, and watch their parents do the same. It’s a fun time for everyone to just kick back and enjoy themselves without having to worry about the rules of the trail.
A few other points about riding with our kids:
- Our daughter generally rides in front of Troy or myself. For this reason she has a Tek Vest. It’s important to consider this for your children if they are riding in front of you. If something head on happens, she is taking the full impact plus the potential of us slamming into her. Tek Vests are a good choice for any rider! Safety first.
- We feed our kids a huge breakfast before we head out for the day. Bacon and eggs, toast, pancakes, fruit, etc. Things to fill them up. It is most definitely not a morning to pop a piece of toast and go.
- We let them help. When we stop at shelters they generally want to help get the fire going, help chop wood, bring in the snacks. Keeping them busy and making them feel like they have jobs to do keeps them happy.
We have probably left out some key points but all in all, the main thing is that they are happy and having fun. Whatever we can do to make things enjoyable for them we do! So in closing, yes we do go out with all 3 kids for full day adventures, and most of the trips turn out on a positive note. One thing we keep in mind is that not every plan goes according to plan. Not every preparation we take will aide in our kids being warm and happy. Ultimately at the end of the day its how well you roll with the punches will determine the outcome of our daily adventure.