Jo Stilwell asks her kids – and those of her friends – to share what they like most, and least, about tramping. Parents take note…
We are very good friends with a couple of families who, like us, enjoy spending time together in the outdoors. It’s been a joy to share tramping with them and to watch as our children (seven of them between us) grow from babies in pack-packs to capable and competent tramping companions.
I recently sat down and asked these kids to tell me about their tramping experiences – what they liked and what they didn’t, their favourite food or worst meal, and to pass on advice to parents about how we might do things differently. After all, our children are often our best teachers. Hopefully we can be good listeners!
Here are some words of wisdom from these experienced young trampers.
Matai Brabyn, 6
“This definitely won’t happen, but tramping would be better if dad could tell me a story the whole way – about huskies and polar bears and escaping evil avalanches.
“I like sleeping in a tent because we all sleep close together, and I like building dams and lighting fires and cooking ‘steak-on-a-stick’ (steak cut into strips and threaded onto a stick for cooking over an open fire).
“Beef Jerky is my favourite snack. We call Russian fudge ‘concrete pills’ and eat it when we need to get some energy and harden up.”
Best tramping memory – Geenstone-Caples with dad when I was four
Dad’s best attribute – He tells stories
Mum’s best attribute – She never leaves me behind
Rata Brabyn, 10
“My favourite tramp is the Sylvia Tops we did when I was eight. It was more than one night but the walking each day wasn’t too long. It was on the tops and in beech forest and the best part was picking snowberries.
“Tramping lunches are hard to eat; bread, peanut butter and cheese, and the cheese always gets dirty.
“I prefer to stay in huts because it’s warmer and if it’s windy, it’s quieter.
“Sometimes, when you’re camping, you’re either huddled in your tent, or by the campfire coughing from the smoke or sitting away from the fire being eaten by the sandflies.”
Favourite meal – Pasta with pesto
Least favourite tramping food – Breakfasts when the milk powder is too watery
Advice for parents – Have Cup-a-Soups or Two Minute Noodles at lunchtime
Theo McIntosh, 12
“I like food and lots of it. And I like tarns. There hasn’t been a tramp where I haven’t been swimming.
“I love scroggin because you can trade, but no-one ever trades their chocolate buttons.
“Food causes the most family arguments – who gets mum’s pudding, who gets to lick the bowl, who gets the leftovers? Dad says he can eat more because he’s bigger, but I say I’m hungrier.
“I like to have lots of time on tramps to play.”
Hardest thing about tramping – When it’s pouring with rain, you finally get to the hut and find it’s full so you have to set up your tent in the rain
Dad’s best attribute – He always stops and explains to us about bugs, fish and other creatures and plants
Advice for parents – However much chocolate you’ve got, it won’t be enough
Fergus and Theo
Fergus McIntosh, 14
“The campsite has to be cool, not dull. There has to be a water-source nearby and lots of fun stuff to do – making huts with wood, exploring streams and wildlife to see.
“It’s great to have a friend along, especially on a longer tramp.
“I don’t like being able to see if it’s a long way to go, or being able to see the hut when it’s still ages to get there.
“It’s best to arrive at a hut or campsite early in the afternoon so there’s lots of time to play and explore.”
Worst tramping food – Couscous or watery porridge
Mum’s best attribute – She’s good at supporting us when it’s hard. She’s always optimistic
Advice for parents –Take lots of variation in the dinners and breakfasts
Alice Norton, 17
“The best thing about tramping is no phones, no technology and no wi-fi – you can switch off from the world.
“I also like the sense of accomplishment you get.
“My best tramp would be my first tramp without parents, with my friend Lucy when we were 15. But I also loved the Lockett Range with my older sister Hannah and dad a few years back.
“Dad’s great to tramp with because he keeps us occupied with conversations about politics and plants and life in general – because, let’s face it, the walking can be boring.”
Worst tramping food – Mum’s failed dehydrated mince
Best tramping food – Burritos fried in the pot lid with melted cheese
Advice for parents – Always have enough time to find the fun. My best tramping memories aren’t about the walking; they’re about playing games in the tussock, creating imaginary worlds, playing in the snow and swimming in every possible swimming location along the way. And the food – the food has to be good!
Mackenzie Norton, 14
“I loved our Libretto Range tramp when I was eight. It’s the first big tramp that I can remember and I liked being on the tops.
“The best thing about tramping is you can justify eating lots of unhealthy food and have condensed milk on the porridge.
“We don’t have them anymore but I never liked those packet pasta and sauce meals – the sauce was too watery and I always burnt my tongue.”
Dad’s best attribute – He used to piggyback me across rivers when I was younger
Worst tramping food – Too many wheat crackers. Nutella can only soothe so much of the pain.
Advice for parents – Get creative with the crackers
Eliza McIntosh, 10
“I like stopping for lunch or staying somewhere where there are interesting things to do, like rolling down the grass bank at Hope-Kiwi Lodge, and playing with the eel we found in The Poulter River.
“I don’t like it when we have too much walking without any rests and I don’t like breakfasts. We always have porridge and I don’t like it so I eat it slowly and it goes cold and disgusting.
“My best tramping memory is climbing on top of the old mine on the way to Woolshed Creek Hut.”
Mum’s best attribute – She’s good at saving the best food until last so there’s always good food at the end of a tramp
Advice for parents – Ask your kids what types of muesli bars they want and take a selection