When my colleague and friend, Outside’s executive editor Sam Moulton, emailed this photo to me, I was pretty sure I was looking at the birth of a new adventure sport: sidecountry stroller camping! Like backpacking with kids—only less lugging, more rolling. Sam and two pals—Outside editor Chris Keyes and architectural designer Jonah Stanford—wheeled off with six kids, a pile of gear, and two strollers into the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Santa Fe. Here’s the story, in his words:
It was early September, and we wanted to take the kids camping. Our initial idea was car camping, but Jonah’s kids are older [eight and five] and they have their own packs. My son, Beck, was 14 months at the time and Lily was 3 1/2, so I wasn’t sure how far I’d get carrying them and all our gear. That's when we started talking—what if we loaded up the strollers and went somewhere flat and pioneered a kind of sidecountry stroller camping?
Each family was a self-contained unit. Chris has a Chariot stroller, which is a little bit bigger than my BOB. He could put all his gear in the stroller, carry Cash [2 1/2], and Olive [4 1/2] could walk. Jonah’s kids were obviously big enough to hike, but I needed to figure out if I could fit all of our stuff in our stroller, plus Beck and Lily. I have a huge canoe pack, which is designed specifically for canoe camping. It’s called a Duluth Pack, by Granite Gear, and it’s ginormous—7,000 or 8,000 cubic inches. Beck is so little that he was still sleeping in a crib. When I found out that I could fit his Baby Bjorn portable crib in the pack—which is ridiculous, really—I figured, I could do it. I’m in!
We could have chosen a trail that went up and down, or was more technical, but we picked a short, rolling trail near Santa Fe that in the winter is a Nordic ski loop. We walked in maybe a mile. Beck was in the BOB and Chris carried Cash in the Ergo baby carrier, and the bigger kids hiked.There’s a nice overlook with a meadowy feel, and we literally camped on the side of the trail. I’m not sure if it’s technically legal to bring wheels into the wilderness, but we hadn't actually crossed the wilderness boundary.
The kids had a blast. We set up Thermarests in one of the bigger tents, and it was like a big jumpy house. The real key, though, was the hammock we brought, a doublewide from Eagle’s Nest. It’s so big that we could stick all the kids in it while we made dinner. We actually were able to bring a two-burner stove in the Chariot—that thing is huge. Jonah cooked sausages and sauerkraut, which is a little bizarre: Have you ever met a kid that likes sauerkraut? Well, I guess Jonah’s kids are older.... The sausages were a huge hit, and then we had s’mores and in the morning eggs and bacon and coffee.
I would definitely go for a couple nights next time. It’s just a matter of bringing more food. But Lily’s at an age where she doesn’t last long in the pack but can’t walk that far. It would d be a matter of finding other trails like this one. We weren’t pushing the gear: The strollers have gotten so overbuilt, with serious suspension. They really can handle it. But there were places where the trail goes down to tight singletrack. The BOB is not as wide. I had it easier going, but Chris had to so some pretty tricky maneuvering.
I gotta say, we felt a little proud of ourselves, just going for it. We still do stuff without kids to get the yayas out—but this trip was all about seeing if we could pull it off. The lesson for us was that we willed it into being. We could have planned it more, but we said, Screw it, let’s just see if we can fit it all in. And we did.
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—As told to Katie Arnold