Place to go with young child

I realize that different people have different views on the right age to first take an infant or toddler on a canoe camping trip. I have a son who will be one this summer, and I’m hoping to get him out for a short canoe camping trip around that time. I am not here to get blasted for wanting to take him to share this experience, but I do want to make sure I do it as safely as possible. Many have done it successfully, and that’s why I’m doing research now. So please don’t tell me how awful I am for considering this.

I’m trying to find a good place, whether it is a lake or a shallow, slow-moving river, that would be suited for this purpose. I’m not interested at all in staying at established campgrounds and would prefer backcountry-type camping.

Does anyone have any good ideas where they have successfully taken a child of this age? I’m not too worried about the geographic region and we are willing to drive pretty much anywhere within a couple days’ drive from Indiana.

Thanks a lot for any ideas!

where have you done such trips before
where have you done such trips in the past without the child? I won’t speak to the question of such a young child, but if I plan to go with anyone for whom there could be issues I always go somewhere I’ve been before and know well. This way you know exactly what to expect and so what to bring or do to remove problems. I would also generally do some simple day trips together first to help you learn of issues you never could have foreseen.

What’s young? We started our kids
when they were between 1.5 and 2, able to stand steady in the boat. We sometimes took them on class 1-2 easy whitewater, with a couple of competent chase boats nearby. No incidents at all except for my daughter getting hit square in the back with about 10 gallons of water.

You have to be clear on your kid’s temperament. Some kids are little risk-takers and have to be kept in hand. Others will get PTSD if pushed into things too fast.

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience with canoe camping trips. I have gone out a lot around here in Indiana on local rivers, creeks, streams, etc., for day trips, and I’m very comfortable in the water myself.

Backpack camping has been more of my thing in the past, but as my knees aren’t holding up as well as they used to, so I’m really just exploring the option.

I think going somewhere I’m very familiar with is good advice, so I may honestly re-think this whole idea until I can get out by myself or just with my wife some more.

Like I said, I’m not trying to get a lot of hate for thinking about taking a one-year old, so I appreciate your thoughts. After reading other posts, though, I realize it may not be the best thing to do given my own lack of real experience.

One year old
Like I said in my original post, my son will be one this summer when I’m thinking about going…

Some of the other posts in the forums were filled with a lot of hate toward people who want to take young children. I’m just doing my research now to find out if this is something anyone else does. I’m not sure if he will be ready at one, and I may be jumping the gun. I really just want to make sure he has experiences early in life that help cultivate a lifelong respect and admiration for our natural world.

So it sounds like maybe it would be possible, with good planning and some more experience myself, but that it may be better to wait a little longer. Glad to know that you were able to make a trip when your kids were so young, though; that gives me some hope.

Take him camping
Get a type 2 PFD that will ensure he floats face up and stick to water you are familiar with. Maybe find something nearby you can run in a day by yourself to locate the good camping spots then come back next weekend and turn it into an overniter. Don’t ruin it by going for the extreme 16 hour expedition on your first run. Check out the places to paddle info here on p-net or look for a paperback book with paddling info, I’ve found one for every state I’ve ever been interested in that had put ins and take outs and trip descriptions. If you have backpack camping experience then canoe camping is an easy transition.

I’d suggest car camping close to home
for a trip or two. Pick a spot close to home on a body of water. A lake is best so your not committed to cover a set distance if things change. Then you can bring everything you might need and have a way out if things don’t work. After you know how it’s going to work out you can move to more entertaining venues.

Good luck


“I’m not sure if he will be ready at one, and I may be jumping the gun. I really just want to make sure he has experiences early in life that help cultivate a lifelong respect and admiration for our natural world.”

I agree with all of this 100%. I think the genesis of my love of the natural world came from mucking around in the swampy area out back trying to catch polywogs and turtles. Seriously. My parents role was to let me do what I wanted to do within reason. They had little interest in such things but they were good parents because they understood I was an independent person with my own interests that generally were not the same as theirs. In fact, during a good bit of my young life I was bound and determined that I would NOT be like my Mom and Dad even though now I know they were truly wonderful people and exceptional parents. Its all about coming of age. They did give me moral compass. But they guided very gently and left a lot for my own free will and imagination to discover and pursue.

Yes, do it. We took our 15 mo old and she loved it. I have seen people with infants (as in under 10 mo). If you are going alone (this I do not recommend, especailly if youn are a first time parent)be aware that the child will get board and will need to be entertained. They will sleep in the boat, but not the entire time. It will be hard to do camp chores if you need to watch the child. If you build a fire, you cannot turn away for a second. As mentioned, get a real pfd designed for infants - do not skimp on this. An infant will sink like a rock if it falls into the water. You will also have the issue of diapers. They should not be buried. There are numerous books about camping with young children too. Good luck and have fun.