Southern Upland Way with an 8 year old

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Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
909
733
42
UK
We are currently travelling. I had promised my lad an overnight camping trip, and what better time of year to do it than mid October, in Scotland!?

He packed himself a small day pack with the important gear, water, snacks, a sit pad, wooly hat and a warm top. I went slightly bigger, with my Kelty Redcloud 110. I packed quite heavy. It was only an overnight trip and I carried everything for two people.

We set off mid morning onto the Southern Upland Way in Galloway Forest. It had been raining during the early morning, so we were already wearing waterproofs. There was a constant drizzle the whole day....

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The route we followed was way marked, but I still took the time to show my lad the route we were taking on the map, pointing out the land around us and using the compass to check bearings. We were mostly under the trees all day, the forest floor littered with mushrooms of all kinds. Bolete and hedgehog being prominent.

As the day went on, the rain got heavier. Soon the river we were handrailing became a torrent and our waterproofs started to wet out some what. A good reminder that they'll need re-treating when we get home.

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Along the way we chatted lots about being outside, the woods and the rain. A lengthy conversation about the clubs Ronaldo has played for took up some kilometers before the thoughts of lunch came to mind.

With the rain doing its best to remain that constant Scottish drizzle I searched for a suitable spot to have a break. I always carry a tarp in the top of my pack, so when we came across some flat ground in a small area of oak, I quickly put up a rudimentary shelter. We huddled under it and I pulled out the jetboil. Lashings of hot chocolate soon followed. The lad ate his way through a chocolate bar and some crisps while I had my usual extra strong cheddar cheese on wholewheat crackers. We shared the hot chocolate.....

I looked at my watch and saw that it was actually mid afternoon. With the rain still coming down I was keen to get moving onwards to our final checkpoint before my planned campsite near Loch Trool. The conversation had slowed and I saw that my lad had gone quiet. Asking if he was OK, he replied that he was but I could see that he wasn't 100%. I asked if he wanted to carry on, or retrace our steps to find a campsite closer. I explained to him that the choice was his and that it was important that we didn't push ourselves too far in the bad weather if he didn't want to. He gave it some thought for about 10 minutes before saying we should go back a bit and put the tent up as he was cold. I told him he had made a sensible choice and handed over a choccy biscuit. I emphasised the point of always making sure not to push too far and risk getting ill or injured. There's always the opportunity to take stock in these situations. I packed up the tarp and everything else, we shouldered our packs and headed back a bit to find that camp site.....

After a short while we found the perfect spot, a small spur above the river. I got the MSR Elixir2 up in no time, the lad helping with the tent pegs and lines to secure our cosy home for the night. Keeping him busy kept his mind off the cold and wet. As luck would have it, as soon as the tent was up, the rain stopped and out came the sun....

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We quickly went into the familiar routine of 'wet and dry', removing our wet cloths and putting on cosy dry layers for being in the tent. The makeshift clothes line was put to good use.

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On again with the JetBoil and more hot chocolate. I pulled out the sweetie bag and we got to chatting and munching on fruit pastills....

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On came the evening and more rain. It pelted down and we listened to it hitting the fly sheet for ages. We were snug and cosy inside the tent. Being bound in by the weather, we spent our time telling funny stories or asking questions of each other, like 'what's the biggest animal you have ever seen?' And 'what's what's best football club?'. Soon enough it was dinner time. The lad had chicken noodles, with a chocolate bar for pudding. I had a Knorr Cheese, ham and broccoli Pasta meal. I just add water to the pouch and put it in a homemade reflectix cosy for 15 minutes. A stir every now and then and boom! Hot meal and no mess.

More games and chatting before the lad started yawning. Toilet time then he snuggled into his sleeping bag. Within 10 minutes he was out like a light....

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I read a book on my Kindle app for an hour before I tucked myself in and promptly fell asleep to the sound of the rain. I woke up in the night rather hot, so much so that I had to unzip my sleeping bag before falling back to sleep... I woke at the breaking of dawn. Wrapped up in my bag, I was contemplating if I really to go to the toilet that much..... the rain had stopped. I eventually got a grip of my myself and went outside...

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Once relieved I got back in my sleeping bag and sent a message to my wife letting her know all was well. When the lad started to stir, I put the JetBoil to work for breakfast. Guess what.... more hot chocolate and oats with golden syrup. We both devoured the lot. Having a fire wasn't appropriate for where we were camped. My JetBoil is over a decade old but still going strong.

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With breakfast having warmed us up, my lad was a true champion getting dressed back into his damp clothes. Not a single gripe. He went for a bimble to find a sunny spot to stand in while I packed everything away... the morning light allowed for some stunning pictures....

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The MSR Elixir2 blends really well into the background. It's an awesome two-man tent. Everything on it is robust, and there's a ton of space inside. I use it for solo camping as well.

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All packed up and with a final check to make sure nothing was left behind, we shouldered our packs and headed back to the van. The walk was done in brilliant but cold sunshine. Another great trip...

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Last edited:

punkrockcaveman

Full Member
Jan 28, 2017
1,068
913
yorks
That sounds like an awesome trip! I was up there last week, stunning place, unfortunately not wild camping like you hardy pair! I bet he'll remember the trip for years to come.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,374
4,733
Mid Wales
Fantastic trip! Having to re-plan was probably a more valuable learning experience for him too.

I took my lad on a camping trip over Pen-y-Fan when he was 8 or 9 (a long time ago); I had to tie him onto a rope to stop him being blown over the edge - he never forgot that! :)
 

Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
909
733
42
UK
Fantastic trip! Having to re-plan was probably a more valuable learning experience for him too.

I took my lad on a camping trip over Pen-y-Fan when he was 8 or 9 (a long time ago); I had to tie him onto a rope to stop him being blown over the edge - he never forgot that! :)
Memories Broch. We make them now to recall them again in years to come!

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oldtimer

Full Member
Sep 27, 2005
2,722
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Oxfordshire and Pyrenees-Orientales, France
When my younger son (51 tomorrow!) was eight I took him on a 3 nighter trip along the South Downs Way. The first day out he got very tired and we decided to camp early. Since, like you, I was also carrying the bulk of the kit I was also tired and flopped down for a badly needed rest before pitching. After 10minutes, he had recovered enough to run about while I was stiff and aching and didn't recover till morning.

I'm sure both of you will also share happy memories of such trips. They are beyond price.

Thank you for posting and reminding me of a happy experience.
 
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