A few years ago I made a pair of crampons for F, and posted about them. I've since made a half-dozen pairs for her as she's grown and for a few other kids we've gone hiking with. I didn't really explain how to make them very well, though. So here are some instructions.
Hopefully these instructions are adequate... make sure to look at the image gallery too.
Start out by bending the strapping around to the shape of the sole of the boot. You are aiming to have it just inside the edge of the sole. A little too small is OK. A little too big is not. Hold it in place using the rivets. Make two cross-pieces; just behind the ball of the foot and just in front of the heel of the foot. This gives each part of the foot that you normally use to walk around a stable platform. Hold the cross-pieces in place with rivets as well, making sure to use two on at least one of the sides so it can't spin around. You may want to make a slight twist in the strapping in between the front and back sections, if you want to let the crampons bend vertically to allow for boot rocker (the boot not being totally flat). You can count the holes to make sure you use the same amount for the other boot. If you make them flat (no rocker) each crampon is actually identical, but you put the straps "inside out" relative to each other to change the handedness.
Make the toe strap using static cord. I go back a few holes from the tip and make it just a little longer than necessary to clear the toe of the boot. Just pass the string through existing holes in the strapping and tie a knot so it can't pull back through.
Do the same for the heel. I make a loop that comes up as high as the achilleus. On the inside you will tie the elastic cord, on outside you will make a little loop (overhand on a bight is fine) that you will clip with the toy carabiner to put them on, right by the ankle bone.
I start the elastic cord with a double-overhand noose on the heel loop on inside of the boot, again by the ankle bone. This lets you move it around to the best spot and then cinch it down tightly locking it in place. Then it loops through the toe loop and comes back to the little loop you tied on the outside of the boot.
Hopefully the pictures make it all clear!
These have been working pretty well up until now (F is five), but I think that soon she'll be too heavy for crampons of this design (I know for a fact that the strapping isn't strong enough for a 6-year old - we had a pair flattened). F is just getting big enough now, though, that regular microspikes (with some adjustment) will soon work... hopefully there is continuity of traction...
This post - 14 to 16 June
~ 65 km, 500 m - biked with the whole family
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment
Line was pressed against the upwind side of the tent, supporting it from the inside, while I ran around on the outside making small rock bollards for the tiedowns. The weather was so nice the previous day that we hadn't even secured the tents properly, having completely failed to look at the wind part of the weather forecast. Now, Line and I are no strangers to weather in the alpine - before we had kids we'd hit the mountains almost every weekend, year 'round, and have been heading out on long self-supported expeditions together since before we were married. The kind of trips where you often spend days in a blizzard on the middle of some glacier. But, for some reason, we hadn't really taken the alpine seriously because we were on a road. I guess it was just a bit of a cognitive disconnect - for us the road has always meant civilization and safety. You get down from the mountains, reach the road (usually in the valley), and drive home inside the warm cocoon of your car. Here we were on the road already... but, of course, the weather doesn't stop simply because there is a road there. That was just our experience from over a decade of car-supported mountain trips. Our warm cocoon now is 3.5 kg of polyester, and it's not driving us home any time soon.
It was still in the wee hours, but fortunately we were far enough North that it never gets dark. I ducked back into the tent to discuss our options. The kids were fast asleep. It was already *pretty* windy, but according to the forecast this was just the tip of the iceberg. We could expect wind speeds in excess of 100 km/h - there was no way the tent could handle it in our current position. We had to move. Line started packing while I ran around the local area looking for a better spot. It started to rain. We carried the kids, still in their sleeping bags, into Laerke's tent (which is at least a real 4-season alpine tent); then we took down our tent and set it up again ~100 meters away on the lee side of some sort of road-maintenance shed. Then we put the kids, now slightly awake but still in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and wheeled them over there too. Finally we took down Laerke's tent and had the whole team crowded into our 4-person tent beside the roadworks shed.
We ended up pinned there for 2 days and nights in a driving wind that often carried a mix of rain and snow. Even in the lee of the roadworks shed sometimes we wondered if tent would be blown right off the mountain. We worked out the details of our backup plan in case of tent failure - piling the kids, in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and pushing them to a hotel just a few km away while we abandoning the rest of the equipment (or flagging down a passing motorist, if possible). We occasionally set up a tarp for cooking, and ripped a lot of holes in it by doing so. I noted how the wind could blow the tea out from your cup if you strayed from the shed and got caught by a gust (if it didn't just plain-old knock you over).
This post - 11 to 13 June
~ 35 km, 1150 m - biked with the whole family
~ 20 km biking, ~ 12 km hiking, ~ 2200 m elevation - extra-curricular
(and a long ferry ride)
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment.
On arriving in Bergen we picked the large outdoor (but covered) public area just outside the airport front doors for bicycle unpacking and re-assembly. We'd taken four hours to pack all four (Line's sister Laerke would be joining us) bikes in Copenhagen, but didn't have very much time for re-assembly as we had a ferry to catch. We needed to be efficient. F's bike was assembled first; this turned out to be a key strategic decision because it meant she could ride around in circles (entertaining herself) while the adults re-assembled the rest of the bikes, changed diapers, re-packed the luggage for biking, and kept the kids fed. Second bike was my cargo bike, which Line immediately took to drop the bike boxes off with the hotel we'd stay at the night preceding our return flight (we hadn't yet figured out we could easily carry them in addition to all our stuff). I had her bike assembled just before she returned, so she could take off to buy fuel and other supplies we'd need for the rest of our trip, and then sort out the ferry. One I'd finished up Laerke's bike (noticing it was in pretty pour repair) we packed all the kids and stuff onto them and headed off. Two hours - we were efficient.
We caught up to Line when she called Laerke's cell... "Hey, there is a bike store attached to the camping store - maybe we should buy enough parts to fix Laerke's bike? What size are her tires again?" "Wait a second - we're also standing outside a bike/outdoors store". Turns out we were meters apart. We stocked up on bike parts too (all the consumables on Laerke's borrowed bike were in poor shape - tires, brakes, cables) and hurried to the ferry. The ride through town was really nice, with lots of bike infrastructure.
Last weekend the weather was forecast to be beautiful, so we made a last minute decision to go camping, and convinced a few friends to come. After a few emails back and forth we settled on Joffre Lakes. The park website had some serious warnings about ice on the trail. We figured it probably wasn't so bad, but still decided to bring microspikes for all the adults, and Christian stayed up a few extra hours making kid crampons for the four hiking kids. In the end the kids ended up disappointed due to the lack of ice on the trail. One of them still insisted on wearing the crampons on a ice covered mud puddle at the upper lake.
We arrived at the parking lot around 11am and managed to snatch the last free parking spot. Scott and Sandra had to park at the new lower lot. The trail was busy. It seemed particularly busy when you are wearing giant backpacks and have four young kids blocking the way of other hikers. The kids did amazing though and we arrived at the second lake within a couple of hours with very little complaining. Christian had put his new hiking tactic - the "slow down you whipper-snappers you're hiking too fast!" game to good work. We had a long break and only lost a few gold fish crackers and half a bagel to the very aggressive whisky jacks.
The trail around the upper lake was more like a scramble for little legs and ended up taking almost as long as the rest of the trail. It was nice to leave the crowds behind at the far side of the lake though. At the campsite, the kids were off exploring right away while we set up tents and cooked dinner. It was a cold night, but once the sun had set the stars came out, and they were spectacular. I fell asleep while putting N to bed, so i did not notice that Christian and F had set up their sleeping bags outside. I woke up around 9pm and registered that they were gone, and then proceeded to lie there very still not to wake N up, while I worried were they might be. It was not until 40 min later that I finally realized that their mats and sleeping bags were also missing, and when I looked outside the tent I saw them sleeping under the stars. In the morning they both spoke about how special it was to stargaze together. F was excited to have seen her first shooting stars, and Christian was excited to notice the earth's rotation and the milky way were way out-of-plane compared to each other... but mostly they were both excited to have spent the night out doing something special together.
We had a very relaxed morning. The kids spent a lot of time playing hide and seek in the boulders and breaking the ice formed overnight on the lake. Around 11am we started heading down. We had a long lunch break at the other end of the upper lake enjoying the warm sun before heading down. Once we hit the improved trail I could no longer keep up while carrying N. The kids were running down the trail. At some point I heard some serious crying and I quickly caught up to Christian and Carter. S had fallen on the trail hitting his head on a rock. He had a big goose egg on his forehead, and a puncture wound under his eye. Luckily he seemed to be fully with it, and even slightly annoyed that Christian kept asking him what he had had for breakfast. Carter carried him the rest of the way down. We were all happy that he seemed alright when we got to the cars.
We "just" (ok - it's been a month) got back from 2 months cycle-touring around Europe. We toured through Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (with a few flights, ferries, and trains in there). We took it easy in terms of distances covered, averaging about 40 km per day, so that the kids would have lots of time to play. But we still had some long days, and several days with elevation gains approaching 1000 m. Trip reports to come (spoiler - it was incredible)... but most questions are about the logistics and equipment, so let's start there!
Our youngest daughter, N, rode in the chariot bike trailer all the time. Our oldest daughter, F, had the option of riding her own bike, sitting on the back of my cargo bike, or sitting in the chariot. I would say that she rode her own bike about 25% of the time. Not surprisingly, she had a strong preference for sitting out all of the long uphills. She also never really went in the chariot unless she wanted to sleep or it was raining. Usually I would tow the chariot and we would just strap F's bike sideways across Line (mom)'s panniers. If we anticipated a lot of switching back-and-forth Line would tow the chariot and I would use the cargo bike to tow F's bike (riderless) as this was a faster transition. If I was already towing the chariot, but needed to take F's bike as well, I could also stick it vertically on the back along with all our stuff, or sideways on the front rack, but both of these took more time to set up than towing. So we had a lot of options.
All the listed weights were "typical underway" weights in the middle of the trip (specifically, when we weighed everything just as we left our friend's house in Zurich). We weren't carrying very much food/water at the time - only a day or two. Sometimes we carried for up to 4 days. We could definitely feel the difference. You can add up all the weights below, but I'll save you the trouble - all the stuff and kids together weighed in at 343 lbs being hauled around by 303 lbs worth of parents.
Dad's setup - Haul-A-Day (cargo bike), by Bike Friday
Rider Age: 35 years
Rider Weight: 158 lbs
Bike Age: 2 weeks
Bike (+ gear) Weight: 124 lbs (or 251 lbs if I also had F on the back and was towing N in the chariot - the most common configuration)
Drivetrain: 3 chainrings (30-50), 8 cogs (34-11) (with 20"x1.75" wheels and 170 mm cranks)
Lowest Gearing: 1.29 (ratio of pedal to pavement movement)
Highest Gearing: 6.64 (ratio of pedal to pavement movement)
Accessories: Beefier frame option, massive kickstand, dynamo-hub powered lights, "BigFoot" footrests with slot for towing, passenger railing / cushion, front rack (frame, not wheel, mounted).
The family reunited
I left Vancouver with the girls prior to Christian, and after two weeks he was finally joining us in Denmark to start the first leg of our 2 month long bike trip. We spent a day at my dad's house to get the bikes ready, and pack all our stuff into panniers and dry bags. We were all very excited and a bit nervous. We have gone on a few weekend trips to the Gulf Islands, and one 5 day trip to Vancouver Island previously, but this would be our first long distance bike tour. I always thought that we should save the bike touring for when we had two kids, so here we go...
In the evening of Christian's arrival day my dad drove the family to Freltofte, where we set up camp. I took the train as we didn't all fit in the car. Here we enjoyed our first night at one of Denmarks many shelter spots. Denmark is littered with these small shelter spots, where you can sleep in a small shelter or set up your tent for free (or very cheap). It can be on public or private land. Freltofte Lejrplads just North of Ringe were located at the back of a private property. They had sheep and bunnies, there were an outhouse and water available. Only problem was the many moquitos coming out at dusk encouraging us to set up camp quickly.
The next morning we packed the bikes for the first time. It was definitely not efficient, but we managed to fit it all on. We set off towards Ringe on the country roads. In Ringe we had our first and only bikeshop stop (in Denmark). F's seat on the Haul-a-Day was lacking an essential snacking station and a bell. After a few quick upgrades we joined the railtrail towards Korinth. 16 km of flat trail with no cars. F biked the first kilometer or so, but quickly decided that the Haul-a-Day was more attractive.
The weekend after returning home from two months of bike touring in Europe a big group of our friends were getting together for an overnight trip at Brew Lake. We thought it would be a great way to see everyone again, and get F out hiking with her buddies.
We left town at 8 am and it was already super warm. Our family does not do so well with warm, which is my we tend to pick places like Alaska, the Yukon, Greenland and Norway for our holidays. F in particular does not deal well with heat as she does not like getting sweaty. Turns out that our car also did not like the heat, because as we were driving up the logging road the clutch started failing to engage after changing gears. Luckily it still (almost) made it to the trailhead before we had to abandon it in hopes that it would be better once we got back.
F started hiking up the road with our friend Tim and his daughter, T. I didn't catch up to them before we got to the trailhead, where everyone were busy getting there kids ready for hiking. The trail is more of a route. It is overgrown in the clearcut and goes through several boulder patches. Normally challenging trails tend to keep the kids entertained, but that was definitely not the case for F on this day. Things quickly went down hill on the way up. It seems that everything was wrong if you asked F. I must admit that I also thought that it was way too warm and way too buggy. I think both Christian and I had this expectation that F could easily hike this particular trail, and F was very determined to show us how incapable she was. After a two hour meltdown F had convinced us that it was best to go back home to do the laundry and clean the apartment (it sure could use it). They say that you can't make them eat, sleep, or poop... but I guess you also can't make them hike. We have later determine that there were lots of things that we could have done better in this situation, but I was still impressed with Christian's calmness and compassion. Our main lesson for the next trip was to change our language. We would like to keep it upbeat and positive, and not try to bring any time constraint into the situation (like, we have to keep going to catch up to your friends, or before it gets dark, etc.). We (more recently) did an overnight hike into Conflict Lake which went very well, so maybe we learned something.
I decided to continue the trip with N, so we had a snack and rearranged the gear. I quickly made it up to the lake and not so much later all the families had arrived. The lake provided a perfect, cool swim, and a small breeze kept the bugs away. And despite the heat it was really nice up there. Kids all enjoyed playing, some in the lake and some on shore.
The Nelson family had left their tent pole at home, so Scott shared the tent with N and I, which made me feel better about carrying a four person tent up there. In the morning N crawled over and cuddled Scott, but later woke up surprised that it wasn't her dad she was snuggling.
Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of mosquitos buzzing and although they got better later in the morning the nice breeze never came back to take them away. The heat was also pretty brutal, so I was happy when my ride, Maya and Gili, decided to make it an early departure. I took my time packing, while they started heading down with their three year old. At two we were back at the car driving back towards Vancouver.
This post is super-old now... with the second kid we've had troubles both getting out and finding the time to tell the internet about it. I stand by our choice... but am finally clearing out some half-finished posts before our 2-month parental-leave bike tour...
In what is starting to become an annual tradition F and I headed up to red Heather for a fine weekend of snowcaving. It was really great to see a lot of other families with kids up there too - we were going up with my friends Tim and Mirella and their 6 year old daughter T, and meeting my friend/supervisor Jeff and his 9 year old son D. Our coworker Anita would be up there too for her first snowcaving experience. Along the way we met another dad with his similarly-aged daughter, and a large group with sightly older kids, all winter camping in tents. We also met two families towing their kids up wearing harnesses and Alpine ski gear, so that the kids could ski down themselves - it was the first time I'd seen somebody I didn't already know doing that.
The initial plan was for Line and N to join us for the day, but the forecast predicted they would be driving home, alone, in the middle of a full-on winter storm. So it was just F and I (at least from our family). After some digging to create a parking spot (making the steel shovel and pick-axe that live in the car useful yet again) we began towing up the trail. F is now an expert at being towed and overall we had a good time on the way up - she would zig-zag on the trail, try and ski into the fresh snow, and (new to this trip) demand to be towed backwards on occasion. Despite being a better downhill skier T had a bit of trouble, both due to less towing experience and a less comfortable harness system (inspiring me to make this post about F's home-made ski harness). Up at the shelter we met up with Jeff et. al., cooked some grilled cheese on the wood stove, and got digging.
F spent a little bit of time 'helping' me, but for the most part F and T entertained each other with one adult supervising, leaving one digger per cave (but with Tim and Mirella alternating on thiers). I dug my classic snowcave, with standing-height vestibule and a wide sitting-height sleeping platform just higher than the entrance tunnel. See this post for my snowcave digging 'recipe'. After a dinner of bunny-pasta (F's usual choice) we headed to bed. As is best-practice all our gear came into the cave with us.
After getting F all set up and ready for bed came what is usually the hardest part of camping alone with F - leaving her on her own for a few minutes while I go to the outhouse. You see, F doesn't like to be on her own - even just in another room in the house for a moment. And, like many kids, she's afraid of the dark. I helped her put on her headlamp then explained where I was going, how soon I would be back, and that the snowcave was a very safe place. She made me promise to be 'quick as a brick' and 'snowman fast', her standard, which always amuses me since neither bricks nor snowmen can move at all let alone particularly fast. I ran. Imagine my surprise when I can back to find F had buried her headlamp inside her sleeping bag and demanded I do the same, so we could see the faint moonlight glowing in through the door tunnel - progress!
Inside the snowcave the temperature hovered right around zero and it was a bit humid, but our smooth domed ceiling with single vent hole right at the top (over the vestibule) made for a drip-free night. We both got a really good sleep in the silence of the cave.
In the morning we found that we'd been snowed-in by the overnight storm. Since we were in no rush we lounged inside the cave and ate leftover grilled cheese for breakfast. F grabbed a pine needle off of the ceiling that had been trapped in the snow, and pretended to shave me with it. Then she moved on to my eyebrows (which are super bushy). I commented that mom would really appreciate that. F asked why, so I explained that trimming my eyebrows made me look like a younger, more attractive, version of myself. She looked puzzled "But - you'll still look like an old man!". It wasn't until I burst out laughing that F realised she'd made fun of me and started laughing too.
F used the potty that I still bring with us when we do overnight backcountry trips (so much easier than trying to convince her to use the outhouse), but since I didn't bring an adult-sized one we eventually had to make our escape and I dug our way out. I always bring my shovel inside, but it was the first time I had to use it (although, to be fair, mostly I just pushed my way out). The other snowcavers had all already escaped their caves, and the day trippers had started to stream in to ski the fresh snow.
After showing off our caves we collapsed them and skied out; the new snow made for great conditions on the ski down to the carpark.
When I first started towing F whole touring I just tied a rope around her waist and went for it. This worked ok for short distances, but it was clearly a lot of work and uncomfortable for her. So (at 2am the night before a trip, of course) I decided to make something better. It's been through a few tweaks, but at this point I think I the overall design is pretty good so I'd like to share it. Key design features:
To make it you'll need:
Finish the sides of the fabric seat first. You will eventually want the bungee inside the fold you make when finishing the top and bottom of the fabric seat, but the rest of the steps will be a pain with it in there. For now just sew a piece of thread into it instead; later you will use it to pull the bungee through. I sized my fold so it is a snug fit for a double-fisherman knot with the bungee I used. This let me wiggle it into the middle of the bottom, where it is out of the way, and it stays there.
Sew a short piece of webbing to each side near the top for the waist belt. Thread the waist buckle through these so it can be used to keep the harness tight around the waist, like a belt. I sewed mine back a bit from the edges, so it doesn't get pulled loose when the harness is under tension. If your harness is wider than you need you might want to sew it pretty far back.
Sew the two suspender straps to the top edges near the front, and sew the snap-lock buckle to the center of the back. I tied my suspender straps together so they join right in-between my daughter's shoulders, then passed the two of them together through the snap-lock. On-trip adjustability for clothes using just the snap-lock and waist buckle is adequate, and I can move the knot at home beforehand as she grows.
Now thread the bungee through, tie it in a loop (I used a double-fisherman) and arrange the knot so it's out of the way (I put mine in the middle at the bottom).
You're done! Now you can clip the bungee loops for towing uphill, and for downhill get your kid to ski over the rope with one ski so it ends up folding back under their crotch. My daughter claims this is comfortable, and we do it a lot so I believe her. I use an old cordellette for my tow rope and find it to be a convenient length.
I've thought about modifying the design a bit more to put in a crotch-loop, so it can't ride up, but it doesn't seem to actually be a problem for us so I haven't bothered. I've also thought about making the bungee even longer so I can wrap it right around each side to clip on the downhill, but my daughter claims the current method works fine, and it is convenient to be able to switch to the downhill by flicking the rope forward and having her ski over it. Here's F demonstrating the transition to "downhill mode"
There are lots of online guides out there describing how to build snow caves, why write another one? Well, to be honest, most of them are pretty bad. I've made a fair number of snow caves now - often digging by myself to sleep the family - and I think I've gotten pretty good at it.
In addition to food all the other winter camping stuff, for snowcaving specifically, you'll want:
You want to pick a good spot: