Sending your kiddo on a camping trip for the first time and don’t know what gear they’ll need? HMW Outdoors has got your back. Instead of having to shop for the many items involved for such a trip, you can simply purchase a Youth Adventure Kit (YAK) which contains all the components your child will need for camping and backpacking for years to come.
Pros: Versatile and comprehensive outdoor kit for camping and backpacking
Cons: Less customization to specific tastes and needs, some sticker shock
Cost: $599 for the complete Youth Adventure Kit 1.0
Best For: Youth who are starting out in the outdoors and plan on sticking around long term
I used various components of the YAK on multiple backpacking and camping trips extending from July into mid-November. Refer to the specific systems for more details on usage.
Why Should I Buy A Complete YAK Kit?
HMW Outdoor sums it up perfectly when they explain the that Youth Adventure Kit is a toolbox that will support your youth as they grow and experience the outdoors in different ways. Younger kids will be going to summer camps while older kids might start venturing deeper into the woods on backpacking trips. Either way, you’ll be covered with a YAK.
The YAK is a set of gear that will grow and adapt to your kids ever changing needs. It greatly reduces the time required to purchase each individual item and negates the fear of accidently purchasing something that isn’t the right piece of gear for the job.
The YAK is comprised of four different kits. Each kit contains the gear needed to complete a system (ie. sleeping gear).
The Sleeping Kit
25 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Ensolite Sleeping Pad
Each sleeping system is made up of two items, the bag and pad, which work in tandem to keep you warm at night. The sleeping bag’s job is to wrap you in a layer of insulation and trap in the heat while the sleeping pad is there to insulate your body from the cold ground and provide comfort.
The YAK sleeping pad is similar to the Therm-a-rest Z-Lite Sol, a well-loved piece of equipment. Ensolite (foam) sleeping pads are a much better option for youth (over inflatable pads) because they won’t pop, are super durable, and are extremely versatile.
I tested out the Celeste 1000 sleeping bag throughout multiple weeks in the summer, where temperatures reached the low 40s. During these summer and early autumn trips I was perfectly warm and slept very comfortably. My final test was on a trip to Joshua Tree in mid-November where temperatures dipped down to 30 degrees at night. During the early morning hours I got pretty cold, but this is typical of a 25 degree bag. The temperature range on a sleeping bag is only an indicator of what you’d “survive” in, not necessarily what you’d be comfortable in. It’s a good practice to add 10 degrees to any sleeping bag to get a more accurate estimate of comfort.
I’m 6-feet tall and was just barely comfortable in this sleeping bag. For youth, this is a good thing because it means less cold dead space at the bottom of the bag. As they grow up, anyone who exceeds 6-feet would need to get another sleeping bag.
I like this backpack. It is a great example of a backpack that is fairly light, has decent durability, and is extremely versatile. I tested out the York 70 on one 5-day trip to the high Sierras, and one 3-day trip to Joshua Tree.
A sleeping bag compartment
A couple of outside pockets (for storage of small items that you want to be accessible)
A detachable brain (for day-hiking use)
Sleeping pad straps
A built-in pack cover (for rain protection)
A hydration bladder pocket
The frame size has excellent range which means it could be a backpack that works all the way through college. My one caveat to this is that, under heavy loads, the frame wasn’t as comfortable as I would have liked.
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The Essentials Kit
1 Liter Water Bottle
First Aid Kit
30 SPF Sunscreen
Here is where the customization begins, based on program. Scouting teaches a lot of wilderness survival skills where you’d need items such as the knife, emergency blanket, and fire starter. Other programs focus more on soft skills where these items wouldn’t be needed.
What is deemed an essential is arguable. So I’ll just conclude this section by saying that I used most of these items and found them to be perfectly adequate for the job they would be needed for.
The Camper Kit
Mess Kit (plate, bowl, cup, spoon, fork, knife)
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
2 - 5 Liter Dry Bags
2 - 15 Liter Dry Bags
Camp Games (checkers & backgammon)
There are the items that are often forgotten about but are necessary for staying hygienic and healthy while in the field. I LOVE that these are included. The mess kit is a set of durable plastic utensils and plate/bowl/cup that comes in its own mesh bag. The dry bags are great for organizing smaller items such as the essentials, toiletries, and small clothing pieces. The towels can be brought or left behind depending on the type of trip (summer camp versus backpacking).
I generally opt for camp games that use cards, dice, or a hacky sack. Small pieces like the ones found in checkers/backgammon are easy to lose, but that’s personal preference.
So let’s say you go ahead and purchase the YAK -- what else would you need to send your kiddo out on a trip?
Food, clothing, shoes, and shelter.
Now, most programs provide the food and the shelter, so that only leaves outfitting clothing and shoes.
This is what really impresses me with the Youth Adventure Kit -- how comprehensive it is for a large variety of trips and ages.
The upcoming generation of the YAK (2.0) will offer more backpack sizing and sleeping bag temperature ratings. This is a great addition that will allow folks to further customize their kit based on location and seasonal use.
If you have a kid who is planning on getting into any sort of camping/outdoors program (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, outdoor education, personal camping trips, etc...), the YAK is a great place to start. Sure, you could head out to REI and purchase the items one-by-one and might end up with something a little more tailored to your kid, but it will take some time and cost at least the same amount of money (if not more).
It your kiddo really develops a love for camping and backpacking, then there will likely come a time when you’ll want to replace certain items. For instance, as they grow older they might need a larger sleeping bag or backpack. But there is no better kit on the market that meets the requirements for getting out on those week long and weekend trips most youth enjoy.