Hello, I’m Mr. General. It's good to see you here!

Eco-friendly Dirt Bike or ATV Trail Riding with the Kids

In my experience, as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate more and more the tranquility of hiking, and the exercise benefits it provides. Kids, on the other hand, have much less patience for taking a stroll through the woods: they get tired, they got hot, and they complain. This is only natural.

A great compromise, I’ve discovered - as soon as I had kids that were old enough to participate - is ATV or dirtbike trail riding. (Well, I can’t really call it a compromise, because I love it too).

Regardless, trail riding has become one of our family’s favorite outdoor activities throughout the warmer months, and we’ve traveled to nearly every nook and cranny of Wisconsin checking out different trails.

ATV kidsThe kids love it, and it’s easy to understand why: they’re not walking, so they don’t complain about being bored or getting tired. More importantly, having their own dirtbike or ATV really gives them a sense of freedom and responsibility. This is important when trying to get your kids interested in the outdoors, as you don’t want them to feel as though you’re simply dragging them along on something that you want to do.

A major thing to consider when thinking about getting your kids into ATV riding, is not spoiling them. I know several parents who have gone out and spent thousands on top-of-the-line dirtbikes and quads for their 12, 10, or even 8 year old kids.

In my opinion, there’s no need for that.

Another major concern, at least for folks like myself who attempt to be eco-conscious, is pollution.

Granted, the amount of pollution created by gas-powered ATVs and dirtbikes is negligible when compared to automobiles, but it’s a concern nonetheless. Personally, I see just a little bit of fraud in the sense of riding along an ATV trail, enjoying nature, while burning gasoline and giving off carbon monoxide.

Fortunately, there’s a way to get around the concerns of both cost and pollution: go electric.

Because of their ease-of-use, safety, and limited capacities for speed, electric dirtbikes and ATVs are a great option for younger children, from ages 5 to 14 or so.

Once my oldest son had gotten to the age where he began complaining about hiking (pretty much as soon as he could walk!), I considered the idea of getting him a small ATV or dirtbike as a major Christmas or birthday gift.

I had been into trail riding before having kids, and I figured it might be a good option and generate excitement about wanting to get outdoors and hit the trails with me, without having to hike.

SX500For him, I settled on the Razor SX500 McGrath edition electric dirtbike. Online SX500 reviews will show that it really is a well-made product, and with a top speed of around 15mph, it is a thrill for any kid up to about 14 years old.

The authenticity of this bike is really what will make it special and exciting for your child – its steel frame, front and rear disc brakes, chain-driven motor, and twist throttle really gives the feel of an authentic, fully-powered gas dirtbike.

Not to mention, the frame design and geometry, as well as the large tires and appropriate wheelbase, make the bike a true performer out on real trails: it can climb, hop, and ride over rocks and rough terrain surprisingly well.

Of course, once I made the decision and bought the bike for my oldest boy, I had to consider getting one for his younger brother as well.

After talking with a friend who had bought one for his son, I decided on a Razor Dirt Quad for the younger one. (This is the same Razor company that became so popular in the scooter market).

This four-wheeler is better suited for younger riders, with a top speed of only around 10mph.

It doesn’t perform quite as well as the SX500 dirtbike, but for a small quad made for a young child (ages 6+), I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to. Not to mention, I don’t particularly want my 8 year old flying through the trail at 20mph on a full-performance quad.

With both the dirtbike and the quad at a price of right around $500, they’re a relatively substantial expense in regards to a gift for your kid, but if it gets them excited about hitting the trails and being outdoors, and it means we all get to be out there together, then I’m all for it.

Not to mention, you can have a clear conscious about not polluting or single-handedly destroying the forest while you’re riding through. ;)

~ Mr. General

Date: July 28th at 1:20pm
Author: Mr. General
Tags: dirt bike, ATV, kids

My 10 Tips for Camping with Kids

After dozens upon dozens of family camping trips with the kids, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The one major thing I’ve learned and that seems to prove true time after time, is that the end result is typically the same for both you and the kids: if you have a bad time, they have a bad time. However, if you are positive, inclusive, and are having fun, they almost certainly will too.

It all comes down to preparation, and your expectations going in.

My 10 Tips for Camping with Kids

Here’s a list of ten of the most effective things I’ve learned over the years, that will help to ensure your camping trip with the kids is an enjoyable and memorable trip for everyone.

1. Be Inclusive

Children love to feel included and to be given responsibility – especially when it comes to ‘adult’ stuff. On your next camping trip, include them and give them a level of responsibility in everything you do. Often times, this involves teaching them something, and putting a little trust in them. For example, buy them their own hatchet or small axe, and have them chop firewood right along with you. Of course there’s a line between safety and irresponsibility, but teach them the proper skills and show them how to do a job safely and effectively, and you’ll create quality, lasting memories.

2. Have them pack their own clothes/gear

Give your kids a heads up about the weather and terrain they’ll experience during the camping trip, and let them know that they’ll be responsible for packing all of their own things. This is a great way to give them responsibility and build excitement for the trip. Plus, they’ll learn pretty quickly that if you don’t prepare properly for the outdoors, you’ll be in for a pretty rough time.

3. Bring a friend

If you’re the parent of an only child, I would highly recommend trying to bring a friend along for them to share the experience with. They’ll be much more likely to go explore, play, and find something to do if they have a friend or sibling with them, rather than pester you if they get bored.

4. Bring Bikes / Scooters / Toys

This simply comes down to having something for them to do. Bikes are an obvious and excellent choice, but if they’ve got a drone, skateboord, a battery-powered scooter, or even an iPad - whatever they like to spend a lot of time on at home, have them bring it along. Oftentimes kids will be upset for having to abandon their favorite hobby for the weekend, so bringing along their favorite toy will not only be a savior in the event that boredom sets in, it will also divert them from being in a bad mood before the trip even begins.

5. Give them something special, just for the trip

This is especially pertinent if it’s their first time camping. A small folding knife, like this one, or pocket knife is a great idea, and is a must have for taking kids – especially boys – on a camping trip. Other ideas could be an inexpensive water-filtration device, a toy telescope to look at the stars at night, or a survival kit to have them try and make their own campfire with.

5. Practice at home before you go

This might seem a little corny, but give it a shot before you do the real deal. Or, better yet, simply mention it and see what kind of a read you get. If they’re excited and up for the prospect of pitching a tent in the back yard, you know they’ll be excited and rearing to go for a real camping trip.

6. Plan activities, and stay busy

This could involve any number of things; going to a park ranger presentation, taking them hiking or fishing, bringing an insect identification book and seeing how many species they can find. It could even mean giving them daily chores – for example, changing out the ice in the cooler. (A quality camping cooler is an absolute must-have item, by the way. More on that later). Staying busy and having activities planned will maintain their interest and keep them excited about being in the outdoors – rather than just sitting in a chair at the campsite all day.

7. Remember – it’s not about you

I’ll always remember a quote from legendary fishing/outdoor writer John Gierach – “never take a kid fishing with you, unless you like kids a lot more than you like fishing.” This statement is a little harsh, but the general message rings true: if you try and make the trip about you, your kids will most likely be miserable. Take an interest in them, and keep them involved. I guarantee it will be beneficial for the both of you.

8. Teach them something new

Whether it’s how to cast a fly rod, how to shoot a bow-and-arrow, how to set up the tent, or how to chop firewood, teaching your kids something new on a camping trip will create precious and long-lasting memories.

9. Build a campfire and tell stories

No camping trip is complete without a campfire. Some of my greatest-ever memories are of sitting around a campfire on a cool summer night, listening to my dad tell stories. Tell them stories about when you were younger, or about family members or old friends they’ve never met. If they’re not interested in that, ghost stories are a little bit cliché, but they always work!

~ Mr. General

Date: July 16th at 2:12pm
Author: Mr. General
Tags: camping, kids