25 Jul Extreme Family Adventure Part 2: Tackling Highest Peaks and Lowest Temperatures on the TrisTrans Saga
This is Part 2 of the Extreme Family Adventure interview with Kim Broux and Jochem Cuypers. Click here to see Part 1: Meet the Parents Behind the “TrisTrans Saga”
Most families I know hope to make a road trip through the southwest to see the national parks by car. But not so for the Tris-Trans Saga! Did you really spend 90 days with your 7-month-old baby and 3-year-old exploring the southwest of the USA on foot, with a NordicCab, and a packhorse, by canoe, and bike camping?
After “TrisTrans Saga Europe 2013”—a trip lasting 4 months—we decided to go on our honeymoon. We didn’t have the time earlier so it happened 3 years later. One of Kim’s biggest dreams was the US. On our way to Baffin Island we picked up a magazine about the National Parks in the US—and it looked amazing! In addition we loved the story about a search for the last ‘wild’ Apache Indians in Arizona written by Ingstad. So in September 2013, we were ready to go and see it ourselves.
Our basecamp was an RV; during the evening we drove to the starting point of our next NanoAdventure. Mostly we made daytrips. It turned out to be one of the best experiences ever. Relaxing for all of us. We spent 90 days in the US total, including two weeks on Maui, where we rented a car, camped and hiked around the island. We finished with ten days in Florida. We used a bike, a canoe, our NordicCab trailer, a packhorse and most often hiking boots.
The weather in the southwest is so fabulous—no need to worry about rain, which makes it easy for travelling with small kids. What we loved most was the great variety. One day we were hiking to an abandoned mining town in the mountains, another day to the oldest tree in the world—or the biggest—and a couple of weeks later enjoying the snow in Colorado.
The nature was awesome: the mountains, the forest, the deserts…and the wildlife, too! Impressive to see a mountain lion for the first time! One of our best memories is a trip by horse in Apache country. We met an Apache who told us about his way of thinking and living…just amazing!
So, given your preferred outdoor lifestyle, what’s a typical weekend “at home” like for the TrisTrans Saga crew? I’m guessing there’s not a lot of sitting around and watching TV!
During the week we fill every free minute with a ‘NanoAdventure’ (small adventures, big pleasure) in the nature close to our home—just perfect for an after work experience. On Friday we pick a trip from our ‘to do list’ – and as soon as we get home from work we throw our gear in the car and drive to the region we would like to explore. We love variety. So one weekend we go on a canoe trip, another weekend by bike, the next with hiking boots. Most often we sleep in a tent, sometimes we sleep under the sky or below a big rock.
Last weekend we went to a big rock—there was space beneath it for sleeping and campfire. That was a fabulous family experience! Tristan managed to make his first campfire totally on his own. The route to the rock bypassed a region with the biggest blueberries we have ever seen. This evening after work we will make blueberry jam—njammie!
Also, local adventures to the highest peaks in every community in Hordaland amuse us very well. It gives us the chance to get in touch with new regions close to our home, and it gives us a micro-expedition feeling since it contains the same elements: planning, preparing, route finding because there are no trails, weather study because there is often bad weather in Western Norway, and an amazing feeling on the summit: ‘A king of the world feeling.’ It gives a sense of empowerment.
In Norway, it can get pretty cold! In your experience—and opinion, how cold is too cold for adventuring in the outdoors with little ones?
In a Norwegian kindergarten, babies and small kids sleep outside during the day (afternoon nap). The general rule is a minimum of -10 °C (14 °F). But many kindergartens operate with colder temperatures down to -15 °C (5 °F) and even some accept -20 °C (-4 °F). While asleep, a kid is well protected in a stroller and a warm sleeping bag.
While playing outside, you should be even more aware of how quickly little ones develops hypothermia. Wind makes it even worse. So it’s extremely important to check your kids while going outside in cold weather—especially during a windy day. It’s important to notice that babies and small kids have an immature body regulation so they can’t adjust their body temperature that easily in extreme temperatures. In addition they can’t tell you if they are cold until 2 or 3 years.
And what about camping outdoors in the extreme cold—something your family has certainly done a lot of? How do you keep the little ones warm enough without smothering them?
We have been sleeping outside below -30 °C (-22 °F). The first time we slept outside with Tristan in cold weather he was 5 months old and the temperature went down to -20 °C (-4 °F). One year later he slept outside several weeks with temperatures going down to -30 °C degrees (Baffin Island, Canada).
Most parents will notice that the little ones at that age don’t stay in their sleeping bag—or under their bedsheets at home—so our best solution was to use an adapted technique from one of the greatest historical polar explorers named Fridtjof Nansen. I slept together with Tristan and two years later (on Greenland) with Nanook in my sleeping back. This technique gave us the optimal control. During warmer temperatures like -10 °C (14 °F), it’s no problem to let them sleep in their own sleeping bag. Of course you have to regularly check. We experiences that Tristan at an age of 3 mastered the art of winter camping. During the coldest days on Greenland he adjusted his sleeping position to deeper in his sleeping bag to keep it warm.
We use sleeping bags from Helsport—a Norwegian producer of outdoor equipment. They have sleeping bags for kids warm enough for freezing temperatures. During the coldest nights, we pull an adult expedition bag over the children’s bags.
To keep Tristan and Nanook warm during the day, we use multilayers. As a first layer: wool. The same wool as Roald Amundsen used during his expedition to the South Pole— wool from Devold. As a second layer even more wool during the coldest days, or fleece. The hardshell protection is very important to keep them dry – and as a protection against the wind. Our preference is the children’s outdoor clothing from Finnish Reima.
The adventure concludes in Part 3: Adventure as a Family Lifestyle and What’s Next for the TrisTrans Saga!
Inspired? Take a look at these featured trips from our members:
See all Tundra Exploration Trips
[All photos by Kim Broux and Jochem Cuypers]