Creating Father & Son Memories with Camping & Survival Skills

The leaves have turned color and are beginning to fall in the Upper Midwest.  Camping is a great way to usher in the new season and teach the next generation about life.  This post, by my friend Kirk Anderson, is about a recent camping trip with his son.  If you’d like to guest post on, here are the guidelines.

Autumn Camping Trip on the St. Croix River – St. Croix Falls, WI.

As a father of 4 great children, I’m quickly realizing how fast they grow up. The importance of creating memories with your kids, particularly your sons, is an important part of the fathering experience.  Not only so they will remember you when you’re old or (heaven forbid) dead and gone, but so you can leave a lasting impact on who they become once they are all grown up.  As a dad, I want to instill in my sons something of value; I want to leave a legacy.

I have 2 sons, 8 and 1 years old and I have 2 daughters, 6 and 3 years old.  I love them equally, but I don’t treat them the same, because they are each different.  Despite what some may say, boys and girls are not made the same and frankly, that’s OK with me.

Fall Camping
Cade waiting for the food to cook after starting the fire.

I took my oldest son Cade backpacking at 9 months old with my wife and 2 friends. My wife carried him in a Kelty kid carrier and the rest of us carried all our camping gear to a remote campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota.  Since then camping has become a tradition in our family, but as of September 2012 – father/son trips will also become a great tradition.

On the first night, we ate supper at 8pm because I wanted Cade to start the fire on his own. A little survival education goes a long way these days. I issued him a ‘survival’ pocket knife before the trip. It was almost a ceremonial step into junior manhood.

Fall Camping
Our ‘Pop Can Stove’ we tried to cook with failed to boil water.

We tried to boil water like a true prepper…unsuccessfully and ended up using a conventional backpack stove. This ‘pop-can alcohol stove’ worked, but not as well as the YouTube video tutorial Cade and I watched.

Fall Camping

We ate Cheddar Broccoli Rice and Hot Dogs for supper. At 8:30p, the food never tasted so good!  The key to a great backpacking trip is packing light, but not over-complicating the food.  You can’t pack in too much, but you also don’t want to eat trail mix for ever meal…find a balance and enjoy!

Fall Camping
Our camp site. A very brisk morning with fog rolling down river.

We slept well in our North Face tent.  Although it got down into the mid-thirty’s, we stayed very warm all night long.

Fall Camping
Cade and I at our campsite on the St. Croix River.

In the morning we stayed warm by the fire. For breakfast, we ate MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat). I had banana granola cereal and Cade had blueberry granola cereal. Not bad considering the shelf life.

Fall Camping
Ahh, the restrooms were…well you can guess.

Fall Camping

Early morning on the river. Fog is disappearing fast as the sun began to shine. The Beautiful sunrise was not captured with my pocket camera, because I really wanted a hot fire and equally hot cup of coffee!

Fall Camping

Our tent is a 2 person North Face and it worked awesome. It made me feel like I was on an adventure…especially with the North Face jacket I got at a garage sale for $5! All joking aside, quality equipment is nice to have (considering durability & weight), but shouldn’t be a negative factor for you going camping…just do it!

In fact, Cade wants to do a winter camping trip once there is snow on the ground. I’m thinking we’ll need to get a 4 season tent and better ‘lighter/warmer’ sleeping bags, but if we don’t buy them, we can always borrow them.  Ask around to family and friends and build a complete list of all the supplies you’ll need for your adventure.

Survival Tip:

Once we broke down our tent in the morning, we practiced ‘minimalist’ camping and set up a ‘tarp only’ tent/shelter.  I also showed Cade some survival skills using his knife, rope, and the tarp.

Fall Camping

Part of instilling a legacy for me includes passing on my values, including my spiritual journey.  Our morning devotions were really cool by the fire.  We had a chance to talk about stuff we normally wouldn’t discuss at home with mom and sisters around. My hands were so cold it was hard to turn the pages. Thankful for coffee!

Fall Camping

Cade needed to take 1 more look at the lake before we hiked out. Dad’s, you get 1 shot at memories with your kids…make them count!

This particular camping trip was very spur of the moment.  It literally took 2 hrs to plan and pack for and only lasted 1 night, but the memories we created will last a lifetime.

Fall Camping

Here is another angle of our morning on the river. If you didn’t know, these campsites are FREE to use.  Located in St. Croix Falls, WI – you should check them out!

Fall Camping

After breakfast we broke down camp.  At the start of our journey, my bag weighed 42lbs. Cade’s was substantially lighter, but only because its capacity was less.  We reviewed what we needed and what we didn’t need for next time…valuable lessons when you have to carry everything on your back.

Fall Camping

The whole way home, Cade talked about how much fun it was to hang out at the river.  His highlights were starting the fire, carrying a pocket knife, and using the ‘Pop Can Alcohol Stove’ we made together.



And just so you don’t think I won’t take my girls out in the woods too, here is quick video of a winter hike with my 2 oldest kids.  It was a short stay in the woods, but they loved it and I’m looking forward to doing it again this winter.

Kirk Anderson is a self employed entrepreneur, husband, father, photo and video guy, podcaster, and homeschooling parent.  He loves the outdoors, hunting, and fishing and thinks raising kids is one of the most important things a parent can do.  You can find more from Kirk at

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About Kirk Anderson

Husband, Father, Podcaster, Blogger, Entrepreneur
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  • Sutton Parks

    Thanks for sharing and the photos! I’m not a father but it reminds me what a beautiful time fall is for camping and how quickly it really takes to prepare and get started. This should motivate me to get out hiking soon.

  • Raun Lauterbach

    Get out there, Sutton! Fall is a great time to wander around the woods. :)