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The outdoors is the perfect place to spend time with your teen because it’s a world free from distraction. Back home it’s TV, iPhone, iPad and anything digital to occupy a teenager’s mind, but step outside and everything changes. If you’re looking for ways to spend quality time with your son or daughter outside of the house, here are some great ways to bond with your teen.

Car Camping

This is the perfect introduction to the outdoors. Car camping eases into the wilderness while keeping some of the comforts of home. Parks and forests have designated campgrounds with picnic tables, fire pits and bathroom facilities to accommodate campers of any experience. Simply drive up to your spot, pitch a tent and enjoy a warm fire under the stars.

Hiking & Backpacking

Ready to leave behind the graded campsites for more secluded pastures? Backpacking is a great way to get away from the crowds and explore parts of the wilderness not accessible by any vehicle. The hobby requires lighter, more technical gear, but nothing that is hard to get or will break the bank:

  • Large backpack
  • Small tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Cook system
  • Water filtration/purification
  • Food

There’s a little more to it, as many backpacking checklists will point out, but these are the bare essentials; strap them on your back and hit the trail. This is a great opportunity to learn skills like using a map and compass and is incredible exercise.

Boating & Fishing

Fishing on the boat is the perfect way to do something while doing nothing. The sound of the water and the crickets chirping around it is one of the most serene experiences on the planet. If you think your teen might get bored with sitting around, waiting for a fish to bite, put a little more fun into the preparation. Shop around together for a new rod and reel, go through and refresh the tackle box and prepare a delicious lunch to take on the boat. Nothing builds up a teenager’s appetite like doing nothing! And when that first fish finally bites, it’ll all be worth it.

Climbing & Bouldering

Pro climber Alex Honnold recently scaled the face of Yosemite’s El Capital without a rope. It’s easy to look at this incredible feat and be intimidated by climbing, but it’s actually easy to get started. First, the teen years are a great time to start and rock climbing gyms across the country accommodate people of all skill levels.

So if your teen can scale the expert wall by their pinkies but you’re barely gripping wood blocks, you can both still practice at the same gym. And when it’s time to finally take the hobby outdoors, it will be easy to find a spot you both can enjoy.

Skiing & Snowboarding

The outdoors doesn’t close down at the end of summer. In fact, it gets even better. If you live anywhere near a decent ski resort (look for man-made slopes too), then strap on some skis or a board. Maybe this is a sport your teen already does with friends or maybe you’re both learning it together. Either way, shredding through fresh powder is its own fun and enjoying it together is just icing on the cake.

Wilderness Classes

Going back to backpacking, some people can be intimidated by the idea of venturing out into the wilderness with nothing but the gear on their back. What better way to trek with confidence than a wilderness class to learn the basics? The National and State Parks Service, local outdoors retailers and various outdoors non-profit groups all have classes that are either free or a low cost. They’ll cover anything, whether for beginners who’ve never camped or for experts learning new skills.

Volunteering

Okay, “volunteer” might not be a word that resonates with teenagers, but volunteering can actually be real fun when done in the outdoors. Anyone can volunteer for trail cleanup in state and national parks, which serves as a great way to see our public lands for free. And, in some cases, volunteers have access to areas of parks and forests most people wouldn’t ordinarily go to, so there is an essence of exclusivity.

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