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Unracked: Family Vacation Essentials


Garrett Barnum and his wife love to pile their five kids into the Suburban and head out to set their base camp – wherever that might be.  They’d love to do that all the time, but a guy also has to earn a living. Garrett is our Category Director for Top of Car and – of course – Camping.

“I am responsible for what lives and dies in our product line, and I help to look forward and decide what we should develop next,” he explains. “I gather information from a lot of different sources – consumers, retailers, our customer service – and I get ideas from random inventors and people that think they’re inventors as well as the ideas our internal designers come up with.

He has five kids ages 4 to 13. Before you think ‘poor guy, just as the terrible twos are ending, the teens are beginning,’ Garrett points out that right now is a good time to be a roadtripping dad: “No more diapers.”

Garrett’s Family Roadtripping Tips:

  1. Take it slowly. Start with a local, overnight campout (in case you have to run home at 2:00 am to get Tylenol for the child who started teething), and then work up to bigger camping trips.
  2. Slowly add the gear you need as you figure out what you would actually use and what works best for your family. A cargo box like the SkyBox 16 Carbonite is a good average size for the bulky items or extra toys, or, like we did, you can plan for the future with a SkyBox 21.
  3. Plan fun activities for the time in the car. Introduce your kids to old school games like “20 questions”, “I Spy…”, “Mad Libs”, or see how many state license plates you can find.
  4. Always have a good payoff at the end of a hike to keep your little hikers motivated (waterfall, cave, a great view, swimming hole, ice cream cones, etc.). Then, enjoy the trail time to talk with your kids. They aren’t in front of a screen, so tell them stories from your childhood, or talk to them about their lives.
  5. Be flexible with your planned activities to stop and play in a random stream, chase butterflies, or splash in a mud puddle. Those memories are way more important than how many miles you hiked.

The Right Gear

So how does Garrett wrangle the load? “Definitely with the Skybox 21 cargo box,” he answers. “You can just fit sooooo much stuff up there. It’s great for the bulky stuff that fills up your car really fast – camping chairs, sleeping bags, bike helmets, life jackets, air mattresses, soccer balls, Frisbees, hydration packs, yeah…you can fill every nook and cranny of a cargo box.”

What don’t you put in? “No food. Or children.”

He’s found another piece of essential family adventure gear – hydration packs. Garrett shares how these hiking essentials also served as motivation/bribes for the kids.

“When the kids were old enough and we started hiking more with them, we carried all these water bottles in one pack. Then on one hike, the kids saw another family with hydration packs. ‘Awesome! We want those!’ We decided it was a great idea – but they needed to prove that they would use them. So, we went on seven big hikes. They did it, and all got CamelBaks. That’s back when we had three. We’ve added to that pile of packs.”

SkyBox 21, Raptor AerosJaylow, on JetStream Crossbars | SwingDaddy

On the Road

So, Garrett and the family are packed loaded, and they head to…?

“I’ve got two answers, “ he says. “One is whatever waterfall we haven’t seen yet in Oregon. We have a guidebook – Fifty Best Waterfall Hikes in Oregon – and we’re slowly working our way through.”

Second? “North into Washington on the Cowlitz River, a valley north of Mount St. Helens, south of Rainier. It’s a new addition to our locations.” With a ton of state park tent camping under their belts, the Cowlitz spot involves a fresh approach to Barnum family basecamping – the trailer. It’s on a family property, and this allowed Garrett to park an RV trailer to serve as semi-permanent mothership. This has extended their season – and upgraded their eating.

“In the Northwest, it is really rainy in late spring and early fall. The trailer has made it easier to extend into these seasons – no more being stuck in wet tents. It explains a lot about the trend toward these lightweight trailers. You can bring it with you, with gear already stowed, and it is easier to go and extend your season. Even the cooking thing – having a kitchen means we don’t have to eat backpacking style meals, but can eat real food. This is important when some of your kids are picky eaters.”


Hiking with kids requires some strategy to make trips the right type of memorable. “One thing with our kids – the reason we’re doing waterfalls – there is a good payoff needed. There needs to be a destination. Earlier this summer we did a combo bike/hike to a falls – biked in halfway – then hiked into these amazing pools and falls. Opal Creek. Jumped off cliffs, swam in freezing cold water. Basically, any hike with the kids is memorable – and if there’s a reward, they realize why it’s worth all the hard work. Otherwise its like herding cattle through the woods.”


More UnRacked

Garrett’s not our only awesome employee. Checkout our entire UnRacked series to see who else here at Yakima is getting outdoors, how they have their car racked out, tips and tricks, and their favorite Pacific Northwest adventure spots.


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