I have had the pleasure of working at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. Offices for two summers now. Aside from the obvious pleasures of basement dwelling life, I’ve been lucky enough to see the enthusiasm of the entire staff from administrators, to retail staff, to warehouse staff. That excitement about the outdoors, gear, and service often draws analogies involving our youth. “I felt like a kid in a candy store.” “More grown-up toys!” “I can’t wait to play outside…” Along with keeping salient our overarching goals of providing gear and advice for fun and safe outdoor adventures, these statements serve as reminders of a time when the outdoors were more than a break from the stress of 9-5. Being outside meant independence in a world that pampered us. It represented an environment so dynamic that no two trips were ever the same. And its power was so great that it was the catalyst for a lifetime hobby.

Today (8/21/2007) I got to see first hand the excitement and wide eyes so many “adults” here emulate. Playspace in Downtown Raleigh graciously hosted a special talk about camping for an enthusiastic, if at times a bit rowdy, crowd of 3-5 year olds. The Playspace staff were kind enough to divide the group of twenty into two (read “slightly”) more manageable groups of 10. We didn’t quite get to cover the intricacies of priming a liquid fuel stove at high altitude, but they did get a crash course in camping essentials: roll around in a sleeping bag, experiment with all the buttons on a few headlamps, spin around with the compass until you’re dizzy, and make sure to stretch out the trekking poles until they’re taller than you. Their favorite activity, however, was testing the veracity of Nalgene’s mythic claim of invincibility. I don’t think any other group of people averaging under 70 pounds could have put lexan water bottles to such a test. And to their (and my) delight, the bottles didn’t break!

Sure, they probably didn’t go home and start arranging food drops for their next thru-hike. But maybe the next time Mom or Dad gets a tent out they can tell them something they learned. Or maybe they’ll just remember the excitement that they felt when they first got to play with these “grown-up” toys. I know I do.