Eat, Sleep, and Play: A Recipe for a Happy, Outdoorsy Dad
Fuel and gear recommendations from a dad and his Iceland-adventuring family
If your dad is like many Sierra readers, he’d prefer to spend Father’s Day—and perhaps every day—outside. I know my kids’ dad would. Over the past couple of weeks, my husband Thomas and our four young ones adventured in Iceland, which gave us the opportunity to test out plenty of fuel and gear.
On Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, my 10-month-old baby fell asleep against my chest as we ascended a steep snowbank via snow machine. Behind us, Thomas followed closely on his machine, our son’s arms wrapped tightly around his dad’s waist. Everyone—even our finicky four-year-old and 11-year-old—smiled through the mist. That’s at least partially because the items listed below managed to keep us all warm, dry, rested, and fed.
For dads like Thomas, who rarely sits down for breakfast, we stock the fridge with Ozery Bakery’s snack rounds ($5 per pack of 14 rounds). Known for their innovation, Alon and Guy Ozery of Toronto, Canada, bake their breads with whole grains, fruits, seeds, which results in a healthy, portable breakfast that’s free of preservatives and artificial colors. Thomas and I also slip the rounds into our kids’ pockets for snacks-on-the-go—they never squish. For outdoor adventures, we freeze them, so they can thaw out on the trail.
Epic Bars ($30 for a box of 12) and Epic Mixes ($25 for box of 8) are our go-to solution for finding grass-fed/pasture-raised meats while on the road. We tell ourselves they’re for kids complaining of hunger, but frequently catch each other sneaking a bite. Who can resist gourmet flavors such as Bison Bacon Cranberry, Lamb Currant Mint, and Venison Sea Salt Pepper? Because the nuts and fruits are packaged separately from the meat, these items are especially convenient for sharing, even among kids with nut allergies.
To motivate the kids to keep going on long trails, Thomas rewards them with SmashMallows ($5). Made of 100% organic sugar and natural, gluten-free ingredients, SmashMallows come in Mint Chocolate Chip, Toasted Coconut Pineapple, Strawberries and Cream, Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed, Root Beer Float, Cinnamon Churro, and Mocha Chip.
To help reduce the footprint of pre-packaged foods (juice boxes, for instance, take 300 years to decompose), Precidio Design created the novel, reusable Drink in the Box ($12 for 8 oz, $15 for 12 oz). Their Snack in the Box ($10) features two compartments that hold 6 oz of dry foods. Both boxes are BPA- and phthalate-free, and so easy to clean that Thomas trained our four-year-old to do it!
Parents will appreciate Patagonia’s 850 Down Sleeping Bag ($399- $499) because of the replaceable, center-front zipper, which allows you to cook or tend to your children without getting out of your bag. Not only is it lightweight and durable, but it results from 45 years of research into maximizing warmth, trapping heat, and eliminating dead space and bulk—all while maintaining loft and compressibility.
If you’re allergic to down, or just the kind of dad who likes the whole family giggling inside one bag, consider the Big Agnes Big Creek 30 ($270). This synthetic, double-wide bag features a proprietary technology called Hotstream®, which makes you feel like you are wrapped inside a plush comforter. When synced with an integrated, insulated pad coupler, the bag prevented us (for the first time) from sliding off our pad and awaking, in a heap, in the corner of our tent! The pumphouse ultra ($35) will make parents’ lives easier, as it inflates your pad, carries water, and transforms into a backcountry shower or stuff sack.
On our last day in Iceland, Thomas hiked his way down a muddy trail, which was complicated by the constant spray of Seljalandfoss falling from 65 meters above. I had stayed behind to photograph our surrounds with my oldest, so Thomas had the baby tucked inside of a sling around his chest, and the four-year-old clinging to his neck. Our son trailed behind him. Keeping an eye on every member of the family, while ensuring the safety of the kids in his arms, he told me later that this was an example of a moment when gear really mattered.
We were both equipped with Oakley Crossrange ($210) shades, and a pair of LaSportiva Nucleo High GTX ($199) boots, equipped with an “Impact Brake System,” which helped us find sure footing, despite the wiggling kids in our arms. Once broken-in, we both found the LaSportiva boots comfortable, yet tough enough to wade through rivers and grip the wet deck of a boat. The sunglasses’ “Prizm” technology fine-tunes the transmission of light to enhance vision, and highlight contrasts and colors. These sunglasses also have interchangeable nosepads and temples for extra grip—so they never slipped off our noses despite the constant stream of wind and water drenching our faces. Without the Oakley Crossrange, both of us found it more difficult to guide the children through the rain and Seljalandfoss.
The older two kids reported that their Oakley RADAR EV XS PATH ($140) sunglasses not only looked super chill but made them see better and farther—especially when they were kayaking and snowmachining. The four-year-old thought hers and the baby’s Real Kid Shades ($30) looked just as fancy as their siblings’ shades. I appreciated that Real Kid Shades offer polarized shatterproof lens and UVA/UVB protection. Dad appreciated that the frames are bendable and unbreakable, with a replacement guarantee.
Thomas felt relieved that he didn’t need to worry about any of us catching a cold, because we all had on waterproof gear, and shoes that he’s witnessed perform well under rain, snow, wind, and other extreme conditions. Because The North Face has an incredible warranty department, and because we’ve been able to pass on their products from kid to kid (despite them skinning knees leaping off boulders on lava fields), we brought the following to Iceland: Insulated Snowdrift Bibs ($99), Thermoball Full-Zip Jacket ($120), Etip Gloves ($40), Youth Resolve Waterproof Pants ($55), KZ Hike Pants ($49), Stormy Rain Triclimate Jacket ($99), Flurry Wind Hoodie ($50), Infant Tailout Rainjacket ($50), Polo Shirt ($40), JR Hedgehog Hiker Mid Waterproof Hiking Shoes ($65), Youth Sprout Backpack ($30), Denali Thermal Beanie ($25), Baby Bear Beanie ($25), and NSE Infant Fleece Bootie ($30).
I was able to snowmachine and photograph on a glacier with the Apex Flex GTX Jacket ($199) and Fuseform™ Brigidine 3L Pants ($300) and rely on the Hybrid Hiker Tights ($80) and Ultra MT Winter Trail Runners ($170) for everyday travel. And Thomas’ Apex Flex Disruptor Parka ($230) and Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants ($150) both proved stretchy enough to allow him to transform into “superhero dad” whenever anyone among us got into trouble.
Thomas Oh contributed reporting to this article.
Outdoor photos courtesy of Thomas Oh and Leslie Hsu Oh.