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My daughter is 17. Her girlfriend is the same age. Long story short, my daughter asked me today if she could take a camping trip with her girlfriend before the school year started. The camping grounds are ~100 miles away from our house.

My partner and I are on the fence with this. We trust our daughter isn't going to make a unplanned for detour to Vegas, but it's hard to let go. It's not like a school trip where she's staying in a hotel under the supervision of teachers. She would be sleeping on the floor, in the woods, with us too far away if anything happened to her. Plus, we don't really think 17 year olds are mature enough for an overnight trip with a significant other.

So I guess we're leering on the side of 'no', but we want to be fair so here I am asking this site for its opinion. Thanks in advance

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    The security aspect alone would set off alarm bells. Two young ladies camping in the woods, alone, would be easily taken advantage of. Are they going alone? Who is with them? Has your daughter got any experience camping alone? What if they stayed in a hotel? Are they determined to go camping? There are lots of compromises to be found here. – user19750 Aug 30 '17 at 10:42
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    Depends on maturity of the girls. Have they been camping before? – paparazzo Aug 30 '17 at 14:43
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    I think there is a difference between "alone in the woods" and "alone in a tent surrounded by other tents on a well run campsite". – Paul Johnson Aug 30 '17 at 16:10
  • I did this when I was 15, and managed to screw up in most ways I could -- lost my wallet that had everything important, had only a bottle of beer for breakfast after the first night, no transport home. Used the phone of the camping to call my parents, they wired some money to the camping, they gave it to me and I could take a train back. At worst they would have had to drive over to pick me up, I guess. – Remco Sep 1 '17 at 12:15
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    Just consider: Your daughter will be an adult in less than a year. Then, if she chooses, she will be able to spend her holidays in Iraq, or enlist with the Army and be sent to Afghanistan, or take up base jumping as a hobby, and you will not be able to stop her. So is a camping trip really a problem? – sleske Sep 1 '17 at 12:43
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I think 17 year olds are generally capable of a night or two away from support. I did some solo hiking at that age, and some acquaintances of mine were pretty much running households. Of course everyone is different, and boundaries should ideally be moved only as proven competence allows.

It is expected over the next few years for her to transition to being largely independent, and being apart for a few days is a reasonable step in the process. If you deny this outing you probably ought to start planning a course towards being comfortable with something similar eventually.

If this is her first independent outing I would urge for more people and the possibility of at least periodic if not at-will check-ins by phone (nowadays that seems less of an issue even camping than I expect). I would also push for some possibility of a graceful retreat, say a hotel or alternative campsite if something at the campgrounds is sketchy, that can be used with little loss of face.

A lot would hinge on your opinion of her competence. I know young people who couldn't get a tent up without help, or have to be reminded about basic precautions against raccoon and squirrels in camp. And I was someone who people thought had to be watched when making fires long after the norm.

Most of the US is pretty safe, and there generally are enough other people about in popular areas that the chances of a serious problem are low.

I also would be quite wary of sanctioning a romantic get away, I wouldn't expect a 17 year old's friends to be effective chaperons, so maybe I'm a prude, but it rubs me the wrong way.

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    I like the part of the answer that points out that 17 is pretty close to becoming independent. I'd also extend this to spending the night with a "significant other". You don't even need to worry about her getting pregnant! And if it helps any, in Europe at that age it's pretty much normal for teenagers to go on summer trips through Europe that last a week or two by train. That means they travel through areas where they don't know the local customs, have to deal with a foreign language etc. Generally, they're doing fine. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Sep 1 '17 at 9:30
  • @Pascal I'm pretty sure anywhere you can get to by train and public transport is popular enough to be able to count on stranger's support in case of trouble and probably welcoming of interlopers. I've been thinking about the significant other part, and I haven't been able to come up with a clear argument. But I recognize a difference between acceptance of her making a plan using independent resources, and providing resources to make it work, even if that is just permission. – user26011 Sep 1 '17 at 14:42
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In a short time she will be off to college. Likely farther than 100 miles. So do you trust her judgement? You cannot handhold her through life. At some point, you have to cut the cord and let them be. Camping should be relatively safe. Pretty much anything that can happen while camping can happen at home too. There is no such thing as totally safe no matter how nice your neighborhood. Let her go. Let her exert her independence.

  • This is the first answer to partially sway me the other direction. I will say though one more year of maturing makes a huge difference in the teenage years. +1 – Mister Positive Sep 1 '17 at 12:01
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As a parent who has been asked for similar freedoms at similar ages I can tell you my answer was "no". In my case I managed to get them to be happy to camp in my own yard and have a fire and just have a more "secure" sleep out. We don't have large property or I would have been open to any place on my land. I would also maybe have allowed them to do so on someone's property I know, but to my surprise the offer of our own yard was well received. I am in the USA and the one thing I have going for me is I was able to locate online the rules for state parks and show they that they were too young to be permitted to rent a lot on their own anyway. Likewise, where I live, you won't be able to get a room if under 21. They do not want to deal with underage drinking, which many kids use camping and hotels for.

I also feel that the way I try to negotiate things at the "end" of childhood has helped us be able to maintain some influence with our kids. I want them to see me as a source of support and information. I personally don't feel like it's particularly "safe" to be so young and inexperienced in life and go off camping. I wanted them to also see this. In a year she can go where she pleases without permission. This is the last year you have to help her try to sort out what is a good idea and what is inherently a bit risky. As such, I would negotiate (like I did with my yard camping) and explain the safety concerns on such an endeavor and that she would likely find trouble even getting a place to rent, because the parks and hotels also recognize the inherent risks. I also have encouraged my daughters when they do go camping to take a dog with them. It really is considered one of the ways you can camp "safer".

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    "This is the last year you have to help her try to sort out what is a good idea and what is inherently a bit risky." -- I agree, but I wouldn't want to teach my daughter that a short camping trip is something that falls on the "bit risky" side of life, it's about as mundane as it gets. – Remco Sep 1 '17 at 12:12
  • @Remco the safety or risk involved in any activity you do is relative to how it's done. It wasn't too hard to tell my girls it had risk as we did have girls killed about 40 mins from my home while camping., Three of them, all seniors, about 10 years before mine were the age to ask. – threetimes Sep 1 '17 at 16:19
  • and even in that case how likely contributed. It was an unattended rustic park with only one other lot taken, too far away to even have heard anything. One of the girls had an ex that had a very fiery history with her and it's hard to recall now (20yrs ago and the people killed were not from the local area), but I believe it ended up being the ex boyfriend. But it would have been far safer for them to even simply camp in a busier campground with a post out front that checks those coming and going. – threetimes Sep 1 '17 at 16:31
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I think this is a great point in her life where you can help her become independent in a safe way.

There are multiple things you could do to still ensure her safety. Make sure she knows about any wild animals that could be near, how to behave in a dangerous situation and to always carry a (charged) cellphone. Give her (or make her buy) an external battery for her phone so she is always in contact with either you or law enforcement in case anything happens.

Ask her for all the details about the camping grounds, surrounding etc and plan the trip out together with her and her friend. If you dislike this place you can discuss something that suits you more, maybe even closer to home.

You can say no to her, but in all honesty most 17 year old girls are mature enough to leave home for one or two nights. You will get on her good side if you accept this trip and help her plan instead of fight it. This can be a great learning opportunity for her.

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At 17, you really can't stop her. You can reason, forbid, plead and possibly even attempt to restrain, but in the end she will make a decision for herself.

I happen to trust my own daughter's judgement in such matters because she has repeatedly shown she is trustworthy. However, her friends whose judgement was not so sound simply walked out the door and left home when they were forbidden things their parents weren't comfortable with, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Express your concerns as a more experienced adult to another adult, discuss the safety, practical, and legal issues that may arise in your locale, and afterwards she will make her own decision.

  • As the parent you definitely can stop her. She cannot tell the parents to go beep yourself until she is 18. – Mister Positive Aug 31 '17 at 23:00
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    From a legal perspective it depends on where you live. From a practical perspective, once they have wheels and income, you have little to no leverage. Unless they break a law, law enforcement's hands are tied. I have been fortunate that my own daughter has good sense, but I have watched the drama with her friends who had less sense. – pojo-guy Sep 1 '17 at 2:42
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    @MisterPositive when I was 16 and walked out of my dad's house (never to return again), I realized that I was capable of doing whatever I damn-well pleased, no matter whether my parents signed off on it or not. And I didn't have a car then, by the way. I explained this realization to my parents and told them that I was no longer going to ask permission for things - instead I would keep them in the loop about the decisions I was making, and I promised not to hold them responsible for any consequences that arose as a result. I'd say that parents often still have some leverage at 17 (cont) – MAA Sep 1 '17 at 3:40
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    @MisterPositive but (if the kid is not breaking the law), you can't actually FORCE them to do your bidding. – MAA Sep 1 '17 at 3:41
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    My daughter, for one, owns her car outright. We helped her with part of the initial purchase because she needed the car to go to school (some of her classes are at a college campus instead of the high school this year) , but she could have purchased it without our help from her own means. – pojo-guy Sep 1 '17 at 12:11
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I wish that I could say yes to this so you had a comparison. The truth is, my answer would be "I'm sorry, but no, you can't go. It's just not safe."

Although the actual numbers of campers assaulted is probably not astronomical, it only has to happen once to your daughter and her friend to cause lifelong problems. Teens aren't good judges of danger (which is why they do such dangerous - to us - things.)

@threetimes has offered options, which I agree with.

There are two other points to address. If her reason for wanting to camp is to have uninterrupted alone time with her girlfriend, this would give me pause. But if they have already been intimate, they've been intimate, and two days is not much different than one evening. If they have not been intimate, you need to have "the talk" (again?).

If her reason is that she wants a taste of independence, there are other, safer things she can do, but as already mentioned in the other answer, she will not be able to rent accommodations because of her age. A couple of day trips might have to suffice.

As an adult photographing wildflowers on the Appalachian Trail decades ago, a man (who looked very deranged) pointed a gun directly into my face at close range. I don't know if he ever intended to pull the trigger. After a few moments, I said, "I shoot things, too" and held my camera up to show him what I meant. Then I walked away. This was in the days before cell phones, but I hiked as quickly as I could to the nearest road/phone to report him. The Trail has only gotten worse since then.

  • I hate scary encounters. As a teen we were trekking through forest we had no business being in but as a youth, we say "no harm" in it. We accidentally stumbled onto someone's weed patch and although we didn't get a direct threat, we got a couple of warning shots up into the air. I saw no one, but I half killed myself running (and falling) trying to get the heck out of there. We truly meant no harm, we were just foolish kids thinking we could go walking through some land that we had no business being on. – threetimes Aug 31 '17 at 5:48
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    Scary encounters can also happen close to home. – Remco Sep 1 '17 at 12:18
  • @Remco - Scary encounters can happen in the home. I grew up in a rough neighborhood and was home once when out house was broken into. I have to say, though..., what I said above. – anongoodnurse Sep 1 '17 at 14:02
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Let her go. It's only 100 miles -- you can pick her up if something goes wrong.

We learn things by making mistakes. This is a good opportunity to make mistakes, if it turns out she still has learning to to do -- there's two of them together, it's a camping ground, it's not too far away, she can talk things over with her parents first. So there's very little real risk.

Ask her what she's doing for preparation. What I'd want to hear is that there's cell phone coverage there, and that she'll have enough battery the whole time, because as long as she has that, it'll be fine. And I'd want to hear that she's giving all the details of where she is and where she's making trips to (if applicablle), in case something goes wrong. At 17 I'd expect her to think of such things herself.

And then, when she decides to visit another country for a month next year, she'll at least have this trip under her belt. It's not much, but it's something.

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If they have experience camping, they are certainly old enough to do so. A group of kids would be safer than just 2. BUT, at this age kids lie. "Going camping" sounds like a red flag because there is no way to verify where they really are. Especially if there's no cell phone service. You know your daughter better than anyone, so only you can answer the question of whether or not to let her go.

It is your responsibility as a parent to protect her so that should always come first. Trust your instincts. Ask lots of questions. Will she have cell phone service? Will there be alcohol/drugs? Will there be boys? What will they do if there's an emergency? Get a timeline of events so you know where she is at all times.

When I was 18 and still in high school, me and my friend (who was a girl) went to Germany together for 10 days. We were a year older than your daughter and we had proved to our parents to be responsible over the years. We were staying with families our parents knew and trusted. We were 18. We were legally adults, so our parents are no longer legally responsible for our actions. They let us go as a graduation present but we had to be in constant communication.

You mentioned your daughter is going with her "girlfriend" but also referred to her as a "significant other". If I'm to infer that this is a romantic relationship then I would definitely not be comfortable with them going on a trip together at that age. Your daughter would be in a vulnerable situation with someone who you do not know, very far from home. At 17 they are still children. Even if you trust your daughter, you can't trust her significant other.

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