Gear up for Summer Adventures with Backyard Safari Outfitters

Did you know that June 26 is the Great American Backyard Campout? The National Wildlife Federation is encouraging everyone to get outside and spend the night under the stars, whether it's in a campground, back yard or even an outdoor porch. It's a wonderful way to promote a happy, healthy childhood for your kids, connect with one another in the great outdoors and create lasting memories.

I've already marked this event on my calendar, but first I have to pull out all our gear and make sure we're ready, not just for June 26, but for an entire summer of camping and outdoor adventure. We've got a tent and sleeping bags, but not much in the way of fun tools and gadgets for the kids, so being invited to review some products from Backyard Safari Outfitters (courtesy of Child's Play and Team Mom) could not have come at a more welcome time.

The Basics
Backyard Safari Outfitters (BYSO) makes outdoor and nature gear for kids. They are made by award-winning toy company Summit Toys, and can be found at major retailers like Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and Target.

Here's how BYSO describes its products:
Backyard Safari Outfitters equips young explorers with all the essential field gear they could possibly need for scoping out local "wildlife", from insects in the grass to birds in the sky to frogs in a pond -- and more! Kids can choose from a broad array of fun gear and tools, including the practical and very snappy looking Cargo Vest, as well as the cool Bug Vacuum, and Mega View Periscope -- among dozens of other choices.

To heighten that adventure and peak kids' interest in science, each Backyard Safari Outfitters kit includes a detailed Pop-Up Field Guide small enough to fit neatly into any pocket. This handy guide is full of rich illustrations and information for every subject related to outdoor and nature exploration, such as Field Communication, the Solar System, Butterflies, Fossils and Beetles. Backyard Safari Outfitters encourages children to get active, play outside and explore nature -- "nature play" is a whole new category of fun for future outdoor enthusiasts!

The Bongga
We've got quite a collection of BYSO gear now: I received the Cargo Vest, the Bug Vacuum and the Mega View Periscope to review, and I was also given the Dual Power Flashlight and the Adventurer Kit at the Child's Play Blogger's Brunch last spring. And we love it all! I think they're such a great kids' product that I've even purchased some BYSO products to give to my kids' friends as birthday presents.

Here's what I love about them:

* They're affordable. With the exception of the $45 Bug Habitat, these products are priced at $25 and under, with most in the $10-$20 range. With BYSO, parents can buy outdoor equipment for their kids without paying the high prices in outdoor adventure stores.

* They're inspire a love of nature. We haven't even gone camping yet this year, and my kids are already excited to get into the Great Outdoors, thanks to their BYSO gear. They love going hunting for bugs with the Bug Vacuum -- to be honest, I expected this one to be a dud, but I was so wrong! Contrary to my expectations, the vacuum is actually strong enough to pull insects into the chamber, where you can lock them in and observe them through a magnifying glass. I guess I underestimated kids' fascination with creepy crawlies, and I'm happy to eat my words (as long as I don't have to eat the bugs).

* They're fun. All the educational value in the world is useless if kids aren't interested. BYSO gear is stuff kids want to play with and use! As soon as he saw the Cargo Vest, 3Po took his dad's bush hat and began playing Indiana Jones. Same goes for the periscope; all of a sudden our house was filled with spies peeking around corners and over sofas.

The Blah
The BYSO Pop-Up Field Guide is a great idea (and I love how it unfolds and "pops up"), but half of it is devoted to showcasing the BYSO product line. Each BYSO kit comes with a Field Guide, but it's always the same one. It would be great if there were several versions of the guide that delved a little more into detail on certain nature topics, so that kids could collect the entire set.

The Bottom Line
Backyard Safari Outfitters are not just toys. They are rugged, fully functional pieces of equipment that gets kids excited about being outdoors and exploring nature. Don't start your summer adventures without them!

Disclosure: I received a selection of product samples courtesy of Backyard Safari Outfitters and Team Mom, but was not paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is clearly indicated as such. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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