Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Backyard Safari Outfitters - Field Gear Review

My husband hasn't had the chance to mow our lawn for over a week. We were gone for several days and it has been rainy and sticky out this week so the lawn looks like a jungle. That's OK though, because it gave the kids a chance to really try out their new Backyard Safari Outfitters gear and pretend they were wading through the bush on a hot and humid day. Kids need the time and freedom to check out their surroundings and there's a whole lot to look at right in the backyard.

The Backyard Safari Outfitters provides nature gear for young children and helps them engage in pretend play, explore the outdoors and connect with the natural world. Kids are naturally curious about the world so it doesn't take much coaxing to get them outside. However, it makes it a little more fun to have some fun exploration gear to check out all those rocks, ponds, weeds and bugs.

Thanks to Team Mom, we had the chance to try out three different products from the Backyard Safari Outfitters line: Essential Field Gear Cargo Vest, Bug Vacuum, and Land & Water Mega View Periscope.

My daughter loves playing dress-up so the first thing she wanted to try out was the Cargo Vest. We have a lot of princess outfits but our dress up box is lacking explorer gear, so we were happy to add this one to the mix. The vest is a little too big for my toddler son (not surprising considering it is marked 5 ages and up). It fits my daughter fairly well and includes numerous pockets, zippers, snaps and D-rings. She feels like a real explorer wearing it and can even manage the zipper herself. We don't own any safari hats, so my daughter thought that her pink tea hat would add a little pizzazz and brighten up the khaki gear.

The idea of a Bug Vacuum appeals to my daughter but the thought of actually getting near enough to a bug is another story. I'm hoping my little guy will start liking bugs soon and take over the bug vacuum duties, but right now I'm the only family member that has actually captured a bug. That said, I hope that my kids grow up appreciating nature and learning how to carefully inspect without disturbing and destroying. The bug vacuum seems gentle enough. We had a small moth inside our home the other day, and I carefully placed the nose cone over the moth and pushed the trigger. The suction wasn't strong enough to suck the moth into the core chamber (maybe because the batteries were running low), but it was plenty to keep the bug from flying out of the vacuum so I was able to release the moth back outside. I'm hoping my kids develop more of an interest in the vacuum this summer so they can help capture and eliminate those metallic invasive and destructive Japanese beetles off my treasured trees and plants. The Bug Vacuum comes with two different sized nose cones and two capture cores. A rotating magnifying glass inside traps the bug inside the core for inspection, but it doesn't fully rotate so you have to make sure you have the bug in the right position if you want to trap it inside and avoid sweeping it back out the chamber. The vacuum requires 4 AA batteries and assembles easily. The vacuum will even pick up small fuzzes and particles off the floor, and both my children love using it for this purpose when not outside.

Probably the most interesting item we received is the Telescoping Periscope. This is a large piece of gear that extends over 48 inches high for viewing over fences, walls, bushes and around corners. My kids especially like using it in their play center fort, peering at and spying on passers-by. The periscope has two large handles near the bottom to help steady the position. The periscope view isn't overly large and the image gets smaller as you extend the periscope up, but the experience is still pretty cool. It does have a little heft to it and my daughter needs to prop it against something when she uses it fully extended. The periscope apparently works upside down for viewing under water since the end 16 inches of the piece is submersible. We haven't had a chance to try it out in the pond next door or nearby creek but plan to try that sometime this summer.

All three items we received came with a bonus two page Pop-Up Field Guide. The guide includes a listing of many of the Backyard Safari products as well as some tips and pointers for backyard exploration. I wish the guide was a little more useful and comprehensive and came with more detailed activity suggestions, but the thought is nice.

These educational and fun toys do liven up outdoor play and help spark some imaginative safari journeys in the backyard. I'm sure both my kids with have fun with them for several summers to come.

Thanks to Backyard Safari Outfitters and Team Mom for this review opportunity and for providing the field gear for my family to review. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Backyard Safari products are available for purchase at most major retailers including Wal-Mart, Toys R Us,, Target and also online at Follow them on twitter: @BYSOutfitters or on Facebook at