Nature Tech Family was founded by Kari and Tom Tonkin in 2015 as a means to create exciting ways to bring today’s technology-centered youth and families back into the wilderness. By developing activities and building experiences with their own family, they hope to provide inspiration for others to “get up, get out, and go have an adventure.” Living within a half-day’s drive of more than 25 National and State Park Service sites, they are always looking for new terrain in which to hike with their family and take unique wildlife photography or videos. They spend at least one weekend each month hiking and camping in national and state parks, and summer is full of long-term trips around the United States.
Tom and Kari both acquired a love for hiking in childhood. Tom grew up in the New Jersey Pine Barrens tracking wildlife and hiking back roads through the forests. He began teaching survival classes at the age of 16, and was Lead Youth Programs Instructor at Wilderness Awareness School in Washington. He has used his tracking skills to help state and county agencies throughout the western US locate and count wildlife. Kari spent half of her life in the lower peninsula of Michigan, where hiking and camping are common pastimes for families. She and her siblings spent most weekend and summer days outside making forts, hiking through the woods, and exploring. Their sons, Calvin and Linus, have been hiking since before they could walk, and family wilderness trips have become a normal part of their lives.
As a family, they try to find the balance between what their sons need to learn about using today’s technology with ancient survival technologies to hook them on spending time outdoors. Although the boys each have their own cameras, hiking actually offers to them a way to disconnect from the internet “mainline” that they thrive on and “plug into” the amazing creation around them, which they thoroughly enjoy. Living in the heart of the Black Hills National Forest, Kari and Tom are also tapping into their twenty-plus years of wilderness survival teaching experience to create an ongoing adventurous lifestyle that their family will never forget.
In addition to survival skills and hiking, the whole family enjoys fishing, hunting, swimming, camping, and exploring new places. In 2016, the Centennial year for the National Park Service, they will be celebrating by traveling to over 10 National Parks throughout the United States.