Backpacking With Kids

 

Backpacking With Kids

 

Lots of folks want to take their kids along on a backpack trip.   And, kids agree, sounds like fun.   But,  in later years when they are old enough to refuse….many do.  My kids had fun enough when we were doing it, but would never go out on a backpack now without me dragging them along.  I learned many valuable lessons as a result and my grandkids are a different story…loving the big outdoors and happy to hike anytime!  So that you may have successful backpacks with your kids where everyone has fun and looks forward to next time, here are 3 pieces of key stable datafor you to “hang your hat on!”

First of all….keep your backpacks short!  Yes, later on you can plan epic trips, when your kids are teens…or when they ask for it!  But, in the beginning, keep your trip mileages under 5 miles a day and go for only a few days.   Let them mosey into camp, not being marched due to high mileages needing to be made.  Let them get to camp still fresh and able to run around and climb trees and swim in lakes.   And make sure you start out with the idea that you are going to mosey, not march.   Bring a book or a camera or drawing materials or whatever you need to keep yourself occupied for what amounts to “layover days.”   If they are having fun, you will have more fun.   And if you are bringing tiny ones (my son started at 4 and my oldest granddaughter at 3…), then bring “incentives” to get them along the trail happily with no whining.   Little goodies like Neccos (candies) work wonders.  “Make it to that tall ponderosa pine up there and you get an orange Necoo!”  Amazing how much mileage you can get out of a Necco!  LOL.

Happy Kid Backpacker

Happy 3 yr old Backpacker

Happy Hiker

Happy Hiker

 

 

(At 8 yrs old, Sierra is a veteran hiker.  Notice Sierra has a lightly packed pack, light pad, nylon hat, light fleece sweater, nylon shorts, thick comfy socks and good comfy boots on. All the same equip I would use myself….and most of all, notice the smile! )

Secondly...get good gear for them,  It’s tempting to save money on equipment.  After all, they’ll only use it maybe one season and then outgrow it and you will have to buy new stuff.  Don’t follow that temptation!  You can buy hand-me-downs that some other kid outgrew on craigslist, ebay and from friends and still save money.  But, and trust me on this one, you don’t want a wet, cold, kid with hurting feet!  If you are going to be around snow, get good pants for them to slide down the hills on their sleeping pads on.  If you are going to be at elevation,  get a warm enough bag that they sleep the night through.   And don’t buy their boots at “Payless Shoes”  and get shoes with bad insoles etc.  You’d be better off letting them hike in sneakers!

Thirdly, keep those pack weights down!   You’ll be tempted to pack for every eventuality out of worry about being unprepared.   But remember,  because your mileages are short,  you can always hike back out if necessary!   So, you don’t need everything including the kitchen sink in the backcountry.   Bring the same basics you bring for yourself…some of which can be shared such as stove, tent etc so they don’t need to carry it.   Forgo several changes of clothes for instance.  One extra pair of lightweight nylon pants and shirt will do…so you have a spare while the wet first set dries.  Don’t worry about dirt!  It is more important  that you  all have a good time, than your kid’s clothes stay clean.   One trip we took when my son was about 5 sealed this lesson forever in our minds.   We had gone too far and too high and my son got pretty severe altitude sickness.   We spent a restless first night while Paul got sicker and sicker.  Should I ever be with someone with altitude sickness again, I would not wait for morning to hike out! But….deciding to leave in the morning,  we packed up to head down.   By this time my son was fairly weak and not hiking well….my husband had to carry his own pack and my son’s!   So….keep those pack weights down.  They’ll have more fun, and if you end up carrying their gear, you’ll not be a secondary casualty!  I have always allowed one small toy from home.  Resist the urge to “comfort them” with their entire toy chest!:)

Backpacking at 4

Backpacking at 4

 

In the above picture you can see that at age 4 we only asked Sierra to carry a few of her essentials in her day pack.  When she was ready….she asked to carry a “real backpack!”

There are lots of other tidbits I can pass along and eventually will fill this website with more of them,  but these 3 ideas if followed or not, can make or break a trip!

 

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