I didn’t start backpacking until I was ten years old. I was never a Boy Scout. In fact, I was never any kind of scout. I joined a backpacking club at the age of ten with two of my best friends. It sounded adventurous, and we were looking for adventure.
Twenty-three years later, I had my first child. My wife and I loved backpacking, and we thought our days of hiking through the great outdoors were over. However, our son was an easy baby, why not take him along? He was only 14 weeks old, and it was a great success! Since then we added another son, and have backpacked many miles together. Here are 6 Tips for Backpacking with your Kids.
Do a trial run somewhere close during warm weather. A “pack in” campground might be a great starter.
Pack light for you and your child(ren). The new craze of “go light” is awesome, however, it is very expensive. If you can afford lightweight gear, go for it. Or, you can take less gear. Here are a few suggestions: Cathi and I use one sleeping bag opened up with a flat sheet covering our pads. When they were little, our boys did the same. Secondly, we bring freeze-dried meals and eat directly out of the packaging. All we need to bring is a spork, no plates or bowls!
Layer your clothing, rather than bringing bulky jackets. This works best for all weather conditions.
On the trail, we found the holy grail of hiking is lots of snacks! Everything from sunflower seeds to tootsie pops worked great for my boys! If they are eating, they are not complaining!
Take frequent breaks. Enjoy the view, drink some water, talk about the flowers, trees, birds, etc. Keep it fun! As our kids got a little older, nothing could replace the ipod and trekking poles! Now we have a hard time keeping up!
Have a fun destination! This sounds obvious, however, we have backpacked to areas that promote self-entertainment rather than parental directed entertainment. Here is what I mean: Several years ago, we backpacked 8 miles in with the boys (ages 7 and 10 at the time.) Our destination turned out to be a mosquito-infested swamp! So we back-tracked to a smaller lake, but found a campsite that was quite far from the water. So we entertained the boys with: pinecone baseball (you know using pinecones as baseballs and a large stick for a bat!), hide and seek, and “I spy with my little eyes.” As opposed to a self-entertaining destination such as Winopee Lake, where my boys jump and play in the water, swim, fish and splash about! They generally make their own fun!
It is a great joy to backpack with your kids! Our family cherishes some of our fondest memories of our crazy adventures. I am sure you will too!