Neighborhood stroll not cutting it? Expand your family’s horizons with a hike! There’s nothing better than fresh air with the fam so get ready for the great outdoors. Hiking and camping with little ones requires a bit more prep than going solo or with other adults but follow these tips, and you’ll be on the trails in no time.
Just like any hiking or camping trip, you're going to want to check the weather. If you're hitting the trails with kids, you’ll need to plan to prevent the crankiness we all know to expect when they're cold and wet or really hot and sweaty.
Hiking with Kids
Keep them fed and hydrated to avoid tantrums or outbursts. Get a good estimate of the time you’ll be on the trails and bring more food and water than you think you might need. Better safe than sorry! Bringing a friend along might also help keep up energy and cut down on complaining!
Embrace dirt! (If you haven’t already). Kids get messy, and they get even messier in the outdoors where there's dirt, mud, bugs and anything else they can get their hands on (or in). Bring extra clothing and some wipes for emergencies, otherwise - don’t sweat it.
If your child is old enough to carry his/her own pack, let them. They should be able to handle their own pack of lightweight and personal items, but make sure you won't be the one carrying it after a few hundred yards. For younger kids less than 40 lbs, you can (and should) invest in a child carrier.
If you have older children, it might be a good idea to involve them in the planning process to get them more engaged in the event. For younger kids, you can have them help map out snack breaks or small activities along the route to get them involved and excited for the hike.
Make sure to also discuss hiking rules - such as how far ahead (if any) your kids can run, as well as any other items and rules you may have in mind.
Camping with Kids
If you're camping, it may help to do a dry run in the backyard before you head out to a campsite. This allows your kids to get a taste of camping (so you can learn their comfort levels), and it also gives you a chance to test out your gear. This will also allow you to decide whether or not you need multiple tents and who will be sleeping where.
Whether you're hiking to a campsite or choosing the more established campground route, your gear load is going to change. If you're driving to an established campground, you don't have to worry so much about having space for your gear, as you should be able to fit anything and everything in your car, no problem. This will allow you to pack more games or activities, and things your kids can't live without.
If you're hiking to a campsite, you're going to have to watch your load, as you (and your kids if they're old enough) will be carrying all the gear in your packs. You will need to narrow your list down here and get creative. You're not going to have room for that backup board game, or that huge stuffed animal your daughter can’t live without. Instead, think of games and activities you can do in the outdoors, like a game of frisbee or geocaching, a great family activity.
Leave No Trace
Hiking and camping are also great opportunities for you to teach your kids Leave No Trace principles, something everyone should know. This will teach your kids manners, chores, and about our environment and keeping it clean.
Upon arriving at your campsite you should establish camp rules with your kids such as campsite boundaries, and what’s off limits. You should also establish chore duties such as who will help cook, wash dishes, and help clean up (a great way to practice leave no trace).
- If the suns out, make sure you outfit your kids with hats and plenty of sunscreens. Check out our Tips for Hiking in Hot Weather.
- Pack extra socks.
- Pack diapers (if needed) and enough waste bags to pack them out.
- If you have older kids, you might want to give them a safety whistle in case they get off the path.
- Have a plan b in case of rain.
Pro Tip: Remember to be flexible. Your trip might not turn out exactly how you planned it in your head, so try not to stress.