Hiking can be so fun to do as a family activity, but getting ready to head out to the great outdoors can be downright daunting. Does the thought of hiking with your littles seem like an impossible task? Does the thought of packing up gear and having happy hearts on the trail seem just a tad bit overwhelming? With a little creative planning, it doesn’t have to be complicated. With lots of online learning and work from home during the week, heading out in nature might just be the remedy your family needs for a weekend reset. With cooler temps in many regions, it is such a refreshing and restorative endeavor for hikers of all ages! Check out our tips for a stress-free hike.
Here is a checklist of gear to bring and items to pack up:
This is key! Hydration, hydration, hydration. A great option is a water bladder (such as Camelbak or Osprey) that can be carried hands free. Hydroflask or reusable water bottles are also good options for shorter hikes. Bring transition/ toddler cups if your littles might not be ready for the bite and sip straws
No matter your family food routine, you should plan on lots of frequent snacks. It helps refuel energy and gives motivation to keep going and finish. Make plans to picnic for a break to take in the scenery!
- Proper Hiking Shoes- this depends on time of year and type of trails you will be on. Hiking sandals that can dry quickly are great options. If you’re going with closed toe shoes, their feet will be happy and dry in trail shoes or high-top water-proof hiking boots (in case of creeks or puddles).
- Hiking Socks- regular thick socks are usually fine, but wool hiking socks are optimal especially for fall, winter, or early spring hikes.
- Baby Carriers- investing in a true hiking pack can be indispensable as you have toddlers and plan to hike regularly. The best part about a carrier is that it is lightweight, takes the strain off the adult back, and is comfortable enough that kids can even sleep in the carrier while feeling safe and supported.
Consider getting kid backpacks along with your own. Having a backpack for your littles to carry is good practice for them to learn to help with the load, even if the first few times they only carry an empty pack. They can easily carry their own sandwich, water, rain jacket, extra pair of pants (kids tend to get dirty!), and an extra pair of socks.
Be aware of weather conditions and be sure to include rain jackets or fleece jackets based on where you will be. Remember that hiking in the mountains will be cooler than you think and can start nice but can quickly end in rain.
Be sure it has plenty of band-aids and moleskin for blisters! And don’t forget antibiotic ointment! It’s always better to be prepared and not have to use it, than to be stuck on a hike without it when you need it.
There will always be extra accessories needed such as sunglasses, hats, bug repellant, sunscreen, wipes, hand sanitizer etc.
Now you’re ready to head out! Here’s how to navigate the day with young children. Plan on leaving earlier in the day. Kiddos are usually fresh and full of energy in the morning. Manage expectations… mostly your own. At first, it will go more slowly than you think it will. That’s okay. Just stay positive and give lots of affirmations and encouragement as your kids reach little milestones along the way (“Good job, Buddy! You made it across that hard part.” “Way to go, Sweetie! You are doing so well keeping up!”).
One way to keep kids moving and excited to continue on is by making a scavenger hunt out of the day! Things to look out for can include:
- Feathered friends
- Furry Animals
- Bugs/ Butterflies
- Animal Tracks
- Tall Trees
Another option to keep kids engaged during a hike is to visit the Rangers Station at your local stat park or look for the time and location a presentation or activity for children will be provided.
It’s so fun to watch them learn by experiencing nature! Hiking is a way to provide real connection both to the family and to nature. While out in nature--on the trails, or even at parks--, it is important to always practice Leave No Trace Principles when hiking-- to stay on the trail, pack out what you packed in, “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”
Hope these tips and tricks help you feel more prepared for your next family hiking trip. Happy Trails to you and yours!