Backpacking with kids is a great way to introduce them to the great outdoors and a fun way to get some exercise. This will also allow them to learn to appreciate the wonders of nature and will allow you to get to know your kids better in a different setting. Backpacking with kids require planning (where you can also get the kids involved), plus it is also good to have practice hiking trips (natural setting close to home) and tent pitching in your backyard. Here are some tips to get you ready with a backpacking trip with your kids.
In the Backcountry
- First time out? Choose a campsite destination not more than a mile or 2 from a trailhead. If for some reason you need to bail out, you won't have too many steps to retrace.
- Take a kid's perspective: Say your child spots an interesting insect along the trail. To you, it's just another beetle—you're thinking about the 2 more miles you need to hike to the lake. To your child, it's a really cool beetle—he's wondering why Mom or Dad is so worked up about getting to some lake. What to do? If your goal is to have your child associate backpacking with fun, at times it's good to adopt your child's priorities.
- Adjust your expectations: We've heard tales of families attempting difficult, off-trail backpacking expeditions. These can be tedious and exhausting for kids. If the trip is unpleasant, you run the risk of giving kids a negative impression of the outdoors, an attitude that can take a long time to reverse.
- Share the load: Give kids a kid-size pack and let them carry a few lightweight items. Snacks, water, a sleeping bag perhaps, or their rain gear. Adults, meanwhile, should play Sherpa for younger kids so the journey doesn't exhaust or discourage them.
- Self-sufficiency: Kids like to feel a degree of self-sufficiency. So, for example, give each child his or her own water bottle (or hydration system) so they can choose the time they want to drink.
- On the trail: If you have 2 or more adults in your party, it's usually smart to have one in the lead and one in the rear, with kids in the middle.
- Share chores: Enlist your child to take part in camp chores. Try asking your child to be in charge of keeping things neat and clean. Kids seem to grasp the concept of caring for nature more intuitively than adults, so this is usually one assignment that's a perfect fit for kids.
- Be safe: Make sure your kids always carry a whistle (teach them to blow it if they become separated from you) and have easy access to a flashlight or headlamp. For the younger ones, attach a lanyard to both the whistle and light and tie them to one of the child's belt loops.
Backpacking with your kids has its own rewards. Staying fit and healthy, fostering family camaraderie, developing self sufficiency, confidence and independence and making memories that your kids will never forget. So, how about it? Try a backpacking trip with your kids and discover with them a wonderful new adventure. Don't forget to tell us about it! Happy camping!
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