What you need to know about taking kids backpacking
Sharing nature and outdoor adventures is one of the most wonderful benefits of parenting for the adventurer. Just because you have children in your life does not mean you have to give up the things that you love.
Incorporating kids in outdoor activities early will not only allow you to continue your hobbies, but will also teach your kids to appreciate the outdoors, building a lifelong relationship with nature and beneficial exercise.
It may seem overwhelming to get your kids started in backpacking, but with some good preparation, you and your children will have a wonderful experience while building a stronger bond.
If your kids have not been backpacking before, you will not want to immediately take them out on a long and crazy adventure. It would be easiest to start with traditional tent camping where you need to do a small hike in and make camp. The first time, be sure to make the outdoors exciting. Look for different plants and animals out in the wild, let them get dirty, and just have fun with the idea of “roughing it.”
The first trip out, you may want to only try a weekend out, depending on the ages of your kids. The next time, you can plan for longer since the kids will already know what to expect and if you had fun on the first little trip, they should be looking forward to the idea of it.
Adding onto the hike and length each time will lead up to the point where you can plan for greater adventures as the kids grow up and gain more experience. You, as the parent, will also gain more experience in what your kids need outdoors and learn the tricks to ensure you all have a great time.
Stay in Charted Waters
It is not a good idea to be an off-road adventurer when you have children in tow. Not only do you run the risk of being further away from help and supplies, but you will also be in more danger if you happen to get lost along the way.
GPS devices can be unreliable in the middle of nowhere and if you are off-course, you will not be able to find yourself on a map. It is one thing to put yourself in a vulnerable position alone, as you can make that decision as an adult, but you should not be risking your or anyone else’s children in search of new adventure.
In addition, you are more likely to run into people on well-trod paths. Other hikers can let you know if they came across anything dangerous or noteworthy, giving you better insight about what could lie ahead.
Also, going on a known trail will let you know what to expect. Are there any streams ahead? What is the elevation change? Where is the nearest store? Where are safe and reliable places to camp? Preparation is golden when it comes to venturing to the great outdoors.
Don’t Be Frugal
Cutting corners money-wise may help you in your day-to-day life, but it will not work when it comes to outdoor equipment. You could have a fantasy of sleeping outside, under the stars, but this will not work when it comes to kids. You need a high-quality, waterproof tent to ensure you sleep warm and comfortably.
You need good sleeping bags that will keep everyone warm. If your kids stay up shivering all night, the memory would be a miserable one and you may never get them to willingly go out in the woods with you again.
You should also ensure you have packed enough essential food to keep everyone fed for the duration of your trip. Don’t plan on hunting out in the middle of nowhere with children in tow, especially if you have never done it before. Foraging for nuts, berries, and plants may be a fun exercise, but it is not reliable for keeping everyone fed and healthy throughout your trip.
It is always a good idea to do run-throughs at home before you attempt anything when you really need it. Pitch a tent in your backyard and let your kids check it out. Maybe even do a campout in the yard before you venture out for real. It is a fun and safe way to ensure that you have all of the equipment you need while introducing the equipment to the children, giving them a chance to be excited about using it all again.
Beyond tents, you should test out your portable cook stove if you are carrying one. You need to make sure you have the right fuel on hand and that you know how to operate it with confidence. You cannot risk starting a fire accidentally while trying to heat up some soup. You can never be too prepared.
Patience is Important Too
Children in general require a lot of patience in life and backpacking is no exception. Hiking is going to take longer with them. It will take longer to set up camp. It will take longer to cook food. You need to plan to stop more and take more time.
A hike that may have taken an hour alone may take you twice or three times as long with children. Plan for the extra time. You will never go as far with children as you will go alone.
Remember that the biggest factor in camping and backpacking with children is that you want them to have a positive experience so that they are enthusiastic about doing it again.
This is a media-free environment where the kids can get your undivided attention without any kind of distraction. You will have an opportunity to learn more about what your kids enjoy and what they are like as people as well.
Childhood is a special time and spending real time in nature will bring you closer while building foundations that will remain for the rest of your lives.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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