Hiking with Kids. I mean, what could be more fun than experiencing the beauty of nature hand-in-hand with your little ones? Sounds magical, right?
As a parent, you undoubtedly know that kids of different ages, from thumb-sucking toddlers to skateboarding teens, require a certain level of attention to keep them interested and involved in any activity.
Therefore, adequately preparing yourself would go a long way in ensuring your wonderful hiking experience doesn’t end up turning into a never-ending nightmare.
So, with that in mind, what would you need to do to successfully accomplish hiking with kids?
1. Always choose a family-friendly trail
Though this step may sound self-explanatory, its importance can nevertheless be understated when hiking with kids.
When it comes to hiking with kids, the view, outdoor experience and the kids enjoyment
- It should not be too long or strenuous
- It should be packed with spectacular features such as waterfalls, creeks or wonderful views from a summit
- If you’re hiking for the first time, it could be a place closer to home
Searching for kid-friendly trails over the internet is quite easy. There are over 50,000 hiking trails in the U.S. alone.
If you’ve been hiking around your home for a while and are looking to spice things up, some great family-friendly options around the world include:
- Krka National Park in Croatia
- The Lofoten Islands in Norway
- Grampians National Park in Australia
- Table Mountain in South Africa
SimamataiWest to Jinshanling (Great Wall of China)
-Yama in Japan Diamonji
All in all, try and do thorough research to assess whether the hike you’re thinking about will be manageable for your kids.
2. Take Time, Weather and Season into consideration
When it comes to choosing the perfect season for hiking, the warmer, the better. I doubt you’d want to be out in the wild with your kids during a winter storm, braving the snow all in the name of hiking.
What I’m trying to say is, try and plan your hiking trails around the summer.
Weather conditions, on the other hand, play a major role in determining the type of gear (mostly clothes), you’d take with you.
If the weatherman predicts sunshine with the chance of a little bit of rain, you’d not want to leave your rain clothes behind.
Above all, choosing the right time to begin the hike is a no-brainer. As a rule of thumb, beginning the hike a bit early in the morning, when the sun is up, would be your best bet.
Why? You may ask. Well, for starters, you don’t want a sleepy, cranky kid to be your hiking companion.
More importantly, with children naturally being adventurers at heart, they’ll most likely want to explore every new thing they spot. They also need to rest and eat during the hike.
Therefore, beginning early not only creates more time for all these activities to take place but also ensures you complete the hike in time.
3. Pack the right gear when hiking with kids
This is the make-it-or-break-it part of the planning. Using a combination of the “Ten Essentials” and basic parenting instinct, I came up with a list of items that are a must-have on your hiking trip with the family.
Since most of your hiking will be done when the sun is up, protecting your skin should be high on your list of concerns. Other than Sunscreen, you should also consider bringing sunglasses and hats for the rest of the family.
-A First-Aid Kit and Insect Repellent
Because you’ll be on the outdoors, you can’t rule out the possibility of tumbles and scrapes every now and then. Therefore, learning how to use a First-Aid kit could help prevent infections and ease the pain.
Insect repellant takes care of those pesky bugs that would make the hike rather unpleasant.
-Proper Clothing and Boots
The weather can be unpredictable at times and change with just the snap of a finger. Even summer mornings could be quite chilly at times,
Rather than be caught off-guard, make sure to pack enough clothes to cater for any weather changes.
The kids, in particular, should be in layers of clothes to not only keep them warm but also protect them from the rain and colder temperatures.
Packing hats, jackets, gloves, a rain shell, thermal underwear, and breathable long-sleeved shirts is a good start.
Investing in good hiking boots works like a charm because they are comfy, waterproof and protect the feet during hiking. Given how care-free kids can be, these will at least reduce the number of tears.
Pair them with wool socks and you’ll be good to go!
Since you don’t want to be getting lost on the trail, getting a topographic map and a magnetic compass or GPS receiver should help you keep on track.
You can read about how to choose a GPS device and which one is the best GPS for hiking in this post.
-Fire and Illumination
Sometimes, the hike may end up turning into a camping trip. When this happens, you’ll be glad to have brought a fire source along, be it a lighter or matches in a waterproof container.
An LED bulb or flashlight could also come in handy when it starts getting dark and the kids start falling over rocks.
Though you might have not planned for it, you may need to spend the night on the hiking trail for whatever reason.
Heck, it might start raining so heavily that you can’t continue hiking anymore.
Having a bivouac sack, space blanket or plastic tent in your itinerary, however, will help protect you and your kids from these types of situations.
-Repair Kit and Tools
Hiking can bring out the repairman in you from time to time, so having the right tools packed is always a welcome plus.
These include a multi-tool, scissors, pliers and duct tape, just to mention a few.
Tools like a trowel, on the other hand, can be used to dig a cathole in case one of the kids has to “go poo poo”.
In addition to the items listed, there are also few items that could make hiking with kids much better including;
- A camera/video camera for capturing the moments
- Hiking sticks could help the kids manage in tougher terrain
- A comfortable and hardy carrier/stroller to carry your little kids around with.
- Wet wipes are perfect or after snacking, playing or bathrooms breaks
- Toys could make the kids stay active for longer.
- Travel documents if you’re thinking of taking the family on a trip abroad.
When packing, remember that at some point you will be carrying most of, if not the entire load.
4. Pack enough food and water for the trip
Given how physical hiking can be, you’ll find yourself needing more water than you think.
Dehydration is one of the major downsides to hiking with kids, so try reminding them often to drink plenty of fluids.
Flush sweating and fever are some of the first symptoms of dehydration. Once you see this, don’t hesitate to rehydrate your kids.
When it comes to food, try opting for dry food since they’ll save you on some weight. High-energy, low-sugar options are the best. Generally, though carrying enough snacks to last you the entire trip cannot be overemphasized.
Some good examples include; fruits, sandwiches, protein bars, nuts, suckers and so on.
5. Always make safety a priority
Before hiking with kids, there are a number of safety precautions that you should focus on.
• Always choose a “spotter” before going on the hiking trip. This is a person who knows your last location in-case anything goes wrong. Better yet, you can send them pictures to keep them updated.
• Make sure your kids wear brightly colored/visible clothing and are within your line of sight every time; especially toddlers and teens who get carried away with the fun easily.
• Learn the different protocols of dealing with wild animals since there’s a chance you might meet one along the way.
• Pay attention to the terrain and take protective measures especially in rocky and wet areas. These are the regions where kids tend to get hurt in the most.
Although those measures would make the hike safer for your kids, there’s always more to learn that would make it even safer.
6. Give your kids roles and duties during the hike
For kids to have fun in any activity, they need to be fully involved, and the same also applies in hiking.
One way to effectively do this is by selecting a hiking leader who would decide which trail to take or where to stop and snack.
There could also be a cheerleader to psyche everyone up during the hike, a safety captain or even a lookout for spotting wild animals and birds!
With such roles available and in rotation so that every kid gets a shot, they become more immersed in the journey and get to appreciate nature even more.
The bonus of course is they’ll be so busy they won’t realize how tired they’re getting!
7. Play a lot of hiking games
If you’re still introducing your family to hiking, you should make sure that having fun is your number one goal. That’s the only reason why the kids would want to do it again.
And what’s more fun than playing games?
Some fun hiking games to beat the boredom are;
- Eye Spy
- Guess the animal: Here, you can pick an animal and let the rest guess and ask questions until they figure it out, with everyone taking turns as the leader.
- Classic Storytelling: What would be a better way to pass time when resting like storytelling. Furthermore, you can involve the kids by letting them ask questions that build up the story like; Is the story about a fox or lion? Are they friends? Where are they going?
- Outdoor Scavenging: For a more hands-on game, outdoor scavenging would do the trick. All you need to do is create a list of “treasures” for each kid to collect, a pencil or crayon for each and you’ll have yourself one heck of a hunt!
8. Talk and interact with your kids
Given how busy life can get, hiking with kids offers you some precious alone time to connect with them that at times may not be readily available.
With this, you can get to know what new thing is going on in their lives, and how you can help cope with different issues.
The opportunity can also be spent teaching them on the different features of the environment.
For instance, you could bring along a book with pictures of different trees or wildlife in it and help them identify each one.
You never know. A love for hiking may end up being one of the things you both have in common!
9. Manage your expectations during the hike
As a pro-hiker, there’s the off chance that you may get a bit frustrated when the hike is a little slower or longer than you’re used to when you first do it with your kids. And that is totally okay!
However, it is also good to understand that their tiny feet, curious minds, and lower stamina can’t compare to you. So, you’d have to factor all that in when going on a hike with them.
During the hike, it is also important to make frequent stops, say a 10- minute break after walking 30 minutes.
When you break the hike into such segments, kids can go further because they get the opportunity to relax, energize and explore their environments; making them even more invested in the experience.
10. Invite friends and family for hikes
This might just be the oldest trick in the book.
Essentially, kids love spending time with familiar company, especially their close friends and family members. So, why not bring them along?
Not only is hiking with friends much more fun, but also the kids complain a lot less since they’re pre-occupied talking about cartoons or whatever it is kids talk about these days.
This does not apply to them alone, though. You can also bring a friend along to enjoy the scenery and catch up on old times.
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So, there you have it. Hiking with kids can be fun, but you have to prepare yourself well to make the experience memorable.
Hope this article has equipped you well enough to prepare for your next hiking trip. Good luck!