Ahhhhh, the great outdoors! There’s nothing like it. Fresh air, the sound of birds chirping, seeing the natural beauty. Not to mention, a good walk outdoors provides incredible physical and mental benefits. My husband and I enjoyed hiking as a dating couple, and continue to do so 10 years into our our marriage, with 3 kids added to the mix. It was a bit of a learning curve at first hiking with kids, carrying more gear (and often them). But as the years went by, we found our groove, and we are proudly raising kids who love to explore the outdoors through biking, hiking and other activities. So, from our outdoor loving family to yours, here’s 5 Tips For Hiking With Kids!
1. Be Prepared
Of all the tips for hiking with kids, this is the most important. Not having the right gear with you can take a hiking experience from awesome to horrible pretty quickly. Be thorough in planning for possible challenges ahead of time, so that you’re prepared to manage them and continue on with your hike. Invest in good quality equipment that you can use again and again – like a hiking carrier for small kids, and good hiking boots for yourself. The biggest game changer for us was purchasing hydration packs for each of our kids. It reduced the load we as parents were carrying, but it also gave our kids a sense of independence and freedom.
Here’s some things to plan for:
- Weather: hats, sunscreen, rain jackets and lots of different clothing layers. If we are heading the the mountains where the weather is somewhat hard to plan in advance for, we like to pack an extra bag of clothes and jackets in our car. That way, we can adjust what we are wearing once we arrive at the trail.
- Surroundings: comfortable shoes that can handle the terrain, bug spray, bear spray,
- Food: high energy snacks and food that won’t spoil & lots of water!!
- Extras: bandaids (scraped knees and blisters DO happen), wipes, extra socks if feet get wet
2. Set Realistic Expectations
If your kids have never been on a hike before it’s not realistic to expect them to go 10 km on their first excursion. Know your child’s limits (and yours), challenge them, but ultimately – plan for success. Start small to build their confidence and endurance and slowly increase their capacity. If you plan for hiking to be a long term activity for your family, focus on making achievable goals and working towards them. Start a bucket list of hikes you want to check out in the next year!
3. Make it Fun
Like in everything else, kids will draw from your energy and attitude. Play nature games along the way, like Bingo or I Spy. Point out different leaves or flowers and see how many you can find. Bring binoculars for scoping out the landscape or spotting birds. Use this time in nature connect with each other, make memories … and don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
4. Go With Friends
Everything is better with friends, including hiking! Plan an outing with another family that enjoys getting outside – it’s double the fun. It distracts the kids from the work they are actually doing, helping them to further distances. They’ll run along together, chattering about dirt and squirrels, allowing for some much needed adult conversation for you and the other parents.
5. Stay Safe
Talk with your kids about safety measures, like what to do if you see a wild animal or get lost. Before going on a family hike, make sure that someone you know is aware of where you’re going and when you plan to be back. It might seem silly, but in an emergency, it could save your life. If you are going into Bear country, make sure you have bear spray in an easy to grab spot and know how to use it.
If you’re not sure where to go hiking or how to find new trails, check out the All Trails Mobile App. It’s free to use and has a search tool, maps, difficulty ratings, pictures and user reviews of trails all over the country. If you typically go hiking where there is so cell coverage, consider upgrading to the paid version where you can download the maps to use without data. I hope you found these tips for hiking with kids helpful and you’re able to start some new outdoor adventures with your family!