Our family scouts for new trails on vacations and open weekends. We started our hiking adventure when our oldest child was only a few years old. He was highly energetic yet still in pre-school. We enjoyed the nature as he burned off the extra energy. In our adventures, we have managed to learn tips and tricks for family hiking.
Our kids are not always natural hikers. Walking eventually gets boring for them. We learned the hard way that for hiking with kids to be successful, one must be prepared.
Below are some, tips and tricks for family hiking?
1. Have a good start.
A good night’s sleep is essential and is key to a successful hiking day ahead. Tired kids and parents alike are not good hiking companions. Ensuring everyone uses the bathroom before leaving the house is necessary even though it seems cliché. At the same time, each person should eat enough to avoid stopping for snacks as soon as you start out.
2. Pack enough water and food
Hiking seems to bring out the thirst in everyone. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure you have enough water. In case you don’t often hike, carry more water than you think you’ll need. Each person should have his/ her water bottle. Water can be burdensome to carry thus individual water bottles help distribute the weight.
The same should apply to snacks. Since you will be burning a lot of calories, high protein natural to eat meals is recommended. Whole pieces of fruits like apples and bananas, protein bars and trail mixes would come in handy.
Everyone should have good walking shoes. This is to avoid blisters or stubbed toes. Footwear should have non-slip soles. Sneakers work well on most hiking trails. Cushioned socks also help regarding foot comfort. They help to prevent blisters as well. Also, an extra pair of socks for all is advisable, as one may find themselves needing to cross a river, creek or puddle as the hike progresses.
4. Preparation is key
According to Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Without the needed supplies, you are sure to encounter a situation that you are apparently not prepared for like a child getting hurt or rain could start unexpectedly.
Some of the recommended must-haves include; sunscreen, any needed medication, flashlights, hats, matches, and raincoats. We also carry a tablecloth to have a place to sit and eat along the way.
5. Backpacks are essential
Backpacks filled with extra hiking gear will come in handy. It helps in weight distribution and is convenient in case you decide to split up to explore different areas. Kids might enjoy carrying ‘fanny packs’ where they can keep snacks and treasures they find along the way.
6. Don’t be too ambitious
A 3-year-old would not be able to do a five-mile hike on their first trip out. The age and experience of your hiking group should be taken into consideration while choosing a trail. Kids younger than five will most definitely get tired and hungry just after 45 minutes of the hike. Older kids will have the energy to keep on but may get restless if they have other plans. Expectations should therefore be set before hitting the trail.
7. Carry a map
Many people tend to ignore the importance of maps. They assume that they can just pull it up on their cell phones which are dangerous since there is no guarantee that they’ll have cell coverage. Visit the website in advance to see if it offers a pdf of the trail map. Alternatively, stop by the visitor’s center or Ranger’s station to pick up a map before starting the hike.
Most parks list more details on their printed maps than you can find if you download them online.
8. Plan frequent energy stops.
Hiking requires lots of energy. Keep your kids happy and encouraged by taking small breaks for fluid and food. They will be eager to continue once they have had the break. This will also make the hiking fun, and they will look forward to it.
9. Turn the walk into a quest
Adults enjoy the quiet of the forest and its natural beauty. Kids on the other hand only enjoy it for a few minutes then get bored. They need an adventure. Give them quests while hiking. For instance, see who can make it to the next pine tree and give them a reward.
Try a photo adventure hunt while hiking by taking pictures of one item for every color in the rainbow. You can also play any game to destruct your mind while on the long hike.
To find some great hiking adventures near you, visit the National Parks website or look for trails on the map at Discover the Forest.
David is an avid cyclist. He’s travelled to over 10 countries with his bike. He writes a lot on bikes and biking at his blog. When not attending to his blog (http://bestmtbgear.com/), he’s biking in the neighborhood.