Hiking With Young Kids
By: Morgan Schoenrock
Hiking with kids is one of those activities that sounds much more manageable before you actually have children. The idea of hiking with kids seems easy-breezy, an exciting and educational experience for all. In reality once you have children the thought of a hike can be overwhelming. We’ve always loved the outdoors and even bought special baby carriers anticipating the many outdoor family adventures we would embark on shortly after birth. Sadly, once my son came so did the overwhelming realities of hiking with a baby. Things that aren’t a big deal hiking alone or with adults suddenly become huge concerns. Will I have enough food and water for us? Is the terrain going to be too challenging? Will the weather cooperate? What happens if we encounter wildlife on our hike? If we get stranded how will we get home? While these are valid concerns, and I’m sure I have all you cautious mommas nodding your heads like yeeeessssss-all of that, yes. BUT, hear me out here. It is doable. It’s totally possible to enjoy those outdoor activities you did before kids with your littles in tow. There is one simple thing that is going to make it possible for you to do these activities without stressing so much about the circumstances. I’m going to share this secret thing with you mommas, so lean in, listen close. The one thing that will make your outdoor adventures possible with children is PREPERATION.
When I am preparing for a hike with my little I am thinking of three key areas I need to be prepared in to make sure everyone is safe and taken care of. These three areas cover most of the problems or surprises you could run into out on the trails. They were what helped me feel confident enough to get back out on the trails with my 8-month-old strapped to my back. If you are feeling unsure about how to prepare for a hike with children read on and discover how you should prepare to tackle this hike with confidence. My personal Packing list for my preschooler and I is included at the bottom!
Be prepared with more snacks and water than you think you could possibly consume on this hike. The water should be a bulk of the weight you are carrying, which means your pack should get lighter as you travel. I bring several water bottles on 2-3 hour a hike with my son and me. The recommended amount to drink is 1-2 cups per hour for a child, and about 2.5 cups per hour for adults. I pack enough water for each mile to take us an hour, even though we will likely keep a faster pace. This allows extra water, ideally you should come home with a full water bottle. If you were to get stranded on the trail safe water out there would be one of your biggest problems so its worth carrying extra for possible emergency.
In my experience little is going to help you as far as a weapon when it comes to a wild animal attack. Which is a very uncommon occurrence on well-traveled hiking trails, but it’s something that is bound to cross the mind of a momma bringing her babies out into the wilderness. Unless you know how to use and travel with a weapon correctly and safely, you are better off preparing yourself with some techniques to deter wild animals if you are to come across any while on the trail. Here are a few of my favorite tips I learned from Wildlife professionals growing up in rural towns like Telluride and Evergreen in Colorado:
-Know your animals and how to react to different predators. In many wild animal encounters your reaction to the animal will determine the outcome of the encounter.
-Do not carry fragrant snacks that may attract wildlife. Choices like choosing nuts and dried fruits for protein over beef jerky can make a difference.
-As you travel the trail make noise. Laugh, shout, talk, most of the time the animals don’t want to interact with you either so if they hear you coming they will likely avoid the trail.
Choose a trail wisely, don’t hike a trail for the first time with your children in tow. You do not want to come across dangerous surprises on the trail when you are responsible for the wellbeing of your little humans. Hike the trail a week or so ahead of time so you know what to expect and you can scout out a few safe stopping points to snack and rest. Also, do not pick a trail that is super challenging for you to hike. Hiking with kids isn’t the time to challenge yourself with new and difficult terrain. Be aware of the weather and plan accordingly-Sunscreen, jacket/layering is important. Light layers that are warm for the top of the mountain even if you are hiking on a warm day. Packing layers is also a safe guard for if you were to get stuck on the trail past the warm part of the day. If you were to fall and twist your ankle you could be slow coming off the trail and possibly could be stuck on the trail when temperatures start to drop. Be prepared by having light layers packed for yourself and your little.
Preparation is key to safely hiking with children. Be smart, be prepared and you will be able to introduce your children to a love of the outdoors. Below you will find my full packing list for myself and one preschool aged child, to hike a 4-mile hike, roughly 3.5 hours round trip.
FULL PACKING LIST:
-12CUPS OF WATER IN TEMPERATURE KEEPING WATER BOTTLES.
-SMALL ZIP LOCKS OF: FRESH FRUIT OF SOME KIND, NUTS OR TRAIL MIX, PRETZELS, 2-3 PROTEIN/NUT BARS, 1 OF MY CHILD’S FAVORITE SNACKS (CHEESE-STICK, CUTIE, CRACKERS)
-DRESS IN LAYERS FOR BOTH: A SHORT SLEEVE OR TANK, UNDER A LONG SLEEVE SHIRT OR SWEATER SHIRT, PACK A LIGHT JACKET FOR THE TOP. LEGGINGS OR SHORTS UNDER WARM PANTS.