We took both kids backpacking for their first time this summer. We all had a great time and can’t wait to go again. The cooler weather of fall is just around the corner so here are some of my tips for getting outside with little ones.
Choose a trail that is hikeable for the youngest member of your group. We use their age as a guide for how many miles they can hike. Our boys are 5 and 3 years old so our basecamp was 4 miles in from the trailhead. Think one mile per year in age. Four miles was a stretch for our youngest but we know he is a trooper and after two miles he was hiking with out a pack, but did great.
Don’t be in a hurry, take all day to hike three miles if need be. Take lots of breaks to explore rocks, flowers, trees, creeks… Our youngest carried a small backpack with water and snacks to eat during hiking. We took a lot of snack breaks. The kids enjoyed singing, telling and listening to stories as we hiked too.
Set up a basecamp, especially when backpacking with young children. This allows for short exploration hikes from camp, little ones the chance to nap or have quite time when needed, and I find more relaxing as time can be spent with family instead of on camp chores, packing up and resetting up camp everynight.
Expect to carry most of the camping supplies. Our oldest had a pack with water, snacks, and a sleeping bag. We want them to experience carrying a pack, but the goal is for them to have fun and be able to love being outdoors. Packs can get heavy quick so fill them approriately and have the kids try them on for size and weight at home before you hit the trail.
Pack in plenty of food, even if it is heavy, being outside makes everyone eat more. Snacks we take backpacking include dried fruit, beef jerky, string cheese, crackers, and granola/trail mix. Breakfasts we have oatmeal with dried fruit, lunches tuna with crackers, bagels with peanut butter, dinners include soups made with dried veggies and pasta, rice with dried veggies. We also bake muffins or upsidedown apple or pineapple cake.
Have fun!! This is the most important thing to do. Don’t try to see everything in the area. If the kids a having fun watching the fish swim in a creek, stay there all afternoon. There is no goal or destination that needs to be reached or climbed too. Just enjoy spending time outside with your little ones.