Backpacking with Children
By Sarah Holt
Although backpacking with children may seem like a lot of
effort, the benefits gained from taking them along can far outweigh
the hassles. The benefits include not competing with technology
for your childrens attention, teaching them self-sufficiency
skills, and watching them connect with the peacefulness of nature.
Below are six tips that allow for a more positive experience
when backpacking with children.
1. Involve Them in Packing
Make a list of the items to bring and have your children help
collect them. If they are not old enough to read, you can read
the items to them. This is important because the more the children
are involved in preparations the more they will feel a part of
the trip, and the less likely they are to be resistant to backpacking.
2. Get Their Help With Choosing the Trail
Choose a couple of trails and sites that are acceptable to
you and then let the children choose from among them. This is
another way of involving the children and letting them have a
say in where you will be going.
3. Give Them Special Items for Backpacking
Give them something special that is to be used only for backpacking.
Children enjoy binoculars, water bottles with fun designs on
them, walking sticks, and small waterproof cameras. Another special
item that is not only fun, but can be very useful, is their own
4. Get Them Excited About Going
Getting children excited can be as simple as talking about
backpacking in terms of how fun it is. Another method of eliciting
excitement is to go to the library and get books on, and about,
backpacking. These may be how-to books, especially illustrated
ones, or fiction books with characters that have adventures in
5. Bring Along Games
While there is a lot to entertain children with while backpacking,
it is always a good idea to bring along a game or two. These
are useful when it rains, or at night when the children are in
the tent, but too restless to sleep. Small, lightweight games
specific to backpacking can be found in stores that specialize
in outdoor activities. Other options consist of purchasing an
extra small deck of playing cards (these are about 1/4 of the
size of standard decks), using travel versions of traditional
games, or repacking games, such as bring the dice from a Yahtzee
game in a zip lock bag with a couple sheets of paper and small
pencils or pens.
6. Praise Their Hard Work
It can work wonders when children feel that they are impressing
their parents. One easy way to accomplish this is to comment
on how hard they are working, both with the hike and with camp
chores. First, encourage them to do a good job, and then praise
While backpacking with children can be extra work, the end
result is often more than worth it. There is something about
nature than can calm even an otherwise hyper kid, and time alone
with parents provides the perfect opportunity for long talks
and quiet companionship, that may proof elusive when at home
where computers, televisions, and phones all make distractions
a common occurrence.
So, load up the kids next time, and build a special memory
that only backpacking with children can create.