If you follow us on Instagram, you know getting outdoors is one of our family’s favorite past time.
Why? It’s free (or darn close), it’s great exercise, and it’s great for the soul. In fact, recent studies stress the importance of spending time outdoors, both for kids and adults.
And yet, hiking with kids can seem challenging – especially if you’re just getting started.
To help, here are our top 10 tips for hiking with kids. We’d love to hear your ideas, too! Leave a comment at the end with your tips, tricks, and ideas.
1. Start small
Whether you’re carrying little ones, getting school aged kids started, or hiking with your teens, start with an easy hike and build up to harder ones. Pretty soon, you’ll be climbing mountains together.
2. Know what to pack
If you have little ones, carrying a baby plus all of the baby and hiking gear can seem overwhelming. Pack simple and strategically.
I carry my toddler on my back so I use a front pack (“fanny pack”) to carry essentials such as: a couple of diapers, wipes, first aid kit, water, and snacks. My backpack has a small pouch where I carry a change of clothes and other hiking essentials (flash light, map, etc.).
For older kids, have them carry a small backpack with their snacks and water. It will lighten your load, and get them used to carrying their own gear.
3. Invest in the right gear
The right gear goes a long way when hiking with kids – especially if you are carrying little ones. Yes, hiking gear can be expensive, but if you’re serious about hiking regularly, the investment can be worth it.
I always recommend going to REI to try on a few carriers and then looking for a deal via craigslist, clearance sales, consignment stores, friends, mom’s groups, or Buy Nothing. There are great deals out there! And, the carriers have strong resale values.
In addition to carriers, we also have purchased hiking boots and camel-back backpacks for the family.
4. Reset your expectations
When I hike with my husband or adult friends, I tend to hike quickly. With kids, I have learned to reset my expectations. It’s okay to go slower, to stop and nurse, to stop for a diaper change, or to stop and watch the river. It’s even okay to turn around half way or simply lay down in the dirt to rest…
Also, get creative on hikes! Kids can get restless on longer hikes. Help them stay engaged by singing silly songs or playing games along the way.
5. Stay local
Long drives are hard on our kids and on our gas budget. As such, we try to stay local (within an hour drive). Luckily, we live in the Pacific Northwest where there are hundreds of urban, rural, and mountain hikes within an hour drive.
6. Make it an adventure
For older kids, I love to make the hike an adventure. Recently, I made an adventure map with clues and special rewards leading to the hike. For my school-aged son it was a big hit!
7. Join a family hiking group
Joining a hiking group has been one of the best things we’ve done to getting our family outdoors! We are members of the free family hiking group, Hike it Baby, which has chapters all over the nation (and the world).
Through Hike it Baby we have met so many awesome families, explored new parks and trails, and been motivated to get outside in any weather!
8. Create a family challenge (or ritual)
Last spring, our family started a Sunday Hike ritual. Every Sunday, rain or shine, we go on a hike, walk, or bike ride. It’s been a great way to be outdoors together! This could also be a family challenge, such as a goal to hike 200 miles together.
9. Let the kids lead
Nothing boosts confidence and participation like being a leader! My six-year-old loves to lead, and it gets him excited about hiking.
10. Hike at Naptime
Lastly, if you are hiking with babies or toddlers, go at naptime! Little O will sleep fairly well in the carrier. By going at naptime we can hike a little longer without a toddler meltdown.
What are your tips for hiking with kids?
What would you add to the list? Leave a comment below!
If we have enough tips, I’ll do a follow-up post with your ideas.