Hiking With Kids – Best Tips From An Outdoor Mom
I absolutely love hiking with my kids. As a mom, I highly believe that keeping your kids outdoors enjoying nature and finding their sense of exploration and curiosity is crucial in self development at a young age. I actually went over this topic a little bit on my post called, Nature's Touch. On this one however, I am going to share some tips on hiking with kids that will help you get your children outdoors on the trail safely. These tips will also bring ease to your outdoor mom-life. You can even find some FREE downloadable content in this post to further help you plan your next hiking trips with your children.
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1. PLAN YOUR HIKES
First thing you have to do is plan your hike. You want to find a hike that is easy for your kids to do. Nothing that will tire them out quickly and be a huge struggle for them. Something that has good terrain, a good distance, and not an over amount of obstacles on the trail. In my post, How To Plan Your Next Kids Hiking Trip, you can learn more in detail as to how you can plan your next hike. You can also find a FREEBIE in my Resource Library that will help you as well.
To make life a little easier with your planning I have included a free planner in my Resource Library. 😉
2. BRING WATER AND STAY HYDRATED
Staying hydrated is crucial when hiking with kids. I always make sure to bring extra water just to play it safe. If I know I will be around water on the trail, I will also bring my MSR Gear TrailShot Water Filter so I can grab water while on the trail. This all depends on the length of the trail and if there is an area where I can collect water at so definitely make sure to do careful planning and pack accordingly.
RELATED ARTICLE: Best Water Filter for the Outdoors
3. BRING LOTS OF SNACKS
When you are hiking with kids you know that they will be burning a lot of energy meaning that you will quickly have little hungry children. Having healthy snacks is very important to have happy kids on the trails. I usually like to bring some cookies from Outdoor Pantry, dried mangoes that my youngest daughter Isabelle loves, some delicious Peak Sherpa energy bites, or even some trail mix or fruits. You can view more healthy snack ideas here that will be perfect for the entire family.
Use coupon code TWM15 at Peak Sherpa for 15% off your purchase.
4. WEAR APPROPRIATE HIKING CLOTHES
When you are getting ready to go hiking with kids it is important to dress them appropriately. A few things you want to consider is the terrain, the weather, and type of trail that it is.
CLOTHES FOR HIKING WITH KIDS IN THE WINTER
If you are hiking in the winter you may want to dress your children in layers using thermals underneath and waterproof outer layers if you are going to be in wet or snowy conditions. Some items that I recommend for winter include:
- Patagonia Girls' Snowbelle Jacket
- Patagonia Kids' Powder Town Beanie
- Patagonia Kids' Synchilla™ Fleece Gloves
- Patagonia Girls' Lightweight Synchilla® Snap-T® Fleece Pullover
- Patagonia Girls' Long-Sleeved Graphic Organic Cotton T-Shirt
- Patagonia Kids' Capilene® Crew Top
- Patagonia Girls' Capilene® Bottoms
CLOTHES FOR HIKING WITH KIDS IN THE SUMMER
If you are hiking in the summer you may want them to wear breathable pants, capris, or even shorts depending on the terrain. If you are going to be in a bush-wacking trail you may not want to wear shorts to avoid small scrapes. You may also want to wear a tank top or short sleeve shirt that is of a breathable material.
This also goes for shoes. Depending on the terrain and type of hike and the weather for that day you may prefer to use hiking boots instead of sneakers. In the summer for shorter hikes on easy trails, sneakers may be the best option.
Some summer clothing for kids I recommend are:
- Patagonia Kids' Interstate Hat
- Patagonia Girls' Pastel P-6 Logo Organic Cotton T-Shirt
- Patagonia Girls' Baggies™ Shorts
- Patagonia Girls' Graphic Organic Cotton T-Shirt
- Patagonia Girls' Stand Up® Shorts
- Patagonia Girls' Costa Rica Baggies™ Shorts
- Patagonia Girls' Foxglenn Joggers
5. BRING THE PROPER ESSENTIALS
Bringing the proper essentials when hiking with kids is crucial. I've already mentioned a few on this post such as the water filter and snacks but you also have to pack according to the age of your child. I have created two guides that go deeper into this topic. Once is called "Baby Hiking Essentials: Everything That You Need" which will go into detail about what exactly you will need when you are hiking with an infant. Just because they are very young doesn't mean you can't take them outdoors. In fact, quiet the opposite, if conditions permit that is. Being outdoors with your infant can actually be relaxing and calming to your child. It will give them a nice nice environment to start enjoying at a young age as well.
If you are looking for a good baby carrier that will grow with your baby then I recommend getting an Ergo Baby Carrier. It is what I used with my youngest daughter till she was about 4 years old and will use with my next child when the time comes. You can read why I love my Ergo so much on this post.
The other guide that I wrote goes over all the Must Haves When Hiking With Kids. Many items are similar but others are different. This guide is perfect for children toddle age and up.
Don't forget to bring the proper essentials for yourself as well. It is important to be just as prepared for yourself as for your kids.
6. BRING A FIRST AID KIT
I can't stress this enough. It doesn't have to be a luxurious first aid kit. Just having a small kit such as this one can be very beneficial. Making sure you have the essentials in your first aid kit such as this one can be very helpful. However, I always recommend getting some sort of survival skills training in which you can learn how to use natural items and even regular items that you have in your backpack for more serious injuries.
7. ALWAYS HIKE WITH A FRIEND
When I go hiking with my kids I always make sure to hike with someone. Whether it's your significant other, a friend, or even a family member, it is important to have someone there with you. The reason for this is safety. If you have more then one kid fall or scrape their knee or for some reason doesn't walk, or even worse, gets injured, you don't want to find yourself trying to carry your items plus your kids back to the trail head all by yourself. It is good to have someone there with you for support and for safety.
If you do hikes by yourself make sure it is a hike that you have done before. Being familiar with the area and the terrain can play a big role. If it is a fairly short hike then it shouldn't be too difficult if something happens (knock on wood). For instance, I wouldn't hike to Burgess Falls State Park by myself because it is a longer hike and a little more strenuous but I have done the trails at Dunbar Cave State Park by myself because it's an easy and fairly short trail that I know I won't have any issues with.
The age of your child also comes to play. I recommend hiking with friends especially if you have little ones but as your child gets older they grow to be more independent. The more independent they are when hiking the easier it is for you because they can start to carry their weight on the trail. This is why careful planning of your hikes is important. Always practice safety first!
8. ALWAYS LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE AT
Whether you are hiking with kids and a friend it is always important to let someone know where you are at. Give them an approximate return time, check in with them whenever possible, and make sure to let them know when you arrive to the trailhead to start your hike and when you end your hike. You should also let them know which hike you are doing and give them information such as the location, trail map, etc.
Another good way to stay in touch when signal is an issue is by using a GoTenna Mesh to boost your antenna. A GoTenna Mesh device is like a walkie-talkie but for texting. It works off of a mesh network meaning that your message will be bounced off other GoTenna Mesh devices until it reaches one that has signal to be sent directly to your point of contact. You can read more about the GoTenna Mesh here.
9. TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS
Kids tend to get tired quickly or bored. By taking frequent breaks, you are helping them regain their energy to continue on the trail. It also creates a change of pace for them making it easier to keep their little minds busy. You can take a break for water, to eat a snack, change a diaper, or maybe just to learn something new of a flower you saw, a tree, animal track, or other natural find you spot on the trail.
10. MAKE IT FUN
To follow up with frequent breaks, you can make the hike fun as well. You can do different activities with your kids on the trail or even during your breaks. You can do some scavenger hunts, learn something new about a plant or tree that you found and haven't seen before, or just play different games.
I have a few fun activities in our Resource Library. Once you sign up to our email list you can get the password to grant you full access to our library.
Here are a few activities that you can find in our Resource Library.
11. BE PATIENT
This is a must! You need to be patient with your little ones. They are much shorter than we are and sometimes get a little impatient or frustrated trying to keep up with us. This is why it is important to take frequent breaks and to also be patient with them. It may seem frustrating at times but its best to listen to their signs and just take a break till they can regain that energy and you can regain your patience.
12. BE SUPPORTIVE + ENCOURAGING
Along with being patient, it is also important to be supportive and encouraging. If you see that your child is dragging behind just be supportive and provide words of encouragement to keep them motivated. You can tell them things like, "We are almost there." or "You are doing so good, just a few more steps and we will take a break." Another trick that I do is that I will tell my girls lets get to that tree or that bench and sit down for a minute and that usually does the trick.
13. OFFER A REWARD
This is a fun way to keep them motivated as well. Offer them a reward. Tell them that once you are all done with the hike that you will take them to get ice cream or frozen yogurt. Something that they really like. Ice cream usually does the trick for my girls. What kind of fun rewards do you offer your kids? I am definitely open to new ideas.
14. PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE
Practicing Leave No Trace is definitely key when hiking outdoors. Applying these seven principles through example with your kids is a great way to show your children how to take care of the planet and minimize their footprint. I learned from my dad. He always picked up trash on the trail and even encouraged me to pick up at least 10 pieces of trash during our hike. When we camped we always did a clean up of the campsite before leaving making sure we left it looking better then when we arrived. Simple things like this you can do as a family and it helps your kids learn responsibility. It doesn't have to be challenging, you make it fun too. They will learn to slowly apply these skills even as they get older through practice at a young age.
If you want to learn more about Leave No Trace Principles then you can read all about the Seven Principles here.
15. BRING HAND SANITIZER AND BIODEGRADABLE WIPES
I decided to place this once separate because it is something I carry with me everywhere. Kids are always touching everything they see and find. Keeping their wondering hands clean and occasionally wiping down their face helps prevent any skin issues, contact of germs in eyes, ears, and mouth, and keeps them clean and sanitized.
Well I really hope these tips help you out. Remember to always practice safety, plan your hikes accordingly, prepare for the weather and the terrain, and don't forget to pack you essentials.