Family hiking trips are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and be physically active. However, there are some things to consider when you hike with children.
Endurance. Kids may seem as if they have boundless energy, but hiking, especially on trails with varying elevation, can test their endurance. Little legs take little steps. Adults will need to adjust their pace. It is also important to remember that children, especially younger kids, love to explore their world. A hike can be a wondrous experience, and kids’ attention easily can be diverted from hiking to all the interesting nature surrounding them. Let the kids stop when something amazing catches their eye, whether it is a log covered with moss or an unusual bug. You will have to find the balance between dawdling over every “cool” thing and actually hiking.
Food. Keep food simple and healthy when hiking with kids. Peanut butter on bagels is filling and offers needed carbohydrates. Include foods like fresh fruit, especially apples, grapes and oranges. String cheese, crackers, granola bars and even a candy bar for a treat are good snacks for along the trail.
Gear. Hiking with babies and crawlers requires kid carriers. Look for gear with adjustable straps plus padded shoulders and belts. In addition, hiking with babies means diapers. Diapers changed on the trail must be packed back out. Never bury or burn soiled diapers. Be sure to bring hand sanitizer and wash hands frequently. Make sure your children are dressed properly for your hike. Sturdy shoes that fit properly are essential. Hiking socks that wick away moisture will keep little feet from getting damp and uncomfortable. Research the area you will be hiking and be aware of weather conditions and dress appropriately.
Safety. Safety needs to be a priority when hiking with kids. When there are toddlers and crawlers in your party, always have an adult watching over the children at all times. When multiple children are on the hike, consider having one adult per child to help prevent any mishaps. Older children can carry a safety whistle and a pack with essentials such as a bottle of water, a snack and change of clothing. Make it a rule that nobody ever wanders out of site of the group.
Weather. Every hiker needs to know the current and predicted weather patterns of the area. Always pack for the weather and potential weather, including a rain poncho and clothing for dips in temperature. Backpacking.net reminds parents that babies “lose body heat quickly, especially through extremities, because they are not generating heat through activity.” Don’t forget sunblock to prevent sunburn and hats to protect against heat.