Whilst it can be intimidating to take the kids out into the wilderness (especially if you’re not a naturally outdoorsy person), there’s no need to worry as long as you prepare.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.
So here are the five best tips for planning your hike with kids.
Tip 1 – Get the Kids Involved
Getting the kids involved at the planning stage means that you can pick a trail that will appeal most to their interests.
If your kids are obsessed with the ocean, make sure you pick a trail that passes by some water (ideally a river) that they can stop and explore. Maybe you were worried about their appetite for climbing hills but could find out they really want to enjoy some hilltop vistas.
Do they want to climb rocks? Try and find the biggest tree they’ve ever seen? Whatever it is they want to do, it’s important to take their suggestions on board and plan your trip with them in mind.
Tip 2 – Check the Trail Reviews
Once the kids are on board with the planning and you have some ideas for trails in mind, you can usually search online for reviews of the trail. Often, there will be advice from other families about anything you should be aware of before your hike.
This is a really helpful part of planning your trip because you can get feedback from other families about their experiences and get a better idea about whether the trail is right for you and your family.
Websites like AllTrails.com are great for providing all sorts of information about over 100,000 trails. They even have tags for kid-friendly treks so you can instantly get suggestions. People also upload photos from the trail which can be useful for getting the kids excited about the trip!
Tip 3 – Check the Weather
As well as checking the trail rating, you should make sure to check the weather forecast for the day as well. You want to make sure that you are prepared for rain, wind and sunshine on every trip, but having a good idea about what specific climate you’ll be facing helps you prepare for your trip.
For example, if it’s going to be a hot, sunny day make sure everyone has adequate protection from the sun, including sunglasses and sunscreen. You want to make sure that your sunscreen is a high SPF rating (at least over 30) and blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
If it’s going to be a wet and rainy day, make sure that you have some dry, warm clothes to change into after the hike. The last thing you want is for a damp drive home to ruin the day!
Tip 4 – Bring the Essentials
When packing your bag, make sure that you’ve got the ten essentials for outdoor adventure covered. These are ten items that are widely accepted as necessities for keeping you safe on any adventure in the great outdoors including things like a first aid kit and a torch or headlamp for lighting your way after sunset.
Although it isn’t listed in the 10 essentials, make sure to bring a safety whistle with you for the kids.
Whilst it’s great to have all of this emergency gear ready for your outdoor escape, it will only be useful in the wilderness if you (and your family) know how to use it.
Do plenty of research beforehand to learn why each item is important in your 10 essentials checklist and how to use it.
Make sure that the kids know how to use their safety whistle in case they get lost. They should stop, stay where they are, and blow on the whistle loudly three times. It’s really important that they know to stop and wait for help.
Tip 5 – Bring the Extras
As well as packing in all the essentials, don’t forget to bring plenty of extras to make sure you have a great time outdoors. You can bring binoculars or magnifying glasses to let them explore or a field guide to help them learn about nature.
Positive reinforcement and letting the kids know how great they are doing is always the best reward, but a little bit of candy can go a long way as well! It’s always a good idea to bring some snacks or treats as rewards to keep spirits up.
So there you have it, the top five tips for preparing to take the kids out hiking.
Even with all this advice, it’s always possible that something can go wrong. The best thing you can do is keep a positive attitude and make the most of the situation. If the trek has taken too long because you stopped for a really long time to explore the river, don’t worry about it! The end of the trail will still be there waiting for you the next time you head out.
When you’re out on the trail, keep a positive attitude and adapt to any situation as it develops. Whinging is contagious and can ruin a trip, but an upbeat attitude can be just as contagious and save it! So stay cheerful and calm and as long as you’ve prepared with the tips on this list, it’ll be great.
James Black runs Wilderness Redefined a website with the aim of promoting sustainable enjoyment of the wilderness and making the great outdoors accessible for all. In his day-to-day, James works as an economist for a highly regarded research institute.