There are multiple benefits if you let your kids experience the outdoors. According to Sanford Health, outdoor activities can have a lot of benefits for children, such as improve children's physical health, cognitive ability, and sensory skills. Hence, instead of just letting them stay inside your home while playing computer or video games, you should take them outside!
But of course, backpacking isn't that straightforward if you include your little ones in the equation. Hence, if you want the trip to be safe, fun, and memorable, you should do the following tips.
Tips For Backpacking With Children
Before The Trip
Start while they are still young - You should introduce backpacking and outdoor trips to your children while they are still young. The earlier they start, the easier it is for them to get accustomed to these activities. This will also help them develop a sense of adventure as well as independence.
Let your kids exercise - You can't take your children on any outdoor trip if they have insufficient physical exercise. Before the big day, you should allocate a couple of days or weeks exercising with your kind. In this way, when it comes time for their first hike, they will already know how to handle themselves on trails.
Make sure they have proper gear - Make sure your child has all the necessary equipment before going on an expedition. It's vital that they wear comfortable clothes with good ventilation to avoid any discomfort during the hike. Also, make sure that their backpack is big enough to carry everything needed for the day.
Practice at home - It is also essential that you do some dry-runs in your home. You should teach them how to wear and use their equipment properly. Moreover, show them how to pitch a tent in your backyard. After that, let them try to have an overnight stay in the kids' tent. By doing this, your kids will have a good feeling about what they'll encounter once they go out into nature.
Be observant - Part of the process is observing and guiding your children. While they are practicing, watch how they behave and react. Please don't put too many expectations that they will make the right decisions immediately. Keep in mind that they are still young, and they have a lot of wiggle room to understand the fundamentals of backpacking, camping, hiking, and anything in between. It's not a good thing to scold them if they do something wrong.
Plan the trip with your kids - If you plan ahead of your trip, you don't need to worry about things getting complicated later on. When planning, think about where you're heading, what kind of weather conditions you expect, and other factors that may affect the trip. Letting your kid participate in the planning stage helps them learn more about the world around us.
Show them your eagerness - If you want your children to embrace backpacking, you should express your enthusiasm. Be excited about the trip. Don't let them feel that you are just forcing them, or you are not into it. As long as you are passionate about this activity, then your kids will follow suit.
Bring their friends and pets - Your kids can get bored during the entire backpacking trip. Hence, it is always a good idea to invite their friends or bring along their pets. These companionship items will keep them busy throughout the journey.
During The Backpacking Trip
Pick an easy destination - If it is the first time for your kids, don't burden them. You should pick a campsite that doesn't go farther than two miles from the trailhead. In this way, you will be able to return immediately if there are emergencies or accidents.
Don't forget the food - Food is one of the most important aspects of backpacking trips. Bring plenty of snacks and drinks so that your kids won't run short of energy while trekking through the wilderness. They might even ask for treats like candy bars or cookies. This is why it is best to pack these foods in advance.
Keep them hydrated - Water is another crucial aspect of backpacking trips. Since children are typically active, they tend to move around. Hence, they easily lose to bodily fluids through sweat. In this case, you need to pack a sufficient water supply with you. Also, don't forget to bring energy and sports drinks to replenish their lost electrolytes.
Cater to the curiosity of your children - Don't be too stern with your kids, especially if they are with you on an outdoor trip. For many adults, the things that kids do are useless. But in their perspective, what they do is exploring and learning. Since the outdoors is an excellent place for them to learn more about the world around them, try to stimulate their desire to be adventurous. Let them roam around, but make sure that you set some ground rules so that they can remain safe.
Share the weight but not too much - If your little ones are capable of lifting some weight, then you should assign them a particular gear. This is excellent physical training for them. At the same time, it helps them develop their sense of responsibility and independence. However, you should always keep in mind that you shouldn't give them bulky loads. As an adult, you are the one that should shoulder most of the luggage. Otherwise, they might be discouraged to go with you next time.
Teach them independence - If you want your kids to become true backpackers once they grow older, you should start teaching them how to be independent on the trail. A good way to do this is by giving them their own supplies (such as water). Instead of sharing resources, give them the task of utilizing their own supply. Eventually, they will learn how to manage, conserve, and maximize whatever amenities they have. Another way of doing this is by assigning a particular chore to them while on the campsite.
Smart trailing - If there are two or more adults in your backpacking trip, you should position one in the front and the other on the back. Your children should be in the middle so that you can keep an eye on them. Accidents can happen in an instant, so you should still be on guard when you are doing outdoor adventures with your kids.
Safety above else - Regardless of where you go, it is crucial that you implement various safety measures to protect your kids from unwanted incidents. Let them carry an emergency whistle so that they can call rescue if they are lost. Moreover, flashlights are also essential since they help you find your way home safely after dark. Lastly, always ensure that you take enough first aid kits so that any minor injuries can be treated immediately.
Essential Things That You Need To Teach
Navigation - It's important that you can teach your children how to navigate their way while they are in the wilderness. They must know which direction leads to the nearest town, campground, etc. So, before setting out on a camping adventure, let them practice using maps and compasses. Moreover, you should also introduce the essence of navigational skills in a backcountry setting. In fact, you might want to enroll them in geocaching classes so that they can enhance their sense of direction.
First Aid - First aid is very vital during backpacking trips. Make sure that you equip yourself with all necessary medical equipment such as bandages, antiseptic creams, gauze pads, tweezers, scissors, tape, etc. These items will come in handy whenever you encounter unexpected accidents. But most importantly, you should teach your kids how to use them properly. These tools would be useless if they aren't utilized correctly.
Leave No Trace - Also, don't forget about the "leave no trace principle." Among the things that you can impart to your children, this guideline is the most crucial. When you're hiking through the woods, make sure that you pick up everything that you bring into the forest. Don't litter! And lastly, never ever burn anything down. The environment deserves better than what we've done to it.
Backpacking with children isn’t easy. But at the same time, letting them know the joys that the outdoors can bring can make things worthwhile. Hence, you should always do your best to encourage them to get interested in becoming outdoor enthusiasts. That's a generous favor that you can do for them.
I hope that you find this guide helpful. For other inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.