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M Enjoying Backpacking with Kids: Part 1

by Luke Schmidt

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Article Summary:

The first step in backpacking with kids is planning out where I want to take them. First, it is easier to get kids excited about a trip if I can tell them exactly where we are going and what cool things we will do. Second, I want to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible about the trip. This helps to minimize the chances of unpleasant things happening and maximizes the chances for fun experiences.

When I plan a hike, I start by looking at the trail. I want to make sure I know the routes well and that there is good scenery. Kids are more tolerant of a tough trail if they get to climb a mountain or see something cool. I like to take kids to places they haven’t been before, because a new trail is automatically more exciting because everything is simply new. Also, I look for attractions like rocks to climb on or unique things like the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands that can make a trip more memorable.

After picking a trail, I look for a good campsite destination. I try to know exactly where I will camp and where I will get water, because with kids there is less room for error. For me, going an extra mile or two to find a campsite or water is no big deal, but for tired kids it could be a huge issue.

I also think about the weather when I go out. I’ve camped in the rain with kids, so I know it can be done, but it is harder overall, and if it’s cold on top of that, I would not recommend a rainy trip until you know the kids are really into backpacking. Avoiding really rainy weather isn’t usually that hard for shorter trips in most areas. It also means you might not have to invest in expensive rain gear that kids will eventually outgrow.

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