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Backpacking with an eight year old
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Michael Whiteside
(ruralbackpacker) - F

Locale: Northern California
Backpacking with an eight year old on 01/17/2008 19:07:48 MST Print View

Hi everyone,

I am planning a backpacking trip to the Glen Aulin backpacker camp in Yosemite. One of my friends has a coordinated eight year old boy who she wants to go on the trip but she is worried that it might be too much for him.

I don't think that it would be much of a problem since it is only 6.2 miles and that we will have all day to do it (not to mention until summer to get him in shape). But I don't have any kids and have no experience with it. I know that part of Yosemite pretty well but have never backpacked with kids.

Does anyone out there have any experience with this that I can pass on to my friend?


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Backpacking with an eight year old on 01/17/2008 19:45:11 MST Print View

An 8-y old in decent shape wouldn't have a problem doing this from a physical stand point. The question is motivation / focus. Some kids would love it. Other kids would be bored after the first mile or two. My circle of friends started with shorter trips with more "fun" destinations to increase the likelihood that they got "hooked".


todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Re: Backpacking with an eight year old on 01/17/2008 19:56:12 MST Print View

Mark is 100% correct.

Many don't ENJOY it after a little while. Some do. With my daughters I've observed that pushing themselves isn't fun for them...too much like work. All the sights, sounds, and actual camping are great, but HIKING is only fun for them in pieces.

On the other hand, I've seen a 6yr old handle 7miles in mountainous terrain w/ almost no fatigue or complaints.

Have fun and take it slow at first.


P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "Backpacking with an eight year old" on 01/17/2008 22:12:45 MST Print View

Will the child in question be carrying a pack? That would make a difference, of course.
My 8 year old grandson (not carrying a pack) hiked with us last year in Glacier Park and managed over 8 miles a day with energy to spare for play after reaching camp.
We stopped to rest more often than usual because he would get tired and bored, but after some water and maybe a snack, he was good to go again.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Of course! on 01/18/2008 00:01:54 MST Print View

A rule of thumb is take kids as long as the trail is mostly safe (in other words no waist deep river fords!). Kids can out hike adults quite often. As for getting in shape....unless the kid is overweight, they can handle it quite easily.

And 8 isn't young. My kid was doing 10 mile days at 4.

And here is some advice: if this kid is the only kid, let them bring toys to play with. Yes, I get criticized often over my kid having a Nintendo with him...but he is almost always the only kid. He loiters in the tent playing for an hour or so after a hard day and does his thing. No point in making the trip horrible for kids -you have to let kids be kids. Toys, a creek or lake to play in at camp and good food? That makes kids happy.

Only other advice? Make sure the kid is used to the dark.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Of course! on 01/18/2008 06:30:20 MST Print View

"My kid was doing 10 mile days at 4"
Andrew Skurka? ;)

Seriously though, I find this thread very informative. I have a little nephew, and while I did anticipate short days, bringing along some toys/luxury items, and cooking tastier meals with treats - I never thought about the darkness thing, wierd noises at night, etc. Sometimes I get scared! :)

Thanks for the heads up.

"I get criticized often over my kid having a Nintendo with him"
Geez, at least he's out there! Good job Sarah!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Of course! on 01/18/2008 12:47:52 MST Print View

Steve....he freaked a bit when he was much younger but now? I'll be woken up sounds and there he is drooling and snoring. Cool thing is kids get used to it :-D

And as for treats? I let him have the "bad" stuff when we hike - we go to the grocery store and he gets to pick out candy bars, the single serving packs of potato chips, cookies, etc. He gets good meals but I figure there is nothing wrong with a few treats to perk him up out there ;-)

One thing about kids that seems to happen a lot: they will whine and complain about how they are going to die, how tired they are....and once in camp run around for hours. You have to love that! With Ford I just let him whine and tell him to keep moving. And that seems to work. He knows that we will stop at some point ;-) Too often parents cave in to the kids non stop whining and quit going.

David Erekson
(finallyME) - F

Locale: Utah desert
Hiking with kids on 01/18/2008 15:33:48 MST Print View

I bring my son all the time, and he is 5.

My advice would be to watch the weight he carries. He needs to have a pack so that he feels like he fits in, but if there is too much weight, he won't like it. So, get him a pack that carries his sleeping bag, and some extra stuff. Make sure it is around 5% of his weight. I think 10% is a little much.

Some people will tell you that their kids carry more weight, but those kids also have been backpacking for a while. If this is his first trip, the less weight the better.

I think it is great that you are giving the boy a chance to see the woods. Good for you.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Hiking with kids on 01/18/2008 16:21:56 MST Print View

I think anything you can do to get them out there and have them enjoy it is great!
We buy our grandkids things like packs, tents, snowshoes, poles, etc. for gifts.
I figure that even if we're not available to take them most of the time, at least they'll nag their dad (our son) to take them so that they can use all that cool gear!

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Hiking with Kids on 01/18/2008 16:52:22 MST Print View

You may have seen this excellent thread:

I was able to get my 3 grandkids to hike 5 miles this summer by trying to look at the trail from a child's viewpoint. We stopped for food about every ten minutes and poked sticks in the ground to mark the trail the bugs were making "in case they couldn't find their way back" and walked backwards when one complained of sore feet. We wore our packs on our fronts for awhile, had a spitting contest, renamed the peaks around us, and tried to guess how many monsters were hiding underground. One has no interest in ever doing it again, and the other two are talking about the backpack trip with Nana next summer that I've promised. I learned not to expect much as far as covering any distance for their first experience.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Kathleen on 01/18/2008 19:13:36 MST Print View

I had missed that TR ;-) Sounds like you had a blast!

Tommy Clapp

Locale: GSM Area
Little pack on 01/19/2008 17:09:02 MST Print View

What kind of backpack would you use for a young one. I am going to bring my 4 year old on his first overnight hike. we have been day hiking for some time now and he is excited about camping. I want a pack that fits him enough to carry his sleeping bag, water, and food. that would be it. I would guess around 5lbs. he weighs in at 57lbs. Does anyone have a good reccomendation for a pack?


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Little pack on 01/19/2008 17:26:48 MST Print View

See if the Deuter Fox 30 fits him. While some might raise an eyebrow at the weight (2 1/2 lbs) it is a great pack, well built and will fit a kid till 9 or 11 depending on their body shape. My son has outgrown his finally but he uses it now as a daypack which is great. The suspension on it is excellent.
REI does carry this pack.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Little pack on 01/19/2008 18:11:04 MST Print View

My recommendation would be to use a basic kid's book bag rather than getting some specialized backpacking pack. The only issue would be whether the sleeping bag (which tends to be low weight but high volume) would fit. Our approach was to shoot to have our daughter carrying as much of her stuff as possible without exceeding 12% of her body weight. Early one she carried water, snack, spare clothing, and a few toys because this hit 12% and fit into a basic bookbag. I would carry the bulky sleeping bag and pad. Around the time she hit 8 all her stuff was under 12% but the daypack wasn't big enough so we upgraded the a Deuter Fox 30. Now that she is taller she "stole" her mom's Mountainsmith Seraph which is lighter while providing more volume and easier access. I wrote up some notes on choice a kid's pack which lists some additional options.

Edited by verber on 01/19/2008 18:14:31 MST.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Backpacking with an eight year old on 01/22/2008 20:04:49 MST Print View

I've backpacked with kids from 6yrs up. It was not a problem if they didn't have to carry much weight. It was very important to get them involved in the program. I get the kid away from the parent and give him/her a map. They walk up front and become our "guide". Usually that ends all the problems.

joseph daluz
(jfdiberian) - F

Locale: Columbia River Gorge
Kids can do amazing things on 01/27/2008 09:11:03 MST Print View

How does that tune go? "Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked... and walked..."

Michael Whiteside
(ruralbackpacker) - F

Locale: Northern California
Thanks for the comments on 01/28/2008 14:03:40 MST Print View

All of your responses were very educational. Thanks! I gave my friend the link to this thread and after reading it she was excited. She's very positive about going now.

I *wish* that I could have gone backpacking that young. Neither of my parents backpacked. I am very impressed that all of you are doing that with your kids.

Thanks again. Keep posting comments if you have them and we will keep reading.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
kids on 01/31/2008 14:30:30 MST Print View

Tobias will be 7 soon and his limit is about 10 miles. We did a few things to make trips more fun.

One, we take our time on the trail. We explore, take photos and sing. Tobias helps at camp. He loves to help set up the tent. We explore the campsite together and see what interesting things we can find. We look at the map together. A compass is a great gift and that would be a good thing to teach the little guy going with you.

We also have Tobias wear an emergency whistle. This is law on paddling trips but it was great on hiking trips as well. If there is trouble he knows to blow it three times (sharply). Granted he is usually right with us but I figured we'd just do it on all of our trips to keep things consistent.

Food, well I actually wrote a chapter about that in my cookbook. Try things before you go out so that you know what they like and don't like. It doesn't have to be junk either - you can keep it fun and still keep it healthy. Kids appetite can vary from day to day on the trail so I err on the side of too much.

First aid is important. I make sure I have all the standard first aid items in my pack but I also bring some Batman band-aids and such. For some reason the Batman band-aids make Tobi feel better about the scrapes. I also pack electrolyte replacement crystals and a children's pain reliever. I know it isn't exactly UL to take these extras but to me they are of importance.

Gosh I could go on about this all evening.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: kids on 01/31/2008 14:47:43 MST Print View

This thread is triggering good memories of youngsters on trips.

First time my brother brought his youngest on our then annual Memorial Day weekend BWCAW trip we had him carry a couple paddles and his own fishing pole over the portages. At the end of the first portage "Did you find anything interesting?" ... "Minnows, crayfish and salamanders!" Fifteen years later and he'll still go with whenever we can accommodate his work schedule.

Or a friend's toddlers a year after a similar trip "Do you want to take another canoe trip?" .... "can we go back to two?" took several days to learn that "two" was the number painted on the "government box" at the campsite they enjoyed the most.

Get'm young! It's a source of sadness that I learned that only early enough to snag one of my children. (but there's hope ... another has agreed to try backpacking when(if) she ever ceases being in school year round.

stephen jennings
(obi96) - F

Locale: Deep in the Green Mountains
Kids and hikes on 02/09/2008 19:03:09 MST Print View

My then 8 1/2 year old son made it 11 miles in a day. From Yosemite valley to Echo vally about 3 miles shy of Merced lake. The keys to success 1. A slow pace 2. Lots of breaks 3. Marvin the Marvelous Monkey, A small stuffed animal tied to His shoulder strap that kept him entertained while hiking and in camp. He carried a 17 lb ruck for 8 miles that day before I had to take it at Bunnell Cascade. We went on for another 23 miles that trip, to include the summit of Half Dome.
This July we will head out on the JMT from Reds Meadow to Yosemite valley. Liam is now 11. I can't think of anything that gives me more joy than to share the greatness of Yosemite with my son. I wish the same to you.

Edited by obi96 on 02/16/2008 18:08:33 MST.