Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Feeding KIDS on the trail
Display Avatars Sort By:
Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/02/2012 21:28:01 MDT Print View

Taking a 10 Y/O backpacking.

I have NO IDEA whatsoever how to deal with this as far as calorie requirements, ways to make sure they eat enough, etc.


Trip will be pretty mellow: 5-6 miles/day, mostly above 10000 feet, but with minimal elevation gain/loss. Kid is new to backpacking, but very fit, and goes on 5-8 mile hikes 1-2 times a week (with a light hydration pack)

What I would like (begging for, really) is suggestions form those of you who have packed with kids, is suggestions on how much food to plan for the kidlet, ways to keep her entertained, ways to help teach her to appreciate/respect nature, etc. I really want the kid to have a good experience that sets her up for a lifetime of appreciating/protecting/enjoying/respecting nature. No pressure.


Edited by mailesdad on 09/02/2012 21:29:16 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/02/2012 21:48:51 MDT Print View

Before you consider the food, think about the altitude. Preadolescent kids have higher susceptibility to high altitude illnesses. Once they get to be 13-14, they tend to be stronger and tougher, and then they are about like adults with respect to high altitude.


Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: feeding kids on 09/03/2012 06:02:55 MDT Print View

You probably know better than anyone what your daughter might eat. My recommendation would be to involve her in the process. I usually take my girls to the store and let them pick out whatever snacks they want. They also help prepare the meals. Because they are involved, they seem more excited about their choices.

As far as entertaining and instilling values, what could be better than one-on-one time with you? My girls are a little younger than yours, but seem to entertain themselves well enough being outside, digging in the dirt, doing camp setup, telling stories, etc.

Have fun.

Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Re: Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/03/2012 07:17:18 MDT Print View

My kids (son 14 and daughter 10) are not picky eaters so it is pretty easy for me.

I've been trying to simplify my own backpacking main meals, and I've found that my children enjoy what I like to eat.

To make meals simple I use 1/8 cup dehydrated meat (ground beef or chicken), 1/4 cup part dehydrated mixed veg, a 1/2 cup carb (instant rice, couscous, pasta, or instant mashed potatoes) per person. Dried soup mix forms the sauce and with varying the carb and soup mix (here in the UK there seems to be a much better variety than I found back in Canada) each meal can look quite different.

Breakfasts are instant oatmeal and a steam-baked muffin. I do a morning snack (nuts or gorp) and afternoon snack (jerky or fruit leather) with some kind of chocolate bar for desert after dinner.

We rarely have chocolate bars around the house so it is a big backpacking treat. +1 to Ike's recommendation on getting the kids involved. My kids love to help me make jerky, fruit leather, and pack the meals (picking the chocolate bars is very exciting to them).

My best backpacking investment has been a good quality dehydrator (I recommend the Excalibur). The above seems to work for my kids and they don't complain about being hungry. Funny enough, on my last trip with my family to Dartmoor, it came to about 2lbs per person per day - often what is recommended in some of the nutrition threads and a number of the UL Hiking books.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/03/2012 09:53:10 MDT Print View

Kids find ways to entertain themselves...I always have tried to camp near a water source, be it a creek or lake. That and sticks/rocks? A kid is happy. Even teens are happy!
For nighttime, I always let my oldest carry his Nintendo with him, he could play it in the tent after dark or when buggy outside. A Kindle can go far now days as well.

We also had some of the thin laminated sheets with us that showed flowers, stars, etc - they were fun to use! Teach kids what they are looking at. Let them shoot photos too!

What I found is snacks matter. Carry a LOT of them. Let them go shopping and pick out items. Flavors for drinks as well. Don't obsess over food weight with kids. If they get hungry, stop and feed. Let the healthy diets slide a bit, a little junk food goes far on trips ;-)

When my oldest was 10 he ate nearly as much as plan for that!

Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
Awesome on 09/03/2012 11:18:00 MDT Print View

Thanks for the responses!

I should clarify - this isn't my kid. It's my friends daughter (going to be the first time backpacking for both of them).

I'm definitly going to involve them both in thye planning aspects of the meals as suggested!

My big concern was how many calories to plan and if it would be hard to get a kid to consume that much (I know I tend to undereat and have to force myself to eat more). Based on Sarah's suggestion I'll just plan it as a third adult - better too much food than not enough.

Thanks for the heads up about altitude related illnesses and kids Bob - I'm well aware of that stuff and had planned accordingly but it's good to be reminded

Edited by mailesdad on 09/03/2012 11:18:51 MDT.

Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
kids food on 09/03/2012 11:33:49 MDT Print View

I have been backpacking with my now 11 yo daughter since she was about 6 and my now 7yo since she was 5 or so. I have also led a couple of girl scout trips. My experience is that kids will likely be less picky but at the same time not have a tremendous appetite. I let my girls monitor their own snacks and I will do meals. Typically breakfasts are 1 - 1.5 packs of instant oatmeal. I typically add some dried fruit. Dinners are FBC soup or rice dishes with some salmon maybe. Lunch is either dried hummus on pita or almond butter on tortilla. Dinners always seem to be an exercise in encouraging them to eat more.

Don't worry about trying to entertain them. There will be plenty to do. If she is a reader, have her bring a book for the tent. Also, two-way radios allow you to give them a bit of independence.

Have fun

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/03/2012 17:41:05 MDT Print View

One thing to realize about kids that age hiking or doing any other muscle powered travel is that when they are ready to eat they are READY TO EAT, right now. No matter that there's a 5 star spot for a break just a half mile over the next rise ... that might as well be on the moon as far as they're concerned.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/04/2012 01:36:24 MDT Print View

We've done a number of 2- and 3-night BPing trips with our kids, now 8 and 12. Versus adults, they are at about 35% and 50% of the calorie intake. In about 18 months, with a teenager growing 5 inches in a year, he'll probably exceed our intake. Perhaps exceed BOTH our intakes. I certainly did at that age.

General advice: keep it fun. Take your time. Be flexible. DON'T be saying, "We need to keep moving to get to camp." Don't plan any itineray that requires you to be so highly scheduled. If they want to build a dam across a creek, catch fireflies, or eat berries, hopefully you can dance with that.

We serve pretty healthy food at home, but we let it slide on trip. Mac&Cheese is a big hit and, frankly, after a day on the trail, the carbs taste good to you, too. On winter camping trips, we rent a USFS cabin (this is Alaska after all!) with a wood stove, and bring frozen pizza. Okay, a little fast foody, but after skiing in 4 miles at 0 to 10F, we (again) lean towards keeping it fun. An aluminum foil tent over the wood stove and it's hot and good to go.

You have to bring s'mores if you're allowed to have a camp fire. Freeze a pack of hot dogs (and/or gourmet sausages for the adults) with sturdy buns and ketchup packets. Packed inside a jacket or sleeping bag, they will last 24-36 hours that way.

Take the fun parts of scouting - fire lighting contests, compass course, knot tying, whittling - and make time to do those things.

Let them help set up the tent. Yes, it will take longer, but they will feel like THEY did it. And, hey, after a few trip, they CAN set it up on their own.

Some kids need to veg out and we have a reasonably strong no electronics rule. But a iTouch as an ebook? Okay with us. Light and multi-purpose.

I've had a different experience and found different info about altitude than Bob did:

We took the kids to 13,000 feet, the NPS raises a total stink about it, and we knew in advance. My MD wife is board-certified in several fields but not Peds so as adjugant facility at UWash, she contacted pediatric pneumenologists regarding HAPE, HACE and AMS. Their answer: No difference in the susceptibility nor in the progress of the disorders. HOWEVER it can be harder to detect it in kids. If they doze off, you lose any feedback. But if they are walking, talking, and in a good mood, they're fine. Just like an adult.

Under about 5 feet and a hike is a lot more work for them. You need to keep their packs light - pretty much only give them volume, not mass (sleeping bags and pads). Over 5 feet and my experience has been they function as small, inexperienced adults.

You need to train them on several points during training hikes in advance:

Drink till you pee.
Eat often.
Wash your hands before eating.
Fix any sore spots on your feet IMMEDIATELY.
Stay on the trail.
Wash your hands before snacking
Do NOT pass a trail junction, ever, without waiting for the group.
Watch your sun exposure.
Wash your hands after tioleting.
Keep the alcohol hand sanitizer at the ready.

All of which applies to any hiker, but if you want them to have fun, you have to avoid the painful learning curve many adult newbies inflict on themselves.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 09/04/2012 01:37:41 MDT.

Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
Thankyou! on 09/04/2012 08:03:58 MDT Print View

David, Thanks for taking the time to write that post! I'm going to incorperate a bunch of those ideas.

The info on HAPE/HACE/AMS is gold and will go a long way towards reassuring the kids mother too.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/04/2012 11:37:03 MDT Print View

David- great post!

The only thing I'd add is don't necessarily count on the kid to tell you how they feel. Some kids provide a lot of feedback and some will be silent. Stop and ask them if they are hungry, if they are thirsty, how their feet feel, etc. They also don't know when they are at their half-way limit- kids, like inexperienced hikers, go to their limit and then tell you they can't go any further. So you have to keep an eye on that.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Altitude and Entertainment on 09/04/2012 15:40:42 MDT Print View

If I'm going high I make sure to make some plain Hershey's chocolate. I've also started carrying some drink mixes. If she's feeling bad from altitude a chocolate bar and a drink mix are a good way to quickly get some calories down. GORP might be healthier but its not good if she feels bad and won't eat enough of it to keep her body fueled.

A new pocket knife might be a good way to keep her entertained. Another idea would be a magnesium fire starter. If fires are okay give her some cotton balls and have her practice lighting them on fire with sparks. Another idea would be her own digital camera to take pictures with (bring extra batteries).

Good luck!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Talk to kids on 09/04/2012 17:19:36 MDT Print View

Dena: Agreed, the kid having trouble might be quiet about it. And while I'm more conscious of it with kids, the following is also very true for adults: I pick up on more problems, earlier, by having conversations with people I know. When they get outside of their normal range of cheer, intelligence, grumpiness, articulateness, etc or just "aren't themselves", I start to look for a reason - lack of sleep, food, water, cooling, warmth, oxygen, etc.

Agreed also on finding that halfway point - That was a biggest focus last year on a Grand Canyon RT (18 miles, 10,000 vertical feet) dayhike with my 11-year-old. Likewise with our 7-year-old on Half Dome (17 miles, 10,000 vertical feet) 2 weeks ago.

And, like adults, engaging conversation and an endlessly cheerful trail companion helps the miles go by in less (subjective) time.

Editted to add "Stop and ask them if they are hungry, if they are thirsty, how their feet feel, etc." is great if it works. I also have worked to establish a track record of being right when I've assigned them food, drink, or sleep. My 8-year-old still chaffs at times, but my 12-year-old has seen me be right so often that he believes me when I say "you need to eat something, even if it's not your favorite, even if you don't think you're hungry right now." Many of those lessons were learned at high-level math competitions but they also apply on the trail.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 09/04/2012 17:25:49 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Feeding KIDS on the trail on 09/04/2012 17:32:23 MDT Print View

Dave: Rereading your OP, you say,

"Trip will be pretty mellow: 5-6 miles/day, . . . Kid goes on 5-8 mile hikes 1-2 times a week."

That is GREAT preparation for the trip you describe. Adults should be doing at least 1/2 their proposed daily mileage a few times week. And, as older adults need more preconditioning then young adults, younger kids can get away with less.

But I'd make sure the kid prepares in the same shoes and does some hikes with the same pack as for the trip.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
kids on 09/05/2012 11:02:20 MDT Print View

A lot of good info here. We find that Tobias snacks more and may not be as hungry at meals as he would be at home. We dehydrate things that he normally enjoys at home especially soups, stews, and the like. If you have a dehydrator it will make things much easier. Nothing worse than trying to get a kid to eat something they aren't keen on. If she likes pasta that's always a great meal and you can bump her calories with some extra olive oil in the sauce. Make no-cook bars and let her pick what goes in them (I can post a link to a recipe if you like).

PB and honey with some granola in a wrap always goes over well. We also have an evening snack. Often times he won't be overly hungry at dinner but 20 minutes before bed he suddenly wants something. We learned to keep a bar or snack out just for that purpose.