Before we had children, my husband and I would often grab our hiking gear and food, hop in the car and go on long weekend hikes. Usually our hikes would be overnight consisting of around 13 miles round trip. No matter what the weather was we would go out on a hike. As we began to have children, we obviously had to adjust our itinerary. No more last-minute overnight hikes through the rain or snow. Instead, the weather had to be sunny and our plans would need to be made ahead of time. Of course, our overnight hikes also adjusted to day hikes.
To prepare for a hike with a baby, we exchanged our large hiking back packs for baby front carriers and baby backpacks. We were also lucky enough to receive a B.O.B. stroller from the grandparents so we were set for traveling with a baby. Instead of last-minute trips, we now had to plan at least the night before. Besides finding the best place to hike we also had to prepare bottles and snacks, extra clothes and diapers.
For obvious reasons, the length of the hikes adjusted from 13 miles round trip to now 3 miles or however long the baby would allow. Where we would hike also adjusted. As timing is everything with babies, we did not want to waste too much time traveling to hiking spots. Instead we chose spots closer to home where we could get there quickly and felt comfortable carrying a baby.
As our children grew out of the carriers, we again had to adjust our hiking itinerary. Selling the baby carriers, we moved on to small backpacks for the kids to carry their own snacks and water. Still limited on time and length of hikes we continue to choose closer to home destinations with shorter easier hikes for little legs. Our average length of hikes now consists of about a mile to a mile and a half.
Adjustments aside, hiking with our children is a blast. Spending time outside with the family, enjoying nature, getting exercise and sharing a common interest is wonderful. Admittedly our children are not always excited to go on a hike, sometimes playing video games at home is of more interest to them. But because they have grown up hiking, they understand the importance of going on a family hike.
My husband and I have also learned through trial and error that compromising with the children can be immensely helpful. For example, our children really love Build A Bear and they absolutely must bring their Build A Bears everywhere we go. Including on hikes.
At first, we fought with them bringing their Build A Bears. We did not want them to ruin their Build A Bears. So, we said no, which then led to many tears and temper tantrums. Which then led to extremely uncomfortable hikes. Finally, with some assistance from the employees of Build A Bear, we found a solution to our problem. Build A Bear bags that our children could carry their bears on their backs along with their water and snacks. Now when we go on hikes our kids can have their bears and we can have an enjoyable hiking experience.
As our children continue to grow, we will continue to adjust our hiking itinerary to meet our needs. Eventually my husband and I would like our children to get to the point where we can go for overnight hikes at farther destinations. For now, we will enjoy the things that we can do and know to work well for us.
Of course, what works well for us may not work well for anyone else. But if you are interested in taking kids hiking, our suggestion is to prepare as much as possible. Find the right gear that will work for your family needs. We usually find our gear through REI, a recreational retailer headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. If money is an issue and you currently cannot by new gear, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can often provide used gear for much cheaper. Most of this gear if well taken care of can last an exceedingly long time and has good resell value. Also, if you are new to hiking then you do not really need much hiking gear. To start, find a nice place with a well-kept trail that a simple pair of tennis shoes can handle and start a hike there. As you progress into longer hikes then we would suggest looking into hiking backpacks, which will allow you to carry more gear.
Once you become more comfortable with hiking and are ready to go on overnight hikes, then we would suggest looking into high quality sleeping bags. If there is one thing you do not want to go cheap on it is sleeping bags. The last thing you want to happen is to go on a strenuous hike with your family and find out your sleeping bags have holes, or the zipper is broke.
We would suggest researching a lot of gear, trying it on, and speaking with avid hikers before purchasing or going on an overnight hike. You will also want to make sure to research your destination well. Triptipedia.com is a wonderful site for travel and hiking tips. Recreation.gov is a wonderful trustworthy site that will share campground and hiking area information. Other trustworthy sites to help with destination research are nps.gov. NPS is an acronym for national park services and will give you live up to date information on National Parks. Another place to look is tripadvisor.com which will give you reviews from other users on destinations around the world.
The most important thing about hiking with children is knowing what you and your children can handle and know what you want to achieve from the hike. For us it is simple outdoor exercise with family time together, for others it might be something different. The biggest thing is to make it comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!