Kids love to have fun. They’re up for just about anything if it includes having a great time, and many children these days don’t have enough exposure to the beauty and wonder of Nature. Backpacking can be a wonderful way to introduce your kids to the great outdoors and to have them learn valuable lessons about themselves and the world around us. As long as they have fun with backpacking and don’t see it as a chore or a burden, they will learn to love Nature. But how do you make sure your children enjoy the experience of backpacking, hiking, and camping?
Keep it Simple
The trick to taking kids backpacking is to keep it simple. Remember that you’ll be carrying your necessities on your back, so trim it down to the basics of warm clothes, rain gear, good hiking shoes, extra socks, sunscreen, bug repellent, and food. To decrease the weight of your backpacks, try to get ultra light gear for the tents, sleeping bags, and cooking utensils. For the first few backpacking excursions, keep the length short so that you won’t need to carry as many necessities. The good news is that you can have the children help shoulder the load, be getting them their own backpacks.
Even young kids will enjoy having their own backpacks, because this makes them feel like they’re really part of the experience. It will give them a great sense of independence, while helping you out by having them carry some of the necessities. Just remember to pack their backpacks light, with just clothing, a little food, and maybe a flashlight. Depending on the age of the children, you can add extras to their backpacks as long as they’re capable of carrying them, and as long as the strain of carrying the extra weight won’t lessen their backpacking experience.
It’s also important to keep the length and quality of the hike realistic. Judge their ability to handle the type of terrain and to go the distance, and make the backpacking experience one that they will enjoy instead of remembering that it was so taxing and physically painful. Very scenic areas can help distract the kids from any physical discomforts and keep them occupied, so that they’ll barely notice the miles striding by. It’s not important how far you go or how fast you get there; it’s only important that you and your children enjoy the backpacking experience.
Getting kids involved in setting up a camp and cooking the meals keeps them occupied and makes them feel as though they’re contributing. This can make the experience their own and give them a real sense of independence. But it’s important to remember to bring types of food that are quick and easy to prepare—hungry children can get easily discouraged. Pretty much every kind of food tastes better when cooked outdoors, so you don’t need to get fancy with the types of foods you bring. Kids burn energy at an alarming rate, so in addition to camp food, remember to bring a decent amount of trail mix for when you are backpacking.
Backpacking is an extraordinary way to get up close and personal with Nature, to see the wondrous variety of life, to be a part of it, and to exercise your body and mind. Children need these kinds of experiences, not only to educate, but to broaden their minds. Even small children are capable of backpacking and camping, and if it’s done right, they’ll have memories to last a lifetime. Just remember to keep it simple and have fun!