Hiking with Kids: Tip 2

We know firsthand how hard it is to turn off that Little Mermaid video, pry the kids off the couch, load up the car, and drive out of the city just to get a few precious moments of wilderness. Is it even worth it? Absolutely. But it's not easy. That's why we're glad to have Nina Franey on our Tmber team. As a mother of three young kids, she's learned – often by trial and error – many helpful tips and tricks to having a successful hiking adventure with little ones. 

In her first installment of Hiking with Kids, Nina shared the basics of preparing for a hike (i.e. choosing where to go and how to keep them motivated once you're there). The response was so good that she's back with more, this time covering the essentials of what to bring with you on the trail.

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In her own words:

I’d like to think I’m a quick learner, but it took a few hikes with my little people to reveal that I was lacking several critical items that would have been good to have all along. Thankfully, our first hikes fell on the easy end of the scale, and fairly close to home, so my oversights weren’t too life threatening. Just the same, I never leave home without first packing these essentials.

Essential #3: Bring provisions

We’re hungry people around here. I try to schedule our hikes so that we can eat at our destination, so in addition to trail treats, we also bring along our lunches. I am careful to stick with things that I know my kids will eat and that will be easy to pack out, even if only partially consumed. In our case, we like to bring pre-cut fruits and veggies, dried fruit and nuts, and cubes of cheese and salami. This ensures three things: that the kids won’t starve, that we leave no trace, and that I’m not dealing with messy or spoiled food to clean up back at home. A couple of shared water bottles means that we’ll all stay hydrated and that we can distribute the weight by taking turns being on water-carrying duty.

Ada carries our lunch in a lightweight backpack

One key item I am embarrassed to admit I failed to pack initially is a portable first aid and toiletry kit. Even though our hikes are typically short and close to home, it’s always worth it to come prepared. My kit has grown to include bandages, one of those instant ice packs, bugspray, sunscreen, chapstick, Benadryl, and antibiotic and cortisone creams. I also highly recommend bringing along an extra ziplock baggie filled with toilet paper (you never know when nature is going to call).

Having some cash can be handy, either to pay at the trailhead for a pass I may have forgotten or to buy raspberries from the fruit stand just down the road. I have found it’s helpful to keep my trail and park passes in the car at all times, as opposed to, say, my pocket or backpack.

Making a cash payment at the Twin Falls dropbox

Last, bring a camera and binoculars if you have them. My kids love seeing pictures of themselves, and I love having the tangible record of some great family memories.  And there's nothing better than superhuman vision for those rare mountain goat sightings.

Ada looks for wildlife at the Big Four Ice Caves

Essential #4: Dress for success

We let the intensity of the trail and weather dictate our gear-to-game ratio. This usually means that tennis shoes and comfortable play clothes are more than sufficient. That said, I recommend bringing an extra warm layer or two, a change of clothes, and a change of shoes and socks for every member of your pack. This is helpful for those times when it starts to rain unexpectedly, or when the trail is really muddy, or when the urge to wade into a lake or river is just too great to resist. Given that most of the hikes we do have good road access to the trailhead, we use the car as an overflow bin for our extra gear.

Henry relaxes on the tailgate

Note that ‘every member’ includes you. For many of our hikes, I am operating in solo parent mode. In my case, this means that I am the primary gear, food, and baby Sherpa for the clan. With an infant strapped to my chest and a pack at my back, I have discovered that a sweat-free shirt is awfully nice to change into back at the car – particularly if we are making any public stops on the way home.

Looking for some more tips? Read other installments of Hiking with Kids here and here.