It’s time to put the MindCraft down and get outside. But hiking with kids changes the game a bit. Here’s what you need to know in order to have a safe, fun, educational hike.
1) Dress appropriately. Use layers. If you are going to be high in the mountains the weather can change pretty quickly and can go from rainy to hot and sunny and back again on a dime. Remember cotton gets wet and stays wet, so to wick sweat away it’s best to use wool in cold weather or technical fiber year round. A light windbreaker can save a hike on a windy day and keep you from calling it early because of a chill.
2) Shoes. Good treads are a must. Trail runners or hiking boots are ideal. Something that will protect little toes from the rocks along the trails. Sneakers will do in a pinch for a light hike, but if you are going to get serious about spending time with the kids outdoors, invest in a decent pair of shoes for hiking. Waterproof is preferable
3) Be realistic. You may be an avid hiker and five to ten miles is no big deal to you, but remember, kids are little. They get tired, they get whiny, they get hot. Don’t push them to do more than they can really handle. Start out slow and keep an eye on your pace. If it’s taking them longer than you expected, don’t try to push to get to that waterfall and back before dark. Pick trails that are easy to return to the car from, should your little one have enough sooner than planned.
4) Remember, this is about them. Yes you want to get out, and bond with your kids and get in touch with nature. But you are the parent. You are teaching your kids right now. Your number one goal is to impart your love of nature to your child. You want them to go home excited and wanting to do it again. If you push them and they hate it, you could turn them off to hiking for a long time.
5) Munchies. You gotta have munchies. Gorp, goldfish, apples, carrot sticks, crackers, plenty of water, plus throw in a few juice boxes. Bring things that you know they’ll eat. Now is not the time to focus on their eating habits. You want to avoid an out-in-the-wild, low blood sugar melt down at all costs.
What else to bring:
Cameras, notebooks, sunblock, bug spray, change of socks, GPS or a map app., a paper map, bathing suit, map, flashlight, tissues, diapers, wipes, sunglasses, plastic baggies (take whatever you bring in, out with you).
By the way, always bring a flashlight, even if you only expect to be out for a little while. You never know, and if you end up getting back later than planned, believe me you’ll thank me later.