Backpacking with Kids!

Backpacking trips can be some of the most adventurous journeys we embark upon.

Rain, snow, fallen trees, boulders the size of houses, mountain lion encounters, and bears roaming through the camp at night.
We. Are. Adventurers.

Now, throw kids into the mix!
Do any of you brave the backcountry with your kids? What are your tips and tricks to surviving the rugged outdoors with your outdoor rugrats? Here are a few of mine.

1. Extra Kid Shoes
Yes, it adds a bit more weight to your pack, but it’s not “if” they soak their shoes - it’s “when”.
And then, you’ll be the hero who made the remainder of their trip bearable. Making those first few trips fun will help lay a foundation for those tougher trips later on.

2. Snacks! Snacks! Snacks!
We are so accustomed to packing the bear minimum when it comes to food; a lightweight Mountain House Meal or Peak Refuel with a granola bar, and we’re good. But kiddos need a bit more s’more. Throw in a small ziplock of marshmallows, some fruit snacks, or M&M’s, and you are the greatest backpacking-vending-machine-dad ever.

3. Are We There Yet?
If this isn’t obvious, make the trips a bit shorter in distance. Unless you have a Rambo-child who is unstoppable, most kids start dramatically giving up between 1 and 2 miles. That’s the sweet spot with my rugrats (ages 2, 4, 8, 10, 12) anyway. Also, it really helps to have a very defined arrival point, like a lake, or riverside. These epic landscape changes really help to define the arrival. Besides, what kid doesn’t like throwing rocks in the water?!

What are your tips for Backpacking with Kids?

Keep Backpacking!

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What age did you start your kids backpacking?
I really want to take my 10 month old son, I know it’ll be a totally different ballgame since we’ll be carrying him and our gear. Do you have any tips for bringing babies/toddlers?

The best advice is to lighten your pack loads! We went on a hut to hut backpacking trip in New Hampshire when our daughters were 7 and 10 years old and we quickly realized we packed too much stuff. For example, we should have only packed one toothpaste to share and very minimum toiletries (there were no showers in the huts as I recall so why we packed shampoo, I’ll never know). Make sure to pack appropriate weather clothing such as rain pants and jackets. Before this trip, we spent as much time as possible doing day hikes with packs. The next bit of advice - plan on a reward for the end of the trip! This can be as simple as ice cream cones or a visit to a local gift shop. Kids love trinkets, as useless as they may seem to adults.

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Wholeheartedly agree that snacks are a tremendous motivator. Who doesn’t love food!

My first backpacking trip was as an almost 10-year-old with my dad to a lakeside lean-to. It was April vacation and the snow was not fully melted; the lake was still covered in several inches of snow plus about 6" of slush. In the more than 45 years since, I’ve told tales of that weekend multiple times…ice fishing, river crossings, bushwhacking, playing cribbage, and collecting and carrying a 4’ piece of a red birch tree that had been gnawed on by a beaver all play a key role in those memories!

It wasn’t a very long hike, but it was plenty long with my feet punching through the rapidly melting snow. The cup-a-soup was a welcome warming break on the hike in and it was fun to finally reach the pond and shelter. Before we left, Dad asked if I had my coat. I replied I did, but all I had was a sweatshirt! So make sure you check what your kids have packed! For your entertainment, I’m attaching a couple of photos

I’ve only done short hikes with my nieces and nephews, but I will use a geocache or fun destination as an incentive.


I love hiking to the huts. They make it so much easier because you don’t need to bring such a big load. If you can stay warm and dry, that’s a great start!

Amazing pictures Jean! Is that picture with the shelter here ? If so, you should give it a review after all these years :slight_smile:

You’ve given me an idea I’m going to start a thread for earliest camping photos/videos! Here’s that thread - Let's share pictures of our earliest camping memories!

I’ve been on a trip with a friend’s kids and they always take jelly beans for when then things get tough… and turn them into a scavenger hunt -tucking them into trees along the trail. Every kid can just walk just a little bit further if there there’s a jelly bean involved :slight_smile:

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M and Ms were the incentive snack of choice for our family!

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