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Hiking with kids

Kids are great at hiking, they just don’t know it yet.

My wife Regan and I were avid backpackers before having kids; some of our favorite trails include the West Coast Trail and Skyline Trail. The last 5 years with kids we have switched to a lot of day hikes rather then overnight trips. Taking the kids brings new challenges but we have found the following 3 key tips can help a ton.

PLAN AHEAD – well duh, planning of course helps, but the key here is to include your toddlers & youth in that planning so they are prepared for what the experience will be like. Talk about where you start, what you will see, discuss some of the main scenic points ahead of time so they too are excited to make the journey. It’s never too soon to start talking about the hike with your kids. On a recent trip to Fernie I started talking about our Wednesday hike on Saturday already. For this particular hike it was an out and back so we had lots of distance options. We ended up hiking 6 km on the Lazy Lizard Trail just down the valley from Island Lake Lodge.

SNACKS & BREAKS – snacks are key, and good snacks too. Plan to stop more often for shorter breaks rather then trying to push through and get in more miles. A simple rule of thumb is to listen to that little lazy couch potato voice in your head that says “stop, I’m tired” too early in the hike, in a child’s head that is the right time to stop.

SHOW & TELL – the entire trip should be about all the great show and tell items that you see. Plants, trees, signs of wildlife, are all wonderful items to show and talk about with your kids. It keeps them entertained, and they start looking for items of there own and asking questions.

Following the above points we have had some wonderful 3-8km hikes with our toddler when she was as young as 3. At the infant stage, they are pretty easy to take hiking. When they are quite small we loved the Baby Bjorn for hikes, and as they get a little larger a backpack style pack works great. The only thing I will say about the backpack kid carriers is don’t skimp on quality, and try it on in the store with weights or your kids in it and leave it on for a while. If its uncomfortable in the store it will be murder on the trail.

Don’t forget to make sure your kids have a good pair of shoes & socks, and they have a lightweight breathable rain jacket in case the weather changes. Even with kids hikes don’t need to only take place in fair weather, we have had some amazing experiences on the trail with kids in the rain. Good clothing & gear helps.

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