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Kids and Backpacking

How much weight can a 10-year-old boy comfortably carry?


I want to take my 10-year-old (80 lbs.) boy backpacking. How much weight should he carry? I want him to enjoy it!

Submitted by - Bil Gibson - Jupiter, FL


Well, Bil, there are several factors to consider here. It’s a great idea to have your son carry a pack. I’ve found that my kids (ages 9 and 12) enjoy carrying a pack because it makes them feel more involved with the trip, but if the route is strenuous or the day is long, I gotta be really careful about how much weight I give them.

I find that it’s better to start my boys off on a trip with a really light pack, and if they handle it well, I discreetly add a little more weight as the trip progresses. If your boy is big and strong and the trail is flat, you could try him with 15-20 pounds, but it’s risky to go higher than that. Make him carry his sleeping bag and pad and some clothes, a water bottle and a couple of snacks.

As for you, be prepared to schlep monster hero-dad loads until your boy is full-grown. Hopefully, by then, you’ll have molded him into an enthusiastic backpacker, who will repay you by carrying the heavy stuff!

1 Comment

  1. Thomas

    Here are my thoughts…
    Get kids started early. I started hiking with my son while he was still sitting on my back for part of the hike.
    When he was two, he started carrying a backpack, it was filled with a few toys and snacks…and anything he collected along the way.
    When he was 3 I replaced his little backpack with a small hydration pack so he could carry his own water. I would have put him in that earlier, but the smallest one I could find wouldn’t fit until he was 3.
    We started doing backpacking trips when he was in his 4s. He would carry his camelbak and I would shlep everything else.
    When he was 6 we started looking for a small pack for him to carry. The problem is most technical packs, even Jr. sized were too big for him. The smallest we found (deuter) was still slightly big. We bought it anyway and modified it a bit to fit him better. He wore that packed with 10 lbs hiking up to the top of Mt. Whitney and back. Now he is 7 and fits his pack better and loves carrying it.
    Just start them off early and add a bit when you feel they are ready.

    FYI-10lbs adds up quick, for him it was his sleeping bag, water, snacks and some toys.

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