Llama-Packing With the Kids

Backpacking with kids gets easier when you've got llamas for help
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Backpacking with kids gets easier when you've got llamas for help

Backpacking with young kids creates problems—they're always complaining about how their "feet hurt" after a 12-mile push, or whining about carrying all the cookware, tents, climbing hardware, and solar panels I usually assign to them. ""Owwww...my back hurts!" Bunch of shiftless layabouts.

Luckily, there's a solution: Yesterday, the New York Times wrote about the joys of backpacking with llamas in Colorado's San Juans. Instead of loading your kids with tons of gear, you can have them hike unencumbered as they lead these gentle pack animals into the backcountry. Llamas are apparently known as "hard-working" and "easygoing" trail companions, and with the ability to carry up to a third of their weight (300 lbs.), you can easily pack luxury items usually reserved for car camping.

Other bonuses: Llamas' soft-padded feet cause less environmental damage than even hikers, and these Andean mammals can easily manage the toughest terrain. Also, they tend to actually scare away bears and other predators from camp.

OK, now for the downside: Llamas need to be led by rope on the trail and get uncomfortable without their human companions, which doesn't leave much room for free-spirited bushwhacking. And the biggest obstacle? "Drop camping," which involves having a llama guide lead you in and out, but you provide all the gear and food and manage the llamas costs $1,075; a full-service trip with guides and cooks will cost a family of four $4,000 for four days. Eeep.

In that case, maybe I'll put up with the whining; by the time we reach camp, they're usually all cried out anyway. Then they can cook dinner.

—Ted Alvarez

Backpacking Made Easy, with Four-footed friends (NY Times)

image credit: Tambako the jaguar