Prep the Entire Family
Boost anticipation and plan smart to create happy trail memories.
>> Set goals Determine your trophy hike, then work up to that level by selecting training routes that increase in difficulty.
>> Reduce anxiety Got worriers? Get them books about your destination. Inspire them to get excited about wildlife and history.
>> Motivate Kids aren’t inspired by scenery. Instead, promise them things they’re interested in: lakes for fishing or swimming, campsite competitions, rocks to climb, and special treats.
>> Think short Most kids can walk about a half-mile for each year of age, so a four-year-old should be able to pound out two miles. Kids are usually most energetic in the morning. Add at least an hour of trail time for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, and limit distance so you’re not hiking all day. Plan regular rest/play stops.
>> Handle a meltdown When group members are grumpy, assume they’re hungry, thirsty, tired, hot, or cold. Have food, water, and layers on hand, and take time to rest. For more strategies for successful family camping, check out BACKPACKER’s Hiking and Backpacking with Kids ($13; falcon.com).
>> Gear up Sore feet, sleeping cold, getting soaked. These things can ruin a trip even for adults; don’t expect kids to suffer.
Boots Don’t use off-the-shelf street shoes for hikes longer than a few miles or with heavy packs. We like: The North Face’s Vindicator WP ($65; 9.9 oz.; thenorthface.com).
Pack Unless Hero Dad is carrying it all, get a kid pack with adult features. We like: Deuter’s Fox 30 ($99; 2 lbs. 7 oz.; deuterusa.com)
Shell Choose a jacket with a waterproof/breathable membrane and built-in hood. We like: Marmot’s Precip ($65; 9.7 oz.; marmot.com)
Sleeping bag Get a bag sized right so kids don’t carry extra weight. We like: Deuter’s Starlight EXP ($89; 2 lbs. 3 oz.; deuterusa.com).