Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Reader Brent Bauer, 45, Broomfield, CO
» Problem “When my 7-year-old gets bored, she’ll basically boycott the rest of a trip. How do I make hiking fun and comfortable for my kids?”
Expert Jen Aist, author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping, and Boating with Babies and Young Children
» Solution “There are three things that go into making backpacking trips great for kids. First, bring comfort food, like pizza; it will boost the morale of even the biggest grumps. Second, plan trips that won’t be too hard. Third, pack games or invite a friend, and set goals that will make hiking fun.”
Plan Kid-Friendly Hikes
Prep right and choose no-sweat trails.
» Practice. Dayhike with kids fully outfitted, so you can fine-tune their gear. Practice backyard campouts, too.
» Set realistic goals. As a general rule, plan a half-mile per year of age, and schedule a rest stop every 45 minutes.
» Snack and hydrate. Make sure everyone’s snacking. Active kids (between the ages of 5 and 12) need 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day and as much water as adults, about 64 ounces.
» Pick kid-friendly destinations. Choose trails with playgroundlike features, such as streams and boulder fields.
» Give kids control. Teach them about layering, pack clothing appropriate for the lowest temps you expect, stand back, and let them self-regulate. “Kids are very capable,” says Aist.
Cook up Aist’s kid-friendly pie, and
see page 56 for a complete family kitchen kit.
14 ounces of ready-made dough
1 1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup each of 2 to 5 pizza toppings
8 ounces mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Form dough into four 8-inch rounds and prebake (check package directions for oven temperature) until dry to the touch. Cool and wrap in foil. Pack sauce in a spillproof container. Chop toppings and store in zip-top bags. Crusts will last three to four days in your pack.
Oil your pan and grate the cheese. Place one crust in the pan, add one-quarter of the pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese. Cover and cook pizza on very low heat for 5 to 12 minutes (until cheese is melted). Repeat with remaining crusts until complete. Serves 3 to 4.
Make Hiking Fun
Entertain and Challenge kids.
» Bring lightweight toys. Binoculars, magnifying lenses, Frisbees, fishing rods, and kites are amusing, but not heavy. For high-flying, portable fun, try Prism Designs’ Stowaway Parafoil kite ($35; 4 oz.; prismkites.com).
» Turn chores into challenges. Make a game or race out of camp projects. For example: Who can pitch the tent fastest, or gather the most kindling?