The outdoors calls, and whether you have pre-teens or babes in arms, the right preparation strategies can make it possible to answer with your children in tow. Here are five big tips for backcountry camping with kids.
Your adventure should be scaled to suit your children. You must always keep in mind that they will not be able to handle nearly as many activities or tasks as you as a parent can. Kids that wear packs will enjoy a much better experience with distance than when facing elevations.
Long trails should be taken in bite-sized steps with animal tracks, photography, plant identification, and frequent snacking. It helps to maintain flexibility and know when to quit. If you find yourself stuck in a tent for the 3rd day in a row due to rain, there is no shame in taking up shop at a local motel.
Pack the right equipment
There is no way you can bring everything you want nor remember to bring everything, but there are certain key items that are an absolute must for any camping trip.
Several key examples include:
- Individual water bottles
- Diaper management/disposal
- Shovels and buckets
- Socks and underwear
- Sleeping bags
- Bug spray
Give the children what they can handle
When backpacking, a good rule of thumb for children is to equip them with a carrying capacity of up to 20% of their total weight. For less active children, they should carry less. Never allow the weight to exceed 10 pounds.
As for backpacks themselves, ensure they come with external and internal frames. Suitcase and school bags will not work for trails.
Furthermore, ensure that you have an adjustable harness for the torso region. It is not enough to have straps for the shoulder pads, as the entire length should be easily modified with a slider.
Kids will grow fast, so the torso length needs to be adjusted with each passing year. Generally speaking:
- A child between the ages of 5 to 10 with a pack should be equipped with a pack between 1500 to 2500 cubic inches.
- Pre-teens and teenagers are able to move into the cubic inch range of 2500 to 3500.
- Beyond adolescence: Depending on the size of your child and how much you believe they will grow during puberty, you will need to decide on an upgrade or just jump to a small-sized adult pack once they begin to outgrow their training gear.
When it comes to sleeping bags, you should avoid the traditional bag your child brings to friends' houses on the weekend. They are heavy, bulky, and fail to keep warm when outdoors. Instead, you should shop for sleeping bags that have temperature ratings capable of handling the most inclement weather. Bags that can handle 20 degrees and not need to be opened are better than freezing in ones that cannot. The bag alone will likely be around 2 to 3 pounds and take up most of the child's carrying capacity.
Inflatable pads are another option, but they take on more weight. However, many of these are available in short sizes ideal for young campers.
Even if your trip is rather simple, there are still inevitable hazards that need to be avoided. In particular, bodies of water require respect, and children need to be watched at every moment they are in proximity.
A common form of child injury when camping includes burns from campfires. Coincidentally, it tends to happen when children play around fires that are seemingly dead the next morning and come into contact with hot coals beneath the ashes.
Going out on trails, many parents equip their children with whistles. This may come across as annoying, but they are essential when a child wanders out of a parent's immediate field of view. Children need to be taught to stick with a friend and remain still if they find out they're lost.
You should never go anywhere out into the woods without a first aid kit that is fully stocked, including protection from snakes. There is no such thing as being over-prepared. As you gain expertise, you will naturally discern the difference between overkill and what is necessary.
Nothing can burden your camping trip more than a hungry child. Too many parents have horror stories of tantrums, meltdowns, and refusal to continue on a long trail.
A child has an incredibly small body and will burn significant calories and may not even realize that their hunger is driving many of their emotions. This is the reason you absolutely need to be equipped with a full arsenal of camping snacks.
Fruit is a very simple food to get the average child to snack on, and the natural sugar provides them with the necessary electrolytes to press on any challenging hike. Here are several key fruit snack examples:
- Apples (sliced)
- Dried Fruits
Even when camping, you should not excuse a wholesome diet for your child. Fortunately, there are tons of delicious vegetable snacks they can eat to stay healthy on the trail. Here are several key vegetable snack examples:
- Freeze-dried snap peas
- Sliced beets
- Carrot sticks
- Cucumber sticks
- Celery sticks
- Cauliflower florets and broccoli
- Sugar snap peas
- Sliced bell peppers
Snacks that are packed full of protein are yet another fantastic source of fuel for your children until it's time for the next meal. Here are some of the best examples of protein-based camping snacks:
- Beef jerky
- Boiled eggs
- Granola bars
- String cheese
- Trail mix
The following morning, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, including and especially for youngsters. When camping, it's a breeze to create delicious pancakes under the campfire. Here are several key breakfast snack examples:
- Apple protein muffins
- Banana pancakes
- Sausage and egg scramble
- Yogurt pizza
Adults can handle themselves in most situations when on the trail, but children always need special attention. Keep watch on them at all times, make sure they are well fed, and have plenty of variety in their activities to not be distracted. All of these objectives can be achieved by ensuring you pack the right equipment.