Mike's Backpacking Reference

Backpacking with Kids

Home  | Bedroom | Kitchen | Clothing | Other Gear | Fishing | Photography | Navigation

I love to meet kids on the trail.   I'm reluctant to give much advice as all kids and their parent are different.   What we did seemed to work so I'll share here.

Sharing our love for the outdoors with our children was very natural.   Kids are curious about everything so the outdoors should be a big adventure.  A parents concern is to make the experience enjoyable and safe. 

A good rule of thumb is to limit weight to less than 25% of the child's weight.  

Age Gear
1-3 Kid pack.   Minimal walking so child is carried.  Some great kid packs are available.     This requires two adults.  One to carry the kid and one to carry the gear.   A spacious 2 person tent can squeeze in two adults and a child. 
4-5 Child can now walk, but not carry gear.   At this age they can hike a fair distance, but seem to more interested in exploring than hiking to a destination.  Plan short days and frequent stops.   Sneakers are OK for foot wear. 
5-9 Now they can carry their personal gear.   You can start with some clothes in a day pack and graduate to a kids pack adding their sleeping gear.   Consider boots at this point, nothing fancy but something sturdy. 
10-12 Longer trips are possible.   They can carry all their personal gear.   You will likely need carry most of the food and community gear.
12 up At this age they can carry some of the community gear and food.   Load them up, but observe the weight limit.  Trip limit is mainly due to weight of gear and food.  

Keeping up with growth is challenging.  If you have several kids you may be able to pass gear along.   Look for packs that are designed for a range of adjustment.    Remember to look after young ones with regard to bugs and sun.    Lots of bites or sunburn will certainly dampen their experience.   Differentiate between complaining (often just tired) and actual issues like blisters.  They are resilient!  Many times you may find that a tired cranky kid on the trail becomes a energized explorer when camp is reached.  Frequent stops to rest, snack, and check feet are recommended.    Kids often don't hydrate or eat enough on the trail.   Check their food and water to insure they are eating and drinking.