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Knowing your kids and their limits generally speaking can give you a good idea of where to start. Many of our overnight hikes leave around 2pm, hike five miles to the campsite, eat dinner, have a lazy morning and hike back out around lunchtime. Simple, easy, yet a great way to unplug and be together as a family.

Other families I know grab Subway after work on the way to the trailhead and hike a mere mile or two in before setting up camp for the night. Know your goals and then research the best way to accomplish them. Long before we loaded our kids up with a pack we hit the trails. We hiked short trails, long trails, hikes in the mountains, and hikes in the desert. Our kids could hike up to ten miles, which we did repeatedly over the course of a year. Our first backpacking trip, however, was a short 3.

My husband has memories growing up of even shorter, one mile hikes to backcountry sites shouldering his small backpack and water bottle. The idea is to get your kids used to hiking in to their campsite wearing a pack whether it's one or ten miles in. Camp at George H. Well-thought out and distributed candy, snacks, and gummies can help motivate even the most reluctant hiker.

Quick carbohydrates and sugar are often the perfect pick-me-up.


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We often have a mile limit or a goal to reach before we sit down to pull out the treats, which keeps the kids from asking every five minutes if they can have skittles. While you may enjoy a gourmet backcountry dinner, chances are your kids are just hungry. In addition to plenty of snacks and treats, we do Freezer Bag Cooking for dinner and breakfast.

All dry ingredients are prepared beforehand at home and then sealed in a freezer bag before getting tossed in our packs. Once mealtime rolls around, we boil water, add to our freezer bag, stir, let it sit in a cozy for 10 minutes, and voila! Dinner is served. Our three kids typically share a meal, while Sam and I eat a second. Roosevelt Photo: Jess Curren. At camp, my older two kids will happily read on a Kindle for an hour or two, but after ten minutes my five year old is complaining because no one will play with her.

Packing a compass for scavenger hunts, a GPS unit for Geocaching, or a pocket knife for whittling sticks are all fun ways to spend time together once camp is set up. Between the two of us, we carry most of the gear. From the tent to the sleeping bags, cooking gear, and the food, most of it is packed into our two larger bags. At short distances, ultra-light gear is not as important. The songs you sang? The bubbles you blew?

Just like it does for adults, the trail can start to feel long and unending at times to kids. As you hike together, think about singing your favorite songs or tell stories. My daughter loves to talk through different scenarios and could go on for hours discussing all the things you might need to survive in the desert. And snacks. Snacks work miracles at any age. Friends help too.

We teamed up with another family for our first backpacking trip, knowing it would make getting down the trail a little easier for o ur kids. Giving them special treats they might get when they reach the campsite can help too. You could even pack a few small new toys that they get when they reach the campsite each night as a fun surprise.


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  5. Like anything when it comes to raising a small child, your children are always watching, always listening to what you say and do. Your attitude toward the trail and the trip will trickle down to them. Remember to stay positive. Maybe the hike is taking longer than you thought.

    What to Pack for Backpacking with Kids

    Maybe you think you are stopping too much. All those times you stop on the trail can be wonderful times of teaching and exploration. If you stay excited about what they are discovering you can use that momentum to encourage them down the trail towardsthe next point of discovery. If you never let them stop and explore and only have the destination in mind, everyone will start to get cranky and things can go downhill fast. Factor in times fo r exploration along your route, and remember that children can sense frustration and react accordingly. Likewise, when you yourself start to get tired, remember to stay upbeat and model a good attitude.

    Backpacking with Kids.Tips From 5 Years of Practice

    Talk about the things you are looking forward to when you get to camp. A positive attitude is contagious. If your children do start to complain that their feet are hurting or their back hurts, do stop and assess the situation. The last thing you want to do is push them to continue in an uncomfortable situation. What you see as complaining may be actual pain, so a quick stop to check never hurts.

    There is absolutely no reason not to fill your backpack with as many marshmallows as you can. That bear canister? All those little nooks and crannies not full of food? Marshmallows go there. Remember, backpacking is supposed to be fun.

    Packing a kid's backpack for the backcountry

    As you get ready to take your family on their first backpacking adventure, remember that no matter what happens, the memories you make will be ones you keep forever. Teaching your children the important life skills of endurance, patience, adaptation and flexibility can be so rewarding. It might not all go right, but something is bound to be amazing.

    You might even be surprised by how much they can do.


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    As the owner and photographer behind Atlanta Adventure Photography you'll usually find her out on the trail with a camera in hand. During thunderstorms she chooses to go swing dancing instead. A California girl at heart, she looks for mountains and waves wherever she can. She believes that new cities, new states and new countries are meant for exploring.

    The five year plan? Backpack the GA section of the AT with the kids, visit every state park in GA and hike all the trails in the city limits of Atlanta there are a lot. Follow her family's adventures on instagram at atladventurephoto.

    8 Tips For Taking Your Kids On Their First Backpacking Trip

    Read More by Melissa. Despite the flies, the rain, and the incredibly steep trails, I was hooked after that one experience. Knowing how incredible it feels to wake up in a tent on top of a mountain, we agreed that we would love to share that experience someday with our kids. This last year we finally reached our goal, completing four separate excursions in various states across the U.

    We watched our kids struggle up steep trails and bundle up against cold, windy weather but then also lift their faces in awe as they soaked up an early morning sunrise. So, how did we do it? How did we go from tent for two, to trailside with five? Here are eight tips for taking your kids into the backcountry for the first time:. What are your goals?