Iwasn’t raised in a outdoorsy, hiking kind of family. I’m from a California, techy kind of family. So when I married this rugged camping, hiking, hunting, mountaineer guy I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t until our family started to grow and we were trying to find an identity of what kind of family we were going to be that my love of hiking began. It’s for the most part free, quiet, and a perfect way to grow together as a family. Also, I really believe in exposing my kids to a reasonable amount of risk as they grow so that they can learn what their little bodies are capable of and measure for themselves what might not be safe. These are invaluable skills to building self confidence and empowering them to do whatever they want.
I get asked all the time though how do you hike with all those little kids. Here’s my best advice and tips on the subject:
1. Never ever ever leave the house without food. EVER!! No matter how short the hike, no matter how long you’re planning on being out. Once you hit those trails the kids will start to turn. A couple granola bars, some fruit snacks, even a juice box does wonders to perk a tired hiker up.
2. While we’re on the subject of food I like to have a pack of gum in my back pocket when we hike. Something sweet that will make good bubbles. Then once the kids start to complain I’ve got my secret weapon. “Once we get to that rock up there with no whining you can get a ½ piece of gum!” Then hand it out again after the next big obstacle or steep incline. It makes them excited to get to that rock and also it keep their mouths busy while we go. Try it! It’s amazing.
3. If I know we’re not going to be around crowds or other hikers it’s fun sometimes to bring a little bluetooth speaker and play some music as we go. I even have a hiking playlist full of upbeat fun songs they all know. It keeps the pace up and helps keep their minds off tired legs.
4. Research! Before you go on a hike try to read and learn about it as much as possible. Although sometimes it’s fun to just go and explore without a plan for the most part they like to know how long we are going to be hiking, what kind of cool things we’ll see and how intense it’s going to be. It also helps you plan for what kind of gear you need. Nothing like being the idiots trying to wrangle a double stroller up a single track trail.
5. Speaking of gear, we tried it all. We’ve had all kinds of hiking backpacks, front packs, side packs. You name it we’ve probably tried it. Our very favorite hiking carrier of all time is the Ergo. It keeps the weight evenly distributed, and keeps them down low so they aren’t banging their heads into low branches. Plus with them strapped on like this it keeps me pretty free to climb and boulder when I need to. You wouldn’t believe the places we’ve gone with the kids strapped on like this. (I don’t usually carry 2 at a time, but I totally can!)
6. Finally BE FLEXIBLE! Countless times we’ve had to change plans or not go as far as we’d hoped or leave the trail to discover something new. That’s the fun of being outside with your kids. There’s no rules, no expectations, just being together finding new stuff.
Like I said I’m not a natural adventurer, but we have had so much fun exploring together as a family and getting a little stronger in the process. Don’t be afraid to get out there, even if your kids are tiny. That’s the very best time to get them used to it.