When you go on a hike with kids it is always important that you bring along the right stuff. If you fail to bring along the right things or forget something then a day in the mountains could turn from a fun filled afternoon to a dreary, short outing and a quick return to the car.
I know that all parents have different parenting styles and techniques. Some parents can’t leave the house to walk down the block without bringing a huge bag full of stuff that they may need and a giant stroller. While at the same time other parents leave the house for the entire day without bringing much of anything except maybe an extra sweatshirt.
With that being said, I though I would put together a list of stuff that I bring when hiking with my kids in the Rocky Mountains. This does not mean that you have to bring everything on this list, but this list should serve as general suggestions. You may find certain things missing or find things that you would never take and that is fine.
These things should all fit into a normal sized day back pack. As a parent hiking with kids you tend to not hike as far as you are used to hiking without kids. So, I carry the backpack that can get kind of heavy sometimes with everyone’s stuff. I like it, because even if we don’t hike very far the extra weight helps me to get some exercise.
Here is a list of stuff to bring on a hike with your kids:
Water – I bring along a couple of bottles of water whenever we go for a walk. I try to bring plenty because it will not be a fun day if you and your kids run out of water. On a hot day I will bring along three bottles, which is mostly too much, but I’d rather have too much than not enough.
Food – Snacks and/or lunch – This is super important when hiking with kids. I always try to bring more food than we can possibly eat during an outing. I find that keeping the kids and parents full of food will make sure that everyone has energy to hike, explore, and have fun.
Treats – Sometimes if we are going to be gone for a long time I will bring along special treats as an incentive to keep the kids moving on the trail. This could be a fruit snack, cookie, or after the holidays a few pieces of candy.
Blanket – I like to put a small blanket (not a big quilt, but a small, thin one that is compact) into the bottom of my backpack. This comes in handy if everyone stops for a break and snack. It is easy to pull it out and throw on the ground.
Sun block – I leave a small bottle of sun block in my backpack all of the time. This way you can reapply sunblock if you are gone for more than an hour or so.
Sun hats – if it is a sunny day, it is a good idea to make sure everyone has a good sun hat that they will keep on their head. Don’t bring one for your 6 year old you like, but they don’t like and won’t keep on their head. You want to make sure it is a hat that they will wear the whole time you are hiking.
Extra bags – I throw in a couple of extra plastic bags in the back pack because you never know when they are going to come in handy. With babies, they may become the dirty diaper bag. With older kids they become trash bags, or bags to hold anything the kids may find on the trail, such as fall leaves that have fallen on the ground.
Moist wipes (or more commonly called butt wipes) – I keep some of these in the backpack at all times. I got into this habit with babies, because with babies you need them to change diapers. But, as the kids get out of diapers they are still handy to have around to clean hands or faces when you are out on the trail.
Jackets/Sweatshirts – Anytime you head up into the mountains, even in the middle of summer, you never know when the temperature will drop or a storm will blow through. It is always a good idea to bring along extra warm clothes for everyone.
Raincoats – if there is a slight chance that it could rain, then I bring along raincoats for everyone. Like everything else here, better safe than sorry.
First Aid Kit – We bring along a small first aid kit that we have put together. This is small and contains simple things such as pain medicine, benadryl, band aids, bandages, and a few other things.
Here are some optional things you may want to bring on a hike:
Fun Stuff – the kids pick a variety of different things that they choose to bring on hikes. What they bring along depends on what they find around the house before leaving or what they are interested in lately. This could include a butterfly net, hiking poles, a magnifying glass, or binoculars. As the parent just be aware that (depending on your parenting style and how you feel about it) you may be the one that ends up carrying those items later in the hike once the kids get bored with it and are tired.
A Friend for the kids – if the kids are a bit older then bringing along a friend will make the hike more fun for them. They will have fun being together and this will get them to hike farther, spend more time on the trail, and just enjoy themselves more.
Guide book – sometimes we bring along a guide book to help us learn more about the plants and animals of the area. This can help by giving something fun to do as you try to identify the different types of flowers or animal tracks.