Day Trippin': 10 Tips for a Great Hike With Kids

It seems like everyone is on the "get into nature with your kids" kick. Big companies are using it for marketing, mom blogs are applauding it, but it's going to be a real downer when you're running from a bear through the mud wearing flip flops and your children are clinging to your legs. Okay...it won't be that bad but a little preparedness goes a long way in having a great time with your little ones. 

  1. Prioritize fun, not physicality: Maybe pushing older kids to reach the summit works, but when you send a four year old on a death march, not only will they think walking through the woods is boring, but their head will actually do a complete 360-degree spin. You'll achieve the exact opposite of what you're going for. Take your time, let the kids wander a bit.
  2. Bring Lots of Water: self explanatory but important. Water you need just to keep everyone hydrated. You don't want your group suffering from heatstroke a few miles in. Also, toss in a Sawyer Mini Water Filter...you never know!
  3. Bring snacks: The snacks are important too. Not only do they help the overall energy level but they have a positive mental impact on the little people. I typically pack things like fruit, nuts, cut veggies, cereal bars or whatever I could find in the fridge that wouldn't go bad on a day-hike.
  4. Plan an engaging trip: kids like water or spectacular views. I find that a grueling hike that doesn't reach a summit or a body of water will result in the aforementioned head-spinning or the dead cat syndrome (AKA "Going Boneless", which is when a child is so deprived of all hope and wonder that they just collapse under the weight of life until you carry them back to civilization and ice cream.) 
  5. Don't just walk, EXPLORE: Walking can be boring for kids. Heck, it can be boring for adults! So make it more about exploring. Depending on where you're going, make the trip about finding the "treasure" or look for special items you can only really find in the forest (ferns, acorns, special trees, etc.)
  6. Involve the kids in the process: Don't give full creative control, but perhaps you can begin by saying "Do you want to hike to a waterfall or go up a big mountain to look over the tops of all the trees?!" Let them pick the adventure. There will be more buy-in that way. GYou can even give them route options "Do you want to walk close to the river or through the forest?" It's also fun to have the kids look out for the next blaze on the trail. Then they feel like they're leading the way!
  7. Make the kids feel like a member of your team by getting some cool kid-gear: This can really make them feel like a "real hiker" when pioneering through the woods...
    1. Kid Swiss Army Knife.
    2. How about a great REI Tarn 18 Backpack?
    3. Maybe their own Klean Kanteen water bottle?
    4. How about a cool headlamp for the trail?
    5. Perhaps a whole little hiking kit?
  8. Have the right shoes: sturdy, supportive and a good fit. I'm partial to:
    1. Vasque Breeze 2.0 Kids
    2. Keen Koven Hiking Boots
  9. Lastly, have fun! Don't make getting to the end-point or summit ruin the day. If you kids are happier playing in a stream five-minutes from the trail head...make it work. If we want our kids to enjoy nature, we have to show them why it's awesome. It's a place to reconnect with life and each other, a place to play, a place to be free. 
  10. Bonus tip: keep a first aid kit nearby. Because...life.