I know, that title sounds weird. This isn't a post for people with exceptionally small feet. It's for people who have kids who, in turn, have little feet. I'm aware that not everyone is an avid hiker and hitting the trails can leave some questions unanswered, so I hope this post covers some basic essential tips and gear.
Before I was a dad I was a self-professed outdoors guy and gear nut. This just means I spent a lot of time outside and learned a lot of tips and tricks ranging from fire-starting, to first aid, to general safety and preparedness. Most of these things aren't a concern on a two-hour hike but there are some guiding principles that can make any hike great. Because that's what we want isn't it? We don't want to just shove our kids into nature, we want them to love it.
Best tip: be prepared.
Yep. I was a good ol' boyscout. But even if I wasn't, that rule remains true. Your kids won't be happy if you're not prepared for:
- A rainstorm
- Very hot/cold conditions
- A crap in someone's pants
- Blisters on the feet
- Allergic Reactions
- Getting lost
In all seriousness, to make time outside great, just have the right attitude and the basic gear. Before the "gear" though, the best place to begin is by simply having a plan. Look at the park map. How far will you hike? What can you kids handle? Where are you planning on stopping for breaks? Consider nap schedules, eating schedules, etc. What's the weather going to be? Start early if it's going to be hot. If you set your kid up to succeed, they will.
Next, here's a helpful, though not exhaustive list of gear and items that will help you get off on the right foot:
- Child carrier backpack- for kids 0-3ish. Get something with some storage. If you have the money, go for the latest Deuter, Osprey or Kelty backpack...their ergonomics and weight are great nowadays. Want to keep the budget tight? No problem, scour your local craigslist and eBay for mint condition child carriers like the Kelty Meadow and Pathfinder, Deuter Kid Comfort, etc. You can find them anywhere from $50-100 in good condition.
- Water bottles: get a good size water bottle for everyone on the trip. Since these are usually short-ish hikes you don't need to go crazy but typically I have a Nalgene and similar sized bottle for each person in my group. Bonus tip: stainless steel water bottles can also be used to heat water up for purification in an emergency situation.
- First Aid Kid: I like the pre-packaged ones you can get at outdoors stores, like this one. Know your kids. If they have weak ankles or something, bring sport wrap.
- Good Shoes: you want your kids to have the grip they need to go on these hikes, so even if you don't want to go full hiking boot, I'm a fan of the heavy duty Keen's that can also get wet.
- Bug spray/bug bands
- Change of clothes
- Extra diapers/wipes
- Spare bag for dirty diapers/wet clothes
- Knife or multi-tool (folding)
- Warm clothing (for cold weather hikes)
- Hats (for sun protection)
- Small backup battery for cell phone
- Monkey Mat
- Small headlight (love my black diamond storm) or flashlight
Again, your needs will vary from mine...but this gives you a decent start. A lot of these items can have multiple uses if you're ever in a tough spot...but nothing beats having the right stuff to begin, especially water and and the right footwear. And, most of these items are pretty small and should all fit in a small backpack.