How to Hike With Kids
(AND ENJOY IT!)
Written by Dale Majors
HIKING WITH KIDS
We’ve hiked quite a bit with our kids since they were babies. That’s easy, you just have to carry them.
It gets more complicated as they become too large to carry :)
Since we have six kids, and are physically incapable of carrying all our children, we’ve had to find ways to manipulate them to do the hiking part on their own.
Let me lay out our system to get our kids to tolerate, and even enjoy, hiking.
Imagine I handed you a stick and a ball and told you to go outside, and not to come back for four hours. “Just wander around those fields over there and hit this thing around, it’ll be great!”
I don’t think too many people would enjoy that assignment, though, golfing is a very real thing that people pay for.
The same is true with hiking. You need to get the story right.
We go on adventures. We explore, and find things worth shooting for. Last fall I took our nine and thirteen year old to Kings Peak in Utah. It was too long, 26 miles in a day. It took us 17 hours to make the trip.
We were on an adventure. We had a goal, and were accomplishing something epic. Both kids are already asking when we’re going to do it again. Between you and I, there were tears and some pretty heavy emotions on the hike itself, but those have been long forgotten. They were on an adventure.
Frame your hikes deliberately, as if you’re Frodo leaving the shire, and your kids will pick up on the energy it creates.
MAKE IT SPECIAL
We don’t have a lot of junk food at the house, but on longer hikes or adventures we’re sure to have some special treats. We try to do things to make it special for the kids.
When I took my daughter on her first hike, knowing the shopaholic, candy addict she is, I told her we could go to the store and she could buy whatever snacks she wanted for the trip.
We’ve hiked a lot, and done even more bike touring with kids. My main tip when adventuring with kids has to do with eating. Eat before you’re hungry, and drink before you’re thirsty. It’s hard to recover from bonking (depleting your nutrition and running out of energy), don’t even flirt with it.
Find foods your kids will be excited to eat. It’s hard to feed broccoli to a kid that isn’t hungry to begin with, or any kid for that matter, but especially when you’re at altitude and have a diminished appetite.
I find snacking is really effective. Here are some ideas:
• Cut up apples and oranges and constantly divvy them out to the kids.
• Open up bananas and have each person eat a piece.
• Have nuts and other easy snack items like trail mix that you can hand out.
• Granola bars or mini candy bars if it’s cold enough outside.
• Snickers are a good power bar replacement and can be found most everywhere.
• Cookies are a quick treat that are typically good even when you’re not feeling it.
A.B.S.—not a six pack, but ALWAYS BE SNACKING
It’s amazing how much less kids complain about hiking when they are with their friends. We’ve found that traveling with other kids makes it easy for them to be distracted and keep an upbeat attitude. Share your journey with others.
I can’t tell you how hard you can push your child, but I’ve been very impressed with how tough my kids are, and how much they forget about the pain after experiencing the satisfaction of doing something hard.
I did a lot of hand holding on Kings Peak, and collectively there were at least 90 minutes of tears, but both kids are asking to do it again.
Our kids have hiked and adventured a lot, but even they complain 60-80% through any adventure. Whether that’s going on a 10 mile ride or a 35 mile ride.
Instead of motivating or prodding, consider distracting them. Point out other things to focus, and help them learn to channel their energy in more positive ways.
If your kids complain about being on an adventure, don’t blame yourself—it’s completely normal.
You’ve got this!
Kids were made to adventure and do hard things, give them the satisfaction of pushing themselves in a safe environment so they can see what they’re capable of.