Hiking, camping, and off-roading are great summer trips for families. However, for the uninitiated, unforeseen hazards can ruin your trip. Planning for both fun and safety is the best way to ensure that your outdoor family adventure is a success. Read on for our tips for preparing for Summer Hiking and Camping with the family.
Hiking With Your Family
When you’re hiking with your children, select trails that are appropriate for them. That will depend on their age and experience.
For example, little kids who are new to hiking need a relatively easy trail that is not too long. Small children have a shorter stride and lack the endurance to walk for long periods.
However, that doesn’t mean your hike has to end quickly! Pick a trail with lots of features where you can stop, like lakes or streams to make it fun for the whole family.
If your children are older, have more athletic ability, or are more experienced, you can take them on a more challenging climb. Seek out trail reviews and difficulty ratings on hiking apps or at AllTrails.com to find the best fit.
Having Fun On the Trail
No matter their age, you can incorporate fun hiking activities that engage your kids, such as a scavenger hunt for local wildlife. Some can even be educational, including:
- Geocaching and Orienteering: Using a GPS-enabled device, your family can navigate to a place and check-in — or, if you’re lucky, be the first one to discover the location! Logbooks and items or instructions can be found at your discovery spot. Don’t forget to leave something in return.
- Fishing and Foraging: Engaging with wildlife in this way requires that you know the local fishing regulations and plant safety before diving in. Guided tours may be a good way to start.
- Tracking: This is a great way for kids to learn about the local wildlife and their ecosystems.
Gear for Safe Hiking
A sun-drenched hiking trail can drain even the most experienced hiker if he or she is not geared up for an open trail. Pack sunblock, hats, clothes with sleeves, and plenty of water, particularly on hot days.
Sun exposure is not just harmful to your skin. Ultraviolet (UV) light can damage your eyes even if you are wearing sunglasses and a hat. For family members who wear prescription glasses, UV-blocking contact lenses are a safer choice and easier to wear with or than sunglasses. They’re also less likely to get lost!
Your kids also need to have the right footwear. Hiking shoes should have solid traction on the bottom. Waterproof options are a smart choice if you are regularly walking through streams and creeks. Otherwise, save your money for something else.
If your trails contain slippery rocks and waterfalls, you may want to buy a water shoe adapted for hiking. Be sure any shoe you get fits your children properly.
It can be easy to get separated while hiking with your kids, especially if the members of your family have different skill levels. Give each family member a whistle to communicate if lost. That helps you stay in touch even when your phones are out of service and can be handy if trails are populated with wildlife.
Finally, bring a portable first aid kit, emergency medications, and menstrual care items. For beginners hiking a remote trail, it’s wise to leave an itinerary with friends or family. You may want to add a personal locator beacon to your supply list in case anyone gets into trouble.
Backpacking, Camping, and Off-Roading With Your Family
Weekend hikes are great, but if you’re looking for a unique and affordable family vacation, backpacking, camping, or off-roading are good choices. How do you manage a backpacking trip with your kids?
Just like hiking, thoughtful planning is required. Many hiking safety tips apply but now you’re prepping for nights away too. Just like hiking, consider what your children can handle before you select a destination.
Packing for this trip requires sleeping bags for each family member. They must be comfortable, durable, and suited to the climate where you are traveling. And if you’re backpacking, use lightweight, sturdy packs that only contain the essentials.
For some kids, this means they may need to leave many of their favorite toys to travel with at home. You can make up for this by packing treats and keeping them entertained with travel board games or roasting marshmallows.
Safety Tips for hiking and camping with the family
Backpacking and camping come with their own set of safety requirements. Before leaving, you’ll need to make sure that you are scheduling your trip for the best weather possible. However, you should still pack for unpleasant weather conditions.
While camping, follow these safety guidelines:
- Campfire safety: always put it out completely whenever you cannot keep an eye on it.
- Store all food items, including any trash, to prevent wildlife from becoming attracted to them. Don’t touch or feed any wild animals but do bring 60% alcohol hand sanitizer should this happen.
- Protect yourself from insects with DEET insect repellent and frequent tick checks.
- Most importantly, make sure your children know and understand all these safety requirements.
Camping With Your Dog
If you’re traveling with your dog, make a plan to keep him safe while camping. A well-trained dog will have an easier time. First, visit your vet to make sure he’s healthy and his vaccinations are up to date. Ask for flea and tick treatment too.
Pack collars, ID tags, waste bags, food and water bowls, and dog food. Your dog needs a separate first-aid kit including items like activated charcoal. You may want to bring a muzzle or dog crate if you’re car camping.
While out in nature, keep your dog on a leash to keep everyone safe should he come in contact with other animals. Be aware of your campground’s rules and regulations concerning dogs to follow them properly. Finally, if you’re traveling with your dog and are concerned you might lose him, microchip your pet and carry a recent photo of him.
Off-Roading With Your Family
Another great way to explore the outdoors this summer is by taking your family on an off-roading adventure. This outing requires plenty of planning on its own to protect your family’s safety.
Once you pick your destination and map out a route, make sure your vehicle is prepared. It should be in optimal working order and have tires that can handle the journey. Pack a spare tire as well.
Keep the kids safely secured as per their age requirements. Additionally, everyone should wear helmets in case the road is more treacherous than expected. Safety items to pack include a fire extinguisher, glass breaker, and seatbelt cutter, along with a first-aid kit.
Finally, bring a GPS device and, again, inform friends or family where you are going. GPS tracking will help them locate you in case of trouble.
There are many exhilarating outdoor adventures available for your family this summer that cost much less than a traditional vacation. However, it’s wise to plan properly and keep safety top of mind. Getting your family fully immersed is healthy and will give them memories that last a lifetime.
Do you have any tips for hiking and camping with the family? Share in the comments below.
Dan Matthews is a freelance writer and content consultant who specializes in valuable insights for a wide variety of audiences. You’ll find that sustainability and environmental preservation topics extend past the working hours and into Dan’s daily routines – and he would like to impart those ideals and awareness unto as many readers as are willing to give him the time.