Hiking as a past-time invokes images of rugged men (and women) braving the elements in perilous conditions. We imagine Hillary conquering Mt Everest, or Bear Grylls surviving off of the land. While this is the imagery that hiking invokes, it is nothing like the gentle and pleasurable leisure activity that many families participate in.
Hiking is the exploration of the outdoors. It allows your family to get out in nature. Here are some things to remember.
1: Start Small
Keep it simple. By eliminating points of complication in plans, one can eliminate points of failure. The more things that one has to juggle in one’s head, the more likely it is to forget something. So, start with the simple trails: the ones that are well defined and marked. The more complicated ones can come later, once you and your kids are up to the challenge.
2: Remember the Time
The time is all important when out in the wilderness. Whether it is trying to get to a hut, campground, or even back to the carpark, on does not want a time limit. Time pressure can come from many things: the sun going down, or plans later in the day. Give yourself plenty of time, so that you can have fun while hiking, have time to explore, and most importantly, have a stress free experience.
3: Dress for Hiking
In the great outdoors, anything can happen. While modern weather forecasting is brilliant (you did check the weather right?) It is important to remember that things can change rapidly. So, always ensure that there are multiple layers: close to the skin, wool or polymer thermals (not cotton. Cotton saps heat when it is wet.) shirts, jumpers and rain-coats. There is nothing more miserable than being soaked to the bone while hiking.
A good pair of boots is also a must for serious hiking with kids. They are so important, they get their own paragraph. This is because they support the weight of you, plus all the gear that you are taking.
They need to grip even the most perilous terrain and sustain serious abuse: you might have to ford rivers, walk through mud, and climb a shoddy track up a mountain all in the same day.
Do not skimp on boots. For shorter hikes with less gear, a good pair of shoes can also work well.
You might also want to invest in hiking gear find good quality rucksacks, Camping equipment and even rope. You can find great online sites for your purchases and get good strong rope from Ropes Direct.
4: Bring a First Aid Kit
In the wilderness you will be out of easy reach of the medical miracle that is the hospital. This does not mean that you need a hundred different medicines to cure a thousand diseases—you just need enough to keep you moving.
What this looks like is the basics. Light painkillers, sticking plasters, and bandages. Antiseptic is especially important while hiking. Out in the wilderness a cut/(or blister) can easily become painfully infected. So don’t forget antiseptic.
5: Insect Repellent
There is almost certainly going to be biting insects on your hike into the wilderness. There is nothing worse than hiking six, seven kilometres out to a hut, resting, and being eaten alive because you forgot your insect repellent. Your children will also hate being eaten alive. Bring insect repellent, you will need it.
6: Snack Frequently and Often
Napoleon (or maybe Fredrick the Great) reportedly said: an army marches on its stomach. When you are in the outdoors, in the elements and walking distances we modern people don’t often do, we burn energy.
In order to keep morale and motivation up, and prevent general crankiness—and therefore to keep clearheadedness—one must eat food. Muesli bars, sweets, and fruit are all excellent for this snacking on the go.
7: March at the Speed of the Slowest Person
Kids love to run ahead. In the wilderness, this can be incredibly dangerous. Out of sight and out of reach of the pack they can get lost, or injured. Indeed, most hiking horror stories start when someone runs ahead of the group, never to be found again.
Put the slowest child in front, and keep to their pace. This will keep your group together and prevent any mishaps from occurring out of your sight, where you cannot give aid.
8: Leave No Trace!
The outdoors and the wilderness are often seen as pristine and untouched. They only stay like that due to a lack of litter and pollution. So leave everything as it was before you arrived. Don’t leave rubbish, and don’t damage the flora. If you have a campfire (only if it is permitted) bury the ashes and charcoal. Bury any excrement or better: pack it out!
Hiking for Families
Hiking for families can be incredibly rewarding. The above list isn’t an exhaustive list of everything that you must consider; but it is a list of some of the most important things. Go forth, explore, have fun: the wilderness awaits!