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How To Take Children When Backpacking


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Birgitta Rees



Backpacking is an adventurous and enriching experience that allows individuals to explore new destinations, connect with nature, and create lasting memories. While backpacking is more commonly associated with solo or group trips, it is also a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the wonders of travel and outdoor exploration.


However, taking children backpacking requires additional planning and considerations to ensure their safety, comfort, and enjoyment throughout the journey. By taking the time to prepare properly and choose child-friendly destinations, families can embark on backpacking adventures that will not only instill a love for travel but also foster a sense of resilience, independence, and connection with nature in children.


In this article, we will explore essential considerations before taking children backpacking, how to choose appropriate destinations, packing essentials, ensuring the safety and well-being of children, engaging them in nature and outdoor activities, as well as tips for managing logistics and overcoming challenges while backpacking with children.


Whether you are a seasoned backpacker looking to introduce your children to the joy of travel or a family planning their first backpacking trip, this guide will provide you with the necessary information and tips to make your journey with children a successful and memorable one.


Essential Considerations Before Taking Children Backpacking

Before embarking on a backpacking adventure with children, there are several key considerations that parents or guardians should keep in mind. These factors will ensure the safety, comfort, and overall well-being of the children throughout the journey.


1. Age and Physical Ability: The age and physical abilities of the children should be taken into account when planning a backpacking trip. Younger children may not have the endurance or stamina for long hikes, while older children may be able to handle more challenging terrains. Adjust the itinerary and activities accordingly to avoid overwhelming or exhausting the children.


2. Health and Fitness: Ensure that the children are in good health before embarking on a backpacking trip. It is advisable to visit a healthcare professional for a check-up to confirm that they are physically fit for the journey. Additionally, pack a well-stocked first aid kit and any necessary medications specific to the children’s needs.


3. Outdoor Skills and Knowledge: Children should be familiar with basic outdoor skills and have a basic understanding of nature and the potential risks involved. Teach them important skills such as how to read a map, identify plants and animals, and follow safety guidelines while on the trail. This will make them more self-reliant and aware of their surroundings.


4. Developmental Stage: Consider the developmental stage of the children when planning activities. Younger children may require more frequent breaks and engaging activities to keep them entertained, while older children may be ready for more challenging adventures. Adapt the itinerary to match their developmental needs and abilities.


5. Weather and Season: Research the weather conditions and seasons of the chosen destination to ensure appropriate clothing and gear. Backpacking with children in extreme weather conditions, such as excessive heat or cold, can be dangerous and uncomfortable. Choose a time of year when the weather is more moderate and enjoyable for everyone.


6. Communication and Emergency Plans: Establish a communication plan in case of an emergency. Ensure that you have reliable means of communication, such as a working mobile phone or a satellite phone, in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Inform someone reliable of your itinerary and expected return date.


7. Parenting Style and Expectations: Discuss and align parenting styles and expectations with all adults involved in the backpacking trip. This includes disciplinary methods, assigning responsibilities, and ensuring a common understanding of safety rules. Consistency and teamwork among adults will create a more harmonious journey for everyone.


By taking these essential considerations into account before backpacking with children, parents or guardians can better plan and prepare for a successful and enjoyable adventure. Next, let’s explore how to choose appropriate backpacking destinations that are suitable for children.


Choosing Appropriate Backpacking Destinations for Children

When selecting backpacking destinations for children, it is important to choose places that not only offer natural beauty but also provide a safe and engaging environment for kids. Here are some suggestions for finding the perfect destinations:


1. National Parks: National parks are fantastic options for family backpacking trips as they often offer well-maintained trails, educational programs, and visitor centers. Look for parks with shorter, easier trails suitable for children, and check for family-friendly amenities like picnic areas and playgrounds.


2. Campgrounds: Look for campgrounds near hiking trails or scenic areas. Many campgrounds have designated family sections with easy access to facilities such as restrooms and showers. This allows families to have a base camp while venturing out on day hikes with the children.


3. Coastal Areas: Beaches and coastal areas can be a great option for family backpacking trips. These destinations offer a variety of outdoor activities like swimming, building sandcastles, and exploring tide pools. Look for coastal trails that are suitable for children and offer beautiful views of the ocean.


4. Forests and Woodlands: Forests and woodlands provide opportunities for kids to learn about nature and enjoy activities like birdwatching, nature scavenger hunts, and identifying different types of trees and plants. Look for trails that are not too difficult or rugged, and consider visiting areas with facilities such as picnic spots or visitor centers.


5. Lakes and Rivers: Backpacking near lakes or rivers can offer children the chance to swim, fish, and kayak. Look for destinations with calm waters, shallow swimming areas, and kid-friendly fishing spots. Ensure that lifeguards or adult supervision is available, especially for young children.


6. Cultural and Historical Sites: Consider backpacking trips to cultural or historical sites where children can learn about the local history and heritage. Some destinations may offer guided tours or interactive exhibits designed for children. This can make the trip educational and engaging for the whole family.


7. Family-friendly Resorts: If you prefer a more comfortable and organized experience, look for family-friendly resorts that offer guided backpacking adventures or have dedicated programs for kids. These resorts often provide amenities such as child-friendly accommodations, meals, and activities.


When choosing a backpacking destination for children, it is crucial to research the area thoroughly. Check if permits are required, trail conditions, and any specific rules or regulations that may apply. Additionally, consider the distance and travel time to the destination, ensuring it is suitable for the duration of the trip.


By selecting appropriate backpacking destinations, families can provide an exciting and rewarding experience for children while ensuring their safety and enjoyment. Next, let’s explore the essential items needed to pack for a child-friendly backpacking trip.


Packing Essentials for a Child-Friendly Backpacking Trip

When preparing for a child-friendly backpacking trip, packing the right essentials is key to ensuring the comfort and well-being of your children throughout the journey. Here are some essential items to include in your packing list:


1. Clothing: Pack enough clothing for your children, considering the duration of the trip and the types of activities you will be engaging in. Include comfortable, lightweight, and quick-drying clothes suitable for the weather conditions. Don’t forget extra layers for cooler nights, rain gear, and sturdy hiking shoes or boots.


2. Sleep Gear: Depending on the camping arrangements, pack appropriate sleeping gear for your children. This may include a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads or air mattresses, and a lightweight camping pillow. Ensure that the sleeping gear is suitable for the weather conditions and provides enough comfort for a good night’s sleep.


3. Food and Snacks: Pack enough food and snacks to keep your children fueled and energized during the backpacking trip. Opt for lightweight and non-perishable options such as granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix, and pre-packaged meals. Don’t forget portable utensils and a water bottle for each child.


4. Personal Hygiene Items: Include basic personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes. These items will help maintain cleanliness and hygiene while on the trail. Consider the environmental impact and choose eco-friendly options whenever possible.


5. First Aid Kit: Pack a well-stocked first aid kit with essential items such as bandages, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers, insect repellent, and any necessary medications specific to your children’s needs. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid procedures and ensure everyone knows where the kit is located.


6. Entertainment and Educational Items: To keep your children engaged during downtime, pack some entertainment and educational items. This may include books, coloring supplies, a deck of cards, nature identification guidebooks, or a portable outdoor game. These items can provide entertainment and learning opportunities during breaks or evenings at the campsite.


7. Safety and Navigation Gear: Ensure that you have appropriate safety and navigation gear, including a trail map, compass, whistle, headlamps or flashlights, and a multi-tool. Teach your children how to use these tools responsibly and incorporate them into nature exploration and learning activities.


Remember to distribute the weight of the packed items evenly among family members, with consideration for the physical capabilities of the children. Encourage your children to carry their own backpacks with some lighter items, gradually increasing the weight as they get more accustomed to backpacking.


By packing these essential items, you can ensure that your child-friendly backpacking trip is well-prepared and equipped, allowing for a comfortable and enjoyable experience for the whole family. Next, let’s explore how to ensure the safety and well-being of your children while backpacking.


Ensuring the Safety and Well-being of Children While Backpacking

When embarking on a backpacking adventure with children, ensuring their safety and well-being is of utmost importance. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:


1. Stay Hydrated: One of the most critical aspects of backpacking with children is ensuring that they stay hydrated. Encourage and remind them to drink water regularly, especially during physical activities and in hot weather. Pack enough water and consider using water purification methods if necessary.


2. Stick to Designated Trails: It is important to stick to designated hiking trails, especially when backpacking with children. These trails are usually well-maintained and marked, reducing the risk of getting lost or encountering dangerous terrain. Teach children to stay on the path and follow trail markers.


3. Teach Leave No Trace Principles: Teach children about the importance of leaving nature as they found it. Encourage them to respect the environment by not littering, staying on designated trails, and properly disposing of waste. Teach them to appreciate and care for nature during the backpacking trip.


4. Set Clear Safety Rules: Establish clear safety rules before beginning the backpacking trip. Teach children how to stay safe in different situations, such as staying away from wildlife, using equipment responsibly, and being cautious around water bodies. Reinforce these rules consistently throughout the journey.


5. Monitor Weather Conditions: Keep a close eye on weather conditions before and during the backpacking trip. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather and have appropriate gear, such as rain jackets or sun hats, on hand. Avoid hiking during severe weather conditions and seek shelter if necessary.


6. Keep Emergency Contacts Handy: Have a list of emergency contacts readily available, including local emergency services and the contact information of family or friends who are aware of your itinerary. Consider carrying a mobile phone or a satellite communication device for emergencies.


7. Practice Sun Protection: Protect your children’s skin from the sun by applying sunscreen with a high SPF and reapplying it regularly. Also, have them wear wide-brimmed hats, lightweight long-sleeve shirts, and sunglasses. Seek shade during the hottest parts of the day to avoid sunburn and heat exhaustion.


8. Use Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects. Inspect your children for ticks regularly, especially after spending time in wooded or grassy areas. Dress them in long sleeves and pants to minimize exposure to biting insects.


9. Encourage Proper Food Handling: Teach your children how to handle and store food properly to prevent attracting wildlife. Use bear-resistant containers if necessary. Also, educate them about the potential dangers of feeding wildlife and emphasize the importance of observing from a distance.


10. Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where your children feel comfortable sharing their concerns, feelings, and any discomfort they may experience while backpacking. Encourage open communication and address any issues promptly to ensure their well-being during the journey.


By following these safety guidelines and prioritizing the well-being of your children, you can create a safe and enjoyable backpacking experience for the whole family. Next, let’s discuss how to engage children in nature and outdoor activities during a backpacking trip.


Engaging Children in Nature and Outdoor Activities During Backpacking

Backpacking offers a unique opportunity for children to connect with nature, learn about the outdoors, and engage in exciting activities. Here are some suggestions to keep children engaged during a backpacking trip:


1. Nature Exploration: Encourage children to explore their surroundings and learn about the flora and fauna they encounter. Teach them to identify different plants, trees, and animal tracks. Engage their curiosity by discussing the importance of conservation and the role each living creature plays in the ecosystem.


2. Camping Skills: Involve children in setting up camp, pitching tents, and gathering firewood (under adult supervision). Teach them essential camping skills such as starting a campfire or cooking simple meals over a camp stove. These activities not only teach self-sufficiency but also foster a sense of responsibility and connection with nature.


3. Nature Crafts and Journaling: Encourage children to collect small natural objects like leaves, rocks, or feathers and use them to create nature-inspired crafts. This could be making leaf rubbings, creating art with found objects, or pressing flowers. Additionally, encourage them to keep a nature journal to document their observations and experiences.


4. Nature Scavenger Hunts: Create nature-themed scavenger hunts for children to complete along the hiking trails. Make a list of items to find, such as specific types of rocks, plants, or animal tracks. This activity not only keeps children engaged but also encourages them to observe their surroundings more closely.


5. Outdoor Games and Sports: Pack lightweight outdoor games or sporting equipment like frisbees, soccer balls, or a flying disc for children to enjoy during breaks or at the campsite. Playing games and sports outdoors not only encourages physical activity but also provides opportunities for social interaction and laughter.


6. Stargazing and Astronomy: Take advantage of the clear night skies while backpacking and introduce children to the wonders of stargazing and astronomy. Teach them about constellations, planets, and night sky phenomena. Consider bringing a stargazing app or a guidebook to help identify celestial objects.


7. Storytelling and Campfire Tales: Gather around the campfire and share stories, legends, or personal experiences. Engaging children in storytelling not only fosters imagination but also creates a sense of connection with the natural surroundings.


8. Photography and Videography: Encourage children to document their backpacking journey through photography or videography. Provide them with a camera or a smartphone and let them capture their favorite moments, landscapes, and interesting discoveries. This activity allows children to express their creativity while preserving memories.


9. Environmental Education Programs: Research if there are any environmental education programs or guided activities available at your destination. Many national parks and outdoor organizations offer interactive programs specifically designed for children, such as guided hikes or wildlife presentations.


10. Embrace Unstructured Play: Allow children to have unstructured playtime in nature. Let them climb trees, build forts with fallen branches, or simply immerse themselves in the wonder of their natural surroundings. Unstructured play encourages creativity, imagination, and a sense of freedom in the outdoors.


Engaging children in nature and outdoor activities not only enhances their backpacking experience but also instills a love and appreciation for the natural world. By combining education, exploration, and play, you can create a memorable and enriching adventure for your children. Next, let’s discuss some tips on managing logistics and overcoming challenges while backpacking with children.


Tips for Managing Logistics and Challenges While Backpacking with Children

Backpacking with children requires careful planning and organization to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for the whole family. Here are some tips to help you manage logistics and overcome challenges while backpacking with children:


1. Plan Age-Appropriate Itineraries: Consider the age and physical abilities of your children when planning your itinerary. Opt for shorter and easier hikes, with plenty of breaks and opportunities to rest and explore. Gradually increase the difficulty level as your children gain more experience and confidence.


2. Break Down the Trip into Manageable Segments: Divide the trip into smaller segments to make it more manageable for children. Plan shorter hiking distances each day and include rest days to allow everyone to recharge. Breaking down the trip can help prevent fatigue and make it easier for children to maintain enthusiasm throughout the journey.


3. Involve Children in Planning and Decision-Making: Get your children involved in the planning process. Let them contribute ideas, choose activities, or select campsites (within reason). Involving children in decision-making empowers them, increases their excitement, and creates a sense of ownership over the trip.


4. Pack Extra Entertainment and Distractions: Be prepared with plenty of entertainment and distractions to keep children engaged during downtime or when facing unexpected delays. This could include books, games, puzzles, or even a deck of cards. Having backup options can help alleviate boredom and keep children entertained during lulls.


5. Embrace Flexibility and Allow for Spontaneity: While planning is important, be open to spontaneity and allow for flexibility during the trip. Let your children veer off the planned path to explore something that catches their interest or take a longer break to enjoy a beautiful view. Embracing flexibility adds excitement and adventure to the journey.


6. Practice Pack Lightweight and Efficiently: Pack efficiently to minimize the weight of your backpacks. Carry only essential items and opt for lightweight gear. Distribute the weight evenly among adults and consider age-appropriate carrying capacities for children. This will ensure that everyone can carry their own backpacks comfortably.


7. Communicate Expectations and Safety Rules: Clearly communicate your expectations and establish safety rules with your children. Discuss trail etiquette, wildlife safety, and the importance of staying together. Reinforce these rules consistently to ensure that everyone understands and follows them throughout the journey.


8. Stay Positive and Encourage Teamwork: Maintain a positive attitude and encourage teamwork among family members. Be patient and supportive, especially during challenging moments. Celebrate achievements, big or small, and cultivate a sense of camaraderie and unity within the family.


9. Prepare for Comfortable Sleep: Ensure that everyone gets a good night’s sleep by investing in comfortable sleeping gear. This includes well-insulated sleeping bags, sleeping pads or air mattresses, and comfortable pillows. Restful sleep will rejuvenate everyone for the adventures ahead.


10. Learn from Each Experience: Each backpacking trip with children will present its own set of challenges and learning opportunities. Pay attention to what works well and what can be improved upon. Adapt and adjust your approach for future trips based on these experiences to continually enhance your backpacking adventures with children.


With careful planning, effective organization, and a positive mindset, backpacking with children can be a rewarding and memorable experience for the whole family. The key is to manage logistics, overcome challenges, and create a supportive and enjoyable environment for everyone involved.


As you embark on your backpacking adventure, remember to prioritize safety, allow for spontaneity, and cherish the moments of connection and discovery in nature with your children. Happy trails!



Backpacking with children can be a truly transformative experience, offering opportunities for family bonding, outdoor exploration, and creating lifelong memories. By considering essential factors such as age, physical ability, and destination selection, parents or guardians can plan a child-friendly backpacking trip that ensures the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of every family member.


Throughout this article, we have discussed the necessary considerations before taking children backpacking, including factors like age, health, and developmental stage. We have also explored how to choose appropriate destinations that offer a safe and engaging environment for children, as well as the packing essentials required for a child-friendly backpacking trip.


Ensuring the safety and well-being of children while backpacking is paramount. By implementing strategies such as staying hydrated, sticking to designated trails, and teaching leave-no-trace principles, parents can create a safe and responsible outdoor experience for their children.


Engaging children in nature and outdoor activities during backpacking not only enhances their experience but also fosters a love and appreciation for the natural world. By encouraging exploration, nature crafts, scavenger hunts, and stargazing, children can develop a deeper connection with their surroundings and cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity.


Managing logistics and overcoming challenges is crucial for a successful backpacking trip with children. By planning age-appropriate itineraries, involving children in decision-making, staying flexible, and maintaining open communication, parents can address logistical aspects while fostering a positive and enjoyable atmosphere for the entire family.


In conclusion, backpacking with children is a remarkable opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of travel, nature, and outdoor adventure. Through careful planning, preparation, and a mindset of exploration and flexibility, families can embark on backpacking trips that create lasting memories and cultivate a love for the great outdoors in the hearts of their children.


So, gather your gear, pack your bags, and embark on a breathtaking journey with your children. Unleash the power of travel, connection, and exploration, and let the backpacking adventures begin!