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Does your family love to hike together? When the weather turns cool and the leaves start to fall, it signals hiking time for us. In the last year of hiking with my children, I’ve learned just how to pack a child’s backpack for a family day hike.
While it is easy for an adult to carry the entire load while hiking, it is important for children to carry their own backpacks, even on short day hikes. Children feel important when they are ‘needed’ to help carry supplies on a hike, but it’s also best for their safety. Should your child get separated from you while hiking, having her own water, food, and other supplies is best.
How to Pack a Child’s Backpack for a Family Day Hike
First choose a backpack that fits your child well. You don’t have to buy a hiking specific backpack, just be sure the straps are comfortable, and it sits comfortably on her back. A correctly sized hiking backpack will likely be much smaller than a school backpack.
Supervise any child packing his or her own backpack for hiking. Children tend to see empty space in a backpack as an invitation to fill that space up. I once found 3 large nature guides in my 7 year old’s backpack. She was sure she’d want to know the name of every tree, bird, butterfly, and flower we passed, but I knew the weight would be too much for her after walking for a length of time. In compromise, she chose one book to carry, and a big sister offered to carry her second choice.
Things to include in a child’s hiking backpack:
Every child should have a whistle that she knows how to use, in an easy to reach pocket of her backpack. Some whistles can be clipped to the outside of the backpack, or even worn on a necklace.
I usually pack a 16 oz water bottle for my children for a half day hike, 32 oz for a full day of hiking.
Chose a lunch that is easy to eat on the go. Children are often more interested in exploring at lunch breaks, while adults are resting and eating. Breaks from walking are my children’s favorite part of hiking. In fact, the actual trudging down the trail in a straight line, is the least favorite part. The perfect answer to this problem is to pack children a lunch that is easy to eat with one hand while walking down the trail, so they are free to climb and play during lunch break.
Last week on the trail, my children loved finding Welch’s Graham Slam! PB&J in their hiking packs. These bars include peanut butter and concord grape jelly sandwiched between two crispy graham crackers. They are perfect for hiking, since they are kept in the freezer (but they can be eaten frozen or thawed), and help keep other food cool. You’ll find Welch’s Graham Slam! in the frozen section at Walmart, right beside other PB&J items.
Choose foods high in protein for lunch, so your child will have plenty of energy while on the trail
Pack hiking food in a sturdy reusable plastic container to keep it in one piece while walking down the trail.
Pack more snacks than you think your child will eat for a day of hiking. Consider an extra Welch’s Graham Slam! PB&J for snack too. They are great for snack or lunch, and are a good filling choice for anytime of the day. Other ideas for snacking on the trail include cheese, nuts, fruit, and trail mix.
Always tuck at least a small disposable poncho in your child’s backpack for rain protection. Depending on the forecast you might prefer to pack a rain jacket, sunhat, and/or warm hoodie.
*Hiking packing tip – Pay attention to the age and size of your child as you pack her hiking backpack. An older child while be able to carry all her gear, food, and supplies, while a younger child may only carry a few things in her backpack. Start with the most important things. Every child should have a whistle and water. Younger children can carry a small water bottle, while Mom keeps a larger bottle of water for refills in her pack. Most preschoolers can also carry a snack, or part of her lunch.
Preparing and packing your families backpacks and lunches for hiking doesn’t have to be a daunting task with these easy packing tips! Now that you’ve packed your child’s hiking daypack, where will you adventure next?
Don’t forget to grab several boxes of Welch’s Graham Slam! PB&J from Walmart with this coupon for $1.00 off one box of Welch’s Graham Slam! (Expires 12/31/16 or while supplies last). You have 2 weeks from the day you print the coupon to redeem it.