When people see that I routinely hike with my 3 kids under age 6, I receive a wide range of reactions – from “how cute” to nervousness – but most often lots of questions. Most are amazed that all three of them wear packs, as well as carry their own water and snacks. I receive comments about how adorable it is that my son, Curt, who is not even 2 years old yet is racing with his blue dinosaur pack to catch his sisters. In our current culture, most parents don’t trust
to take their kids outside the bounds of a park or zoo, but the truth of the matter is that adventuring with small kids is much easier than you would think.
My kids and I have journeyed to iconic spots like Death Valley, Alabama Hills, Mount Whitney Portal, and Ancient Bristlecone Forest. We put lots of miles on our adventure wagon (Gill the Sequoia), and many steps with our packs. My hope is to encourage parents that taking adventures with your kids is indeed doable and worth the lifetime of memories.
The First Step
Teaching children the expectations and building anticipation is the first step. The night before an adventure, and in the car ride to the destination we talk about what we are going to see, what challenges we might face, what interesting facts surround our destination, and what ice cream we will get if we all have a good attitude. Yes, there is always a carrot at the end of a successful hike.
Assigning a specific job to an older child not only teaches responsibility, but it helps smooth out the hike with the younger ones. My oldest loves leading the pack for the other two. I have found dad bringing up the rear, with oldest child in front works great for long hikes – and is perfect for capturing the memories. It’s been said, “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of action.” The kids all carry their own snack packs, but dad meticulously packs them the night before. Filling the bladders with water, stocking snack pouches for each kid, attaching first aid kits, and placing all necessary gear in their backpacks makes for an easy start to the day. My experience has been that trying to pack the morning of the adventure or involving them in the packing process at this age has not been a successful. Our adventure Toyota (Gill the Sequoia) has a drawer system so that in the morning, we wake up, throw the packs and boots in the drawers and we are off for a day of fun.
The preparation is work so it’s always helpful to remember why you would go to the trouble. Realize that these are “once in a life time” memories – our kids have a short time where they are naturally curious and get excited about everything from a bug to a wildflower to giant rock formations. Regardless of how much work it takes, or frustration that has occurred we have yet to regret a single trip. Yes, we have done 6 bathroom stops, spilled snacks, and had accidents on the trail, but my kids have experienced and seen parts of nature that few adults on the planet have seen. They are gaining knowledge about their world and are building more confidence and stamina with each hike. And even when something doesn’t go as planned, it all adds to the memories! One day, in the not too distant future, they will be adults, and all dad will have are photos & videos. But we will always have the memories of the discoveries we have made together. So, get to adventuring while the adventuring is good!
Chief Adventure Officer