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Backpacking Tips

Read these backpacking tips before going on your first overnight hike with your family. You'll have a successful trip and a great time!

A backpacking trip is the perfect vacation for those who like to get away from civilization. Backpacking lets you experience beautiful and remote locations.

backpacking in an alpine meadow

These backpacking tips will help you have a successful and stress-free trip.

Backpacking Tip #1: Plan ahead

Try out your gear.

If you are new to hiking, be sure to purchase your gear and break it in, well in advance of your backpacking trip.

Load up your backpacks.

pile of loaded backpacks

Put on your hiking shoes, put your packs on your back, and go for a walk around your neighbourhood.

Does anyone have sore shoulders from a backpack? Are any feet uncomfortable? If so, now is the time to make changes - not two hours into your hike!

Start small. Do a short trial hike to begin to break in your footwear.

Plan your route.

Do your research carefully. Choose a route that fits your family's skill and experience. When in doubt, choose an easier route rather than a harder one. Set yourself up for success!

Check current conditions. Don't rely on an old trail guide that might have outdated information.

Tip #2: Pack carefully

Backpacking gear and supplies

Don't pack anything that you don't absolutely need.  You don't want to carry any more weight than you have to.

A good list will help to ensure that you have what you need - and no more. Here's a good backpacking list.

Backpacking food

Planning a backpacking menu requires more thought than if you are car camping. Backpacking food needs to be

  • light
  • sturdy and easily packed
  • nutrionally dense for its weight
  • something that the children will absolutely, positively eat!

Click here to read about our favorite backpacking food ideas.

Here are a few easy backpacking food ideas

  • oatmeal with raisins
  • pasta with pesto (pesto in a squeeze tube packs well)
  • wraps (tortillas, dehydrated bean flakes, cheese, salsa)
  • canned fish (sardines, oysters, kippers)
  • cheese
  • corn cakes, rice cakes, bagels, pita bread
  • instant soup
  • chocolate
  • dried fruit
  • trail mix

trail mix with M&Ms

Here are some trail mix recipes.

If it's a short hike, you'll be able to carry enough food by sticking with choices like these.

If it's a longer hike, you'll need dehydrated food. You might want to purchase freeze-dried backpacking food, or you could hunt up some backpacking recipes and learn how to dehydrate your own.

Read about my first attempt at dehydrating food here. (It was for a batch of chili, and it was delicious!) It wasn't nearly as hard as I'd feared.  Even dehydrating the meat wasn't as hard as I'd expected.

My favorite backpacking supper is Cheesy Mexican Chicken. It's so good!

Tip #3: Prepare for anything

This is one of the most important backpacking tips!

Once you are on the trail, you are on your own. You need to be ready for whatever comes.

hiking in the mountains

Even if the weather report calls for clear skies and warm temperatures, bring along rain gear and warm clothing.

Don't forget the bug gear and mosquito repellent! Click here for hints about mosquito bite prevention.

Take along a well stocked first aid kit.

Tip #4: Be safe

Leave word

Tell someone at home where you are going and when you expect to get back.

Tell them how to initiate a search if you don't return.

If you don't know how yourself, now's the time to find out!

Will you be hiking in bear country?

Read these bear safety tips.

Pack a canister of bear repellent spray - and know how to use it.

Know how to navigate.

Get a map and a compass and learn how to use them.

If you take along a GPS or cell phone, don't rely on them. Too many hikers take unnecessary chances because they think that their technology will keep them safe. It might not!

Backpacking tips with kids

Hiking with children presents a whole new set of challenges - and rewards. Here are some backpacking tips for hikes with kids.

Hike with friends.

It always amazes me that a child who resists walking to the end of the block at home will happily walk - or run! - miles and miles in the company of friends.

hiking with children

Everything is more fun when your buddies are along!

two boys on the trail

Choose good gear.

Children grow so quickly! It can be tempting to buy them inexpensive gear when you know that it will be soon outgrown. However, good quality gear is worth the extra cost if it avoids an injury.

Sturdy footwear will prevent twisted ankles. This is especially important if your child is carrying a heavy backpack.

Children's backpacks, just like adult backpacks, should be of good quality and appropriately sized.

Bring some toys.

  • Beside your regular backpacking supplies, bring along a few small, light toys. One year, a few Lego pieces kept the boys happy for hours!
  • A favorite stuffed animal might be a good idea. (My oldest son had a tiny little stuffed dog just for backpacking trips!)
  • Pack a deck of cards or a small game. Our favorite backpacking game is the Farkel dice game.
  • Bring some favorite books.

two children reading on the trail

Sometimes reading a quick story is enough to refuel everyone's batteries!

Make it fun.

  • Play games as you hike. I Spy is a good one. So is Twenty Questions.
  • When the children's energy is flagging, have a parent hike on ahead and hide small candies along the trail. Finding a couple of M&Ms on a tree stump can do wonders for a child's enthusiasm.
  • Take breaks - short breaks for a quick snack, and longer breaks for a real rest.

tired hiker having a rest

Here's one of my favorite backpacking tips:

  • This has become a family tradition. Bring along your favorite canned beverages: one for each hiker. Near the start of the hike, look for a stream. Hide the cans in the stream. At the end of your trip, as you hike back to the trailhead, everyone will look forward to finding and enjoying those drinks. It's just the thing to keep everyone's energy high all the way back - especially if it is a hot day.

Plan carefully...

Choose a route that is within everyone's capabilities.

Here are some guidelines about backpacking with kids of different ages.

Don't plan to hike too far in a day.  You don't want anyone to get sore or discouraged.

…but be flexible.

You may need to slow down, take more breaks than anticipated - or even carry a tired hiker.

child riding on top of dad's backpack

Backpacking with kids requires some extra preparation, but it is so worth it.

Backpacking with our kids is one of our favorite things to do.

happy family with backpacks

Now that you have read my backpacking tips, visit The Camping Family home page for more camping ideas.

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