Backpacking

Backpacking With Kids: Our Guide To Set You Up for Success.

Updated on:  
July 25, 2021
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Miriam Jaffe
Miriam Jaffe
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Backpacking is a great, and efficient way to travel. You can move around easily, and do some spontaneous traveling if you feel like it. Some like to backpack alone, while others backpack with their loved ones, including backpacking with dogs!

We’ve talked about backpacking through Europe on our blog, but what about backpacking for families? If you’re wanting to try out backpacking with your kids, this is the post for you! Find out all that there is to backpacking with your kids, from making it happen to make it enjoyable for all of you throughout your backpacking trip. Read on to find out how.

Child sitting on hill overlooking mountain backpacking with family
Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

At what age can kids backpack?

If you’re wanting to go on a backpacking adventure with your kids, their ages will play an important part in the decision process. While there’s no official age for kids to start backpacking, you’ll want to take into consideration whether your child needs to be carried for most of the time, or if they can do some walking on their own. 

The older your kids get, the more they can carry, and the farther they can go in a day on their own two feet. You can absolutely take your kids backpacking at any age, but keep their ages in mind as you plan itineraries. Check out this great article from Backpacker for information about kids’ ages in relation to hiking!

No matter your child’s age, be sure to keep them fed and hydrated on your journey. Also, ensure they’ve got the proper shoes if they’ll be walking for most of the time.

How to start backpacking with kids

The best way to start backpacking with kids is to start slow and do things at their pace. Get them used to walking short distances at first, and increase the distance slowly (but still, keep it within reason for your child’s age). 

When you’re out backpacking with your kids, be sure to let them set the pace, especially if they’re fairly young. Be prepared for frequent rest breaks, or even just a “let’s look at this funny leaf” break every now and then. You might not cover as much ground as you wanted to, but your kids will be able to walk more of your trek that way. 

Get your kids their own backpack! Make sure, though, that it fits properly, and that it’s never too heavy. By giving kids their own backpacks, they’ll feel a part of the adventure, and maybe want to get more involved. A good backpack will have chest and potentially waist straps to keep it fitted tight to your body.

Backpacking with kids enjoying forest and greenery
Photo by Jeremy McKnight on Unsplash

How do you make backpacking fun for kids?

Backpacking, as with anything, doesn’t always go to plan. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be fun, or that you can’t make the most of it. When you’re out backpacking with kids, there are a few ways to make the adventure extra fun for them.

Get some insight for your backpacking trip from your kids! Start the process out by involving them so that they can get excited before you’ve even left. If you’re going on a hike, do they want to see a river? Walk through a forest? If they know in advance what you’ll be doing, they’ll have more fun doing it on the day.

Pack snacks. There’s nothing worse than being hangry while backpacking, and kids are no exception to this rule. Having extra snacks is great for when kids need a break or have burnt off more calories than you expected.

Make backpacking a game! Depending on what your adventure looks like, you can play a round of “I Spy,” create a scavenger hunt, play 20 questions, or sing silly songs as a way to entertain. It’s a great way to keep everyone’s brains occupied and to add some extra fun to the adventure. 

For older kids, you can put them in charge of documenting the trip. They could do it old-school style with a paper and pen to sketch out things you see, or journal about the day. You could also go high-tech and have them take photos on a cell phone. Giving kids a job is a great way to keep them motivated throughout your backpacking adventure. 

Photo by Alberto Casetta on Unsplash

How to pack for backpacking with kids

Much like when packing for any backpacking adventure, what you need will depend on where you’re going, for how long, and in what weather. That being said, there are still some essentials you should prepare to pack, especially for backpacking with kids.

  • Snacks: who doesn’t love snacks? Be sure to leave no trace with whatever you bring, though!
  • Water: dehydration can happen quicker in children, so hydrate before you leave, and bring a full water bottle for each person.
  • Layers: bring sweaters, blankets (especially if you’re camping), and extra layers in case the weather changes or anyone gets cold during breaks. Be sure to also pack layers for the rain to keep you dry!
  • Alternate transportation: while ideally, you might want your child to walk the whole way, that might not be what happens. Be sure to plan for your little one’s feet getting tired, and bring a stroller, wagon, carrier, or other methods of transport for them if walking no longer is an option.
  • Sunscreen: It’s always a good idea to prepare for the sun, so pack this, along with a hat to prevent sunburn.
  • Extra socks: Even with the best footwear, puddles will not be enticing to little ones. Prepare for some splashing with extra, dry socks!
  • First aid kit: If you’re going out in nature, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for any kind of emergency. Bringing a first aid kit along allows for just that.

If you’re looking to do overnight backpacking adventures, you’ll need to pack more food, clothing, and hygiene essentials. If you’re shopping around for tents and sleeping bags, head to REI as a good starting point for research into what’s available, and highly rated. 

Photo by tw Jo on Unsplash

Plan your next backpacking trip with Pilot

Backpacking can be a fantastic way to see nature or to travel the world, and sharing it with your kids is a wonderful thing.

As with any family traveling, it might take a little more time to plan and ensure everything is good to go, but it will be worth it. There are so many ways to foster a love for traveling with kids at any age, and backpacking is a great way to start. If you’re wanting to backpack, but unsure where to go, head over to Pilot for destination guides, budgeting tips, and more to help you plan!

Looking to read interestingly weird and fun stories that some of our crew had while backpacking? Sign up for FlightDeck, our very own travel newsletter. We've got your weekly dose of travel, from travel news to travel tips and tricks.

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