When our kids were babies, we carried them along with our gear on short backpacking trips to two of our favorite spots, Willow Lake and Mary Lake up Big Cottonwood Canyon.
By the time we had three small children, backpacking became difficult, so we resorted to primitive car camping, driving down dirt roads to find places to set up camp in Moab or Goblin Valley. We also stayed in established campgrounds, such as Tanner’s Flat, where it once rained, so we holed up in our tent telling stories and playing cards. Another time we camped in a Tee Pee at a campground in Bryce Canyon.
Our kids kept themselves entertained by collecting or climbing on rocks, watching lizards, and riding stick horses. Other things they did for fun include making stick picture frames, swinging in a hammock, floating in a blowup raft on the lake, making a zip line in the trees, and building a heart-shaped fire pit. They’ve also explored Indian ruins, found petrogyphs, and painted mud handprints on rock walls. Some of their favorite things to do on campouts are roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, talking, laughing, singing, and telling stories around the campfire.
Once our kids grew big enough to walk and carry their own packs, we attempted longer, more rigorous backpacking trips. We used to have to take it slow and hold their hands; now we can’t keep up with their long legs and teenage energy. Over the years we’ve camped under ancient Indian cave dwellings in Kane Gulch, a slot canyon in southern Utah, and more recently, Jon and the kids backpacked Buckskin Gulch in Southern Utah—one of the longest slot canyons in the world and the seventh most dangerous hike in the U.S. according to Backpacker Magazine . . .
Seven Essentials For Backpacking With Kids
- Hydrate or Die: Bring lots of water and/or a water purifier and water purification tablets, and drink often. Add crystal light packets for more flavor.
- Snack Attacks: Pack plenty of snacks like nuts, raisins, beef jerky, granola bars, and crackers with cheese or peanut butter for refueling.
- Take Frequent Breaks: Rest as needed in shady spots for a minute or two.
- Pick Wicking Layers: Wear tee shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, and long pants in quick-drying, breathable fabrics like fleece, nylon, polyester and Lycra that can easily be removed or put on.
- Repel Bugs: Spray bodies liberally with insect repellent and wear long pants and sleeves.
- Block the Sun: Wear plenty of sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat, and cool sunglasses.
- Treat your feet: Good walking shoes or hiking boots with thick socks or two layers of socks are a must. Apply moleskin to any raw, red spots where shoes rub, preferably before blisters form.
And most importantly, have fun! Read Other sections including: