5 Tips for Hiking with Kids

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Hiking with Kids – apPARENTly it’s all about the FOOD! First of all let me clarify that being a child backpacker vs being the parent of a child and backpacking are two completely different things, hiking with kids has totally different expectations. But, they do both completely rely on one common denominator: FOOD! 

 As a former child backpacker, I can tell you about my experience.  For instance, the week before any of our backpacking trips with three dads and six daughters, my sister and I were told by our dad (aka The Geez) to make sure we had our clothes ready and laid out. 

Dad would even write down how many of each type of article of clothing we needed. And our father, being the quantitative mathematics guy that he is, would even “correctly” pack our packs for us so that everything fit just right and was a perfect weight. 

In addition, he had already been dehydrating food for weeks so we could eat like royalty. Our food was always delish and kid-friendly! Check out the recipes, menus, and stories of hiking with 3 dads and 6 little girls in his book Forking Good.

Forking Good: Backpacker's Guide to the Art of Dehydration and Gourmet Meal Creation

What I didn’t realize as a child is that I didn’t do anything. Seriously…I didn’t do anything at all except the hiking, eating, playing; the fun stuff.” 

-Laura Chami

Where’s My Hiking Packing List

Fast forward to me in my 30’s, I now have a 7-year-old of my own. Therefore backpacking as a parent with a child is much different.  I have to worry about much more than how many pairs of socks and underwear we need! Let me calm your fears before you continue reading by telling you that my dad came along on my first mother-son trip. Thank God!

campfire with man, woman and boy. Tentin the background.


As I remember, the pre-packing started as usual. When I came into my parent’s kitchen, the dehydrated food was in every nook and cranny drying out. But this time, I was waiting for my dad to give me my “packing list”. 

However, there was no such list! So, I instantly reverted back to a child-like state of co-dependency, I finally asked him, “How many shirts do I need?” He smiled and said, “Wear one and pack one.” So, I repeated this process for every item of clothing I could think of for myself. 

Hiking With A Kid That Is A Picky Eater

Awesome! The packing was done and I was ready! Since I was lacking a list from my dad, I made my own list.

Being that 30ish-year-old teacher, wife, and mother of 2, I was able to gather all my clothes by myself and put them in my own pack!  Awe crap, I realized I’m not just “my own” woman hiking with my dad packing my own pack for the first time in 15 years. 

In addition, I am a mom, taking her son on his first hiking trip with his grandfather. Because I wanted to make wonderful memories for him, I was worried that his picky eating habits would spoil the experience.

Of course, my son George has an awesome Papa who knows about his picky eating habits and planned our menu accordingly, just like he did when I was a kid. Papa made sure that every meal was something that George would eat: pancakes for breakfast, pasta for dinner, fresh orange juice, etc.

See his article about How Much Food Should I Take Backpacking to determine the quantities of food needed for your trip.

In addition, Papa did tell me that I was on my own for planning lunch to hike in and out.  I packed in Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches for George. He loves them and they hold up pretty well. Papa asked if I was sure I wanted to carry the weight. 

I contemplated for about 3 seconds because picky eater survival 101 = carry the extra weight vs hangry child. In summary, carrying extra weight wins! 

young boy fishing with is grandfather in the mountains.


Tips on Making Hiking With Kids Easier

Figuring out logistics on what to pack was a learning curve for me.  After the first trip, I have some tips on what I would do differently. 

  1. If you are going by a lake (and why wouldn’t you?) bring a lightweight water shoe or flip flop for your kids. Feet bleed easy!
  2. If they are going to swim…bring sunscreen! Burnt shoulders = they don’t want to carry their pack!
  3. Extra snacks aren’t a bad thing to carry. Worth the extra weight vs a hangry kid!
  4. A deck of cards isn’t that much extra weight. A great time passer while in camp.
  5. Always check the propane in your burner (or just get a new one).


We have been backpacking a few times since our first trip and look forward to more hiking with Papa! Most importantly, each time creates new memories.

Are you ready to make memories on your first trip hiking with kids?



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Hiking With Grandpa on The San Joaquin River Gorge Trail

Scenic Family Hiking on the San Joaquin River Gorge Trail



Guest Author

Laura Chami is an educator teaching AAP classes in Virginia. She loves spending time with her husband and two children. Life revolves around their adventures together. Laura started backpacking with her Dad at the age of 7.

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