As a former scout and medic and a current fire captain, I love getting outdoors and hiking. I’ve had so many personal backpacking and camping adventures. Now, I’m happy to share my passion with my family. We try to get out at least once a week for family hikes. Lately, we’ve noticed an increase in those we see hiking, both on the trails alongside us and sharing their pics on social media.
If you’re new to hiking or just looking for some reassurance that you are prepared for anything on the trail, we’re here for you! We’re sharing tips for planning and packing for family hikes and what to do if something goes wrong. We hope you learn something new here. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere!
5 Things to Consider When Planning Family Hikes
Pick a trail that is age appropriate for your kids.
Younger kids may like trails that are more scenic and flat. If your kids are older, they may be up for the challenge of going on more adventurous family hikes. If you have young children and older ones, you can use a backpack style kid carrier for your younger kiddos and still hit those more challenging trails.
But where do I find these trails? Fear not!
There are countless resources on the internet if you just search “best hiking trails for kids (insert location here).” I use an app called AllTrails. It gives ratings provided by other users based on difficulty level, scenery, and any other notable particulars.
Pack a first aid kit.
Your first aid kit for the average family hikes doesn’t have to be an all out apocalyptic survival bag. It just needs the basics, like bandages of different sizes, antiseptic wipes, anti-itch cream, and antibiotic wipes.
If you’re going on longer hikes, consider adding a whistle and signaling mirror to call for help if needed, iodine tablets for water, and moleskin for blisters. You can shop our take-along first aid kits right here.
Bring plenty of water and snacks.
This one is really important. There are different varieties of water carrying options. You can use a water bottle, water bladder, or even a water backpack. The key is to continually hydrate throughout your hike rather than chugging it when you take a rest or make it to the summit.
Ideally, you should be drinking small sips every 15-20 minutes. You may want to drink more often in higher elevations and when the weather is colder. It’s a good idea to bring some electrolyte packets or sports drinks, too, but be mindful of the sugar content of some of those sports drinks.
Don’t forget your maps and/or GPS.
Most mobile phones have GPS and mapping apps that will keep track of your location while you’re out and about. Like I mentioned above, we prefer to use an app called AllTrails, but there are some other great ones, too. If you’re in a remote area with no cell service, you can still use GPS or a good ‘ole-fashion paper map and compass. Knowing your exact location will help you summon emergency services if needed.
You’ll need sunscreen and bug protection.
Sunscreen is important even if you feel like you’re being shaded. It’s especially important on open trails with no natural sun protection. Make sure you’re using the appropriate sunscreen for your skin type.
When it comes to bug protection, we prefer to use products with a picaridin or DEET. Those products seem to be more effective. There are even some outdoor clothing manufactures who impregnate the fabric with picaridin!
Dress appropriately and be prepared for any changes in weather.
Before you head out, make sure you take a look at the weather forecast. There are many times you may start out on a hot sunny day and then it starts raining on you. This occurs quite frequently in higher elevations.
Good sturdy shoes are a must. If you’re just heading out for an easy day hike on a flat trail any closed toe shoe will do (this goes for the kiddos too if they’re walking). Who knows when you or your kids will unintentionally kick a rock…OUCH!
If you’re going for a longer or more challenging hike, good shoes are a must. Speaking of musts, good socks prevent blisters. I use wool socks or a synthetic derivative such as Smartwool.
4 Things to Have on Hand.
Snacks for the kids. Make sure it’s something they really like!
Binoculars to look at nature without getting too close.
A notebook with crayons or colored pencils. This is a great activity for kids who like to draw and journal their findings on their hiking adventure. Many state and national parks have junior ranger programs. They have activity books and scavenger hunts so that your kids can earn their junior ranger badge.
A good size, comfortable backpack. For me, I do not skimp on the backpack. Since I’m usually the one carrying everything, I want to be comfortable. There are also hydration backpacks and options to add a water bladder to your existing pack.
3 Common Hiking Injuries and How to Treat Them.
Scrapes or abrasions:
The most common are scraped knees and elbows when you or your child trip on the trail. The best thing to do is use water to rinse out any dirt or debris in the wound, place an antibacterial ointment on, and an appropriately sized bandage. The key is to thoroughly clean and scrub out the wound with soap and water when you get back home.
You certainly can receive deeper cuts when on family hikes. It can be from a fall or from scraping a sharp rock or a branch. The best thing is to keep them clean until you can get more advanced care.
If you receive a deeper cut that requires stitches, first rinse it out with clean water and remove any larger debris. Apply antibiotic ointments to the area and cover it with clean bandages or dressing. You can use skin glue with a combination of steri-strips (wound closure strips) to seal up the wound if you’re not close and able to quickly receive advanced medical help.
Bug and animal bites:
Generally most small bug bites are not serious unless you have an allergy to them. For most, it’ll just be redness to the area, minor swelling, and itchiness. Those can be treated with some ice packs and anti-itch cream to the area. You can consider some antihistamines as well.
If the person that you’re treating starts developing more serious signs and symptoms of an allergy like decreased or altered mental status, difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, or hives all over the body, they need immediate medical assistance. Call 911 or find a way to get help immediately.
There are animals and bugs that are dangerous to humans and they vary from region-to-region. You need to be aware and research what they look like before heading out. That way you can avoid them or know what to do if you get bit by one.
Hopefully you’ve found this guide to family hikes easy to use and super informative! If you’re looking for more info on common kid emergencies, check out our FREE handbook for moms! And don’t forget to grab a PreparaKit if you don’t already have one.
Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a working mom, we all face similar challenges each and every day.
Ultimately, all moms have the same goal — to ensure our kids are safe by creating an optimal learning and growing environment as best we can. It can seem crushing at times. Between juggling school work, extra-curricular activities, household chores, and events with family and friends, it feels like every single minute of the day is booked up.
That doesn’t leave room for personal time for yourself. We do our best, but most days it all boils down to being able to do whatever we can to survive. Even though a lot of us are glad when the kids go back to school in the fall, that’s when the real business of being a mom kicks into high gear with all of the activities.
So, how’s a mom to keep from losing her sanity when school starts back?
One of the best ways you can gain order in your house is to set routines early. I know that a lot of people hate routines and talk about how stifling they are. Trust me when I say that routines will be your saving grace and will help you keep your sanity most days.
And the earlier you can do this, the better off you will be. Sure, there will be a lot of days when the routine may be thrown off track. Add flexibility to your routine as deviations in routines can cause upset otherwise. You need to be able to roll with the changes.
Why have a routine in the first place?
Because it will be that pattern of stability you can go back to when you need it. If the routine is already ingrained, it will be a lot easier to adhere to overall.
One of the biggest issues with scheduling time is from sports or extra-curricular activities. As parents who did not have these opportunities growing up, we work very hard to make sure our kids have the chance to take part in them. As they grow up, these activities allow them to explore what’s around them so they can figure out for themselves what they do and don’t enjoy.
Providing Stable Routines Help Children Grow in Their Independence
Besides expanding the boundaries of their world to include school, sports, and clubs, this is also the time when they are really settling into their own opinions and personalities. They’re not only looking outwardly, but also inwardly to assert their independence. Establishing a stable routine helps children confidently begin the process of taking on and increasing responsibilities.
It’s important to establish rules, boundaries, responsibilities, and discuss good and bad choices early on. We do this with the understanding they’ll take these life lessons to heart later on when their decisions will have greater consequences. We let them do as much for themselves as possible. I’m a firm believer in promoting their independence as a life skill so they don’t need to rely on others as they get older.
Of course, things aren’t always going to be perfect because nothing goes as planned every single day. Some days will be better than others, but one thing is certain—different challenges will come and go. All that we can really do if we want to be successful parents is to give our kids tools so they can tackle the challenges that will come their way in the next phase of their lives.
Will Smith has become famous almost as much for his parenting and relationships with his children as he has with his music and films. And Will has offered this advice: “Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Forward.”
The Difficulty in Watching Your Child Fail
As much as we may hate to fail, you have to admit that it’s one of the best ways to learn. This makes total sense to anyone, but to a parent, it can be one of the hardest pieces of advice to take. That’s because it is so hard to see your child fail.
I’m still trying to figure it all out. What I do agree with, though, is that it’s one of the best life lessons that we can give to our kids. Learning at a young age that part of life is to live and learn will be invaluable to them later on.
Failing in a Safe Environment
If you’re still hesitant about letting your child fail, here’s something else to think about: By allowing them to make mistakes now and fail at things while they’re young, you’re letting them do all of this in a “controlled environment.”
You will have them under direct supervision so you can intervene before anything gets out of hand. It also gives you an opportunity after they fail to talk with them about the experience. They need to see this as a learning opportunity, and the best way to do that is to talk with them.
There Are Limits to What You Can Allow Your Kids to Fail
I’m not talking about letting them do anything crazy like allowing them to carry on with activities that will cause them injury. You aren’t going to watch your kid, about to touch a hot stove, and let him do it just to prove a point. I’m talking about things where it’s not critical to rush to their side to save them from having to experience the consequences of their choices.
Let me explain this a little better with an example with my daughter. She had a bad habit of forgetting her school lunch. It used to be that I would always come to her rescue and “save her” by bringing her lunch to her.
My Personal Example of Allowing My Child to Fail
I eventually got really fed up with doing this ALL THE TIME. So, I told her that I was no longer going to bring lunch to her. Now, if she forgets her lunch at home, she will have to eat the school’s “Emergency Lunch” and pay the $6-$7 for the lunch out of her own money.
One day, on the way out, I saw her lunch bag on the counter. I had to resist the urge to just tell her about it. But let’s just say that after she had to pay for her own lunch that day, she has not forgotten her lunch again.
The Lesson Learned from Failure Stays With Your Child
This may be more on the trivial side when you compare it to other things they will ultimately be faced with. But one thing is certain: they’re learning and are aware they have to deal with the consequences of their actions. The results of their choices (both those they make and those they fail to make) have costs they have to pay.
Part of growing up is experiencing things for yourself, both the good and the bad. If you keep them in a bubble and protect them from the realities of the world, it’s going to be much harder on them when they have to face reality later in life. They have to develop the skills to cope with this now, so they’ll be ready later on.
When you were growing up and you did something wrong, did you feel like you could go to your parents and fess up? Or did you end up hiding your misdeeds from them?
It was always the latter for me because I was really “scared” of my dad. That’s not to say that I was always up to no good, but like any kid, I had my fair share of doing something I knew I shouldn’t.
But part of growing up and becoming a parent is trying to do things differently than when you were a kid. That’s why I would never want my kids to feel like they couldn’t come to me for any reason. That’s especially true if they really got themselves into trouble.
We all believe that open communication is key, right?
As parents, we talk about that all the time, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Most people claim to want to be able to talk openly, but they just don’t know how. That’s where this “Get Out of Jail Free” card comes into play.
A Communication System For the Family is Born
So, I came across this idea in a Child Behavior class I was taking for my nursing continuing education requirements and I thought it was a really good idea to implement with my own kids.
I had my daughter make up a bunch of “Get Out of Jail Free Cards” and put them into a jar. The instructions for this were that if they did something wrong, they could always grab a card to give to us. Then they could tell us what they did without “getting into trouble.”
Opening Communication Does Not Mean Forgive and Forget
Before you start thinking we’re just letting our kids get away with murder, there are a few things you should know about this system. The idea is not that we allow them to get away with things, but that they get used to being able to open up to us for anything.
It doesn’t mean we will allow them to abuse the system. If they’re repeating the same offense multiple times, then we will have to resort to plan B, which will probably be traditional disciplinary measures.
If we begin this communication process now when they do something minor, then the lines of communication will be open when they get older and get themselves into trouble that can be much greater.
This Method Has Been Used Before
This is actually very similar to something that started a few years ago with high school proms. Students agreed to let their parents know if they had been drinking so they could get a ride home. The idea wasn’t to condone student drinking. It was to prevent drunk driving. But the kids knew they wouldn’t be yelled at or “in trouble” if they called mom and dad to help them.
How The Cards Are Working in Our Home
So now, when we get a card, our kids have to tell us what happened, and the kids aren’t busted for it. Then we can discuss their actions and we talk through what they could have done instead. And we leave it at that. This way, our kids feel comfortable talking to us without worrying about getting in trouble and we can hope that this will continue on into their teen years.
Our kids are learning and getting skilled at so much in school these days. I’m surprised sometimes at what they learn at their age!
But there are three areas of life I’m sure we can all agree we wish we had learned in school—cleaning, cooking, and budgeting.
These are the three areas you must teach your children as soon as possible.
If your kids take off to college with these skill sets, they’ll be off to a great start as responsible adults!
This is one that you need to instill in your children early on. Make them responsible for small tasks like cleaning up the sink after they brush their teeth and then move on to more complex matters like making their bed.
By the time they go off to college, they should know how to do their own laundry, instead of bringing it back home for you to wash, and to take care of basic household cleanups such as stains. The college stereotype of students living in a pig-sty should not apply to your kids.
This skill is one that so many kids don’t master early on, leading to some major problems later.
First, your child needs to be taught how to cook healthy foods. When they go off to college, they’re going to want to lean towards quick, unhealthy junk foods that can ruin their health for years to come. (Anyone remember the “Freshman Fifteen”?)
But it also leads into the next area of budgeting as well. If your child learns now to cook his or her own food, then he won’t have to waste money eating expensive (and unhealthy) fast food.
I wish that I had learned how to manage money at a younger age. If I had, then maybe, just maybe, I would have made better decisions and not managed to rack up over $120K in consumer debt! (A word to the wise…don’t charge your entire wedding on credit cards!)
Thankfully, with A LOT of hard work and sacrifices, we were able to dig ourselves out of our mess. After that, I swore to myself that we’d never put ourselves into that predicament ever again and will make sure our kids don’t either. That’s why we help teach our kids early on about money management and how to delay gratification by saving up to buy the things you want instead of buying on credit.
Three Big Areas of Life That All Kids Can Benefit from Learning
Budgeting is just one of those life skills that every parent should instill in their children. And, of course, if they can cook and clean for themselves, it’s one less thing we have to worry about for them. If you can instill the importance of those skills at an early age, you can be sure that they will be much more successful as adults.
Who would have thought that almost 15 years ago, after creating a Match.com profile, that I would meet the best husband and father to my kids a gal could ever ask for?
I mean, when you have a husband whose motto is, “Happy mama, happy life”, he’s gotta be a keeper right?
I remember filling out my profile and putting in all the details of what I was looking for.
We still joke around to this day about how I only married him because he was 5’10”. (For some reason, I always ended up being with the shorter guys in the past and I was beyond ready to be with a guy where I could wear heels if I wanted to!)
All jokes aside though, when you have a man in your life who:
– Lives to make sure you and the kids are safe and taken care of first
– Doesn’t mind letting you sleep in
– Gives you a day off without the kids to relax when you need it
– Helps to cook, clean AND take care of the kids even after a long shift at work
– Supports you in all your crazy endeavors,
– Loves teaching and spending time with the kids building things
– Believes parenting is not just reserved for the “SAHM” or stay at home mom. There is no “I’ve had a long day at work so now I’ll just plop down on the sofa and watch some tv while dinner is being cooked and after dinner, I’ll just take a nap while you bathe and put the kids to bed”.
To all the men who are ALL of this and more, Happy Father’s Day!!
We love and appreciate all that you do for us! ?
And to all the women, husbands like this do exist!