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.
Recently, I was honored to interview a Paramedic Fire Captain Live on my Facebook page. BTW, this fire captain is pretty special to me. He’s my hubby, Dave Nguyen! He became a paramedic in 1998 and he joined the department as a firefighter in 2002. He’s worked in busy areas, has seen many different types of calls and he has loads of experience to bring all of us.
We covered a lot of great info on preparing your home and your family for a potential fire. You can catch the entire 36 minute video right here. I definitely suggest taking the time to watch the entire video. There are so many great preparedness tips shared throughout.
Additionally, I thought it would be helpful to organize the preparedness tips and suggestions by topic and get them up here on the blog so you can more easily search and find the info you’re looking for at quick glance.
In this post, we’ll be covering the top preventative items you should have in your home. These are things that you can have in your home to help prevent a fire related emergency. Some of these might seem obvious to you but there are others that you may or may not have ever even thought about before.
Here are the top 5 preventative items you should have in your home in case of a fire emergency:
One of the most important preventative items you want to make sure you have in your home are fire extinguishers. If you have a multi-level house, you’ll want a fire extinguisher on each level. Definitely have one in your kitchen and then another on each other level of your home.
There are even fire extinguishers made specifically for kitchens. They are usually white and you can find those at any hardware store. The red extinguishers are general purpose and can also be purchased at a hardware store.
Make sure that your fire extinguishers are up to date by checking the little window is green.
You can also keep a fire blanket handy in your kitchen for small fires. We just bought a bunch from Prepared Hero, but any wool blanket will do! These are something that even kids can easily use to put out small fires like stove top fires. All they need to do is throw it over the flames. Plus, they’re very easy and convenient to store.
Smoke detectors are a very important preventative item to have in your home. You’ll need one smoke detector for each level of your home as well as one for each bedroom. Here in California, it is law that new builds have a smoke detector in every room of the house.
Be sure to check the batteries every six months and check the device’s expiration date which will likely be about 5-7 years.
You also want carbon-monoxide detectors on each level of the house. Carbon-monoxide is a byproduct of combustion. It is a colorless and odorless gas. Since it is colorless and odorless, this gas is especially dangerous. It is more common than you might think for a family to go to bed and not wake up due to carbon-monoxide poisoning.
As with smoke detectors, be sure to check the batteries every six months and check the device’s expiration date which will likely be about 5-7 years
Your family should have a clear plan for how you will get out of the house in case of an emergency. You don’t just want to have a plan in place, but you also want to practice that plan with your family.
How do you develop an exit plan? Well, you go into every room of the house and think, “If I am trapped in this room, how do I get out?” You can then draw a map and review it with your child so they are sure of how they can get out of their room.
You can even make it fun by blindfolding your kids to simulate not being able to see in a room full of smoke, and have them practice escaping the house. See who can get out of the house fastest. Just make sure each child has a guide to prevent any accidents while competing.
If you have a multi-level home, you may want to purchase escape ladders, especially for the bedrooms. These are easy to store in a closet and can be thrown out of a window in case of a fire for easy escape from a second floor room.
You can now get smoke detector/carbon-monoxide detector combos and some will even integrate with a company that will monitor both and notify you if there is an issue. We use SimpliSafe, but most of the major security system suppliers, like ADT and Frontpoint, will provide this service.
You can never prepare for an emergency enough. The thing about an emergency is you’ll never know when it is going to happen. When it does happen you’ll wish you had prepared more but it’s also the worst time to think about should have or would haves. Take some time to collect and check on the preventative items mentioned here to remain as prepared as possible for a home fire emergency!