Hiking With Kids – A Checklist Before You Go

Hiking with your children can be great experience for all of you, but it can also be miserable if you don’t prepare well. Stave off grouchy kids with this checklist:

  • Choose the trail carefully. Not all trails are appropriate for all ages, or all kids. A flat three-mile hike may be challenging but fun for your best friend’s six-year-old and too much for yours. Guidebooks will often provide some idea of a trail’s difficulty level, and park rangers are also a great source of information.
  • Bring extra water. Dehydrated children are grouchy children, and dehydration can be dangerous. Kids have a tendency to spill their water bottles, so be sure you have backups and remind them to drink water regularly.
  • Bring healthy snacks. Hungry children are also grouchy children, and kids (and adults) may not be able to make it all the way to lunch without food. Healthy snacks like dried fruit, granola bars, apples, little wax-wrapped cheeses and nuts will help keep kids going without complaint until lunchtime.
  • Make sure their boots are broken in. Blisters are a major cause of misery and whining on hiking trips. Ideally, your kid’s shoes or boots should be broken in before you leave. Tying boot laces either too loosely or too tightly can cause blisters, so ask the clerk at the outdoor store how to tie the laces when you buy the boots.
  • Prepare for the weather. Weather can be unpredictable, so bring rain gear, sweaters, hats and sunscreen. You don’t want cold or sunburned kids.
  • Don’t forget the First Aid kit. Despite your best efforts, blisters, scrapes, and bug bites will inevitably happen. A small First Aid kit with items like moleskin, athletic tape, antibacterial ointment, bug bite lotion, band-aids and tweezers will help you deal with most problems.
  • Know what to do in an emergency. Find out before you leave: will your cell phone work? How close is the nearest ranger station if you’re hiking in a park? What should you do if your child has a severe allergic reaction? Talk to your child’s doctor if your child has special medical concerns.


Hiking with your kids can create unforgettable memories for everyone. Make sure those memories are the good kind of “unforgettable” and prepare well.

Melissa Barton is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in science and travel writing. Her credits include Geotimes, Transitions Abroad, Student Health 101 and other publications. Visit her online at Rosetta Stones Freelancing (http://www.rosettastones.net).

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