Some tips for bringing young children out on the trail

Hiking and backpacking with kids can be an excellent and inexpensive way to enjoy being together as a family. Getting out on the Pacific Crest Trail is a great way to expose young people to the joys of being outdoors. The PCT offers endless possibilities for hiking as a family due to its excellent quality and close proximity to populated areas. We believe that fostering your children’s connection with the outdoors should start at a young age. Here are some tips for bringing young children out on the trail.


Before you head out on the trail, there are some planning tasks that can make the trip far more successful.

  1. Involve your kids in the trip and route planning. Bring out the map at the kitchen table and show your kids some options on where to go hiking.
  2. When choosing between two hikes, opt for the one that will be the most fun. For kids, that’s usually the shorter hike. Loop hikes can be tricky with kids. If they decide that they’re not interested in hiking anymore, you could end up carrying them and all their stuff much further than you want.
  3. Be prepared. In addition to the normal items you may bring along on a hiking or backpacking trip, there are additional pieces of gear that may be helpful to include in your packing list. Here’s a list of some of those items:
    1. Diapers
    2. Baby wipes (even for older kids)
    3. Toilet paper and/or facial tissue
    4. Plastic grocery bag for garbage or dirty diapers
    5. Extra clothes for your kids (socks, underwear, pants, shirts)
    6. Light kids jacket
    7. Whistle for kids age 4 and older. Teach them how and when to use it.
    8. Fun snacks or treats. It’s OK to save a “treat” for your kids to be enjoyed at your hike’s destination. Have certain fun foods that you only have on hikes. This keeps them special. Even better, let your kids pick out their own special snack.
  4. Here’s a list of optional items that can keep your kids entertained:
    1. Binoculars. Try to avoid the large adult sized ones. Find a cheaper small pair that the kids can keep around their necks and you don’t mind if they get damaged.
    2. Field guides for the flora and fauna of the area. Being able to point out various plants and animals with their names and some other interesting tidbits can be a great way to keep your kids aware of their surroundings.
    3. Camera for the kids. Even a cheap disposable camera can give your kids a great connection to their surroundings.
    4. Journal for your kids to record the day’s events, animals, plants, and sights.
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