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Trail Tip Tuesday: Ten Tips For The First Family Backpacking Trip

Trail Tip Tuesday: Ten Tips For The First Family Backpacking Trip

“Can we do that again, Mom?”

Extended wilderness stays can be challenging to plan for seasoned outdoor veterans. Taking the family along for the first time can be nerve wracking! Here are some tried-and-true tips for taking first-timers on a backpacking trip that made all the difference for us on Dora’s first trip.

1. Set realistic expectations.

Outhouses/catholes, bugs, backpacking food, pack weight, tent space…the wilderness is a wonderland for sure, but don’t paint a fairy-tale picture. Make sure everyone understands that backpacking and primitive camping can be demanding and that there will be brief times when things do not go smoothly. Keep the focus on the fact that the rewards and sense of achievement far outweigh any temporary discomforts – draw from your own experience, even better, from their life experiences, to give great examples!

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #1: Set realistic expectations but keep the focus on the rewards and sense of achievement. Draw from your own experience, even better, from their life experiences, to give great examples!
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #1: Set realistic expectations but keep the focus on the rewards and sense of achievement. Draw from your own experience, even better, from their life experiences, to give great examples!

2. Take them some place you have already visited.

If you know what to expect, you can prepare them well.

3. Make sure everyone has good gear, especially footwear.

Do not set off on a long trek without having everyone test their footwear for several days. The right backpack fit is also very important, especially if the kids are older and will be carrying any substantial weight.

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #3: Make sure everyone has good gear, especially footwear. Do not set off on a long trek without having everyone test their footwear for several days. The right backpack fit is also very important, especially if the kids are older and will be carrying any substantial weight.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #3: Make sure everyone has good gear, especially footwear. Do not set off on a long trek without having everyone test their footwear for several days. The right backpack fit is also very important, especially if the kids are older and will be carrying any substantial weight.

4. Do not overpack a child’s pack…

…and keep it REALLY light if your route gains much elevation.

Be prepared to carry some of your child’s load. With that said, I am very clear upfront that Dora will carry toys, extra treats, etc. herself for the entire trip (she tends to bring a TON of stuff with her, wherever she goes!). There is so much to see and do in the wilderness, I really encourage her to leave home, at home!

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #4: Do not overpack a child's pack, and keep it REALLY light if your route gains much elevation.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #4: Do not overpack a child’s pack, and keep it REALLY light if your route gains much elevation.

5. Address their fears honestly, and when in doubt, plan conservatively.

Dora’s biggest wilderness fears are bears and lightning storms, so her first backpacking trip was to a cabin 3.5-miles in the wilderness. With a shelter that met her approval, she was able to enjoy the trip, including a day hike up a mountain, very much! We never did encounter a bear, but we did get quite a storm the second night. From the safety of the cabin porch, we were all able to enjoy this magnificent display of Mother Nature’s power.

"I don't just wish you rain, beloved - I wish you the beauty of storms." John Geddes. Photo taken on John's Brook in John's Brook Valley, on our first family backpacking adventure!
“I don’t just wish you rain, beloved – I wish you the beauty of storms.” John Geddes. Photo taken on John’s Brook in John’s Brook Valley, on our first family backpacking adventure!
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #5: Address their fears honestly, and when in doubt, plan conservatively. Dora's biggest wilderness fears are bears and lightning storms, so her first backpacking trip was to Grace Camp, a cabin 3.5-miles in the wilderness.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #5: Address their fears honestly, and when in doubt, plan conservatively. Dora’s biggest wilderness fears are bears and lightning storms, so her first backpacking trip was to Grace Camp, a cabin 3.5-miles in the wilderness.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #5: Address their fears honestly, and when in doubt, plan conservatively. Enjoying a big storm from the safety of a wilderness cabin porch. Dora's biggest wilderness fears are bears and lightning storms, so her first backpacking trip was to Grace Camp, a cabin 3.5-miles in the wilderness.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #5: Address their fears honestly, and when in doubt, plan conservatively. Enjoying a big storm from the safety of a wilderness cabin porch. Dora’s biggest wilderness fears are bears and lightning storms, so her first backpacking trip was to Grace Camp, a cabin 3.5-miles in the wilderness.

6. If possible, ensure your route has a series of rewards spread along bite-sized trail sections to keep their interest high.

Campsite options at 2, 4, and 6 miles in, scenic overlook at 4 miles, waterfall at 5 miles, summit at 6 miles, etc.

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #6: ensure your route has a series of rewards spread along bite-sized trail sections to keep their interest high. Dora enjoying a rest stop at a lovely waterfall along the trail.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #6: ensure your route has a series of rewards spread along bite-sized trail sections to keep their interest high. Dora enjoying a rest stop at a lovely waterfall along the trail.

7. Creature comforts: that little extra weight can be a BIG morale booster!

Hot cocoa with marshmallows, comfy camp slippers, sneaking in their favorite treat. On our trip to the wilderness cabin, I packed in the ingredients for Dora’s favorite dinner. She was thrilled and it became even more special!

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #7: Creature comforts! A little extra weight goes a long way toward boosting morale! Dora and Chris enjoying hot cocoa with marshmallows.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #7: Creature comforts! A little extra weight goes a long way toward boosting morale! Dora and Chris enjoying hot cocoa with marshmallows.

8. Allow for chill time.

By far her most-mentioned memory of Grace Camp is playing in the brook after a day hike. For this alone, she asks to go back! Don’t overdo it the first time to ensure they want to return for making more memories.

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #8: Allow for chill time: By far her most-mentioned memory of Grace Camp is playing in the brook after a day hike.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #8: Allow for chill time: By far her most-mentioned memory of Grace Camp is playing in the brook after a day hike.

9. Involve the kids in the camp chores.

Dora absolutely loved learning how to operate the water filter, and this is her official job whenever we are in the woods now! Which is awesome, because it is one I prefer to delegate 🙂

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #9: Involve the kids in the camp chores, what is mundane to you may be fun for them! Dora absolutely loved learning how to operate the water filter!
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #9: Involve the kids in the camp chores, what is mundane to you may be fun for them! Dora absolutely loved learning how to operate the water filter!

10. Go some place with a variety of interesting things to do and see.

The wilderness cabin is on a scenic brook, with many hiking trails, waterfalls, and wildlife all around it. No electricity, no electronic devices, and we had the best family time, ever! We were never bored.

Sorry the deer photo is blurry, I had to call poor Chris away from cooking bacon because I did not have my camera with me…and he was afraid of getting grease on his phone! I couldn’t believe the deer stayed so close as he approached.

Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #10: Go some place with a variety of interesting things to do and see. An encounter with deer in the woods behind the cabin!
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #10: Go some place with a variety of interesting things to do and see. An encounter with deer in the woods behind the cabin!
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #10: Go some place with a variety of interesting things to do and see. A bridge over the brook that leads to John's Brook Lodge, and several lean to's.
Trail Tip Tuesday: The First Family Backpacking Trip Tip #10: Go some place with a variety of interesting things to do and see. A bridge over the brook that leads to John’s Brook Lodge, and several lean to’s.

What would you add to this list for first timers? Add a tip in the comment section below!

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Thanks for reading! Make it an EPIC day! 🙂

~Amy, Chris, & Dora

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