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Spring is coming! For many of you in the frozen north, the warmer weather means a return to the outdoors for family fun and relaxation. But which activity will you choose? For us, it’s hiking. While neither James nor I are “outdoors-y” people, we love to strap on the hiking boots and march off into the unknown.
Hiking is more fun as a family, because the girls get to run around as the parents stroll, and they burn off a lot of their energy in the process. They get pretty loud, but we still get to learn more about plants and animals. James and I get some amazing exercise, and we all get fresh air and sunshine. Plus, the views are simply breathtaking. Nature is practically magical. It’s therapeutic, so regardless of how hard the hike was we always leave feeling recharged. In fact, James and I have the very best conversations during hikes. We talk about James’ career and school, make plans for our future, and plan new trips.
We went on our first family hike last year. Yup, we’ve only been hiking about a year and are in love with it. We were completely unprepared for our first hike. Granted, it was a spur of the moment idea, but we learned some valuable lessons.
Tips for Beginning Family Hiking. Yes, Even With Littles
1. Hiking shoes – Proper shoes are important as they lessen the chance of injury. Take your time and do your research. James and I shopped around for our shoes. We made lists of what we needed out of the shoe and what we would like out of the shoe. Once we had that information, we were able to compare shoes on multiple sites before deciding on which ones we wanted. We bought our shoes through Shoes.com, because they not only had exactly what we wanted, they were also on sale with free shipping. I was able to get cash back through Ebates which made for an even sweeter deal. On our first hike, the girls and I were wearing slip on shoes and dollar bin socks from Target that we picked up on the way to the trail. Needless to say, our feet were killing us afterwards. This is why I insisted that we get proper shoes before our next hike.
2. Socks – Good socks are almost as important as good shoes. You want socks that are thick enough to protect against blisters, but comfortable and breathable, preferably with moisture wicking.
3. Water – This was another place we blundered on our first hike. We only brought one liter of water with us while hiking. One big bottle for four people! We had more water in the car, so we rehydrated afterwards, but proper hydration is a must for hiking. Camelbaks make it easy. If you don’t need to carry anything else on your back then a basic Camelbak is perfect. If you do need to carry other things, then put a Camelbak water bladder in your backpack. James has the Camelbak Lobo which is used mainly for biking but works great for hiking. I use the camelbak water bladder inside my backpack. I’m considering buying the girls’ a Camelbak mini MULE so we all have enough water for future trips.
4. Bug Block – Being in nature is amazing. Nature also has bugs that like to bite, which is… not so amazing. We ended up with a few bug bites from our first hike, but we went in early spring so the mosquitoes were not out yet. It could have been worse. Protecting yourself from the biting bugs is essential.
5. Sunblock – Protecting your skin from the sun should be something you do on a daily basis. I like to use a sunblock that is effective and safe for the girls and the adults. I use the EWG to find the safest, most effective one for our family. We usually use California Baby.
6. First Aid Kit – Yeah, we didn’t bring one on the debut hike, but thankfully we didn’t need one. Now I carry a first aid kit that I leave in my backpack all the time so it’s always ready to go. I pack the essentials: bandages, baby wipes to clean the area, blister block, antiseptic ointment, emergency electrolyte hydration sticks.
7. Backpack – Where else are you gonna store all of your essentials? In my backpack, I carry my water bladder, first aid kit, bug block, sunblock, snacks, camera, and extra water. On that first hike I carried my purse with my camera inside it.
8. Head Protection – Don’t forget about your head. Wear a hat or handkerchief to protect for head. Don’t forget your sunglasses too.
9. Check the weather – You need to check the weather before you go hiking. Yes, even if you are going on a short hike. Knowing what the weather is like will help you plan what clothes to wear and will help you make plans for bringing extra water and/or food. Some of the best hiking spots can be dangerous with just a little rain.
10. Comfortable clothing – Wear clothing that is comfortable to move around in, breathable, and suited for the environment you will be in. Depending on where you are hiking you might want to consider moisture-wicking clothes. You could even consider a lightweight jacket or poncho depending on where and when you are hiking.
11. Plan your route – Pick a trail that is right for you. Trails are often marked as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. You need to pick one that is right for everyone in your group’s fitness levels. We tend to stick to beginner trails but have done short intermediate trails with the girls. On our first hike, we took the beginner trail. We were enjoying it so much that we decided to take the branch off to the harder, longer trail and it was, in fact, harder and longer. We had to carry the girls through a good deal of it.
12. GPS – Bring a map, compass, or GPS to help you navigate. We usually use the GPS on our phones with a downloaded map. That way, when the GPS signal goes out we have the map as a back up.
13. Start slow – It’s always best to make your first few hikes short. Our favorite hikes are around 2 miles and can be done by all of us within an hour or so. We also plan our hikes near public restrooms/porta potties because with two potty training girls you need to have access to a restroom.
14. Take breaks – Taking a break every hour is a good rule of thumb. We tend to stop every 20-30 minutes so the girls can get some water and rest if needed. We also finish one trail, then take a potty and water break before going on another trail, even if it means backtracking.
Okay! So what did we learn from this? I learned that James and I had no clue what we were getting into when we went for that first unplanned hike in Alabama. 🙂 I, mean seriously, who picks up slip-on shoes at Target to go hiking in? Or who brings one bottle of water in Daddy-o’s cargo pockets? Pockets, as in more than one… Duh! We could have fit at least one more in there. Probably 3.
What I hope you learned is that hiking is a wonderful, family-friendly activity that can be enjoyed by many as long as you plan accordingly. I hope I see you out there hiking away with your family!
What’s your family’s favorite activity to do together? Do you have any beginner hiking tips to share?
Have a great day!
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Susie Davis says
Great post! Hiking is our favorite activity, too. When we lived in Florida, the state forests had a wonderful program that encouraged people to get out to the state forests. I think it was called Trail Blazers or something like that. There are three levels. For the first level, you hike 10 different trails in at least 5 different forests, and you receive a patch that you can sew on your backpack or hiking vest or wherever you want it. We completed the first level and were well into the second when we moved. We could still earn the rest of level 2, though, if the program is still in place, because the “credits” don’t expire. Check it out. I think the girls would like it. Each participant receives a chart to keep track of hikes. After each hike you mail a postcard to the forestry department, and they mail you a sticker for your chart. The postcards are located at the trailheads or you can order them. Who knows – maybe it’s even online now.
Awesome! I’ll look in to it. The girls would really love it. Thanks, Susie!
This is awesome! Caleb is still a little young to enjoy hiking but once he’s a skilled walker I’m sure he’ll love it! <3
Yay! My youngest was almost 2 when we went on our first family hike. She did pretty well too. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as we do.