Making backpacking fun for toddlers!

Some people find backpacking gear a logistical nightmare. When you first start backpacking you try to pack for unexpected weather, and every situations under the sun or storm clouds. After backpacking for a few years you begin to trim down the gear you thought you needed when you started because you released you can get through so many situations without every piece of gear.  That works great until you decide to bring along a 5 year old and a 3 year old and your dog. With kids you have to keep them comfortable and good gear can go a long way to help with that. The only problem is that all of that gear has to be carried.

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Our carry situation included a 5 year old who can only carry only 4 lbs.  Mom who had to carry the majority of the gear and dad who had to carry a 3 year old and the tent.

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We had just enough room for all of the gear and and everyone was excited to get on the trail.  We reminded ourselves that kids don’t particularly want to walk for miles on end but instead play and adventure.  On our trip we stopped often. We stopped at the first river crossing about 30 minutes in to drop packs and throw some rocks.  We soaked our hats to keep cool and our pup jumped into the river. We snacked and headed out.  Short breaks will help raise their spirits and keep them excited. We kept that order going and let the boys set the pace and decided the length of our breaks.  Keeping them involved in the decision making process helps to keep them interested.

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If you cared enough to read this then you probably have not taken your children backpacking before which means you are probably in need of gear.  Here is what we did for some gear. Weight was the single most important factor, followed closely by cost. We went to our local family owned outdoor store (Ramsey Outdoor store for those in NJ) for some new gear for us and picked up a few cheap no namers off Amazon for the kids because let’s face it they don’t know the difference. You can get the kids lightweight summer sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping pads(essentially pool rafts) off Amazon on the cheap.  To be honest we opted for thermarest pro-light sleeping pads not as cheap but much better quality and they come in kids sizes.  For a hiking family it was a worthy investment.

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Car camping would have been much easier but we decided to give our boys the real experience of going deep into the wilderness and spending the night with no one around.  They got a taste of backpacking and they can’t wait to get back on the trail!


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