How to hike with a child? How far to go for a family hike? How to carry my child during the hike ? These are questions that come up often on the Voyages et Enfants forum.
So I decided to write an article answering all of these questions. If you don’t know, I live in the mountains in the Hautes-Alpes; hiking is therefore our favorite family activity, although I didn’t like it when I first settled here!
Our 2 children hike well, but not with the same desire: my big one has never liked to walk, but can tread 18 km without problem, since she was 10 years old! My latest Mini Voyageur loves walking and endurance! Since childhood, he has walked with enthusiasm and covered 12 km without any problem at the age of 4. So, we learned to juggle their different characters.
Of course, no miracle recipe especially when you know that each child is different! But, here are some tips and tricks to try for hike well with your children and make them love it !
- Hiking with baby
- Hiking with children from 4 to 12 years old
- Hiking with teenager
- Rule for safe hiking while respecting nature
Hiking with a baby up to 36 months: advice and equipment
At what age do you start hiking with baby in portage?
You can go for a walk with baby from his first months by wearing him with a physiological load. Be careful that it is not cold, especially in the mountains. Protect the property also from the sun! The hikes will often be 2 to 3 hours if you don’t want to go too busy.
For longer hikes, it is better to wait until the baby is sitting down to leave with a hiking baby carrier, more pleasant for the wearer, avoiding perspiration between the 2 bodies. So it is towards 7/8 months, depending on the tone and hold of your baby, that you will be able to significantly lengthen the duration of your walks from strolls to real hikes, with vertical drop etc …
What attitude and what difference in level?
As long as the child doesn’t walk, it’s up to your ability. Some say not to climb too high with a baby, again it will depend on the child, and above all it is often the speed of the ascent.
>> Read our article on altitude and baby
What equipment for hiking with baby?
The carrying system: Before 6/7 months, it will be the physiological sling or baby carrier. Afterwards, during long hikes that make most of us sweat, we go on a dorsal baby carrier, with stirrups for comfort and physiological position!
Mini Voyageur preferred the hiking baby carrier because it could see over the wearer’s shoulder! It was party time when we took him out. On the other hand, to sleep, he came back to me who had a physiological baby carrier, a mother’s back being undoubtedly more comfortable!
>> see our comparison of baby back carriers
Hiking clothing: breathable, long-sleeved, yet lightweight, to protect from the sun! We start from the principle of layers, a fleece and a windbreaker (down jacket) will be added if necessary. To have in your bag whatever the weather at the start, because at altitude or further in your hike, the wind or bad weather can surprise you.
Hiking shoes: Your child will not be walking much yet! So no need for special shoes, he left with his everyday shoes until he was 2 years old! Then we started to buy sneakers and that was enough!
Be careful in winter, the feet get cold first, avoid carrying baby in a backpack!
We will not forget to put in hisvs : hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, bottle, milk (or mom’s breasts!), diapers.
Tips for hiking with children from 4 to 12 years old
For your child to enjoy hiking, regular and gradual practice over several weeks is recommended. You will be able to motivate them, but for them to enjoy hiking, they will need to find out on their own how to occupy their mind while walking to stay motivated! It comes little by little according to the children! And for your own convenience, it’s hard to motivate your child all the way!
Choosing the ideal time for the hike
To motivate the troops and keep a good atmosphere, we avoid leaving when it is too hot in summer (so we get up early) or too cold in winter (departure around 11am at that time), to leave in the rain, or on trails that are too hard and dangerous for the little ones (too steep, on a ridge that is too narrow, etc.)
How to motivate them to hike with their family?
- Photo documentary : By investing in a device, it is an opportunity to teach your children a new activity and to motivate them to go further for new photos. Be careful, this causes many stops to be limited in time – My Miss Voyageuse takes too much advantage by taking dozens of photos each time and the rest of the family is waiting! Not really great! Read our article on children’s cameras
- Geocaching : depending on your region, many caches are to be found, the children are focused on the next goal and no longer see the time passing
- Tell yourself a story : Mini Voyageur is no longer with us when we hike, he goes to another planet with his heroes! This allows him not to see the time pass. When we talk to him, he can answer us: “but why are you talking to me, you are not in my story”)
- Tell a story to children : These are friends who practice this trick with their children, but it requires to have a certain stock in memory.
- Play Mario bros, or to a car, sailboat, bicycle, motorbike race, etc. : this is the favorite father-son activity with us! Virtually, they put on “their helmets”, “shift gears” and go. With Miss Voyageuse, we find ourselves lagging behind. From time to time Mini Voyageur turns around and shouts at us “beware of banana peel on the way”… The people we meet must take us for crazy!
- Choose a cool goal, accompanied by a long break : more conventional way, always choose a nice picnic destination: a lake, a waterfall, and take a real break of at least an hour so that the children have time to play! This is what it is difficult to do when there are only the 4 of us, easier with a picnic aperitif with friends that lasts at least 2 hours!
- Observe the surroundings through binoculars at certain strategic points of the hike
- Lay decorated pebbles along the way, that other walkers will have to find and photograph and share via the #trouvemongalet
What pace to adopt and what distances can a child walk?
The recommendations are very general: we say 1 to 2 km per year of the child. If we had respected this, the whole family would have quickly given up on the hike (because it does not allow access to the most beautiful hikes). It will really depend on your child and his desire for the day, the people who accompany you, etc. For a little boy who likes to walk, here are some benchmarks with my son as an example:
– At 2.5 years old, he was already walking with his friends over 4 to 5 km, with passages on the shoulders or in the hiking baby carrier.
– 12 km in Auvergne with less than 300 m of vertical drop at 4 years old
– 15 km and 400 m of elevation gain (idem negative) at 5 years in Canada
– 22 km to 7 years El Calafate in Argentina to see the Fitz Roy and big walk to see Torres del Paine in Chile (we walked with friends to motivate the troops, and to the admiration of the travelers)
But most of our hikes (approximately one per weekend) last 3 to 4 hours of walking for a maximum of 500 m of vertical drop.
What difference in height?
Up to Children 5/6 years old, our hikes did not have more than 400 m of elevation gain. Now we go to 700 m difference in height not much more (afterwards it’s me who’s moaning!)
Tips according to my children
– Don’t choose a path that’s too easy : my children hate the wide, wide paths that can be seen endlessly, they get demotivated very quickly. They prefer a path, with a few rocks and roots to step over, where the rest is discovered as you go … There, they have the impression of exploring and being adventurers!
– Do not choose a path that is too monotonous : a clear view allows you to admire the landscape, explanatory panels can punctuate the path
– Don’t stop too often, especially at the beginning: in wanting to go cool for a hike, we make the mistake of not walking fast enough at the start, with breaks too often! It doesn’t allow you to warm up and find your rhythm. Now no break for the first 40 minutes! Then, no fixed rule, some advise a break every half hour, I prefer not to stop if everyone is moving at a good pace, and to wait for the children’s request!
What material? Also valid for teenagers
As for babies, we think in diapers! A technical first layer, breathable, which dries quickly so as not to feel cold after sweating, a sweater and one more or less warm windbreaker (down jacket) if you go to altitude! A cap, or neck strap
Children’s hiking backpack
Up to about 5 years old, the child does not need a backpack, but it can be a real motivation to imitate the great. Put only the small bottle 33l and the sweater! Regardless of the shape of the backpack, only choose a bag with a chest strap to prevent the shoulder straps from falling off the shoulder. A 6 to 10l hiking backpack is enough.
Then as children grow older they get stronger and can carry their own backpack. We used the very long boll bags, but I can no longer import them into France! The Osprey and Deuter bags are at the top! Choose a multi-pocket bag for the child to tidy up glasses and “precious” things in a small pocket rather than in the big pocket in the middle of the sweaters, and thus avoid the loss of X pairs of glasses (it smells of the past… despite the small pockets; D). There we can pass on a 8 to 15 l. Mini Voyageur has since this year a Osprey Jet 18
For teens, from 13 years old and depending on the size of the child, you can buy adult backpacks from 20 to 40l depending on the use of the bag. Prefer narrow bags because the build of teenagers is not the same as adults. Miss Voyageuse has a Deuter narrow women’s backpack, offered in Argentina
Good sports or hiking shoes
Of course, we wear them several times when walking around the house, before a big hike! Rising, low or semi-rising, it will depend on your preferences. The highs will better protect the ankle, but the shoes are heavier for the youngest. We always take waterproof shoes, so that we can cross streams without the stress of having our feet too wet. In addition, living in the mountains, waterproof high-top shoes are also useful in the snow, because much more pleasant to walk than snow boots!
Here are some brands that we have used a lot: High and low Kimberfeel (Mini Voyageur prefers bass), open and water-resistant hiking boots, the Keens New port, which we used on several models and which the kids loved and the hiking sneakers at 10 € from Décat… (the ones that always last the longest!)
Hike with a teenager
Well, there it is! Oh joy… Your teenager can climb much higher than you, walk much longer… Oh despair! He just doesn’t want to! I was this teenager, who moaned on weekends during family walks, and I am now this mother who makes her daughter moan by forcing her to come to ventilate her neurons and see something other than a screen ( and yet, my daughter loves animals, knows them really well, practices animal photography!)
So, here’s what motivates her to give it a try with your adorable teens!
- Group hiking: This is always a good tip to get your teen to stop grumbling! Among these adults or other teens, there still has to be someone with whom your teenager is hooking of course!
- Walk to music: if you are just the one of you, allow him to cut himself off from the world with his music on his ears! I like it less, but it avoids hearing Miss Voyageuse’s desperate sighs
- A hike accompanied by a pro: Leave with a guide who will introduce you to flora and fauna, survival conditions, etc …
Rules to follow when hiking
- We don’t pick flowers (especially in parks and protected reserves): it’s hard for our 6-year-old chicks who always want to please us. An alternative: take multiple photos to look up the name of this plant when you get home, then print the photos and create a montage for a lasting memory!; D
- We do not feed the animals: even if in some places the groundhogs are too cute, approach you, do not give them anything other than the grass and plants you have around you. They are not made to eat crisps, sweets, etc. They get sick and don’t reproduce again!
- We stay on the paths: no need to trace thousands of trails by cutting the bend… Ultimately, we destroy the plants and the trails degrade more quickly.
- You don’t throw stones, especially when hiking in the mountains: even after 9 years of hiking, Mini Voyageur is still struggling!
- Always bring a first aid kit: with a disinfectant, a bandage, a survival blanket, an anti-bite cream, an anti-blister bandage, a lamp …
Hope this article helps you take the plunge! But, if despite all these tips, your children do not move forward !? Let a few months pass, do not announce that you are going for a hike, but for a ride and gradually increase the duration! And if it is the crisis in the middle of the hike (with us, it is more the parents who argue when the children do not want to walk, because one defends them and the other wants to continue … I am not telling you not who does what; D), it does not matter, we are turning back!
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