4 things I’ve learnt from tramping with kids
Kia ora, I’m Jen from Backyard Travel Family and I first really got into exploring the outdoors when the kids were little. I didn’t enjoy running with a stroller and really craved some exercise and nature time. I decided that hiking was something I could do with them in tow. From short walks to multi-day adventures, we’ve definitely learnt some things along the way.
1. Kids are incredibly resilient
Now I’ve always been one to champion that kids can do anything. It’s a bit of a cliche that gets bandied about and it's a nice slogan, right? But never in my wildest dreams did I think a 3 year old could hike for 6 hours and over 1000m in elevation. Or that at 6 years old we could be doing multi-day walks. They really can do anything.
My kids are just normal kids, they aren’t superhuman, they aren’t elite athletes and I don’t run them through boot camp. They are just kids who love to run outside and play and explore. And they can do tough things.
It’s one of the most important lessons that is so easy to learn while walking. The old notion that it’s just one foot in front of the other is so clearly true. They absolutely CAN do tough things if they keep trying and never give up.
It’s amazing what a bit of positivity and encouragement can do. And once they see what they can do, once they believe it's possible, nothing will stop them. So if you’re keen to get out there and tramp with your kids, I can’t recommend it enough.
2. You need to pack the right gear
It’s taken a little while to perfect our packing list. Tramping has this really fun middle ground between taking too much stuff and your bag being crazy heavy and the tramp is not enjoyable. Or at the other end of the scale, not enough clothing or equipment and it's not safe.
I’ve recently added a personal locator beacon to my pack and this has filled me with extra security. A few years ago I was hiking up Little Mt Peel (spoiler: not so little) with my three kids by myself. When we reached the summit, I had a sudden realisation that we were the only people here on the mountain and if I fell over, hurt myself or worse, I had a 2,4 and 6 year old that would be in trouble. Now, even if my 9 year old hurt himself, I’m not sure I could actually carry him out, and I certainly couldn’t leave the kids on the side of a mountain to go and get help.
I used to have a list (when I could find it) of all the equipment I needed, but I’ve found with the Plan My Walk app, there's already a prebuilt packing list and I can add my own extras. This means I never lose my list and I have the confidence that I have all the essentials I need for a trip.
3. Track difficulty varies a lot!!
One thing I have learnt is that an “easy” walk on the Department of Conservation website, doesn’t necessarily mean the walk doesn’t require a whole lot of effort. Easy often refers to the standard of the trail and how much navigation is required. It’s easy to follow, easy to walk up (ie. not climbing up tree roots) but that doesn’t always mean you won’t require some lung power.
We’ve found getting recommendations from friends about the trails they have found great for kids and reading blogs about people who have hiked the track with kids (like ours www.backyardtravelfamily.com) to be really helpful when searching for family walks.
The Plan My Walk app also has a great rating system. Walkers can rate whether it was easier, harder or as expected and make comments about the trail. This helps us to determine if we think the walk will be suitable for our kids. You can also add this to your “wishlist” so you don’t lose an awesome trail for your next trip.
4. You need to keep safe
I often hike with my kids by myself and one thing I’m not really great at, is setting specific instructions for my husband. I’m pretty good at saying “I’m going to Woolshed Creek Hut today and I’ll be back in time for dinner” but besides that, I’m pretty vague.
There are actually a number of trails to get to Woolshed Creek, so I should really note which track we will take and all those little details. But in the past I haven’t. But I’ve found an easy solution that takes just minutes.
The Plan function on the Plan My Walk app makes it so easy to record who is going on the hike (add your saved contacts so it's easy to just click a button), where you are going, the route you will take and when you are expected back. You can add an emergency contact and when you click “share”, it will send them an email so they know your exact plans. How easy is that?
You can preload emergency contacts, so if we go for a trip with the whole family, instead of my husband, I just set up my dad instead.
The Plan My Walk app has taken the stress out of planning a family walk and gives me confidence that I am doing all the right things to keep my family safe. Download it for free and happy walking!