The Packing Problem with Kids | Family Tramping
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We’ve got a problem. A problem that could lead to serious consequences. At our house, packing for day walks is haphazard. Over and over again, we’ve forgotten the one thing we needed to make the trip safe and comfortable. The worst part is that I know better.
It’s the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council’s Get Outdoors Week on 16th to 24th November 2019. I’m excited to collaborate for #GOWeekNZ and share some tips and tricks for family tramping in New Zealand. Let’s start with the day walk packing problem.
The other day, we headed up Rainbow Mountain with four children (5, 6, 9, 10) and two adults. Rainbow Mountain is on the North Island of New Zealand between Rotorua and Taupo. It’s not a technically difficult track. There are no water crossings and few exposed areas, but it does involve a gentle, steady uphill for 3.5km. It’s a solid day walk for young children and less fit trampers.
We’d been checking the weather forecast all week and the morning we left was no different. Cloudy periods. Southwesterlies easing by evening. High 14C, low 4C. The kids packed their lunches, water bottles, and sun hats. In honour of our destination, we also coordinated our wardrobes. Between the six of us, we planned to wear red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, effectively bringing our own rainbow to Rainbow Mountain. In truth, we spent more time preparing to be colourful than planning to be warm and dry.
As often happens in New Zealand, the forecast was wrong. After driving for over an hour, we arrived at the carpark and it began to rain heavily. Two of the kids had rain jackets, not because of careful packing, but because they were stored in the car. I had a rain jacket only because it was my designated colour, orange. So half of our group was missing a waterproof layer and that wasn’t the only thing — Dan (9) forgot his shoes.
After much anticipation and the long drive, we felt invested in doing the walk, despite being unprepared. We took stock of the provisions we had brought with us and reassessed the conditions. All of us had layers of clothing that are warm when wet (polypropylene, merino, and/or fleece) and it wasn’t cold or windy in the carpark. A true Kiwi, shoeless Dan prefers to be bare footed. Though he professed to have genuinely forgotten his shoes, he confessed that he’d rather walk the track barefoot. The responsible adults decided the best way to monitor the bare foot conditions would be to join him. So we set off to complete the 7km return trip in the rain, three of us without a raincoat and three of us with bare feet. Because it was overcast, four of us left our sun hats in the car. We began walking and the sun came out. As we walked, it alternated between hot sun, cold rain, and biting wind in exposed sections of the track. We were unprepared for all three of these conditions.