Camping with Kids

Camping with Kids

By: Melanie Gagon

Camping and hiking look a lot different for us now than before we had kids. Adding kids to the mix definitely takes more work, but it makes for such good memories!

Going into each camping trip or hike having an open mind has helped us keep our expectations in check. Just like at home, some days are great, and some days are hard. It definitely isn’t always easy, but managing our expectations and expecting the unexpected has helped with some of the stress that comes from adventuring with small children.

We’ve learned to let go of what we think our camping trip or hike “should” look like and try to just go with the flow. If you have young toddlers and babies like we do and are thinking of taking them out exploring with you, I highly suggest doing it! Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way that have made it feel (a little) easier for us.

A mother with two young children hiking in the woods in autumn.

When we are camping, I like to bring familiar items from home to help them settle at night when it's time for bed. I don't like to get crazy packing a ton of things, so one or two is enough for us. Plus, they love having a few of their toys to play with in the dirt. It’s way better than a backyard sandbox!

I have also learned to accept the fact that I can't stick to normal routines for bedtime and naps. When I try to force them, it usually ends in tears for everyone. So, naps end up being at random times, and bedtime is usually later than it is at home. I've found that going with the flow of the day and letting them play adds to the experience for them and us. Then when they are REALLY tired, they usually end up crashing and sleep better and stay asleep through the night.

Make sure to have plenty of snacks… and then bring more snacks :)

A man with a young boy and a dog hiking above a canyon.

Bring clothes that are easy to layer on and off when the temperatures change throughout the day and night. I also always make sure I'm prepared for them to get dirty and wet, so I always have extra clothes and shoes for them that can get wet and dry easily.

A trusty hiking backpack is a must! We love having different options of kid carriers to go on hikes with our kids. Some days they want to walk on their own and pick up every rock and clump of dirt they see. Other days they want to be carried the whole way. And some days it's a combination. Having options to comfortably carry them on hikes has been huge, so we can explore all the trails around us.

If you’re new to hiking with kids, start with shorter hikes close to home or camp to get them used to a carrier and slowly increase your mileage. Also remember to take breaks for them so they can get out and play! It's not how fast you can go or how many miles you can log, it's more important that they have fun. We try not to worry so much about the destination and just try to make it a good experience for them. Even if that means stopping at every river we see to let them throw rocks in it ;) Sometimes the random stops we've had along the trail have been the most memorable.

A family of four backpacking inside of a canyon with TETON Sports backpacks on.

Talk to them while you're hiking, sing songs, play games, and point out the wildlife you see along the way. This helps keep them entertained and engaged with you and their surroundings. Help them learn to appreciate what is around them, because little nature lovers turn into big nature lovers. Keeping hiking fun for them will help make them excited to go the next time because for them it really is a big adventure no matter where you are.

Even though our kids may not remember these moments outdoors, we always will. We love giving our kids as many opportunities as we can to run wild and let their imaginations be free. They won't be this little for long, so we are making the most out of this season of life. So, bring your kids on your next adventure and have fun seeing some of your favorite places (or somewhere new) through their eyes.

About the Author: Melanie Gagon

Melanie was born and raised in Utah and has been exploring the outdoors and going on adventures with her family for years. She has a BA in American Literature and a passion for writing. She’s a mother of two energetic boys that love the mountains and Utah desert just as much as she does. Her and her husband enjoy the simple life and love raising their family in the wild outdoors.