Before we became parents, me and my husband loved to go out walking. We travelled all over the country searching out the highest hills and the best views. Since our son came along we’ve had to tailor our activities slightly, but it hasn’t stopped us spending lots of time outdoors together and enjoying adventurous family hikes. There are plenty of accessible, family friendly routes out there, but it’s still possible to head off the beaten track and enjoy a hike, even with small children, with a bit of planning.
Here are my top tips for planning a family hike that everyone will enjoy.
Quality over Quantity
Back in the day we were all about ticking off lots of miles and scaling the biggest heights. These days it’s a little harder to tackle the more strenuous walks, but that doesn’t mean that we have to miss out on worthwhile hikes. Rather than climbing hills or heading out on all day marathons, we try to plan routes that are easy, but full of interest. For example, we look for quirky buildings, good views or places with an interesting history. It may take a little more research, but it’s worth the effort!
Invest in the Right Equipment
One of the best things about walking is that it’s cheap and easy to do. You need very little gear to get started, but there are a few key pieces that are worth investing in if you want to spend lots of time outdoors. Firstly, make sure that the whole family have decent, sturdy footwear and a good quality waterproof coat. Then, if you are planning on taking small children you’re going to need a carrier of some sort. It’s worth seeing if you can borrow one first, or head to an outdoor shop to try a few different models out.
A Few Necessities
As I mentioned above, you don’t need much equipment, but there’s a few items that you should always have with you. Obviously, water and snacks and a change of clothes should always be in your bag. I also recommend a basic first aid kit, paper map and a torch. I always take my phone and a powerbank to charge it, although please don’t rely on technology, it has the annoying habit of letting you down at the vital moment.
Dress for the Conditions
Children, like adults, get very grumpy if they’re not comfortable so make sure everyone is appropriately dressed for the conditions. Well fitting boots are a must, and a hat is always a handy bit of kit-ideal for keeping warm in winter and providing shade in the summer. With our fickle climate, it’s advisable to wear layers all year round, a base layer, plus a fleece for insulation and a good coat should be fine for most of the year. The advantage of layers is that you can add or remove them as the conditions change or you warm up/cool down. Don’t forget sunscreen, even on a cloudy day you can still get burnt!
The Right Fuel
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from taking my family out hiking, it’s that you cannot have enough snacks. Our preschooler gets very grumpy very quickly when he’s hungry (as does my husband!), so a plentiful supply of food and water is a must. To avoid hangry tantrums I go for high energy, filling snacks like bananas, flapjack and pasta salad.
Have an Escape Route
You might be lucky and enjoy a straightforward walk with no dramas or disasters, or you might not! Anything can happen once you throw children into the mix. They might not be feeling 100%, they might fall in a muddy puddle, they might wee themselves, be sick or manage to injure themselves in any one of a hundred possible scenarios (most of which you’d never be able to forsee). There’s no shame in cutting short your hike and heading back to base. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, so cut your losses, get sorted and live to try again another day.
Author Bio - The Helpful Hiker
Lauren is an outdoor blogger who loves sharing her passion for camping and hiking and showing everyone how easy it is to spend more time outside. Her blog, The Helpful Hiker, focuses on accessible family adventures and showcasing the beauty of the UK.