Monday, January 28, 2013

Plan out what to pack for hike with kids

Preparation for the trail doesn’t end with selecting a route and buying some gear. The next step is packing.

Begin with your water supply. Make sure canteens, water bottles and hydration systems are full; fill them up the night before and leave them in the refrigerator so that you have cold water. Just before hitting the road, strap one canteen to each side of the backpack or fanny pack/utility belt so that they’re more balanced.

Inspect - then pack
Next, make a checklist of everything you plan to take. Inspect each item to ensure it is in working order. As you place it in your fanny pack or backpack, mark off the item.

If lugging a backpack, don’t place pointy objects near your back or they’ll find a way to push into you the entire hike. Generally, the heaviest items go in last, at the bag’s top. This will provide you the greatest comfort when walking.

But for some hikers, the packing order is a bit more complicated. “In my backpack, the heaviest items always go to the front, which is nearest your back,” said Tim L., Harrisonburg, Va. “If the trail is smooth, the heaviest items go to the top. If the trail is rough, the heaviest items go in the bag’s middle or halfway up. If the terrain is extremely rugged, the heavy items go to the bottom.”

Don’t let kids overload packs
Place items you’ll need to get to quickly in the backpack’s sidepockets or at top of the fanny pack. These objects probably will include a first-aid kit, toilet paper and sunscreen lotion. Don’t tie lots of stuff to the outside of the backpack as they can snag on branches and come off.

After you’ve taken care of your gear, do all of the children’s daypacks, preferably with their assistance (and if they’re old enough to carry a backpack, they’re old enough to help). Make sure their pack isn’t overloaded. Among the items that should go in it are a safety whistle, emergency snack, rain jacket and probably a small first-aid kit. Teenagers can carry more, and you can entrust to their care some of what you used to carry when they were younger.

The final step is loading your vehicle. Most of the gear can be packed the night before, but any pieces involving canteens or water bottles obviously will have to wait until morning.

Read more about day hiking with children in the guidebook Hikes with Tykes.