Gearing Kids up for The Great Outdoors

By Amanda Edmonds, @AdventuringWithKids

With quarantine and social distancing, we are seeing more and more families in the outdoors. However, the outdoors can be pretty unforgiving for those who are inexperienced and underprepared. Knowing outdoor ethics and learning about the areas you intend to adventure not only keeps you and your family safe, but helps you learn to be a steward of the land.

Rule #1 - HYDRATE!

Packing enough water and food while in the outdoors is extremely serious. It’s important to hydrate smart. Before you leave home or your car, drink 1-2 cups of water prior to getting on the trail. Start out hydrated. Once on the trail don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, bring thirsty means you’re already dehydrated. The human body can only absorb so much water at a time. It’s important to not over drink your water and end up peeing it out. At most, your body can absorb about one liter (approx. 34 fluid ounces) of water per hour, but only in the most extreme heat and humidity. Drinking approx. .25 liter or 8 ounces every 15 minutes during physical activities will help your body meet your hydration needs. In the desert you may need to drink more depending upon the temperature and the intensity of the hike.

As a parent, we’re the ones who bear the burden for kids, so here’s what I always have in my pack:

  • Water
  • Snacks- choose snacks high in protein for energy
  • Clothing layers- plan for temp changes
  • Sun Protection- sunscreen/hat/lip balm/ sunglasses
  • First aid kit
  • Knife or multitool
  • Whistle
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map, compass, or GPS
  • Personal beacon or locator or satellite messenger
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Matches/lighter 

Now for the fun part, what to pack in my kids’ packs?? I highly recommend starting kids off with a lightweight pack from an early age, even carrying a near empty pack in the beginning. Doing this helps them build up their endurance. Teaching your children to carry their own packs and water is important. Proper hydration and preparedness in the outdoors is essential. Carrying a pack and adequate water for each person in your family is critical.  As a mom of a 7 and 13-year-old I get it, they might complain about it. Make sure to start small and be realistic in your hiking or adventure expectations. I also carry a carabiner so that on more strenuous adventures I can attach my little one’s pack to mine. Keep in mind your child’s age, older children can carry all their supplies, a young child may only be able to carry water and an emergency whistle. Here’s what I suggest for the kiddos:

  • Size appropriate water bottle or bladder, keeping in mind the weight
  • Light snack
  • Emergency Blanket- explain how and when to use
  • Whistle- review what to do if they should become separated from you. Ensure that they know to stay put and blow their whistle in three sharp bursts.

What’s in MY kids’ pack??

My 13-year-old has been hiking, climbing and adventuring from a young age. We built him up slowly and now he carries just as much as I do.  He enjoys having his own pack and water.

My 7-year-old only carries water, a light snack and an emergency blanket. Her pack has a built-in emergency whistle.  I also let her choose a small lightweight toy to carry, anything she packs she is in charge of carrying. That being said I do check her pack prior to hitting the trails. In the past I have found 10 lbs. of rocks in her pack, avocados, feather boas, wonder woman costumes and a million My Little Ponies.

Bathroom availability vs wag bags

Needing a restroom is a reality… but when you are in the outdoors bathrooms can be scarce. If you are simply going for a day hike make sure to use the restroom before leaving, do research and verify if there is a nearby (and open) porta potty, keeping in mind even if there is one open it may not be desirable to use. When using porta potties treat it as you would any private restroom, remember someone cleans this and doesn’t need a million people overflowing and throwing garbage all over causing the bathroom to be unusable for others.  

A great alternative is packing a wag bag. Human waste takes about a year to biodegrade, and can potentially contaminate water sources in the wild. Pooping outside can be especially harmful not to mention gross and unsightly in fragile deserts and alpine environments. This is why packing it out is best. A wag bag is how you do this. A wag bag is a puncture resistant bag with a solidifying agent to contain smells within the bag and contains a small amount of toilet paper.

Are you prepared for medical emergencies?

Common First aid injuries for families on the trail include the usual scrapes, cuts, bruises, sprained ankles, and bug bites. For a more intensive list go to: