Whether it be a simple day hike or a longer-term backpacking trip, hiking is a fantastic way to get you and your family involved in the outdoors.  There are any number of natural and wild areas in nearly every corner of the world.  To be more safe than sorry there are a few things that we can recommend to help you get more out of your time on first, or next, hike.

Take a basic survival kit and knowledge to go with it

My cursory research indicates that the vast majority of family related events that ended in uncomfortable or tragic circumstances could have been easily prevented.  One simple way is to to make sure you inform someone where you are going and when you expect to return.  In this manner you can get help to you in a more timely fashion should the need arise.  Also take the basics of survival:

  • A shelter that all in your party can get into
  • Clothing that will keep you dry and warm in various weather conditions.
  • Land navigation gear and skills.  Know how to read a trail map!
  • It will not hurt you to take water and snacks as well.  

Know your limits

If you are new to hiking there is nothing wrong with short excursions in which you take an amount of gear to insure your comfortability.  Stay in the activity long enough and other hikers (and your tired legs) will encourage you to travel with more knowledge and less gear.  There is a large movement referred to as ultralight hiking in which a person carries the bare minimum during hiking trips.  The internet is full of blogs and videos of such people sharing their gear and experience.  Check those out but do not expect to be like them early on.  These folks have become the masters at multi-purpose gear.  They can share with you the various things you can do with each and every piece of gear you might want to take.  I would encourage you to not feel like you have to follow in their footsteps though.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with not focusing on light gear but instead focusing on the beauty you will experience along the way.  Knowing your limits also extends to your children.  Do not expect new hikers to love it.  It is definitely exercise and most people are inclined to not enjoy exercise.  Therefore work your way up to long hikes carrying heavy gear.  By doing so at the get-go you will most likely turn newbies off to the notion of hiking.

Two important items to take

The two things that seem to make everyone enjoy hiking more is to get good rest and to eat good.  You should spend much time on and possibly some extra dollars in a good sleeping pad.  This will help to ensure good rest when it is time to sleep on overnight trips.  Also check out the many food options you could be using.  Trail food is an art form.  For many it is a game of taste vs. energy.  Make sure you try to marry the two in a way that suits the needs of your crew.  I always liked to take some comfort foods for my young family when they first started hiking.  There are a number of companies that offer dehydrated or freeze dried foods that are light and easy to fix on the trail.  

Accidents to avoid

The two biggest wilderness first aid emergencies are sprained ankles and burns from backpacking stoves or fires.  Take extra precautions to avoid both of these possibilities.   You can do this by paying attention to where you are walking and to take your time to properly setup your cookstoves with a good solid base.  

Let me be an encouragement to you and tell you from years of experience, woods time is good time.  It is good for you health and for your relationships.  Start slow and build up to bigger trips and you will not be disappointed in spending time in nature.

 

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