Hiking with young kids - Am I crazy?

I have a confession to make.  I hate exercising. There I said it! I can’t find any joy in the stress of trying to organise kid free time just so I can then waste this free time by sweating on some gym equipment under artificial lights.  I find myself watching the clock after around ten minutes and every minute after this feels like an eternity.  

Hiking into 'Monkey Beach' on Great Keppel Island (6.5 km round trip), Queensland, Australia.

Hiking into 'Monkey Beach' on Great Keppel Island (6.5 km round trip), Queensland, Australia.

However, I do love being outdoors and exploring and experiencing new scenery.  I love the idea of arriving at a destination that can only be reached by foot.  There are few better things than the sun on my face whilst taking in the sights of a particular spot that I have just huffed and puffed my way too.

The view from Diamond Head walk in O'ahu, Hawaii

The view from Diamond Head walk in O'ahu, Hawaii

Except maybe sitting in that same spot and sharing it with my kids.  Teaching them that there are many special places in this world, if you only go out and find them.  Some are even close to home!  Instilling a love of the outdoors because unless they learn and experience the beauty of nature, how will they ever feel the urge to protect it?

Trillian (aged two years) running free on a flat easy section at Byfield State Forest (short 2 km round trip) in Queensland, Australia.

Trillian (aged two years) running free on a flat easy section at Byfield State Forest (short 2 km round trip) in Queensland, Australia.

I’ve been toying with the idea of multi-day hiking with the kids for a few weeks.  We haven’t yet camped overnight but we have done quite a few day hikes to test the waters and work out what works best for us.  At ages two and four, there is no expectation that they will be able to complete the walks themselves.

Hiking with young kids….can it be done? Or am I crazy?

Yes. Hiking with young kids is certainly achievable.  It’s even achievable with minimal stress if you are organised and prepared to be flexible with timing and distance covered.

Yes.  There is a small possibility I might be slightly crazy.  Isn't every mother of young children who is surviving on minimal sleep?

A deserted beach we recently hiked to (6.5 km round trip) with Ripley (aged four) and Trillian (aged two) on Great Keppel Island in Queensland, Australia

A deserted beach we recently hiked to (6.5 km round trip) with Ripley (aged four) and Trillian (aged two) on Great Keppel Island in Queensland, Australia

This is what works for me:

  • Allowing them to walk when it’s safe and they feel like it.  It can be frustrating hiking at toddler pace but it’s better than not hiking at all.
  • Carrying them in a hiking carrier when it’s unsafe for little legs or they are tired.
  • Packing snacks in ziplock bags that they can eat whilst in the carrier.
  • Giving them a chance to try.  Ripley (aged four) surprised us recently by scrambling up a few short steep sections all by himself.  Don't worry, I was right behind him!
  • Having a very loose schedule and allowing double the recommended time so that we can stop for picnics, nappy changes, or a swim whenever we want.
  • Knowing my own limits and taking a break if I need to.  It’s hard work carrying an extra 15 – 20 kg on my back and if I need to stop every ten minutes, then so be it.  Slow and steady wins the race.
Taking a break to throw rocks in a creek at Byfield National Park in Queensland, Australia

Taking a break to throw rocks in a creek at Byfield National Park in Queensland, Australia

Hiking overnight with young kids? 

I’m yet to prove that it’s achievable with minimal stress but I have some ideas floating around and I’m determined to prove it can be done. 

My main issue is that once I am carrying a child in a back carrier, it doesn’t leave much room or weight left (I can only carry so much) to carry essential camping equipment.  I have some ideas to overcome this and will be testing them over the next few months.

Stay tuned!

Hitching a ride on Dad's shoulder along a dry creek bed in Central Australia

Hitching a ride on Dad's shoulder along a dry creek bed in Central Australia