Happy Backpackers: Planning a Family Wilderness Trip
Written by Andrea Leigh Ptak
1. Know your family’s limits
Experienced backpackers might want to change their strategy when adding a young child to the team, but neophytes will need to learn a whole new concept — less is more. Unlike car camping, where you could literally bring anything and everything you want as long as it fit in your vehicle (see my car camping article), backpacking requires you to distill down to the necessities based on how much of a load you can carry.
Few small children (under 7–8 years old) can carry more than 10–15 lbs., if that. Adults who are fit and able can usually carry 40–70 lbs., depending on their size. That means parents have to carry much of the load — especially the larger, bulky items like the tent, sleeping bags and pads. This gear list will help you decide who can carry what.
There are packs specifically designed for backpacking, sized for adults and larger/older children. These have both a sternum strap and hip belt to help position the load properly, as well as loops and pockets to attach items like sleeping pads to the outside of the pack. Smaller/younger children can make do with a simpler pack. Just be sure the shoulder straps are wide and padded. They should be able to carry water, snacks, a toy or two and a change of clothing/shoes.
(Photo credit: _val_,flickr)