Happy Backpackers: Planning a Family Wilderness Trip
Written by Andrea Leigh Ptak
3. Travel light
Aside from the physical aspects of backpacking, the biggest difference between it and car camping is the level of isolation from civilization. No toilets, no potable water on demand and no driving to the store if you forget something. The trick is to bring just what you need and in the smallest quantities possible — think those little containers you need to make it through airport security — every ounce counts when it’s on your back.
As always, try gear before you buy, and borrow from friends or rent when you can. Have items do double duty — a cocoa mug can also be an oatmeal bowl, sporks are great two-in-one utensils. Paper plates don’t weigh much, but you’ve got to pack-out your trash, so you’ll want to keep that to a minimum. The gear list at the end will give you an idea of what you’ll need to bring.
Aside from your necessities like the tent and sleeping bags, food and water will be your heaviest items. Until your children can carry close to their fair share, it’s best to keep your trips to one night. If your destination includes a source of water, you can augment your water supply by bringing a quality filter or iodine tablets. You can save your tasty water from home for drinking and use the sterilized water for washing up and cooking if needed.
Food should be lightweight and simple to prepare. You won’t have the luxury of an ice chest so stay away from things that need to be kept cold. But you will be able to heat water with the aid of a single-burner propane camping stove. Anything that just needs boiling water or can be eaten raw is ideal. Good choices are dried fruits, oranges/apples, nuts, granola, trail mix, peanut butter, crackers, jerky, pre-chopped veggies, instant oatmeal, cocoa, soups and ramen noodles.
(Photo credit: Z-snipps-whisper flickr)