How to Plan for a Family Wilderness Trip

I have been a camper all my life and while I do like the luxury of camping at a already prepared campsite, nothing beats hitting the trail for some true primitive camping.  No, I am not talking about the kind that you find in a campground where you do not have electricity.  What I am really talking about is where you pop up your tent where ever you would like along the trail.

But……….being a parent this has been a challenge.  Many people thought I was crazy when I took my 8-year old twins on a weeklong backpacking trip.  While I sit back and wonder what I was thinking, the memories of that trip put a smile on my face and laughter in my voice.  If you are thinking about breaking away from modern life for awhile with your family on a camping/backpacking trip, take a look at my hints below.  These hints may allow you to keep your hair while creating lasting memories.


The first thing that you will need to do is to really know your family’s limits.  Frankly, my family has problems.  Bad backs, knees, and allergies can make camping and backpacking a problem.  When I planned our trip, I had a few weigh stations by which my husband would leave a few supplies.  This really lightened the load.  I also taught my twins the real meaning of want verses needs.  While this may seem a little drastic for 8 year olds, I did tell them that if they took toys and extras they would carry them.  Once they put their little packs on, they very quickly reevaluated their wants and needs.  This saved on the disagreements.

Having said that though when having you kids carry gear for a backpacking trip, always make sure that the load is not too heavy.   

Next, practice the trip before you go all out.  What I mean by this is to take a few short trips before you spend a whole week camping and/or backpacking.  In my situation, we started off “hiking” to school.  I then extended it to our local state park and stayed a few nights there. 

To keep the kids going down the trail, we made snacks and played an assortment of games.  At the end of each of our little trips, the twins could earn stars for their camping chart.  Stars were earned for not complaining, helping out, and continuing down the trail.  These stars at the end of the camping season could be used to buy new camping and/or backpacking gear. 

Encouragement is a great tool when it comes to exploring the outdoors but do not be pushy.  Younger children will need to take frequent brakes not only to rest but to also explore their surroundings.  When in doubt about the length of a trip, always plan on the shorter end verses the longer.

While I did have the luxury of my husband meeting us along the trail with fresh supplies, always pack as light as possible.  Come up with a packing list with your kids and then cut that in half.  You always think that you need more than you actually do.  Believe it or not, you can wear jeans and a shirt for more than one day. 

Once you have packed lightly, choose the right trail.  While I can hike for several miles at a time, my young backpackers could not.  The trail needs to be a fun challenge for kids but not so long that it seems impossible.  To help my kids understand the length of our trip, we mapped it out on the streets around our home.  Every day we would walk part of the “street trail” and about a week before the trip we walked the whole thing with our packs on.  Once they could see that they could walk it, the trip was not as scary. 

Lastly, have fun.