Explore {hiking with kids – my non-professional tips}

Okay, so some of you asked about how we hike with kids. Here’s the deal…we live in Oklahoma not a mountain state. We don’t have all the gear you are supposed to have. We don’t have ‘hiking’ shoes or ‘hiking’ clothes. We just like hiking and exploring. Chris and I enjoyed getting ‘lost’ in places before we had kids, so naturally once we had kids we just started bringing them along. As a younger couple I remember people telling us to “enjoy it now because when you have kids you won’t be able to anymore.” Or something along those lines. They were wrong. In some ways we enjoy things even more now that we have kids. When it comes to hiking and camping it is different with kids, but not less fun.

The biggest difference in hiking with kids for us has been letting the kids dictate the hikes. Chris and I would like to do longer, more difficult hikes but there will be a season for that again one day. Right now we are focusing on relishing the time together on an adventure and building a love for hiking in the kids. I am by no means and expert on hiking, just a mom that enjoys it. So this post is my unprofessional (can you be a professional hiker?) advice.

Things to always pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • More snacks than you think you will need (in a bag)
  • A ziploc bag to hold your snack trash
  • Camera
  • Carrier (for the times your toddler gets too tired)

What we wear (since we don’t own true “hiking” gear):

  • Layered clothes…shorts and t-shirts
  • Tennis shoes or flip flops (flip flops because we are Okies and we think they are a multi-purpose and multi-weather shoe)
  • Hats (when we remember)

Now some of my random tips:

Keep it fun: cross through water, go over and under things, change up the terrain to keep things exciting


Change it up when tired: when someone complains of getting tired, we try new things like walking backwards or taking turns being the leader6.14hikingwithkids-5

Embrace the adventure: instead of fleeing to the car to avoid rain or wind, teach them to discover shelters and ways to hide out until summer showers pass. This is us hiding under a few (sturdy) fallen trees from a short rain shower. The kids giggled the whole time and it made for an unforgettable hike.6.14hikingwithkids-6

Go slow and let their imaginations enjoy the playground: these two found the “world’s largest slingshot” and we spent a good 15 minutes in this one spot as they played6.14hikingwithkids-76.14hikingwithkids-86.14hikingwithkids-96.14hikingwithkids-10

Set break destinations: instead of stopping each time someone needs a break, we usually pick a distance up ahead and all aim to make it to that spot for a little break. We take lots of breaks!6.14hikingwithkids-11

Snack Breaks: we don’t snack at every break, but we do snack a lot – way more than if Chris and I were hiking alone.6.14hikingwithkids-13

Be playful – the goal is to enjoy the hike, not just reach a destination: the more fun we make the hike, the more excited the kids are about hiking. The more excited they are, the farther we get to hike. The kids found this hollowed out tree and pretended it was their shelter from a bear (Chris)6.14hikingwithkids-15

Say “yes”: If it doesn’t involve hurting nature or disturbing wildlife…say yes. We teach our kids about leaving no trace and letting wildlife be wild, but we also want their senses to come alive when hiking. We don’t just want it to be a long walk. If they want to stick their head in cold mountain streams or try to jump from rock to rock – we try to say “yes” more than “no”.6.14hikingwithkids-16

Keep the long term goal in mind (if you have one): We have some big trips and big hikes in our future dreams. There are places we want to go with the kids when they get older that will require them being able to carry their own backpacks, with all their gear, for miles. We can’t just wake up with teenagers and expect them to do it if we never put in the ground work. These young years we aren’t focused on long hikes or having all the right gear. We are focusing on sharing our love for nature and the outdoors with our kids. We are soaking up this time, even if the hikes are short…they are good. I’d rather have a short hike with happy kids than a long trek with complaining. And on the short hikes, if the complaining starts…we try to smile and come up with a new way to bring out the laughter.6.14hikingwithkids-12

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  • Stephanie - Loved seeing your trip photos. My husband and I are hikers and campers, we live in MN and are planning a boundary waters canoe area (BWCA) trip for our family (girls 2&4). We love a kids bluegrass/folk band called the Okee Dokee Brothers. They wrote two adventure albums. If you like that kind of music your family might love them. We enjoy them because they actually sound good musically and have fun lyrics. It’s the only kids music we have 🙂 Thanks for sharing your trip. Ps. I love your camper updates.

  • Aubrey - I know next to nothing about hiking, but you guys make it look so fun! I love that you’re providing opportunities for adventure and exploration with them and laying the groundwork to prepare them for things you and Chris would love to do with them when they’re older. Smart! 🙂

  • Debbie - Thank you for sharing your tips and photos on hiking. I really enjoy following your blog.

  • Michelle Hill - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again.. you and chris are model human beings and parents. A true inspiration! Your stories and pictures inspire me everyday to be the person, mother and wife I hope to be in the future. I really enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing!

  • mel - Great tips!! As a family of six (with three teenagers), our kids have grown up hiking. Every summer we go on a multi-day backpacking trip. My kids look forward to it all year. It’s surely hard work, but we do it as a team. It gets us outside in God’s creation, away from technology, and it’s always an adventure! You need no skill to hike, just put one foot in front of the other. 🙂

  • Elise O. - Thank you for your perspective on parenting. This is so inspiring to me! Your blog is one of my very favorites because you seem to enjoy your family so much and are so positive about your kids and parenting. This blog post makes me look forward to the day that I have children and can include them in the things I enjoy!

  • Meg - Thanks!I am so looking forward to going on hikes with my kids. I think I turn it into too big of a deal and I need to have more fun with it and take the pressure off the situation. This post was a great reminder of just that.We don’t need to be pros or spend a fortune on gear. I am curious. Do you pack a little first aid kit? It seems like I would want to have a few bandaids and maybe some antiseptic and a few other little things.

  • Seamingly Sarah - I second the bringing more snacks than you think you need! I would like to know how others keep the slow and fast kids together or at least not fighting at having to stick to the other one’s pace during the hike?

  • Meryl - Some great ideas–thanks! Our little guy is only 3, so we’re still keeping it short, but love the tip to change it up when he gets tired.

  • Alice H - I dislike when people say that about enjoying things before you have kids. I love having my kids involved in almost everything I do. Thanks for your tips!

  • susie - Great tips! I am hoping you do a post on food! It will probably be similar as what we pack, but I am always looking for new ideas.

  • kimberly oyler - firecracker in that work out outfit is killing me. she looks way cuter than i do.

  • Kelly - Fun pictures! Look very similar to a lot of ours 🙂 The one piece of “equipment” I would suggest investing in is Keens sandals for all! They’re the perfect hiking shoe!

  • Paige - This is actually really helpful, thank you! We are at the stage where its more of an introduction into something we (well, me) love. We have to allow for fun and stopping. Also, the snack idea is great and I’ll remember next time. At age 8 and 5, I guess I just want them to think back to our camping and hiking and remember it was fun. Bigger and better hikes later.

  • Kelli - Do you guys use bug spray? I live in MN and the bugs are terrible this year, and I just can’t seem to find anything that works really well on my kids… (2yr old & 5mo old)

  • Diana - Your trip is so inspiring to read about! Thank for sharing it!

  • Ry Simmons - Love!!! We take little hikes with our kids (2,3,&4-years-old) and we just love it. Great advice with lots of snacks & breaks!! We also take small bags for them to collect leafs & rocks throughout our hike – keeps them busy and happy. Rock on, sister 😉

    PS… love your blog!!!

  • Taylor - Wonderful tips!!


  • amy cornwell - I love this post! It’s spurring me on to do more hikes with our kids, because Dave & I love to hike and adventure together. You’re so right that we can’t just expect them to grow up being able to do long hikes, they have to work up to it. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  • Heidi Jo the Artist - You guys are awesome! I love parents that say, yes, more than no. We’d love to take a hike with you guys someday (well, I should say, I would, I haven’t mentioned it to any of my family (as the idea just popped in my head), but they like to hike and especially love homeschoolers, so I think it would be pretty great). I love the walking backwards idea, and I’m going to show my kiddos “the world’s largest slingshot”, so cool. Hiking is one of our favorite forms of exercise as a family. We were debating on taking our first backpacking trip to Isle Royale this year, but the longer we wait, the more each kid will be able to carry or even walk more (we’ve got two pretty young ones), so it is on the back burner for this year, since we had so many other things going on, and there is only a little bit of window to go.

  • Kaitlyn - Awesome post! What type of carrier do you use for little one? Does Chris normally carry her? I’d love to take my one year old out on a hike but haven’t figured out a way. She is a whopping 35 pounds so I’m not sure how far I personally could go with her on my back! I’d love some tips!

  • Crystal - This is great! Thanks!

  • AshleyAnn - Kaitlyn, We use an Ergo Carrier and I normally do the carrying and had her on my back with this. We have used it pretty much for all of our kids so we have definitely got our money’s worth out of it over the almost 10 years! It has good padding and saves the back a little. It says that its max weight recommendation is up to 45 pounds.

    ERGObaby Original Baby Carrier, Black/Camel

    Chris Campbell

  • Julie B - Perfect timing for this post! (I realize you are in Africa and might never see this, but I’m commenting anyway!).

    We are heading out with our 5, 3, and 1 year old next week to North Carolina. We plan to do lots of outdoor things including hiking. I will definitely use your tips. And we were planning to use our ERGO for the baby. Best carrier ever!

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  • Kaitlyn - Thanks Chris! I actually a carrier at a yard sale this weekend! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I love that! Just say “YES”!

  • Natalie C - That bear picture is just the best!

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  • Stoich91 - Wonderful tips, wonderful photos! I can’t help but notice how healthy your kids are in this photo compared to the kids I see daily at a theme park! lol Thank you so much for sharing, hope I can do this one day with my munchkins!