I tend to over think things and hiking trips both big and small are no exception. Some days I spend an hour or more trying to plan out all the things I should bring along in case of hunger thirst or emergency and I drive myself and everyone around me nuts. This spring has helped me realize something that I hope will begin to permeate the rest of my life. STOP THINKING ABOUT IT AND JUST GO DO IT!
I used to fret so much over bringing things I never ended up using and it took some of the enjoyment out of getting outside and walking in the woods. I am a bit of a gear geek so I do get a kick out of inventing novel solutions to the various problems that hiking with children presents. At a certain point though the excitement and sense of accomplishment give way to anxiety over forgetting that one supposedly crucial item and it ruins our hike.
These days I keep everything I need in my car other than items that come with us every day like weather appropriate outer wear, our water bottles, and some easy snacks like granola bars and apple sauce pouches. My trekking poles, frame pack carrier, first aid kit, and space blanket are all in the car and ready to go whenever I feel the itch to go disappear with the boys down a trail somewhere. Not needing to plan makes a big difference in lowering my stress level and allows me to more easily enjoy hiking with my kids.
I don’t generally decide where we are going anymore until the morning of our hike. I find that this prevents me from over thinking and allows me to better enjoy hiking with my family. I’ve noticed that the boys have more fun and are able to stay out longer when I am relaxed and not stressing over packing up or picking a route. We figure out our destination an hour or so before leaving and we pick our final route once we get there. There are a variety of ways to do this but if you are hiking somewhere new I recommend looking at a topographical map of the trail and downloading a hiking app like Alpine GPS before taking your kids on it.
Despite all this the most important thing you can do to make hiking with your kids easier is to have everything ready to go so that you can hit the trail at a moment’s notice. One of the great joys in hiking is the unexpected. You can hike the same trail a thousand times and you will have a thousand different experiences and a sense of freedom and joy that nothing else can really provide. You’ll never have the same variety of experiences if you sit at home or choose to go to a playground or library. So stop thinking about getting out and hiking. JUST GO DO IT!