Tips for Hiking with Kids

Planning a family hiking trip?

Heading out on an adventure with kids can be a challenge, so we’ve put together our top tips tips to help your trip run as smoothly as possible.

  • Start small – if the little ones are going to be walking the whole way, start with short hour-long walks. Build up to longer walks as they gain more experience.
  • Instead of planning the trip out by timing when you’d like to arrive at each point, be more flexible. Kids need lots of short breaks, so just take it at their pace and go with the flow.
  • Break the journey up into shorter distances – no more than 45 minutes at a time. Stop for a snack, or to look at something interesting – be it some native bush, an historical relic, a creek or an insect. For under fives, think up adventures, stories or hunt for insects, fairies or elves along the way.
  • Look after their feet – kids will need sturdy shoes or good trainers in the right size (not necessarily full on hiking boots). Comfort is key here.
  • Dress for the occasion – start with a base layer such as a Geothermal, then put on a good mid-layer such as a fleece, before adding an insulating layer such as a down jacket if the extra warmth is needed. Top off the outfit with a rain jacket if necessary (always pack one). Never wear cotton when you’re hiking – you’ll get cold very quickly if you become wet. On warmer days, use tees in a quick-drying/tech fabric for comfort.
  • Pack an extra set of base layers for each kid – just in case they get wet.
  • Avoid holiday weekends – the tracks are often very busy, and the huts can get full very quickly.
  • Pack high-energy, nutritious snacks – think dried fruit and nuts and trail mix. Take some treats – eg, a couple of squares of chocolate to reward little adventurers when they reach key points on the trip.
  • Feed them often – especially the little ones.
  • Take plenty of water.
  • Be prepared – take a tent. Even if you’re planning to stay in a hut, kids will likely need to go to bed earlier than others who might be staying there. When huts are busy, they can be noisy at night, so a tent is always a good option for little ones who need a good rest for the day ahead.
  • Take a map! Teach young adventurers how to navigate – it’s a valuable skill and makes them feel involved in the trip. It also helps to set milestones to break up the journey as they can track their progress on the map.
  • Give kids their own small pack to carry – nothing too heavy – perhaps just with one favourite toy inside. This gets them used to carrying packs on their own, and makes the experience even more authentic for them.
  • Be patient, kids can slow the journey down, but it’s all about the experience. Take the time to teach them skills along the way, answer their questions and get them excited about the outdoors.
  • Let the kids bring a friend alone, or travel with another family – having other kids around makes all the difference to their experience.
  • Pack a first-aid kit… just in case!
  • Let the kids take turns at being the leader (with an adult) – this makes it special for them, teaching them about route selection, helping them to pick out places to stop, and how to safely cross streams and other tricky terrain.
  • Leave no trace – teach kids the value of protecting our natural environment so it’s there for future generations to enjoy.
  • Remember to have fun!