We took our 9 year-old daughter on her first backpacking trip to Ibantik Lake in the Uintas.
Here’s what we learned, in no particular order:
1. Allow Friends
Annie decided to bring along a stuffed animal. Adding this kind of unnecessary weight is enough to make any seasoned backpacker cringe. Thankfully, we’re not seasoned. My dad on the other hand … well the look on his face was priceless. If your kids want to bring their favorite cuddly, let them! Attach the li’l critter to their pack with a carabineer and set them on their way. They’ll learn, someday, to reduce weight. But for now, it should be all about fun.
2. Take the (Short) Scenic Route
If your kids are anything like our kiddo, they’re gonna get bored on a hike real fast. Choose a trail that provides some off-the-trail fun and isn’t too long. The hike we chose had lots of scenic outlooks and lakes to play in. We also found some snow (in July!) for her to make snowballs with and plenty of boulders to climb. At only four miles, it was the perfect length to avoid boredom and fatigue.
3. Slow it Down
My dad likes to hike fast. For him, it’s definitely about the destination and the journey is just in his way. We had to slow it down a lot to accommodate Annie who got a stitch in her side, not 10 minutes in at my dad’s pace. We took advantage of resting/playing spots whenever we could. Kids are funny. They don’t have the energy to walk fast, but put a climbable rock in their sights and they’ll clamber all over it like a chipmunk on Red Bull.
4. Don’t Assume They’ll Eat Anything
This feels like a rookie mistake, but we genuinely believed that after a long hike in the sun, Annie would be so hungry that she’d totally scarf down whatever food we put in front of her. Sometimes, we’re not all that smart. We brought options, and she tried several different backpacking meals, before deciding she liked the very last one: Backpacker’s Pantry Pesto Salmon Pasta*. We all wound up eating way too much food trying to find one she’d eat, when we could have just done some research at home, or packed nothing but Cliff Bars and called it good. Either way.
5. Practice Squatting
The first time Annie had to squat in the woods, she hunkered down right over her pants and proceeded to pee directly on them. It was hilarious. Apparently, I give really bad instructions. This time around, I showed her how to do it rather than try to explain. And even though I left my underwear on throughout the demonstration, she was still mortified. Whatever. We all left with dry pants by the end of the trip, so I’m calling it a win. Make sure your kids know how to squat for all situations and avoid last-minute demos that they might not be cool with.
Here’s what Annie had to say about the experience: “It was very windy.” Thanks, kiddo.
Overall we had a great experience (outside of the wind, apparently) and feel better prepared for a longer trip next time!
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links, denoted with an asterisk. Purchasing Amazon products from those links creates a small monetary kickback to us at no cost to you! Pretty cool, eh?